In Place: Leimert Park
In January, Curbed Magazine announced the winner of the 2016 Curbed Cup, its annual reader-voted competition for LA Neighborhood of the Year. Leimert Park not only edged out its fellow finalist, picturesque San Pedro, but also bypassed such LA up-and-comers as Frogtown in DTLA, Highland Park, and Koreatown in semifinals.
2017 promises to be another great year for the vibrant South Los Angeles neighborhood. Work is moving ahead on Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line, with plans for community-oriented businesses along the route. The city has also OK’d a streetscape plan that will give Crenshaw Boulevard a pedestrian and bike-friendly makeover.
Developed in the 1920s as a master-planned community with Spanish Colonial Revival homes and tree-lined streets, Leimert Park began to become integrated in the ‘50s. Today, it’s viewed as the center of the contemporary African-American arts and music scene in Los Angeles. Filmmaker John Singleton, a former resident, called it "the black Greenwich Village." Notable residents have included former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, Ray Charles, and Ella Fitzgerald. NPR’s Tavis Smiley has a studio in the neighborhood.
One of the reasons for the city’s unusually vibrant personality is its organized and closely connected network of block clubs. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a block in Leimert Park that doesn’t have one,” says Heather Presha, a real estate professional with the Baldwin Hills office of John Aaroe Group. “Their collaborative approach to what they do plays a big part in promoting the neighborhood’s overall beauty and sense of community.” Presha also credits the city’s great lineup of annual street festivals and cultural celebrations for bringing neighbors together. Among the most popular are the MLK Day Parade, the Taste of Soul Family Festival, Cyclavia, an amazing Drum Circle, and the Leimert Park Book Fair.
Many of these events happen in or around the heart of the city: Leimert Park Village, anchored by the 1931 Vision Theater, a streamline Spanish Art Deco landmark. Today, a collaboration of city and county government agencies are teaming with residents, business owners and community organizations in Leimert Park Village: 2020, an effort to create a scenic thoroughfare of commerce and culture in South Los Angeles brimming with live theater, weekly social events, bustling galleries and businesses, energized by the new Crenshaw/LAX line. Residents are watching closely to see that the improvements align with what makes their community such a unique and appealing place.
Recently, Curbed asked two neighbors, a relative newcomer and a longtime resident, to talk about Leimert Park and what makes it so special. Here’s what they said.