California 34th District
A block from the 452-foot trademark white tower of the Los Angeles City Hall is the huge retail shopping street of Broadway. The sidewalks are thronged with Latinos, the signs are mostly in Spanish, and the merchandise is displayed on tables. This could be Mexico City or Lima. It is Latin America transplanted just a short walk from City Hall and the 60- and 70-story post-modern pink cylinders that define downtown L.A. these days. Broadway is neither the geographical nor spiritual center of Los Angeles’s Latino communities, and it is just one of many shopping and dining areas. But it is an emblem of the entry-level Latino neighborhoods of the nation’s second-largest city, the places where many immigrants, not only from Mexico but also from Central and South America, come to find a cheap place to live—doubling and tripling up with other families and single newcomers, close enough to drive an old car to work in factories and warehouses that fill the acreage south and east of downtown.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Broadway and many of these entry-level neighborhoods are part of the 34th Congressional District of California. It includes downtown and Boyle Heights, once an entry neighborhood for Irish and Jewish immigrants and for the last 40 years predominantly Mexican-American. Near the Hollywood Freeway is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the $190 million center of the nation’s largest and most ethnically diverse Roman Catholic archdiocese, which Cardinal Roger Mahony dedicated as an “anchor for the ages.” Another new landmark is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The commercial revival has helped to reduce crime and spurred residential development in the central business district, with both new housing and renovations. The 34th also includes the giant factories south of downtown along the Southern Pacific Railroad and Santa Ana Freeway. And it takes in part of East Los Angeles.
To the south it includes the garment factories of Vernon and the 1940s working-class suburbs of Huntington Park, with its vibrant shopping strip on the wide Pacific Boulevard, Bell and Bell Gardens, Commerce, Maywood, and Cudahy, all of which are now heavily Latino. City officials have declared Maywood a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants. Beyond those areas are the more affluent suburbs of Downey, home of the Boeing (formerly Rockwell) plant that built the space shuttle, and Bellflower, a formerly prime shopping area struggling for a comeback. Bisecting much of the district is the concrete-lined Los Angeles River. City officials plan to clean up the river and return it to a more natural condition, with adjacent parkland, while preserving its flood-control assets.
The 34th District is 80% Hispanic, the highest percentage in any California district, and 80% of the residents speak a language other than English at home. Politically, this area is heavily Democratic. It is not clear what the future political preferences of people here will be, for the large majority of adults here do not vote. In 2008, in a constituency of 654,000 people, only 143,000 voted in the general election, far fewer than the 344,000 who voted in the Westside 30th District or even the 237,000 who voted in the downtown 33rd District.