If Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue Ain’t Champs Elysees Then What Is It?

LEANING RIGHT-It has been shown that Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue Ain’t No Champs Elysees. Then what the heck is it? Well, let’s see, but be forewarned that it ain’t something you want to walk.

It’s the center of great surroundings. 

It’s a place where you can glean from the expression of its people, its diversity, its interest, and its passions. It has majestic views extending from the Music Center and Disney Hall to City Hall, providing Angelenos of all walks of life a place where they can come together to celebrate, reflect, and shape the future, in one central gathering place. 

Throughout Grand Park, open spaces are available not only for casual sitting and leisurely strolling, but also for civic gatherings. Grand Park has four distinct areas featuring amenities ranging from a restored historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain with a new wade-able membrane pool, a small intimate performance lawn, a community terrace planted with drought tolerant specimen plants representing the diverse cultural make-up of Los Angeles itself, and a grand event lawn. 

The new Grand Park allows for a strong visual and physical connection from Grand Avenue via a series of stairs, accessible ramps and sloped walks as well as a new elevator to invite more pedestrians into a vibrant garden environment, a place to come together in a welcoming and distinctly urban oasis. 

It’s a place where you can see the nation’s most beautiful major league ball park. 

In the 1940s, Chavez Ravine was a poor, though cohesive community. Many families lived there because of housing discrimination in other parts of Los Angeles. With the population of Los Angeles expanding, Chavez Ravine was viewed as a prime, underutilized location. The city began to label the area as “blighted” and thus ripe for redevelopment. 

The resulting development was 352 acres known as Chavez Ravine and became the magnificent home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is unfortunate this was done at the expense of the residents of this barrio. 

It’s a stone throw from the affluent neighborhood of Los Feliz. It is noted for its expensive homes and celebrity inhabitants. The neighborhood is named after its colonial Spanish land grantee Jose Feliz and, along with present day Griffith Park, makes up the original Rancho Los Feliz land concession. 

It is ten minutes from the beautiful Rose Bowl built for the January 1, 1923, games which were played in Pasadena's Tournament Park, approximately three miles southeast of the current Rose Bowl stadium near the campus of Caltech. Tournament Park was determined to be unsuitable for the larger and larger crowds gathering to watch the game and a new, permanent home for the game was commissioned. They made sure they got everything right with the new Rose Bowl surrounded by rose gardens, palms, and oak trees. 

Going south the first thing you stumble into is the Staple Center which is followed by USC and the Coliseum.  The Staple Center has become a life of its own with its venue, condominiums, shops and many restaurants visible from Grand Avenue. 

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, colloquially known as just "The Coliseum," is a large outdoor sports stadium in the University Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, at Exposition Park, that is home to the Pacific 12 Conference’s USC Trojans football team. It is the largest football stadium in the Pac-12. USC is the grand daddy of California universities. 

Closer and within walking distance you can get to Grand Central Market. 

Nowhere else in Los Angeles today can you taste the richness of yesterday. The landmark Grand Central Market dates back to 1917, when well to do Angelenos rode the Angels Flight Railway for a penny down to the best open-air shopping in town. At the Market, they could find an entire world of treats for all the senses and all the family. Today, you still can. Step back over 80 years as you explore aisle after aisle of exciting sights, scents, flavors, historic neon signs - and values. The Grand Central Market is located in the ground floor of the stately Homer Laughlin Building, which once housed an office for American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, forming the centerpiece of L.A.'s Historic Core District. 

Through the years Grand Central Market has undergone many interior cosmetic changes, mostly as a means of keeping up with the mode of the day. The exterior facade, however, has remained true to its heritage and is still a prime example of the architecture of a bygone era. 

If you are still facing south then glance over your right shoulder and you will see the Hollywood sign.

The Hollywood Sign is a landmark and American cultural icon. The sign overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. "HOLLYWOOD" is spelled out in 45-foot-tall and 350-foot-long white capital letters. It was originally created as an advertisement for local real estate development in 1923, but it garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up The sign was a frequent target of pranks and vandalism, but it has since undergone restoration, including the installation of a security system to deter vandalism. The sign is protected and promoted by the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit organization. 

From the ground, the contours of the hills give the sign its "wavy" feature. When observed at a comparable altitude the letters appear nearly level. 

The sign makes frequent appearances in popular culture, particularly in establishing shots for films and television programs set in or around Hollywood. Signs of similar style, but spelling different words, are frequently seen as parodies. It is always the last thing I see when on flights approaching LAX. 

Grand Avenue is a place where you can walk to 12 opulent movie theaters built between 1910 and 1931. By 1931, the district had the highest concentration of cinemas in the world with seating capacity for 15,000. 

Broadway was the hub of LA’s entertainment scene – a place where “screen goddesses and guys in fedoras rubbed elbows with Army nurses and aircraft pioneers.  

Jack Smith wrote “I remember walking into those opulent interiors, surrounded by the glory of the Renaissance, or the age of Baroque, and spending two or three hours in the dream world of the movies. When I came out again the sky blazed; the heat bounced off the sidewalk, traffic sounds filled the street, I was back in the hard reality of the Depression.” 

As a kid I remember the theaters. I was always being able to spend a dime and catch up on 4 or 5 hours of sleep because the theaters were open 24/7. They included the Million Dollar Theater, the Roxie Theater, the Cameo Theater, The Orpheum Theater, the Roxy Theater, the Arcade Theater, and the Los Angeles Theater, about which Jack Smith wrote that the theater was "palatial beyond the dreams of a prince" with a lobby that suggested "nothing less than the glory of Versailles." 

They are now being renovated to provide splendid restaurants, museums, waterfalls, and opulent lobbies with balconies and sweeping stair cases. 

Grand Avenue is blocks away from the amazing downtown public library that was renovated following a fire in 1988 to include an enormous eight story atrium. The square footage was tripled without altering the sky-line. 

The hotels of Grand Avenue will allow you to enjoy night views of Century City and the Pacific. Once a backlot of 20th Century Fox, which still has its headquarters just to the southwest, the Fox studio commissioned a master-plan of Century City development from Welton Becket Associates, which was unveiled at a major press event on the "western" backlot in 1957.    

The Grand Avenue hotels are a place where, on clear nights, you will be able to see the vast Pacific Ocean. 

That is what Los Angeles Grand Avenue is. It ain’t  even close to Champs Elysees but it is something else indeed. 

Plus Grand Avenue has the world’s best weather. 

Just remember that if you fall asleep in one of the Grand Avenue theaters no snoring is allowed.


(Kay Martin is an author and a CityWatch contributor. His new book, Along for the Ride, is now available. He can be reached at kaymartin@hotmail.com)






Vol 11 Issue 81

Pub: Oct 8, 2013