History 383 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Southern California and Los Angeles - A Case Study in Urban and Suburban Growth
The "Old Plaza Church" facing the Los Angeles Plaza, 1869.
Introduction: The last time we met, we learned about Califiorna during World War II and we especially focused on how the federal goverment's military expenditures and investments dramatically contributed to increased population and the side effects of such an increase. Today we are going to step back a bit and take a close look at Southern California and the dramatic growth that occurred there prior to World War II. Further, we will take our study of Los Angeles into the post-war era by examining the riots that tore Southern California apart in the late 20th Century.
- To gain a logistical and geographical understanding of Southern California, with an emphasis on Los Angeles.
- To examine the growth of Southern California at the end of the 19th Century.
- To understand how the discovery of oil shaped Southern California's early 20th Century economic, political, and social growth.
- To understand how the eternal quest for water shaped the history of Southern California and Los Angeles.
- To chronologically examine the way in which transportation technologies influenced the growth of Southern California and Los Angeles in the early 20th Century.
- To understand the evolution of South Central Los Angeles prior to and after the Watts Riots.
- To understand the Rodney King Riots.
- To understand one woman's attempt to make sense of the Rodney King Riots - Anna Deavere Smith in Twilight.
Cold Call: 16th cold call for required reading - Introduction, Goals 1 and 2 in discussion guides for today at http://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist383/LosAngeles.html AND Chapter 1 in California for Health, Pleasure and Residence which you can download at https://archive.org/details/californiaforhe00nordgoog
Goal #1: To gain a logistical and geograpical understanding of Southern California, with an emphasis on Los Angeles
A logistical understanding of Southern California and Los Angeles:
- During the Mexican era, the Los Angeles basin consisted of five huge ranchos. Orange County consisted of 20 ranchos.
- The population of Los Angeles grew very little until the end of the 19th Century: in 1860, L.A.'s population was 4,385 and in 1900, it was 102,479. However, its population skyrocketed in the 20th Century: by 1940, it was 1,504,277, representing a 1535.7% increase between 1900-1940.
- Southern California's population grew similarly: in 1860, its population was 24,751 and in 1900 it was 304,211. Its population skyrocketed in the 20th Century: by 1940 it was 3,572,363.
- On October 24, 1871, one of the worst race riots in American history occurred in Los Angeles when a mob of a 1,000 people armed with guns, knives, and ropes descended on Chinatown. The mob stole $40,000 in cash from local businesses and lynched 19 Chinese residents. The grand jury indicted 150 people, six of whom were sentenced but soon released. (The photo below is of L.A.'s Chinatown during the 1895 Chinese New Year celebration.)
- In 1873, the seedless navel orange was introduced to California from Brazil.
- In 1874, the first street car system in L.A. was built - a single-track, horse-driven railroad extending for two and one-half miles from the Mission Plaza down Main and Spring Streets to Sixth Street.
- In 1876, Los Angeles was connected to San Francisco via the Central Pacific Railroad.
- In 1887, the first automobile appeared in L.A.
- In 1892, Edward Doheny discovered oil near the present day location of Dodger Stadium, thus stimulating L.A.'s first oil boom.
- In 1903, Los Angeles was the first U.S. city to be completely illuminated by electric lights.
- In 1909, the L.A. City Council placed a ban on free speech from public streets and private property except for the Plaza. The ban was largely aimed at union organizers.
- In 1910, D.W. Griffith was the first director to shoot film in Los Angeles.
- In 1913, the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct assured the continued growth of the city.
- In 1914, Red Car lines extended from downtown L.A. to San Bernardino, Santa Ana, San Pedro, and the San Fernando Valley.
- In 1923 there were 430,000 automobiles registered in L.A. - one car for every three people.
- In 1943, L.A. had its first smog alert - one of the first in the nation. (The photo to the right is the first recorded photo of smog in L.A. in 1943.)
- In 1947, the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District was established - the first organization of its kind in the nation.
- In 1945, the first military industrial complex in the nation began in L.A.
- In 1960s, L.A. had the largest number of free-standing private homes in the nation.
- In 1960, L.A.'s population reached 2,479,015, making it the third most populous city in the nation. More than 6 million people lived in Los Angeles County.
- Today, Los Angeles is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, and the 14th largest urban area in the world.
For a very detailed "Historical Timeline of Los Angeles," go to http://discoverlosangeles.com/guides/fun-facts/historical-timeline.html
A geographical understanding of Southern California and Los Angeles
- Southern California stretches along the Pacific Coast from Ventura in the north and to San Diego to the south.
To the west of Southern California lies the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands; to the south is the international border between the United States and Mexico; to the east are the Colorado Desert and the Colorado River at the state's border with Arizona, and the Mojave Desert with the state's border with Nevada beyond.
- Counties within Southern California are Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial. Some geographic definitions, however, include Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Kern Counties, as shown on the map below.
- In Southern California, not a single natural lake, river, or creek exists with a year-round flow of water.
- Southern California developed as an artificial, completely man-made region in which virtually everything has been imported: plants, flower, shrubs, trees, people, water, and electrical energy.
- The largest city in Southern California is Los Angeles which consists of 498 square miles.
