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The great debate: Eastside or Westside?

Does downtown Los Angeles fall on the east side or west side of the city? After all, it IS west of East Los Angeles...
Does downtown Los Angeles fall on the east side or west side of the city? After all, it IS west of East Los Angeles...
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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If there's one thing that divides Angelenos it's La Cienega, or Fairfax, or maybe even Western. For many of us, where we live says a lot about how we live. We may not identify strongly with our neighborhood, but our side of town often defines us, whether we like it or not.

Westsiders are all about the beach, nice restaurants and the entertainment industry. Eastsiders are artsy hipsters who will turn a flea-market inside out to find just the right mid-century sideboard. The Westside is hire a decorator – the Eastside is DIY (do-it-yourself). The Westside is Jose Andre's latest restaurant; the Eastside is your weekly locavore club's tomato tasting.

The differences are too many to count, with both sides believing that their way of life is the better way of life. Many an Angeleno would even turn their nose up at the idea of crossing some arbitrary boundary line between east and west.

But where that line lies is unclear. Callers ranged from the extreme, like a man from Venice who claimed everything after the 405 freeway was considered Eastside, to those like Anthony in West Hollywood, who thought the boundary should be aligned with a landmark like the L.A. river. So when did the dichotomy start to trend? Anthony posited that it could have to do with telephone area codes.

“One of the big instigations for creating these very clean boundaries was back in the 90s, when they broke up the area codes for telephones. The original 213 for all of LA became 310, 323, and 213, and I think a lot of people in their minds think that everything that’s 310 is Westside, and all the rest is the east side,” he said.

Still, east versus west might be more a state of mind. While Anthony lives in a central area of LA, he said his friends regard him differently depending on where they’re from.

But Frank from Highland Park noted that the differences between east and west are stark in racial, financial and cultural composition. “With the consolidation of arts going to major museums, and the lack of economic investment in the eastside, it’s like almost a forgotten place,” he said. “People say ‘Yeah, I went to the eastside for a burrito.’ The reality is [the Eastside is] not what it used to be.”


But the question is: Where is that line? Is it a street? A freeway? A part of town? An attitude? Where does the Eastside become the Westside, and vice versa? There's even debate over how far east you have to go to be considered a true Eastsider. Many who consider themselves such would say Silver Lake and Echo Park, clearly! But how about if they're west of downtown? And what do those boundaries mean to you? What does it mean to be an Eastsider versus a Westsider? Does the actual geography matter? Or is all about a state of mind?