Okay, Where Actually is L.A.?

Los Angeles Map... sort of
Los Angeles Map… sort of

Even casual followers of our fine city vaguely know about the labyrinthine geographical complexities of Los Angeles. The old line, “There’s no there there,” which I always took as an outsider’s misguided slap at L.A., sort of makes sense in the context of our map.

Look up sprawling in the dictionary, or rather on dictionary.com these days, and you’d expect to find an aerial shot of this city of angels and angles. L.A. proper seemingly stretches on forever, which means the inevitable hours in traffic if you’re going anywhere across town. Okay, we get that, we handle that as part of living in one of America’s urban treasures.

The thing is, though, that sprawl often isn’t even a part of our city, although it’s smack dab centrally located in it, or inside it, or about it anyway.

Confused yet? You will be.

Long ago, some people came up with the bright idea that it would work well if other cities and towns were allowed to be placed directly into the middle our already spread out metropolis.

Were they playing a practical joke? Okay, it worked. We’re all confused. I’ve lived here for two decades and I’m never 100% sure when I’m in L.A. or in a neighboring location, although this neighbor lives kind of in our house, not next door.

Can you imagine other city planners dropping, say, Jersey City into the land currently occupied by New York’s Central Park? Or, for my international reader, how about situating Liverpool just north of Mayfair in central London?

To locals, it’s confusing enough. Imagine how visitors must feel as they Zip car around trying to understand the perplexing design of L.A.’s start-and-stop and then start all over again layout. Are they’re actually in L.A. or perhaps visiting one of the many other cities and towns that are inexplicably situated inside the perimeter of our greater – and I only refer to that in respect to size – city.

Explain to an out-of-towner then that in order to drive to a particular restaurant in L.A. means that they will leave L.A., enter Culver City (not L.A.), exit Culver City, enter L.A. again in Del Rey, head through Marina Del Rey (not L.A.) come back into L.A. (Venice) and then get stuck in traffic driving through Santa Monica (def not L.A.) before arriving in Pacific Palisades (back in Los Angeles again) and you may have to resuscitate them with oxygen.

Look at the map and you’ll wonder how this ever started.

The strangest section has to be the putter-shaped L.A. cutout that starts near Watts and then keeps it’s incredibly skinny perimeter for many miles south, surrounded by non L.A. communities like Gardena, Carson and Torrance. This pencil thin piece of L.A. at some points only exists under the 110 Freeway. It’s as if City Council declared that’s okay we’ll keep the highway for L.A. and you others can have the land on both sides.

The Valley doesn’t escape the action either, as Studio City, Toluca Lake, Cahuenga Pass and even Hollywood – proud L.A. neighborhoods all – push in from four sides on non-L.A. stalwart Universal City. Yeah, L.A. but we got the King Kong tram car!

Nearby, show-bizzy Burbank is at least only surrounded by Los Angeles on three sides. Glendale covers the fourth. And all the way up north don’t forget about rectangular soloist San Fernando which looks to its L.A. connectors Slymar, Pacoima and Mission Hills without the least bit of city envy.

Back on the pricier side of the hill, you might get a kick out of the tiny Veterans Administration zone (not L.A.) that is just a blip of land sandwiched between Brentwood, Westwood and West L.A. – all parts of our city. And for those who might be wondering, East Los Angeles near downtown isn’t Los Angeles either, but if anyone there wants to get a taste of L.A. proper they can just walk across the street to Boyle Heights.

Baldwin Hills is fun because it’s actually in Los Angeles and not in Los Angeles. Please don’t ask me to decipher that one. With all of this happening on the LA. map, it’s absolutely no surprise that when we finally get our football team, sometime before 2050, they’ll play their home games in Inglewood, which is conveniently surrounded by three Los Angeles neighborhoods.


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