- The central, southern, and southeastern parts of Los Angeles are contained in the Los Angeles Basin - an area that is about 35 miles long and 15 miles wide and consists of a tremendous sand-filled hole whose walls are formed by the San Gabriel, Santa Monica and Santa Ana Mountains and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Goal #2: To examine the growth of Southern California at the end of the 19th Century
Beginning in the 1870s, some local leaders in Los Angeles began to explore several ways to encourage the growth of the city and end the isolation of the Southern California region.
- Bringing a RR line to Los Angeles. In 1872, some leaders explored possible ties with the Central Pacific RR - efforts that achieved some success in 1876 when the Central Pacific agreed to build a 50-mile highway between the Central Valley and Los Angeles. The city raised a municipal bond of $610,000 to subsidize the costs of the Central Pacific.
- AdvertisingCalifornia's agricultural products - especially oranges, which increased both the Southern Pacific's railroad's freight business and its land sales.
Thus, the California Fruit Growers' Exchange made an agreement with the Southern Pacific for a joint advertising experiment using billboards - "Oranges for Health - California for Wealth."
Consequently, orange acreage increased rapidly. In 1873, two navel orange trees that were well suited to Southern California's climate existed near Riverside; by the end of the 1880s, more than a million were profitably producing throughout the region.
- Advertising the health advantages of living in California. Beginning in 1870, city boosters claimed that the climate was helpful in curing tuberculosis and encouraged invalids and their families to move to Southern California.
Another city booster wrote that "California college girls are larger by almost ever dimension than are the college girls of Massachusetts. They are taller, broader-shouldered, thicker-chested (with ten cubic inches more lung capacity), have larger biceps and calves, and a superiority of tested strength." (as quoted in Rawls and Bean: 207)
- Publishing a series of books designed to attract people to Southern California. One of these books - California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence - was written by Charles Nordoff in 1872 and was especially popular.
Group Work: Please get into groups of five each. Then spend 10 minutes discussing the following:
- If you had lived in 1872 and read this book, what did you read in Chapter 1 that might have encouraged you to move to California? Why?
- What might you have questioned as being too "far fetched" or steeped in myth?
- What do you think is the "bottom line" most important point made in Chapter 1 about California as a destination for one's health, pleasure, and residence?
Despite such advertising, it was not until there was a railroad rate war that what many have called the "Boom of the 80s" began in Southern California.
- In 1887, the $125 fare between Kansas City and L.A. fell to half, then to a fourth, then even lower.
- Thousands of farmers, health-seekers, and others who had read the advertising literature moved to California where they found a small town - but it was not backward and it had an attractive climate.
- By 1889, 60 new towns arose in southern California, covering almost 80,000 acres. The population of L.A. soared to 50,000 in 1880 and to 100,000 by 1900.
- Many of the new immigrants came from the Midwest - and thus they brought their conservative, Protestant, Republican values with them.
Southern California's economy, however, continued to lag behind that of the northern part of the state.
The region was principally dependent on agriculture, real estate speculation, service industries, and the retail trade - but very little industry.
- In terms of manufacturing output, investment, and employment, it lagged far behind San Francisco and most cities in the rest of the nation.
- However, by the 1920s, Southern California began to experience an extraordinarily rapid expansion - a huge growth spurt that continued throughout the remainder of the 20th Century.
- So, what happens to change this? One of the first is what many have called the "Second California Gold Rush" - finding oil in Southern California.
Goal #3: To understand how the discovery of oil shaped Southern California's early 20th Century economic, political, and social growth.
For a brief period in time, Southern California was the center of world oil production. A handful of major discoveries - at Huntington Beach, Signal Hill near Long Beach, Telegraph Hill and Santa Fe Springs in Orange County - made Southern California the world's biggest oil producer. The oil industry became the leading sector of the California economy, and the state was soon responsible for about a quarter of the world's supply. Oil, however, had been present for many years in California:
- California Indians waterproofed boats and baskets and attached arrowheads with a tarry substance that oozed from the ground.
- Spanish and Mexicans noted the existence of brea (tar) and used it to seal roofs.
- Padres at Missions in San Fernando, Santa Barbara, and San Buenaventura distilled small amounts of lamp oil from the tarry substance on the beaches.
But oil did not have any commercial value in the U.S. until E. L. Drake perfected mass extraction technology and drilled the first well in the U.S. in western Pennsylvania in 1859.
As indicated in the chronology below, it was during the next decade that Californians attempted to tap oil deposits known to exist throughout the state.
- 1861 - George S. Gilbert, a whale oil merchant, built a small refinery on Ojai Ranch, north of Ventura and began to manufacture small quantities of kerosene.
- 1864 - Thomas S. Scott, vice president of Pennsylvania Railroad, sent a chemist to evaluate oil resources in the Ventura region.
- 1865 - Scott hired Thomas R. Bard to drill a series of wells in the Ventura region but none of them produced oil in commercial quantities.
- The Union Mattole Oil Company, created later in the year, sunk California's first well at Petrolia in Humboldt County.
- 1878 - The Pacific Coast Oil Company was incorporated to explore the San Francisco Bay region.
