The Times unveiled its Mapping L.A. effort to identify Los Angeles neighborhoods yesterday and has been getting lots of online reaction and suggestions at the paper's website. A story that accompanied the new map explains that a lot of neighborhoods aren't where people think they are and notes that it's all subject to change as better info comes in:
Fortunately, those who disagree with the map have a chance to persuade the newspaper's mapmakers to reconsider. Readers can use the interactive website to redraw any section of the map they feel is incorrect and submit the alteration for editors' consideration. And editors may be busy....
Why is neighborhood naming so difficult? The city of Los Angeles has posted hundreds of blue street signs denoting scores of neighborhoods -- from Little Ethiopia to Little Tokyo to Little Armenia. But the city has never drawn the official boundaries of each district.
Eventually, the map may become an electronic entryway to detailed neighborhood information -- crime statistics, census information, economic data and links to Times stories, said Times Database Editor Doug Smith, the map project's coordinator.
Smith, a veteran Times reporter, said the map was compiled with information drawn from such references as a mid-1990s mayor's office map, a 2001 Times map that plotted potholes in the city, the Thomas Guide, U.S. census tracts and Times staffers' personal experience and knowledge.
"To be honest, it's more seat-of-the-pants than scientific," Smith said. "We didn't go to original Spanish land grant maps. The authority is the collective wisdom of the L.A. Times."
California Editor David Lauter, who pushed to give readers an opportunity to review and comment on the project, urged that the map's basic communities be limited to 100. He said "sub-neighborhoods" could list historic or ceremonial names found in the city.
Brady Westwater, the blogger and self-styled critic of how areas are named, was quoted in the story and has comments at his blog (link fixed.) I haven't had a chance to poke around on the maps yet. Sounds like the project has a long way to go, but I'm looking forward down the road to having a reference document that can be used with some authority. What's with the arbitrary limit of 100 communities?
* The nouveau Eastside: Times columnist Patt Morrison chides the paper for meekly starting to refer to Silver Lake as the Eastside and other geographical gaffes:
As one who lives on the real Eastside, I protest this baldfaced defiance of history, logic and geography...
Rebranding Silver Lake as Eastside -- the "Eastside 'hood" as one website described it -- makes it sound edgy and thrillingly louche. But it's a Westsider's version of the Eastside, hip but not too scary. It makes it an ideal hangout for the hesitantly adventuresome who only dare go downtown with their hearts in their throats and their wallets in their socks. They can congratulate themselves on hanging out in this cool Eastside, never imagining that there's a real Eastside off to the, um, east.
Not every place in L.A. can be the Westside. And not every place can be the Eastside either. Once you call Silver Lake the Eastside, you cheat the real Eastside of its name and its character. You nullify Evergreen Cemetery, the Mariachi Plaza bandstand, the Breed Street Synagogue and all that history and future.
Can we give Silver Lake some other hipster geo-designation. The Leastside? The Feastside?
Actually I don't think it's Westsiders renaming the Eastside so much as recent arrivals who misunderstand Los Angeles history and geography and try to view L.A. with parallels to New York.