Los Angeles' geographical vastness lends to the perception that it's a city without a core, lacking a clearly defined hub of vitality and energy. But a recent USC master's thesis offers empirical evidence in support of the notion that L.A. does indeed have a heart—a centrality that stretches from the Santa Monica Pier to downtown, with places like Beverly Hills and West Hollywood along the way.
Samuel Krueger, the researcher who used an algorithm to map what he calls "urban amenities," was featured last week in the Los Angeles Times. His thesis, titled "Delimiting the Postmodern Urban Center: An Analysis of Urban Amenity Clusters in Los Angeles" and submitted in August, documents overlapping concentrations of high-end retailers, restaurants, nightclubs, theaters and museums.
These clusters of "urban amenities," he said, comprise Los Angeles' urban center. Krueger named this core the "Santa Monica/Wilshire Corridor," after the main arteries that run through it.
"City center" is perhaps a misnomer for Krueger's core. His corridor crosses city boundaries. It's really long and shaped somewhat like a crab. It runs along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains from the beach to downtown. Hollywood, West Hollywood, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Venice, Melrose Avenue, 3rd Street, Beverly Boulevard and Koreatown are all part of it.
It may not look like other city centers, Krueger acknowledged. But it functions like other city centers, the source of street life and urban vitality. It's defined by the same features as the center of "real" cities, like the Loop in Chicago and Manhattan in New York City, he said in his thesis.
"I don't want to say it's comparable to Manhattan or the Loop in any aesthetic sense; obviously it's not," he said. "Los Angeles has its own way of making a center."
Krueger's map captures something real and true about Los Angeles. It encompasses the parts of the city where buzz begins and public life flourishes. It's the L.A. that matters.
Krueger is originally from Portland, OR, and lives in Hollywood. He works on geographic information systems for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Click here to read the entire Times article.
Where do you think L.A.'s urban center is? Does it include Santa Monica? Share your thoughts in the comments section.