On the east side of the canal, the other half of the old garment district sits on the side of a rusted over train yard, under the new Olympic Freeway. The buildings that have survived new factories and bridge construction are clearly from another era, with intricate tile work on old warehouse buildings and architectural interest added to the Vespucci Bridge. Before the train cars were left here to rust to the tracks, this used to be the lifeblood of the city, bringing goods down to the docks farther south. Now, the few buildings that are occupied are corporately owned, the exception being a glassworks just at the edge of city limits.
The buildings here are almost the same entity as the railroad, some still have the mastiff metal freight doors clinging to their tracks, others now sit open after someone pulled them down for scrap. A few of the buildings are fit between the tracks, arcing with the turns to fill in every corner of space. But now it’s all mostly empty. Sitting out here every afternoon for a week, and I’ve yet to see a single engine come by, or see any sign of industrial activity in any of the buildings. Plants have started to grow between the tracks, with tufts of scrubby sagebrush and yucca plants making a home in the gravely, sandy soil.
The old Darnell Brothers receiving building suffered a catastrophic fire almost thirty years ago, and it still sits empty and open to the sky, except for the substructure that keeps the brickwork from collapse. There is a leasing sign on the front, but something tells me that’s been there a while. Inside there are plants growing up the walls and some evidence that raccoons or coyotes have made a home there. The other buildings in the complex are shut, with the windows tar-papered over or shattered. According to public records, it’s been empty for the past thirty years.
But a few local businesses have made use of the shells, like River City Customs. It’s a rather high end shop from what I’ve been told. Before the current owners acquired it, the building was originally a carburetor facility, which went under long before my time. While the location might seem a bit out of the way, the business functions as a community hub for this side of the city, offering all kinds of work. Of course, speaking with employees, I didn’t want to pry, but it seems like they will give just about anyone a chance. It’s something that I think most of this city could take a page from.
It’s only a few more blocks east until you reach what is more or less the city’s eastern boundary, El Rancho Boulevard. It’s cut into a hillside, and leads around south towards the oil fields. In one of the new affordable residential areas within city limits, although it’s unfortunately obvious why. Most of the homes here were built back when a factory job was a decent job to support a family, and now most of the neighborhood seems to be owned by members of the Legion MC and Aztecas MC. The street, even for it’s age, is well maintained, and the houses are freshly painted.
Stopping to watch the sunset over the city off the hill, two residents came to inquire what exactly I was doing. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how unusual pedestrians can seem in the age of fast cars and even faster schedules. The two people who approached me were curious as to what I was doing, sitting on the sidewalk and taking notes like I was, and we struck up a conversation about their side of the city. They were friendly, once I made my intentions clear, and were kind enough to share their points of view.
A member of Legion MC spoke to me about the number of people who come to their side of the city, into their neighborhood, trying to cause trouble in a place far from their home. Apparently some people see the East side as a place to bring their trouble, even when it doesn’t involve the people who make their home there. Both of the people I spoke with were clear that they would never want to start trouble in their home, close to their families, although they added that they were more than capable of ending anything that was started.
They spoke with a sense of earned pride about that tattoo shop owned and run by Legion, and the neighboring bodega owned and run by the Aztecas. Unsurprisingly, there is a deep sense of pride for a home, either the one you’re born into or the one you make for yourself.
Like any place, it’s seen it’s highs and lows, and as the sun washes the hill with an orange glow, that will end today’s edition of The Pedestrian.