For almost thirty years now, I’ve lived in the Crescent Heights neighborhood of West Hollywood. I write that knowing that I may be one of the few who actually thinks of the few square blocks to the east and west of Crescent Heights Boulevard as it runs through West Hollywood as a distinct and cohesive neighborhood. But in the years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to see the neighborhood as having its own unique identity in relation to the rest of West Hollywood, just as West Hollywood itself has its own unique identity in relation to the greater Los Angeles area.
West Hollywood is known for many things, including its active and highly visible gay and Russian emigre communities, as well as the abundance of actors, writers, musicians, and other creative types who have traditionally chosen to live here. It is also known by its residents for an east side/west side divide that serves as a kind of microcosm of similar geographical divisions seen in Los Angeles County as a whole.
The west side of West Hollywood, bordering Beverly Hills and including the Sunset Strip, is more affluent and is also the cultural center of the city’s LGBT communities, while the east side, though now rapidly gentrifying, is more working class and affordable, and also serves as the center of the city’s Russian emigre population. Though the exact boundary between the west and east side can be debated, most would agree that Crescent Heights Boulevard lies very close to that boundary, and might even be that boundary itself.
In recent years, however, this balance in Crescent Heights between affluence and affordability has become threatened. At the same time that new stores, parks, and restaurants have been making this a neighborhood that is more urban, interesting, and livable than it has ever been before, skyrocketing rents and real estate prices, slowed but not stopped by the Great Recession, have made it more difficult for those who would seemingly most appreciate the urbanity of this area…students, immigrants, senior citizens, young people just starting their careers…to become residents.
The Crescent Heights neighborhood, like the rest of this region, is constantly changing. With some changes in my own still-hectic schedule, I find myself with just a bit more time than in the past few years to explore my neighborhood, the surrounding areas, and Los Angeles on a whole. I’ll be occasionally sharing some of those explorations here, along with whatever other topics may suggest themselves to my often-addled brain. That is the view from Crescent Heights that I will be offering…