- 1883 - Lyman Stewart and Wallace L. Hardison began drilling at Newhall near the Ventura County line and met with very limited success over the next three years.
- 1886 - Stewart and Hardison joined with the wealthiest man in Ventura County, Thomas R. Bard, to form the Sespe Oil Company which began drilling in Santa Paula; by the following year, it had produced 50,000 barrels of oil - about 15 percent of the state's total output.
- 1890 - Stewart, Hardison, and Bard created Union Oil Company of California with headquarters in Santa Paula. That year they produced a fourth of the state's petroleum products.
- 1890s - Union expanded by establishing refineries at San Pedro and the Carquinez Strait, built tankers and pipelines to combat high railroad rates, and developed oil resources in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Kern, and Los Angeles Counties.
- 1892 - Edward L. Doheny and a partner hand-dug a producing well near the La Brea Tar Pits.
- 1897 - Five hundred oil wells operated within Los Angeles, making California the third-largest oil producing state in America.
- 1900 - Standard Oil gained control over Pacific Coast Oil.
- 1906 - Pacific Coast Oil was renamed Standard Oil of California. Summerland in Santa Barbara County was one of the major oil producing regions in the state, as shown in this photograph taken around 1906.
- 1911 - Standard Oil of California and Union Oil Company were the state's leading oil producers and refiners.
- 1920 - Standard Oil discovered the first highly productive field of high-gravity oil in the Los Angeles Basin at Huntington Beach.
- 1921 - Shell Oil tapped the fantastically rich Signal Hill site.
- 1923 - California crude oil production was 256 million barrels per year, making California the first-ranked state in oil production until the 1930s.
- 1925 - 57 refineries processed some 186 million barrels of oil per year.
- 1928 - The largest oil companies had tank farms capable of storing more than 340 million barrels of oil which was nearly a two-year supply.
- 1932 - The oil industry in Southern California produced 200,000 more barrels a day in 1932 than it could sell.
- 1937 - The trappings of the oil industry marred the beaches of Southern California, as can be seen in this 1937 photograph of Huntington Beach.
In short, oil money was central to California's economic, political, and social development in the early 20th Century.
- At the same time that the oil industry was booming, huge real estate developments were also being built.
- The oil industry began to encourage migration to Southern California - especially well-to-do Midwesterners who were drawn to the area by the climate and the appeal of a new way of life.
- Real estate ads in Southern California began to promote the notion that if you bought some land, you could not only build a house on it, but you could also drill for oil.
- Much of the oil was discovered right in the middle of suburban subdivisions, like in Long Beach and Huntington Beach.
- Additionally, as oil was being developed, the construction of roads and highways boomed so it could accommodate the automobiles that would use the oil.
- Oil money also helped to finance some of Hollywood's earliest films from around 1911 to 1921.
While oil contributed to the growth of Southern California, especially in Los Angeles County, it also brought attention to one of Southern California's biggest problems - the scarcity of water.
Goal #4: To understand how the eternal quest for water shaped the history of Southern California and Los Angeles
Since the pueblo days of Los Angeles, the lack of local water resources has been the primary problem for the economic future of Southern California.
- The Spanish established California's first system of water rights. The missions and pueblos were located along rivers and smaller coastal streams and their inhabitants dug wells or diverted water for domestic and irrigation uses by building small dams. Spanish law granted the missions and pueblos a preferential right to an adequate water supply for their residents, including water for both residential needs and irrigation.
- The Spanish law of pueblo rights carried over into the American stage of California's history, giving the City of Los Angeles first rights to the native waters of the Los Angeles River as well as all the groundwater in the Los Angeles River Basin.
- Until the middle of the 19th Century, most water diversions were small and used on lands adjacent to the river or stream from which the water was diverted. Thus during its early history, Southern California's native waterscapes were not significantly changed and there was no need for coordinated water management.
- Coordinated water management in Southern California began in the 1850s and initially fell to private parties.
Selected Chronology of Water Issues in Los Angeles
- 1857 The Los Angeles City Council granted William G. Dryden private franchise rights to provide water to homes with a system of underground water mains constructed of wooden pipes. Thus, the first effort of the city to get water to its residents was through private contracting.
- 1861 After heavy rains destroyed the system, Dryden gave up his franchise and the city contracted out water distribution rights to others. None of the contracts resulted in a successful system to get year-round water to residents of Los Angeles.
- 1868 The Council granted the right to create a private water system for the city to three successful L.A. businessmen - John S. Griffen, Solomon Lazard, and Prudent Beaudry.
- 1890 some members of the city begin to call for the end of the privately-controlled Los Angeles City Water Company and to create a muncipally-controlled local water supply.
- 1897 City engineers began planning for an updated water system and the City Council informed Los Angeles City Water Company that its lease would not be renewed.
- 1900 The City of Los Angeles began to fear a future water famine, largely because its population had doubled over the previous decade to 100,000. The 1905 populatioin estimates were projected to be 200,000; the Los Angeles River could not serve more than a city of 250,000.
- 1902 The City of Los Angeles bought the Los Angeles City Water Company for $2 million and then created a seven member Board of Water Commissioners led by William Mulholland.
- Mulholland began to look for new water sources. Fred Eaton - a former mayor of Los Angeles and an engineer - suggested the Owens River located in the Owens Valley.
