Los Angeles, California
Chapter 5 discusses The Flats in Los Angeles. The neighborhood sits astride the concrete channel designed to contain the Los Angeles River and below the bluffs of Boyle Heights. It was once known as Russian Town or Russian Flats, a community of Russians, Mexicans, Armenians, and other immigrants that was selected for two major slum clearance projects for public housing in 1941. The Flats provides new perspectives on the history of immigration and the emergence of East Los Angeles as the largest Mexican American barrio in the country. The chapter explores how railroads housed Mexican workers in lowlands that were proximate to the tracks, freight yards, and stations and how reformers focused the city’s attention on housing courts and shanties in and around Utah Street. A detailed reading of the landscape reveals how the city’s early water system influenced spatial relationships and housing, as the path of a former zanja became a dividing line in the neighborhood. Progressive Era reformers Dana Bartlett and Johanna von Wagener are profiled. This chapter examines how topography, disease fears, xenophobia, and land use patterns set the stage for slum clearance for public housing and freeways.
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