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Is Santa Monica Part of L.A.'s Urban Center?

A USC grad student maps a central, vibrant section of sprawling L.A. that includes Santa Monica.

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.

Dan Charney January 03, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Wish this 20 something and everyone like him would take their 'urban buzz' and go somewhere other than Santa Monica- I for one, would be really happy to do without them- let them stay downtown and stop jumping in front of my car texting -
Dan Charney January 03, 2013 at 05:53 AM
Please re-draw it and leave Santa Monica out- we don't want the "Urban Buzz" of 20 somethings walking around talking to themselves and stepping in front of our cars while texting- take the whole culture and keep it downtown please. How interesting that it avoids the Baldwin Hills -Ladera Heights area.
Betsy January 03, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Being an owner of a biz that provides services for clients @ their place of residence or work.... for 20+ yrs l've been describing this same areas to newcomers as " the metropolitan LA area ... the Manhattan of LA"...the place where a little or a lot of everything could be found and one can have the choice of using functional public transportation or without having to drive miles out of the norm....as its expected in greater LA area.
Brenda Barnes January 03, 2013 at 07:36 PM
I wonder that there's no mention of the SM Freeway crawling at all hours of the day and even many at night. That's not the kind of crawl 20-somethings like? Betsy's right that it's better than many areas of LA, but as Dan said, notice "urban" is a code word for rich and white--and young. How sad to so limit one's definitions, and to be from Portland, too. The education he got at USC is just what I would have expected, ruination.

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