- 1903 Mulholland and Eaton visited Owens Valley and concluded that the River could supply enough water to meet the needs of the growing LA area.
- 1904 Eaton quietly began buying up strategic land in the Owens Valley. As he did so, he
implied that he was affiliated with the Federal Reclamation Service which local farmers believed was interested in building a federal irrigation district to benefit the Valley.
Eaton, however, was not affiliated with the federal government, nor did he have the well-being of the Valley residents in mind as he purchased their land.
- 1905 Eaton and Mulholland had acquired enough land and water rights in Owens Valley to block the federal irrigation project.
- A group of powerful city leaders belonging to a land syndicate led by Los Angeles Times owner Harrison Gray Otis his son-in-law, Harry Chandler, had their own ideas abourt the Owens River water.
- Using inside information from another member of their group who was also member of the Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners - members of the land syndicate bought up 16,000 acres of the San Fernando Valley. Their plan was to have the City of Los Angeles build a 233-mile aqueduct to bring Owens River water to irrigate San Fernando Valley which lay outside the city limits of Los Angeles.
- Thus began a campaign to get L.A. voters to support and pay for the aqueduct - an aqueduct that would not serve L.A. but rather, would serve San Fernando Valley and make its investors rich.
- The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power created an artificial water famine - some claim that the City even dumped its water reserves into its sewer system at night. The Times began to bombard residents with fear of drought. On the eve of the election, the city passed an ordinance forbidding people to water their lawns and gardens.
- L.A. voters overwhelmingly passed a $1.5 million bond issue to construct the aqueduct.
- 1907 Los Angeles voters approved another bond issue for $23 million to begin construction.
- 1908 Construction on the aqueduct began. During the next five years, some 4,000 laborers worked at top speed to channel the water from the Owens River through canals, pipes and tunnels until 1913 when it emerged onto a spillway in the San Fernando Valley.
- 1913 On November 5, the water first emerged from the aqueduct at a formal opening. It was both the world's longest aqueduct and the largest single water project.
- 1915 The San Fernando Valley was annexed to Los Angeles.
- 1920s Some angry Owens Valley residents who had seen their farms drained of water and devalued blew up parts of the aqueduct, beginning what many historians have called the "water wars."
- 1923 Mulholland began to investigate the Colorado River as a possible new source of water.
- 1925 Los Angeles voters passed a $2 million bond issue to establish the Department of Water and Power (DWP) to perform the engineering for the Colorado River Aqueduct.
- 1928 The California Legislature created the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) to construct the Colorado River Aqueduct that would supply supplemental water to Southern California.
- 1929: The federal government negotiated with California and five other states to approve the Colorado River Compact.
- 1933 Construction began on the Colorado River Aqueduct.
- 1941 The Colorado River Aqueduct was completed.
Selected Chronology of the Colorado River Project - Hoover Dam, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and the All-American Canal
- 1869: Major John Wesley Powell made the first recorded trip through the Grand Canyon and down the length of the Colorado River.
- 1871: Powell took a second trip down the Colorado and conducted geological studies that greatly expanded understanding of the region's topography.
- 1880s: Land speculator William Beatty built a canal north of the Mexican border that ran into a desolate area Beatty named the Imperial Valley. Though water from the Imperial Canal allowed for the widespread settlement of the valley, the canal was expensive to maintain.
- 1902: The Edison Electric Company of Los Angeles surveyed the Colorado River, hoping to build a 40-foot rock dam that could generate a great deal of power.
- On June 17,
President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Reclamation Act and shortly thereafter, engineers began their long series of investigations and reports on control and possible uses of the Colorado River.
- 1905: In March,
torrential rains caused the Colorado River to break into the Imperial Valley, creating an inland sea across 150 square miles. Two years later, at a cost of more than $3 million, the river was contained within its original channel. Blaine Hamann, former Bureau of Reclamation employee, recalls, "The river was an enemy, and only in short periods of time could you look at it as a useful river. Most of the time it was something that would kill you or ruin your farm."
- 1920: In May, Congress passed the Kinkaid Act authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to investigate water problems of Imperial Valley.
- 1922: In February,
the report "Problems of Imperial Valley and Vicinity" prepared under the Kinkaid Act, was submitted to Congress. The report recommended construction of a high dam on the Colorado River at or near Boulder Canyon at federal expense - the river's basin covered several states and eventually enters Mexico. The report also suggested that the government could recoup the cost of construction by selling the electric power generated by the dam to the cities in rapidly expanding Southern California.
- 1928: On December 28,
President Coolidge signed the bill authorizing the dam and Congress passed the Boulder Canyon Project Act which appropriated $165 million for construction of the Hoover Dam, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and All-American Canal.
- 1929: In June,
six of seven basin states approved the Colorado River Compact: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Arizona, unhappy with the proposed plan for water distribution, was the one state that held out. (Arizona did not approve the Compact until 1944.)
- 1931: The Bureau of Reclamation opened bids to construct Boulder Dam and Power Plant. The contract - $48,890,995 - was awarded to Six Companies, a construction and engineering firm made up of some of the West's most successful builders and designers of dams, bridges, roads, and tunnels.
