California 30th District
The Westside: The term was not much used 20 years ago, but is now shorthand for what might be the biggest and flashiest concentration of affluence in the world. It is the heartland of one of America’s most productive and creative industries and one of the nation’s major exports, show business. The first moviemakers came here looking for a place to shoot silent films where the sunlight was more dependable than in Astoria, Queens, or Englewood, New Jersey. They found it in Hollywood, a suburb just annexed by burgeoning Los Angeles when the first movie studio was built in 1911. In 1923 came the “Hollywood” sign, overlooking the soon-famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. By the 1930s, big studio lots were scattered around town, over the mountains in Burbank, or out toward the ocean in Westwood and Culver City. Miraculously, the studio bosses of that era—most of them Jewish immigrants with little ancestral experience of America—created a popular culture that was universally accessible and embodied the American spirit in a way that captured the imagination.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Showbiz still sets the tone for the Westside. It remains tremendously profitable, and not just for the big conglomerate-owned studios. There are thousands of entrepreneurs, actors, writers, and craftsmen who are the best in the world at what they do and who tend to cluster on the Westside because so many of the others they do business with are there. Not everyone is in show business, of course. The Westside is metro Los Angeles’s biggest office center, with horrifying traffic inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening. Most office workers can’t afford to live anywhere nearby. Los Angeles ranks first in the nation in the percentage of people who work at home.
There are large numbers of singles and gays here. It is the center of the nation’s second-largest Jewish community, or actually, communities. The old Fairfax district, where corner delis have long been a hub of political discourse, is now home to many Russian Jewish immigrants. Orthodox Jews are building communities, amid protests of overdevelopment, along Pico Boulevard. Iranian Jews have poured in since 1979, and now make up about one-quarter of the population of Beverly Hills, which elected an Iranian-American mayor in 2007. Beverly Hills and the Westside remain the locus of some of America’s most expensive residential real estate, where people buy houses for multiples of $1 million, knock them down, and build something new for many more millions. And it has one of the world’s premier high-priced shopping areas—Rodeo Drive.
The 30th Congressional District of California contains most of Westside Los Angeles plus territory to the west. It includes the Fairfax neighborhood east to La Brea Avenue, heavily gay West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood and UCLA, Bel Air, Brentwood, Santa Monica, and the whole 27 miles of Malibu on the ocean. The district also includes the western end of the San Fernando Valley, with the high-income neighborhoods of Woodland Hills and Chatsworth up against the mountains that rim the Valley. And it includes the high-income suburbs of Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, and Westlake Village, nestled amid mountains along the Ventura Freeway. By today’s definitions it is the least diverse district in metro Los Angeles. Only 3% of its residents are African-American, and only 9% are Hispanic, by a considerable margin the lowest percentage in Southern California. Many Latinos work in the district, but few are interested in paying the prices for housing that have been bid up by rich people who can’t imagine living anywhere else. Politically, the 30th District is heavily Democratic, but not as heavily as San Francisco. In 2008, the Westside was torn between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, with political reporters writing breathless stories about which studio mogul was defecting from one to the other. (The Westside was also the home of a former president who did not at all exemplify its politics: Ronald Reagan. Before his Alzheimer’s disease worsened, he kept his office on the former Fox lot that is now Century City.) The district voted 66%-33% for John Kerry in 2004 and 70%-28% for Barack Obama in 2008.