South Los Angeles, also known as South Central Los Angeles or simply South Central, is a region in southwestern Los Angeles County, lying mostly within the city limits of Los Angeles, south of downtown. It is "defined on Los Angeles city maps as a 16-square-mile rectangle with two prongs at the south end.” In 2003, the Los Angeles City Council renamed this area "South Los Angeles".
South Los Angeles
Region of Los Angeles County
|Unincorporated areas||View Park–Windsor Hills|
The name South Los Angeles can also refer to a larger 51-square mile region that includes areas within the city limits of Los Angeles as well as five unincorporated areas in the southern portion of Los Angeles County.
The City of Los Angeles delineates the South Los Angeles Community Plan area as an area of 15.5 square miles. Adjacent communities include West Adams, Baldwin Hills, and Leimert Park to the west, and Southeast Los Angeles (the 26-neighborhood area east of the Harbor Freeway) on the east.
According to the Los Angeles Times Mapping Project, the South Los Angeles region comprises 51 square miles, consisting of 25 neighborhoods within the City of Los Angeles as well as three unincorporated neighborhoods in the County of Los Angeles.
Google Maps delineates a similar area to the Los Angeles Times Mapping Project with notable differences on the western border. On the northwest, it omits a section of Los Angeles west of La Brea Avenue. On the southwest, it includes a section of the City of Inglewood north of Century Boulevard.[a]
According to the Mapping L.A. survey of the Los Angeles Times, the South Los Angeles region consists of the following neighborhoods:
In 1880, the University of Southern California, and in 1920, the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary's University, were founded in South Los Angeles. The 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games took place near the USC campus at neighboring Exposition Park, where the Los Angeles Coliseum is located.
Until the 1920s, the South Los Angeles neighborhood of West Adams was one of the most desirable areas of the City. As the wealthy were building stately mansions in West Adams and Jefferson Park, the White working class was establishing itself in Crenshaw and Hyde Park. Affluent blacks gradually moved into West Adams and Jefferson Park. As construction along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor gradually increased in the 1920s, the development of the city was drawn west of downtown and away from South Los Angeles.
In the eastern side of South Los Angeles (which the city calls the "Southeastern CPA") roughly east of the Harbor Freeway, the area grew southward in the late 1800s along the ever longer streetcar routes. Areas north of Slauson Boulevard were mostly built out by the late 1910s, while south of Slauson land was mostly undeveloped, much used by Chinese and Japanese Americans growing produce. In 1903, the farmers were bought out and Ascot Park racetrack was built, which turned into a "den of gambling and drinking". In the late 1910s the park was razed and freed up land for quick build-up of residential and industrial buildings in the 1920s.
"By 1940, approximately 70 percent of the black population of Los Angeles was confined to the Central Avenue corridor"; the area of modest bungalows and low-rise commercial buildings along Central Avenue emerged as the heart of the black community in southern California. Originally, the city's black community was concentrated around what is now Little Tokyo, but began moving south after 1900. It had one of the first jazz scenes in the western U.S., with trombonist Kid Ory a prominent resident. Under racially restrictive covenants, blacks were allowed to own property only within the "Slauson Box" (the area bounded by Main, Slauson, Alameda, and Washington) and in Watts, as well as in small enclaves elsewhere in the city. The working- and middle-class blacks who poured into Los Angeles during the Great Depression and in search of jobs during World War II found themselves penned into what was becoming a severely overcrowded neighborhood. During the war, blacks faced such dire housing shortages that the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles built the virtually all-black and Latino Pueblo Del Rio project, designed by Richard Neutra.
During this time, African Americans remained a minority alongside whites, Asians, and Hispanics; but by the 1930s those groups moved out of the area, African Americans continued to move in, and eastern South LA became majority black. Whites in previously established communities south of Slauson, east of Alameda and west of San Pedro streets persecuted blacks moving beyond established "lines", and thus blacks became effectively restricted to the area in between.
When the Supreme Court banned the legal enforcement of race-oriented restrictive covenants in 1948's Shelley v. Kraemer, blacks began to move into areas outside the increasingly overcrowded Slauson-Alameda-Washington-Main settlement area. For a time in the early 1950s, southern Los Angeles became the site of significant racial violence, with whites bombing, firing into, and burning crosses on the lawns of homes purchased by black families south of Slauson. In an escalation of behavior that began in the 1920s, white gangs in nearby cities such as South Gate and Huntington Park routinely accosted blacks who traveled through white areas. The black mutual protection clubs that formed in response to these assaults became the basis of the region's street gangs.