- Between 10,000-20,000 unemployed men converged on Las Vegas, hoping for a job. A squatter's camp, McKeeversville, soon arose, as did another camp known to its inhabitants as Ragtown.
- 1932: Six Companies hired more than 3,000 workers, with employment peaking at 5,251 in July 1934. Chinese labor was forbidden in the construction contract and the number of blacks employed never exceeds 30 in the segregated crew.
- 1933: In June, the first concrete was poured at Dam site. The ground where the dam was to rise was marked with rectangles and concrete blocks were poured in columns, some as large as 50 feet square and 5 feet high. Each five-foot form contained a series of 1 inch steel pipes through which cool river water ran, followed by ice-cold water from a refrigeration plant. Once an individual block was cured and had stopped contracting, the pipes were filled with grout. A total of 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete was used.
- 1935: In February, the Hoover Dam started impounding water in Lake Mead.
- On September 30, Boulder Dam was dedicated
- 1941: The Colorado River Aqueduct was completed after seven years. It was the largest public works project completed in southern California during the Great Depression.
- 1942: The All-American Canal aqueduct - the largest irrigation canal in the world - was completed to provide water to the Imperial Valley - which included drinking water for nine cities and irrigation for over 500,000 acres. The main canal was 82 miles, with a total drop of 175 feet, a width of 150 to 700 feet,) and a depth of 7 to 50 feet. The canal gets smaller as it runs west because it carries less water.
- 1947: On April 30, President Harry S. Truman signed the resolution officially declaring that the dam at Boulder Canyon be named Hoover Dam.
End of 10/27 discussion
Cold Call: 17th cold call for required reading and viewing - Read Goal 5 in the discussion guide for today at http://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist383/LosAngeles.html
Goal #5: To chronologically examine the way in which transportation technologies influenced the growth of Southern California and Los Angeles in the early 20th Century
- 1874 - The first street car system in L.A. was built - a single-track, horse operated railroad extending for two and one-half miles from the Mission Plaza down Main and Spring Streets to Sixth Street.
- 1876 - Los Angeles was connected to San Francisco via the Central Pacific Railroad.
- 1894 - Moses Sherman and Eli Clark began acquiring the various horse-car and cablecar systems in L.A. and organized the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway.
- 1895 - The first intercity electric car line opened and linked L.A. with Pasadena. By 1896, tracks ran from Los Angeles through what would one day be Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Santa Monica.
- 1898 - A group of investors under the leadership of Collis Huntington (president of the Southern Pacific Railroad) took over control of the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway.
- 1901 - Henry Huntington, after buying land in growing areas in and around L.A. not yet reached by
existing public transportation, established the Pacific Electric Railway to
handle these holdings.
- 1914 - The Pacific Electric had Red Car lines from downtown L.A. to San Bernardino, Santa Ana, San Pedro or San Fernando. The 1906 map below shows the red car lines marked and red and the street car lines marked in yellow. Rail lines are in blue.
- 1915 - There were 55,000 cars on the streets of L.A.
- 1920s - Pacific Electric service to some communities was discontinued as the automobile gained more popularity in L.A. Bus lines began to replace the red cars in many areas.
- 1923 - 430,000 automobiles were registered in L.A. - one car for every three people.
- The Los Angeles Motor Coach
Company was formed and the Los Angeles
Board of Public Utilities recommended
that the companies install 24 bus lines
using 50 buses. Gradually, buses became more popular and began to replace the red cars - largely because they were cheaper to operate. (The costs for overhead electrical
power lines and repaving the rail lines were very expensive.)
- 1925 - Los Angeles' Pacific Electric Subway opened, extending 1,045 feet under Fourth and Hill Street to a portal near Beverly and Glendale Boulevards - as seen in the photograph below.
- 1925 - The first motel in the nation opened on the Pacific Coast Highway near San Luis Obispo. Motels were less formal, roadside hotels that allowed people traveling in their cars to access overnight accommodations close to or on the highway and thus avoid searching through unfamiliar streets for a place to stop. The Milestone Motel, pictured below, cost $1.25 per night, per room when it opened in 1925.
- The 1930s - the love affair of Los Angelenos with their cars established the development of their City. It would continue to extend outward, with suburban residents commuting by car rather than by electric cars or by bus.
- 1943 - L.A. had its first smog alert - one of the first in the nation
- 1947 - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established the nation's first air pollution control program by creating the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District.
- 1953 - Pacific Electric sold the bus lines and the red car lines to Metropolitan Coach Lines.
- 1954 - For 18 consecutive days in October, Los Angeles was enveloped in the worst smog it had ever experienced. It was even worse in November when a zero-visibility cloud extended 20 miles inland, leading to looting, deaths and, on November 27, more than 1,500 accidents.
- 1958 - The newly created Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority took over both bus and rail passenger service in southern California.
- 1961 - The final red car line ceased operation.
In short, while public transportation in terms of trains and electric cars grew dramatically during the first two decades of the 20th Century, they were gradually replaced by the newer and cheaper transportation systems - the bus and the automobile. Both of these had come to age in Southern California by the 1920s. How and why did this happen?
