Come Live Here, Antonio!

Angelenos Tout the Virtues of Downtown, South Carthay, and Other Fine Adoptive Neighborhoods

With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa preparing to leave office—and the official mayoral residence—and find a new home, Zócalo launched an adopt-a-mayor contest, inviting Angelenos to boast of why their own neighborhoods would be perfect for him. While several long essays came in, so did some worthy shorter responses. We present some of our favorite answers to the following question: What neighborhood should adopt Mayor Villaraigosa?

Clay Russell

Downtown: Because it’s a place of reinvention

Mayor Villaraigosa should give serious thought to joining the 40,000 of us who live downtown. He and other government honchos might have nudged helpful legislation or tax credits that sparked Downtown Los Angeles’ revitalization, but some of us went all in and moved here.

I look out my windows at Pershing Square and drive by it or walk through it every day. The block has a unique energy, with the Jewelry District kissing the Biltmore on its cheek and with polyglot aromas drifting down from Grand Central Market a few hundred yards away.

Within a block of the square in every direction are apartments and condos on every stratum of luxury. Buildings that sometimes sat derelict for decades now buzz with bike-riding hipsters, Tumi-toting suit-types, even couples with kids (or dogs). After years of sitting glumly as a sideshow to Hollywood, the beach, the hills and all the other so-called nice parts of the city, Pershing Square is now the heart of the pulsing heart of Los Angeles.

Antonio Villaraigosa is an authority on the concept of the second chance and a master of reinvention. For that reason alone, he belongs downtown.

Clay Russell is a writer, raconteur, news junkie, world traveler, and husband. He prides himself on his non-linear life path. He has been a professional chef, shoe salesman, and private investigator, and he spent seven years deep in California state government.

Annelisa Stephan

South Carthay: Because it’s not terrible

Here are my top five reasons why South Carthay is not terrible:

1. South Carthay, a squat pie slice east of La Cienega, between Pico and Olympic, is a made-up micro-neighborhood. This inherent fakeness gives its residents the psychological freedom to reinvent themselves, which the mayor is gonna need. What’s more, it’s entirely surrounded by neighborhoods of equally dubious existential validity, such as Picfair Village (whozit?) and Faircrest Heights (wha?).

2. It’s gorgeous. It’s an HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone), people! Of course, that means you can’t even replace a termite-eaten board without City Hall say-so. +1 for connections.

3. Our post office has 2.5 stars on Yelp. Last year it was only 2! We’re on fire!

4. Once plagued by restrictive covenants, South Carthay now proudly boasts being “fairly diverse.” Remember that time the neighborhood newsletter got an angry letter about their description of a burglar as “a very dark-skinned black”? Well, they printed the letter, didn’t they? We’re cool now. Latinos are almost certainly not entirely unwelcome, I would mostly imagine.

5. I’ve lived there 15 years and have only been robbed by bandits once.

Annelisa Stephan has lived in South Carthay for 15 years or so (maybe more, who knows? something like that, don’t make me examine my life, geez).

Eli Lipmen

Palms: Because it’s the best of east and west

Which community in L.A. is 10 minutes from the beach, has the best food in town, and can be both down-to-earth and upscale—all at the same time? Palms!

As mayor, you fought for public transit options, and Palms is the biggest beneficiary with three bike lanes (Venice Boulevard, Motor Avenue, and Sepulveda Boulevard) to ride to work or play (just watch out for the taxis!) and the Expo Line coming soon. Want to get away for the weekend? Palms is at the corner of the 10 and 405 and minutes from LAX.

Enjoy Brazilian, Cuban, Japanese, American, vegan, Italian, Thai, Himalayan, Korean, and Malaysian food—as diverse as the beautiful and smart women you date and close enough that you can walk. We even have some great bars where you can hang out with your Hollywood pals … or sneak over to Culver City for a break from the great city of Los Angeles.

