Christopher Hawthorne tours OC's Harbor Boulevard

harbor-blvd-lat-graphic-gra.jpgArchitecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's exploration of Southern California boulevards in the LA Times continues down in Orange County. Harbor Boulevard, which unrolls north and south for 23 miles between La Habra and Costa Mesa — without ever making it to a harbor or the ocean — has been the locale of OC culture and political skirmishes over most of a century, he writes: "Ku Klux Klansmen and the wives and daughters of striking citrus workers have played key roles in Harbor's most dramatic public spectacles. So have Abbie Hoffman's Yippies, who swarmed Disneyland in 1970 and planted a Viet Cong flag on Tom Sawyer Island. These flash points have come irregularly, spasms of violence or protest theater on an otherwise buttoned-up boulevard. But the relationship between Harbor's physical character and its political history is closer than you might guess."

I had no idea. Nice line: Harbor Boulevard's architecture, "largely anonymous and inward-looking, is marked by a studied blandness...that recipe has produced on Harbor a feeling of unnatural civility — the architectural equivalent of a forced smile."

Reaching to trend-ify small glimmers of change in the ways locals use their boulevards is the underlying pretext for the series, but the OC tests even Hawthorne's wishful optimism.

Even as the boulevards of Los Angeles have begun a remarkable transformation, opening themselves up to pedestrians and cyclists and chipping away at the dominance of the car, much of Harbor looks just as it did decades ago.

There is no equivalent on Harbor of the expanding light-rail network that is remaking Los Angeles. Although the Anaheim City Council has tentatively endorsed a streetcar system linking Disneyland with a planned transit center near Anaheim Stadium, for now — and for many years to come — the only rail service you'll see along this part of Harbor is the theme park's own monorail, which sweeps briefly into view on an elevated track.

The package includes the nice Times graphics and personal video by Hawthorne that have accompanied all the boulevards pieces. Photos are by the Times veteran Luis Sinco.

Screen grab: LA Times graphic

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