- Dramatic suburban growth - 576,000 people lived in L.A. in 1920, compared with 1,238,000 ten years later. This stimulated the growth of single-family homes in dozens of subdivisions. Suburban residents drove their cars to work and to shop in L.A.s downtown business districts.
- Money losses for the electric and rail lines. Both transportation sources were beginning to lose money due to bus and auto gransportation, and consequently, the companies did not have enough capital to expand their services to the new suburban areas.
- Traffic congestion. L.A decided to deal with traffic jams caused by the commute between L.A. and the suburbs by building wider streets and creating traffic controls rather than supporting the electric and rail lines.
- Movement of business and manufacturing industries to the suburbs. SOme businesses decided to avoid traffic congession and create larger markets for their services by moving from the city to the suburbs.
Beginning in the late 1940s, a conspiracy theory arose. Known as the General Motor's Streetcar Conspiracy, the conspiracy holds that General Motors and other companies were part of a deliberate plot to purchase and dismantle street car systems in many cities in the United States - including L.A. - in an attempt to monopolize surface transportation and encourage the growth of the automobile industry over public transit. Wikipedia does a pretty good job of describing the conspiracy at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy. In short, conspiracy theorists argue:
"... that destruction of streetcars systems was an integral part of a larger strategy to push the United States into automobile dependency. Most transit scholars disagree, suggesting that transit system changes were brought about by other factors; economic, social, and political factors such as unrealistic capitalisation, fixed fares during inflation, changes in paving and automotive technology, the Great Depression, anti-trust action ... labor unrest, market forces including declining industries' difficulty attracting capital, rapidly increasing traffic congestion, the Good Roads Movement, urban sprawl, tax policies favoring private vehicle ownership, taxation of fixed infrastructure, franchise repair costs for co-located property, wide diffusion of driving skills, automatic transmission buses, and general enthusiasm for the automobile."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy)
To read a summary of Bradford Snell's conspiracy theory about General Motor's role in the decline of public transit, see http://www.lovearth.net/gmdeliberatelydestroyed.htm
- To read an article that denies that General Motors caused the demise of America's streetcar system and
that without GM's interference streetcars would be alive and well today, see "General Motors and the Demise of Streetcars" by Cliff Slater at http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-slatr.htm
- For a detailed history of the early years of the electric cars in Southern California, see http://www.erha.org/laiuh.htm
- For a comprehensive chronology of L.A.'s electric railroad system, see http://www.erha.org/
- For a light-hearted view of the conspiracy, see Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Goal #6: To understand the evolution of South Central Los Angeles prior to and after the Watts Riot
The Geopolitical Realities of South Los Angeles:
- Los Angeles County. As this map indicates - http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/- Los Angeles County consists of sixteen regions.
- South Central. One of those regions is South Los Angeles or South Central, as shown on this map - http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/region/south-la/ (Locate on map and click onto South L.A. region as shown to the right.)
- After WWII, Police, Fire and City Officials coined the term "South Central" because of its southern proximity from downtown on Central Avenue.
- Along with Watts several miles to the south, this corridor was the only district-scale area within the city in which African-Americans could purchase property prior to 1948. While some African-Americans rented and sometimes even owned property in other areas of the city, they were generally confined to single streets or small neighborhoods.
- Since the 1950s, the definition of "South Central" has gradually expanded to include all of the areas of the city of Los Angeles (and small unincorporated pockets of Los Angeles County) roughly indicated in the map.
- From the time of the Watts riots of 1965 to the L.A. riots of 1992, South Central was perceived to be the black heart of Los Angeles and among the largest African-American communities in Southern California.
- Watts. Watts
is one of 28 neighborhoods in the South Central region of Los Angeles County. Its neighboring communities are Florence-Firestone, Green Meadows, Lynwood, South Gate and Willowbrook. (locate at http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/watts/ and click onto Watts neighborhood. Scroll down through the socio-economic statistics for the neighborhood.
Watts - Before, During, and After the Riots
Watts was originally part of a large Mexican land grant, El Rancho Tajuato.
In the 1880s, it was subdivided for the first time and for the next two decades, Mexican laborers moved into the area to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad.
In 1907, Watts was incorporated as a city and consisted of a small residential area without any significant industrial base such as that enjoyed by neighboring Compton.
It was annexed to Los Angeles in 1926 - an area 2-1/2 square miles.
Before World War II, Watts was racially diverse with a vibrant Mexican American, African American, and white community.
During and after World War II, however, the population changed as African Americans from across the country migrated to take advantage plentiful low-cost housing and new jobs in the defense industry.
Watts was one of the only areas in Los Angeles that did not have deed restrictions limiting black access to housing.
Between 1940-60, the black population of Watts increased eightfold and by 1965, African-Americans were 87% of the population in Watts - making it the most segregated city in the west. Some of the consequences of such segregation included:
- Little social mobility - African Americans were stuck in Watts because residential laws prohibited them from moving to the suburbs. Thus, black residential expansion continued block-by-block.
- Overpopulation - Watts had the highest population density of any city in L.A.
- Poverty - The median black family income for 1964 in Watts was $4,669.
- White flight - As blacks moved in, whites moved out - not just residential, but also white businesses moved out.
