L.A. geography isn't that hard

creditThis shouldn't happen at the Los Angeles Times. In the staff-written web story about the UCLA student who got the stun gun, the Times says the incident has prompted "outrage among students at the West Los Angeles campus." My emphasis added, but really: say what?

Is there a college student anywhere in the nation who doesn't know UCLA is in Westwood? John Wooden wasn't the Wizard of West L.A. Los Angeles place names can be tricky, but these aren't. Both are real places, not made-up labels like "Fairfax area" or "garment district" or even Westside. Here's an easy way to remember. West Los Angeles is the name given the once-independent city of Sawtelle after it was annexed. Borders today are semi-official, but WLA is generally considered west of the 405 freeway. The corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sawtelle Avenue was the First and Main of the 1890s city, today's Royal Theatre the Tivoli of old Sawtelle. (Sawtelle City Hall, pictured, was at 11354 Santa Monica Blvd.)

Westwood sprouted later, in the 1920s, on a former Mexican rancho east of the freeway (today's Sepulveda Boulevard marked the rancho line.) It was never a city, just a mammoth land development that failed to attract enough movie studios — it was meant to be a beachier alternative to Hollywood, thus the name Westwood — but thrived because of UCLA. The campus, in effect, is a giant real estate come-on that worked. Arthur Letts, who paid $2 million in cash for the rancho's 3,296 acres, was a man of sufficient influence to acquire a university. (His son later built what became the Playboy Mansion.)

Westwood Village was designed to serve the campus and the development. While Westwood and West L.A. touch, they don't touch anywhere close to the campus of UCLA. The campus is actually closer to Bel-Air than it is to West L.A. Wikipedia buys the argument that West Los Angeles can equal Westside in some uses, but even if you go there (I don't) I've never heard the term applied to UCLA. Until now.

Neither has the Times: I searched back to 1985 and found no instances where UCLA and "West Los Angeles campus" appeared in the same story. It was changed for this morning's print edition story — I'll assume credit for the save goes to the copy desk.

And just because it's cool, here's the earliest picture I could find of the City of Sawtelle Fire Department. Don't know the date, but it could be late 1890s:


Photos: Los Angeles Public Library

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