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Westwood, Los Angeles, California

From Academic Kids

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High-rise buildings line Wilshire Boulevard through the Westwood area
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Another view of the Westwood skyline

Westwood is a district in western Los Angeles, California. Developed by the Janss family in the 1920s, it is best known as the home of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Contents

Geography

Located at the heart of Los Angeles' West Side, Westwood is bordered by Brentwood on the west, Bel-Air on the north, Century City on the east, West Los Angeles on the southwest, Rancho Park on the southeast, and unincorporated Sawtelle on the south and southwest. The district's boundaries are generally considered to be Santa Monica Boulevard on the southeast, the city limits of Beverly Hills on the northeast, and Sunset Boulevard on the north; its southwestern boundary is the San Diego Freeway between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, and Veteran Avenue between Wilshire and Sunset.

Transportation

Westwood's major thoroughfares include Santa Monica, Sepulveda, Beverly Glen, Wilshire, Westwood, and Sunset Boulevards. The district is served by the San Diego Freeway. Numerous bus lines serve the area, and recently instituted bus rapid transit service runs along Wilshire. The area's notorious traffic (q.v.) has led to calls for the extension of the Wilshire leg of the Los Angeles Metro's Red Line subway to Westwood from its current endpoint at Western Avenue in Koreatown. The Metro and Caltrans have also recently begun a project to widen the San Diego Freeway between the its interchanges with the Marina Freeway (California State Highway 90) in Culver City and the Ventura Freeway (U.S. Highway 101) in Sherman Oaks; the project, which will finally add a northbound carpool lane to the congested route, is not scheduled for completion until 2007 at the earliest.

Attractions

A center of movie-going on the Westside and the site of many movie premieres, Westwood is home to several vintage movie theaters, including the Pacific Crest, the Fox Village and the Bruin. These classic Art Deco "picture palaces" anchor the Westwood Village retail district, a picturesque, pedestrian-oriented shopping area (q.v.). Westwood is also home to the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, the last resting place of many of Hollywood's biggest stars. A museum named for and endowed by activist and philanthropist Armand Hammer, longtime head of Occidental Petroleum (which maintains its headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard), has become one of Los Angeles' trendiest cultural attractions since UCLA assumed its management in the 1990s. The Hammer, as it is commonly known, is particularly notable for its collection of Impressionist art and cutting-edge modern art exhibitions.

Westwood Village

Built by the Janss family and wildly successful from its earliest stages, the Westwood Village shopping district successfully retained its cozy village atmosphere even as the San Diego Freeway came through the area in the 1950s and high-rise office towers went up around it in the following decades. However, much of this construction was planned around the never-built Beverly Hills Freeway; in combination with a severe parking shortage at UCLA, high-density development in Westwood has created some of the worst traffic congestion in Los Angeles. Even with the opening of numerous municipal parking structures in the 1990s and 2000s, finding a parking spot in Westwood Village is still a notoriously difficult task, and parking and traffic issues dominate local planning debates.

Recent History

Many local observers contend that Westwood Village's heyday was between the 1960s and the mid-1980s, when some of the streets were so crowded with pedestrians that they were closed to vehicular traffic. The murder of innocent bystander Karen Toshima, during a gun battle between rival gangs on January 30, 1988, led to the widespread impression that even affluent Westwood was not immune to the crime wave then ravaging Los Angeles; it would take more than a decade for this perception to fade. Some residents hold to a conspiracy theory that Westwood's '90s doldrums were a consequence of local developers intentionally depressing local businesses in hopes forcing them to sell out so that they could overtake whole blocks and implement plans for large mixed use complexes. Today, while Westwood is again regarded as one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, its retail sector has been slow to recover in the face of increased competition from Century City, the newly revitalized Culver City, and mid-city attractions like Park La Brea's The Grove.

The Los Angeles Temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has one of its largest temples on Santa Monica Boulevard near Century City; the temple, as well as the meetinghouse and visitor center complex (including a major genealogical research library) behind it on "Temple Hill" were largely financed by the church's successful development of the large tract of Westwood that it purchased from actor Harold Lloyd in 1936. The cream-colored temple, the church's largest at the time of its dedication in 1956 and a prominent West Side landmark, has long served the 300,000+ strong Mormon population of greater Los Angeles. Although temples in Newport Beach (scheduled to open in late 2005) and Redlands (opened 2003) have been built to ease the demand on the Los Angeles Temple and serve church members in Orange County and the fast-growing Inland Empire, respectively, continuing increases in the LDS church's Latino membership ensure that the temple on Santa Monica Boulevard remains one of the denomination's most heavily used.

Housing and Demographics

The area's permanent residents are virtually all of European ancestry and generally affluent, living in high-rise apartment buildings and some of the more luxurious single-family houses in Los Angeles. Single-family homes tend to be north and northeast of UCLA, particularly in the areas behind the LDS temple. Housing in the portion of the district bounded by Sepulveda, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Wilshire Boulevards is mostly low- or medium-rise apartment buildings catering to upscale young professionals, as well as some UCLA students. Most UCLA students in Westwood, however, live in the hilly area of low-rise apartments between Veteran Avenue and the campus' western boundary.

Because of consistently high demand and the district's proximity to so many Westside attractions and businesses, rental housing in Westwood is very expensive relative to most areas of Los Angeles For all but the wealthiest UCLA students, living off-campus in a Westwood apartment necessitates sharing a room. As a result, many UCLA students live 5 miles south of campus in Culver City and the Los Angeles districts of Mar Vista and Palms, both in private housing and in large UCLA-owned apartment complexes.

The Millionaire's Mile

The winding two-mile section of Wilshire Boulevard to the east of Westwood Village is dominated by residential high-rises, and is variously known as the Millionaire's Mile, the Golden Mile or the Wilshire Corridor. Penthouse apartments in the corridor's high-rise condominiums routinely sell for amounts in excess of $20 million. Countless celebrities maintain an address on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, particularly those who split time between Los Angeles and New York and desire a more Manhattan-like living environment than can be found elsewhere in Southern California.

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