Want culture? Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Need to pray? Hare Krishnas and Anglicans worship on the same block. Like history? “The Palms” was the first suburb of the City of Los Angeles. Hospital? Check. Post Office? Check. Farmers market? Check. Can’t decide if you want a quiet single-family home or a bustling condo? We have both! Daycare, dog care, adult care, too.

Come join us in Palms—Westside living with Eastside hipness.

Eli Lipmen has lived in Palms for almost four years and serves as president of the neighborhood council.

Allison Grover Khoury

Village Green: Because it’s an almost-too-perfect oasis

As a transplant from rural New Hampshire, I love living in a park in the heart of Los Angeles. “What??” people say when I try to describe Village Green during the typical where-do-you-live conversation. “There are no cars,” I say, “not much street noise. Kids can run out the front door to a 60-plus-acre yard, learn to ride bikes with no threat of ending up in the road.” A vague, “Oh, sounds nice” is the response—it doesn’t sound like anything they’ve heard of before. And they are right—Village Green is different. And unique.

Once friends visit, the vague “Oh” turns into a, “Wow, I never knew that a place like this existed at all, especially in L.A.!” Village Green is all grass and trees with two-story residential buildings sprinkled around the grounds. Built in the early 1940s, the interiors are spare and clean-lined, but relatively small. My family’s two-story townhouse is just over 1,100 square feet. The trees are towering, many over 70 years old. Sidewalks—which amount to three miles of trails—wind through the buildings and are ideal for biking, walking, scooting, and chalk art.

I moved here from a small town in New Hampshire after marrying my husband, who had found the perfect job here. Eight years later, I still feel like pinching myself every day when I open the blinds and look out on trees, or when I step out my front door onto the grass and take in the bird song (or crow cawing, depending on the time of year) and fresh air.

We chose Village Green for more than its beauty, green, quiet, and historic value. We love the diversity—young families, working professionals, artists, and retired seniors; black, white, Asian, and Latino residents. At a crossroads between neighborhoods and cultures, Village Green allows our children to grow up naturally in this diversity.

Village Green is considered by many one of Los Angeles’ best kept secrets. And frankly, those of us who live here hope it stays that way. But its residents work hard to build community and are very welcoming to newcomers.

There is an active community life here: lots of play dates, picnics, family activities—Halloween party and trick-or-treating, Easter egg hunt, holiday parties. There are events for the whole community to come together at least once a month: jazz concerts on the central green, movie nights in the summer, art shows, or bird walks. We also have a modest website and an active Facebook presence.

Passionate custodians of this precious National Historic Landmark, residents—among them historians, architects, landscape specialists, artists, and engineers—serve on the various committees that oversee a range of projects and maintenance of the Green. There is a wide range of ideas of how to care for and take Village Green forward—leading to active, lively Board of Directors and committee meetings. Renters as well as owners can serve on committees.

Allison Grover Khoury is an editor, children’s literature blogger, mom, and founding member of “Spirit of Children”—a group of writers and illustrators who put on a conference for artists each summer in Maine. She is currently editing a YA novel.

Peter Smith

Carlson Park: Because it’s neutral turf

Dear Mayor,

Outside of the rush hour, my neighborhood is a 15-minute cab (or limo) non-freeway ride from LAX. It’s 20 minutes to downtown L.A. Alternatively, one can now access the Expo line to many L.A. neighborhoods. It has great restaurants within walking distance and access to good schools (in case you add to your family).

On the exercise front, my neighborhood offers a 45-minute “urban hike” to one of L.A.’s best view spots (Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook) and access to a bike path that links up to the coastal bike paths, allowing for many miles of biking without vehicles cutting you off.

Lastly, for an ex-mayor, my neighborhood offers an opportunity to make a choice to stay above any L.A. politics—and avoid concerns that you are choosing one city of Los Angeles neighborhood over another.

Why? My neighborhood is the Carlson Park area of Culver City!

Peter Smith is a semi-retired consultant who spends his “retired time” playing paddle tennis on Culver City public courts and doing pro-bono consulting for non-profits as a volunteer account director with the Taproot Foundation.