How well do you know South LA? Well I’ve got 10 facts about the region that you may not already know. And each one might just make you appreciate this region a bit more.
Believe it or not, South LA has an astounding history beyond infamous gangs and hip-hop music. This region dates back to the early 1880s being one of the few pockets minorities were able to live in early Los Angeles.
Today, South LA has more than 750,000 residents who are spread across 51 square miles; 25 neighborhoods; and three unincorporated communities.
In fact, if South Los Angeles was it’s own city, it would rank in the top 25 most populous in the United States. Yes. This region alone has more people than Denver, Colorado; Washington D.C.; or Boston, Massachusetts.
Filled with low-rise development, plenty of eateries, and several homes, this region is actually packed with both welcoming and not-so-nice surprises. But like all of my videos, the overall point is to inform. So Let’s get started.
#10 South LA Holds the Only Historically Black University (HBCU) West of Texas.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities—HBCU’s for short—are institutions that were founded to serve and educate black students—especially before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which played a role in legalizing college-level integration.
A private, non-profit institution, Charles Drew University was built in 1966 in Willowbrook, in response to the 1965 Watts Riots, which unveiled inadequate healthcare in the South Los Angeles region.
The graduate school immediately associated itself with the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center and serves as a rotation center for training doctors. Charles Drew University also holds the first and only school of nursing in South Los Angeles.
For all you HBCU nerds, Charles Drew University is one of four historically black medical schools. The list also includes Howard University College of Medicine, the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College.
#9 South LA Only Has One Target…kind of.
Like me, residents of South LA are far too familiar with driving long distances to shop at department stores and big box retailers. And I know I’m not alone when I say that most errands involve a trip or three on the Freeway. Take a look at a map. Targets are all around South LA, including Gardena, Inglewood, Carson, Culver City.
In 2017, USC reopened its USC Village, which holds a miniature Target intended for light errands. It also holds a Trader Joe’s, Amazon Hub Locker+, and at least a dozen food spots. Right off the 110 Freeway, this Target is accessible to many in the region. I mean, was this built specifically for residents of South LA? No. It was built for USC students…But can we use it? Hehehe, you bet. And parking is free with validation.
#8 Most of LA’s Light Rail Trains Service South LA.
Where are all my metro riders at?
Regardless, LA has double-downed on its train game since the 1990s. The A Line—or Blue Line—extends from Long Beach to Downtown LA, with the majority of stops in South LA. The C Line—or Green Line—Rides along the 105 Freeway, from Norwalk to Hawthorne, servicing the edge of South LA along the way. The Expo line—E Line—which runs from Downtown to Santa Monica, zips through South LA’s University and Exposition parks. And the soon-to-be Crenshaw Line which connects LAX to Leimert Park, riding Crenshaw the majority of the length.
#7 Inglewood and Compton Are Not A Part of South LA
If you’re from here, you already know this. If you’re not from here, you need to know this. Inglewood and Compton sit on the edge of South Los Angeles, but are full-fledged cities. Compton and Inglewood have their own city councils and mayors. James T. Butts Jr. is the mayor of Inglewood and Aja Brown is the mayor of Compton.
#6 Watts Is Not a City
While we’re on the topic, Watts, CA is not a real place…anymore. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, Watts was an independent city that experienced rapid development because of its proximity to the watts train station. For many migrants, this was the first point of contact in LA. In 1926, Los Angeles consolidated Watts into the city, officially making it a neighborhood of South LA. The most famous landmark in Watts is undoubtedly the Watts Towers.
#5 Fatburger Started in South LA
In 1947, Lovie Yancey opened up a Mr. Fatburger, a humble hamburger stand on Western Avenue in Jefferson Park that had smashing success. In 1952, she dropped the Mr. Off of Fatburger, and the stand continued to rank as a local favorite. Around 1990, Yancie sold the rights to Fatburger to a larger company, but maintained her original stand on Western.
That original building still stands today…kind of. After the original fatburger stand ceased operations in the early 2000s, the building was sold to a developer. After a shortl contest, the hamburger stand was not razed in the construction of a new 61 unit low-income housing apartment. Instead…It was built in it. The hamburger stand looks nothing like how Yancey left it, but…they did leave this nice plaque in her honor….
#4 Minorities Couldn’t Buy in Most of South LA until 1948…
There’s no question that South LA is the home of hundreds of thousands of people of color in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t always like that. In a previous video, I discuss how housing covenants prevented Black people and others from specifically buying property outside of Historic South Central and Watts. And neighborhoods like View Park and Leimert Park were out of the question.
#3 Home Prices in South LA Outpace Regional Affordability
According to Redfin, The median sale price of a home in South LA was $395,000….in December of 2016. In December 2020, that number jumped to $610,000. That’s a 54% increase in sale price within 5 years. According to the 2018 American Community Survey, the average household income in South LA is $55,000. And and estimated 65 percent of households are renting.
#2 Pepperdine University Was Located in South LA
Yeah, you heard that right. Before its sprawling 138-acre Malibu campus was even a thought, Pepperdine University had a 34 acre campus in the Vermont Knolls neighborhood in South LA. The original campus formerly housed a mansion on an oversized estate. According to Pepperdine University’s history page, “In October 1968, the college received a remarkable donation of 138 acres of undeveloped ranch land in Malibu, given by Merritt H. Adamson, Sylvia Rindge Adamson Neville, and Rhoda-May Adamson Dallas, for the construction of a new campus.”
Who’s still giving out land? And how can I get some?
In the mid 70s, the university sold its South Los Angeles space to housing developers. But the bulk of the area is now the home of the Crenshaw Christian Center, and its gigantic faith dome.
Pepperdine in South LA. Who would have known?
#1 The First Olympic Village was Built in South LA
According to KCET, the first Olympic village was built for the 1932 summer Olympic games in Los Angeles in Baldwin Hills. The specific area is now the east section of the large Kenneth Hahn Park. To honor that spot, Kenneth Hahn Park has one tree planted for each nation that participated in the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles—This area is called the Olympic Forest.