- Subdivision of property and increased congestion - Absentee landlords subdivided properties into apartments, increasing congestion.
- Community disintegration
- During WWII, a federal study found a noticeable lack of quality and integration in schools, inability of black youth to take advantage of the city's junior colleges, as well as a lack of leadership and employment opportunities.
- Another study conducted by the city planning commission in 1947 found that Watts had inadequate recreational facilities, deteriorating streets, decaying private and public buildings, ineffective public transportation, limited shopping facilities, and high disease, death, and delinquency rates.
- Poor relations between police and the black community
- Disproportionately young population with little to do - by 1960, about 60% of the population was under 25 years old; 40% of those between 18-25 had no job while the remaining 60% were mainly underemployed.
The Watts Riots. The riots began on the evening of Wednesday, August 11, 1965, when a young black man was arrested for drunken driving and many people in the area of the arrest stated that two black women were victims of police brutality. The stories of police brutality rapidly spread and drew people throughout the area to the scene.
Officers responding to the scene had no understanding of the cultural or economic conditions of the community and plunged into the area assuming the worst and reacting accordingly.
- Throughout Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, random violence occurred as mostly young African Americans stoned police, attacked white drivers passing through the area, and clashed with television crews.
- Police Chief William Walker appeared on television informing Los Angeleans that the problems were isolated and attributed to a "few agitators" who advocated civil disobedience.
While he probably believed this to be true, the African American residents knew better. Some members of the Watts community held an assembly on Thursday afternoon to organize teams of peacemakers to contact neighborhood gangs and prevent another night of violence.
- Due largely to the huge presence of television crews, the failure of local authorities to listen to residents asking that traffic be diverted from the area, and the decision of the LAPD to reject community petitions asking to assign black officers to the district, fires began to erupt after 8pm.
- Violence quickly spread over a wider area, moving into Central Watts and northwest to the area beyond USC and the LA Coliseum. Several dozen cars were burned and 76 buildings were looted or destroyed Thursday night.
- By Friday, local law enforcement was completely overwhelmed. At 1pm that the National Guard began arriving to establish road blocks in the hope of containing the riot.
- By Saturday morning, entire blocks were ablaze or in ashes and more than a dozen people were dead.
- By Sunday when the turmoil had begun to subside, the consequences of rioting for days were overwhelming:
- 10,000 local people had been involved in the riots, interacting with 14,000 National Guard troops, the California Highway Patrol, and law-enforcement officers from several local jurisdictions.
- 34 people had been killed, 31 of whom were black.
- The number of those injured ranged from 849-1,309.
- Arrests numbered close to 4,000.
- Estimated property damage was $40 million - with 600 buildings suffering damage, 200 of which were totally destroyed by fire.
- Very little television coverage focused on the causes of the riots or the question of why community members might be involved in such destruction.
The Aftermath. Several months after the riots, the state sponsored the McCone Commission Report, Violence in a City - An End or a Beginning? - which identified numerous contributors to the riots:
- inequities and conditions that had been observed for at least 20 years prior to the riot;
- congestion that resulted in decaying neighborhoods, severe underemployment, police harassment, limited opportunity and inadequate education;
- increased poverty;
- functional illiteracy;
- general racial discrimination of African Americans of all classes.
However, while it admitted that black residents of Watts were disadvantaged, the McCone report also stated that instead of protesting, residents needed to shoulder "a full share of the responsibility of his own well being." Other reports on the riots included:
- Historian Robert Fogelson published a critique of the McCone report, stating that the report used the language of "romantic capitalism " to justify the Commission's finding that there was no sufficient cause for such violence. It concluded that violence in Watts was unacceptable and that no matter how grave the residents' grievances, "there are no legitimate grounds for violent protest."
- 1970 Institute of Government and Public Affairs study, The Los Angeles Riots: A Socio-Psychological Study - released the following findings after conduction interviews with 586 residents of South Central LA:
- Up to 15 percent of the black adult population particpated in some aspect of the rioting.
- Interviewees stated the following grievances: poor neighborhood conditions (33%); mistreatment by whites (14%); economic conditions (13%); no specific complains (21%).
- Their ultimate conclusion - "the one thread which ran through most explanations was a high level of discontent among the Negro population of the city."
- In its section "Implications for the Future," the report concluded "If the riots are viewed as a revolt against the System, as a crying out against the piling up of numerous grievances, and these conditions continue to fester, some pattern of violence response will emerge."
And this final quote from the 1970 study was correct - despite the studies, literally nothing was done to deal with the underlying grievances in Watts or South Central Los Angeles. So, 21 years later, violence again erupted.
Goal #7: To understand the Rodney King Riots
Events leading to and following the Rodney King Trial and Riots:
- 1991 - On March 3, Los Angeles motorist Rodney King was chased by two Highway Patrol officers who tried to arrest him after an 8-mile long chase. The Highway Patrol officers were assisted by LAPD Sergeant Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind. From his nearby apartment, George Holliday videotaped the scene as three officers hit the unarmed King over fifty times with metal batons before finally handcuffing him. King was taken to a hospital by ambulance. The tape - usually edited to delete a 13-second piece in which King charged the officers- was repeatedly shown on TV.
