1. Part of the city is literally named Skid Row.
And it lives up to its name. With all the hype about Downtown LA’s recent revitalization, one could be forgiven for forgetting that thousands of people live on the streets there. In language perhaps a little bit too reminiscent of Discovery Channel programming, Wikipedia characterizes Skid Row as possessing one of the “largest stable populations of homeless people in the United States.” The area even has an official disease: since 2007, the area has battled a tuberculosis outbreak of 19th century proportions. The strain’s name? Skid Row Tuberculosis.
Los Angeles’ attitude toward the realities of Skid Row has changed over the years. In a 2006 effort to adjust to the realities of the situation, Los Angeles city council legalized sleeping and camping on the sidewalk between the hours of 9 PM and 6:30 AM. It’s not all good, though: the highly-publicized killing of a Skid Row man by the LAPD this month put the area’s problems back in the national spotlight.
2. The air pollution is still terrible — and there’s not much that can be done about it.
Even if air pollution has a new darling as of late, and the days of Stage 3 smog alerts seem to be over, Southern California continues to be home to six of the United States’ seven worst-polluted cities, and Los Angeles is one of them. However, this is not for lack of effort: air pollution standards in California are among the strictest in the United States.
So why is it still so bad? The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest in the United States by shipping container traffic, traffic that is expected to double by 2020. All of those containers have to go somewhere. That means trucks: lots of big, polluting diesel trucks, driving through Los Angeles and destined for cities all over the United States.
The problem is, aside from stopping in LA to pick up their cargo, these trucks don’t have a lot to do with Los Angeles — they’re merely passing through. In effect, LA’s pollution problem is really America’s pollution problem, and that spells trouble for Angelenos.
3. Traffic is getting worse again.
All those dirty shipping trucks take up space on the roads, too. People here spend more time strapped into their cars than almost anywhere else, with the average Angeleno spending 90 hours — more than two work weeks — sitting in traffic per year. And, in a uniquely Californian twist, an app is making things worse.
Recently, the shortcut-finding app Waze has redirected millions of drivers desperate for time savings along alternate routes, often through residential areas and narrow streets. Now, in addition to gridlock on the 405, Angelenos need to deal with stop-and-go traffic on all the local streets that run parallel to it.
4. An entire historic neighborhood was bulldozed to build Dodger Stadium.
As Los Angeles grew, it subsumed many smaller communities on its periphery. Some were absorbed completely, but others managed to retain their unique identities. Nestled in Chavez Ravine were three such communities: Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop. Residents ran their own churches, schools, and grew their own food on the land. By the 1940s these communities represented a strange slice of rural life deep in urban Los Angeles.
But city officials looked upon the communities as a shantytown, and starting in 1949, began using eminent domain laws to take control of the land with the intention of replacing the communities and farms with affordable housing. The only problem: the people didn’t want to go. The city of Los Angeles resorted to deceptive negotiations, bullying, and eventually, guns and bulldozers.
By the time the mass eviction was completed, affordable housing had fallen out of fashion, and the land was gifted to the Dodgers for the construction of their new stadium.