As in most urban areas, 1950s freeway construction radically altered the geography of southern Los Angeles. Freeway routes tended to reinforce traditional segregation lines.
Beginning in the 1970s, the rapid decline of the area's manufacturing base resulted in a loss of the jobs that had allowed skilled union workers to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. Downtown Los Angeles' service sector, which had long been dominated by unionized African Americans earning relatively fair wages, replaced most black workers with newly arrived Mexican and Central American immigrants.
Widespread unemployment, poverty and street crime contributed to the rise of street gangs in South Central, such as the Crips and the Bloods. The gangs became even more powerful with money coming in from drugs, especially the crack cocaine trade that was dominated by gangs in the 1980s.
Paul Feldman of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1989:
Leaders of the black community regret the branding of a large, predominantly black sector of the city as South-Central, saying it amounts to a subtle form of racial stereotyping.
He added that they believed such "distinctive neighborhoods" as Leimert Park, Lafayette Square and the Crenshaw District were "well-removed" from South Central.
By the early 2010s, the crime rate of South Los Angeles had declined significantly. Redevelopment, improved police patrol, community-based peace programs, gang intervention work, and youth development organizations lowered the murder and crime rates to levels that had not been seen since the 1940s and 1950s. Nevertheless, South Los Angeles was still known for its gangs at the time. After leading the nation in homicides again in 2002, the City Council of Los Angeles voted to change the name South Central Los Angeles to South Los Angeles on all city documents in 2003, a move supporters said would "help erase a stigma that has dogged the southern part of the city."
On August 11, 2014, just two days after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a resident of South L.A., Ezell Ford, described as "a mentally ill 25-year-old man," was fatally shot by two Los Angeles police officers (see Shooting of Ezell Ford). Since then, a number of protests focused on events in Ferguson have taken place in South Los Angeles.
After the 2008 economic recession, housing prices in South Los Angeles recovered significantly, and by 2018, many had come to see South Los Angeles as a prime target for gentrification amid rising real estate values. Residents and activists are against market-rate housing as they have concerns that these projects will encourage landlords to sell, redevelop their properties or jack up rents. Under California law, cities can't reject residential projects based on these criticisms if the project complies with applicable planning and zoning rules. The construction of the K Line light rail through the neighborhood has stimulated the building of denser multistory projects, especially around the new stations. The NFL Stadium in Inglewood also encourages gentrification according to activists.
Real estate values in South Los Angeles were further bolstered by news that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics, with many of the games to be hosted on or near the USC campus.
By the end of the 1980s, South Los Angeles had an increasing number of Hispanics and Latinos, mostly in the northeastern section of the region.
According to scholars, "Between 1970 and 1990 the South LA area went from 80% African American and 9% Latino to 50.3% African American and 44% Latino."
Many African Americans from South Los Angeles have moved to Palmdale and Lancaster in the Antelope Valley. South Los Angeles has received immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
According to the city's "2014 South Los Angeles Community Plan Area Demographic Profile", South Los Angeles had a population of 271,040 residents with the following racial and ethnic balance: Race: Asian - 4.9%, White - 21.4%, African-American - 28.7%, Other Race - 39.4%. Ethnicity (Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race): Not Hispanic or Latino - 39%, Hispanic or Latino - 61%. According to the census, for the category of "race", respondents self-identified as one of the following: White, African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Some Other Race, or Two or More Races. For the category of "ethnicity", they self-identified as either "Hispanic or Latino" or "Not Hispanic or Latino".
South Los Angeles is home to the University of Southern California, a private research university in the University Park neighborhood. It is California's oldest private research university.
The following LAUSD schools fall within the boundaries of South Los Angeles.
LAUSD Elementary Schools
LAUSD Middle Schools
LAUSD High Schools
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the South Health Center in Watts, Los Angeles, serving South Los Angeles.
The City of Los Angeles officially changed the area's name from South Central to South Los Angeles in 2003 in an effort to change the perception of the area as one plagued by urban decay and violence, but residents still largely refer to it as South Central.