- March 4, Holliday took his videotape to Los Angeles television station KTLA which broadcast it on the evening news.
- March 5, CNN obtained a copy of the Holliday videotape and played it on its nationwide cable news program. The FBI opened an investigation of the King beating.
- On March 14, the grand jury returned indictments against all four LAPD officers.
- On March 16, a 15-year-old African American girl was shot in the back of the head by a Korean shopkeeper Soon Ja Du in South Central L.A. In the trial - People v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County - the jury found Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter and recommended a 16-year prison sentence, believing that Du's shooting was fully within her control and she fired the gun voluntarily. The presiding judge reduced the sentence to five years probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine.
- 1992 - On Feburary 3, the trial of four LAPD officers on charges of beating King began in Simi Valley.
- On April 29, the jury - 10 whites, one Hispanic, and one Filipino-American - acquitted Koon, Wind, and Briseno of all charges and was unable to reach a verdict on one charge against Powell. By 5pm, violence and looting broke out in South Central Los Angeles - violence that lasted three days and can be visually understood through this slide show.
- When the riots were over, 53 people were dead; over 16,000 people had been arrested; hundreds of businesses were looted or burned in areas as diverse as Koreatown, Hollywood, Watts, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, and Pomona; the fire department had responded to over 500 fires; and over $1 billion total property losses had occurred.
- On April 30, President George Bush ordered the Department of Justice to investigate the possibility of filing charges against the LAPD officers for violating the federal civil rights of Rodney King.
- 1993 - On April 16, the federal jury convicted Koon and Powell on one charge of violating King's civil rights and found Wind and Briseno not guilty. No disturbances followed the verdict.
- On August 4, Judge Davies sentenced Powell and Koon to thirty months in a federal correctional camp.
- 1994 - On April 19, in a civil trial, King was awarded $3.8 million in damges for medical bills and pain and suffering after he gave graphic testimony describing his beating and asserted that he had heard racial epithets as he lay on the ground.
- 1995 - On January 13, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Judge Davies' sentence was too lenient and sent the case back for resentencing.
- On October 15, Koon was released from the Federal Work Camp in Sheridan, Oregon, to enter a halfway house in California, while Powell was released on October 16 from a Federal Work Camp near Edwards Air Force Base.
- On December 13, Powell was released and the following day, Koon was released.
- 1996 - On June 13, the U. S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and upheld the sentence of Judge Davies on most points, but ordered resentencing on the basis of two errors.
- On September 26, Judge Davies refused to extend Koon and Powell's sentences, thus reimposing the 30-month sentence. The case was closed.
Goal #8: To understand one woman's attempt to make sense of the Rodney King Riots - Anna Deavere Smith in Twilight.
Cold Call: 17th cold call for required viewing - Twilight at http://www.thirteen.org/programs/great-performances/twilight-los-angeles/
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1993, Anna Deavere Smith said of Twilight - "I'm just trying to create possibilities for dialog, to decentralize the race discussion, to try to bring more voices to it that don't get heard. I believe we haven't found the language for discussing difference yet, and the only way we find that language is by talking in it - not about it - and talking in it in these moments of crisis, when our anxieties a so big that we can barely speak."
Questions for discussion of Twilight by Anna Deavere Smith:
- Which of the characters provided the most convincing portrayal of injustice? How and why?
- What do you think she wants us to understand about the causes and consequences of the riots?
- Do you agree or disagree with LAPD Chief Gates when he said that the Rodney King beatings had nothing to do wih race? Why or why not? How does his response compare and contrast with what Lou Cannon found in his research?
- One of the accused who was let go said the riots were the work of "cynical, diabolical predators." What does this mean? Why might he feel this way?
- Maxine Waters said the riot was "the voice of the unheard." Do you agree? How and why? How is looting a function of that voice - or is it?
- According to Smith, in 1999 - 7 years after the riots - not much had changed in South L.A. Why?
Conclusions - Southern California and Los Angeles - A Case Study in Urban and Suburban Growth
- Southern California developed as an artificial, largely man-made region in which virtually everything has been imported: plants, flower, shrubs, trees, people, water, and electrical energy.
- In the late-19th Century, Southern California's economy lagged behind the northern part of the state largely because it was still primarily dependent upon agriculture, real estate speculation, and service industries and had therefore developed very little industry.
- By the early 20th Century, the discovery of oil moved the state's economic focus to Southern California. The subsequent growth of the oil industry was central to the Southern California's economic, political, and social development.
- Among the many things oil helped to finance and influence were the growth of huge real estate developments, the construction of roads and highways, and the financing of many of Hollywood's earliest films.
- From its early pueblo days, the lack of local water resources has been an ongoing problem for Southern California. Consequently, from the very beginning of Southern California's history, the patterns of the seasonal and regional distribution of water have made the control and acquisition of this scarce resource the center of a series of water wars.
- The growth of modern transportation - especially the automobile - led to the emergence of Los Angeles as the first modern decentralized city.
- In short, Southern California, and especially Los Angeles, grew dramatically once a private elite of business, financial, political, and governmental men acquired the power to control the resources and technology that permitted the spectacular growth of the region. Foremost among those resources and technological innovations were oil, water, and transportation.