Valley and Baldwin

The San Gabriel Valley, known locally as SGV, is a 200-square mile expanse in Southern California home to some two million residents[1]. It is to LA’s east side what the San Fernando Valley, known widely as “The Valley”, is to LA’s northwest side. More dense and populous than the Valley, SGV could just as easily have been LA’s eastern arm. Instead, it is home a collection of 31 cities and 5 unincorporated communities.

The high level of ethnic diversity combined with a suburban character are what make SGV unique. Professor and author Wendy Cheng has identified is as the “largest majority Latino/a and Asian American region in the U.S.”[2] In 2010, 45% of residents were Asian American and 28% were Latino[3]. The white communities we traditionally associate with suburbs are largely absent, as are most black communities with a few exceptions.

Valley Boulevard serves as SGV’s main artery, beginning in Los Angeles running 30 miles east to the border of the Inland Empire. Along certain stretches you might imagine you’ve stumbled upon a shopping district in suburban Beijing, but with more parking and fewer fresh ingredients.

Baldwin Avenue begins in the plush neighborhoods at the base of San Gabriel Mountains and runs seven miles south to the 10 Freeway, approximately dividing the valley in half. The wealth gap between the northern and southern portions of the valley is most visible along the last two miles of Baldwin where an industrial park separates the homes with green lawns and backyard pools from those with granny flats and tarped driveways.

When Valley meets Baldwin all the humanity of SGV clumps together and spills into the streets: apartment blocks filled with tenants hitting the bottom or working their way up border motels charging $60 a night for a hot shower and the freedom to be; men on bicycles and sporting Converses and gray goatees use the 7-Eleven parking lot as both rest-stop and office space on the way to and from their daily hustle; parents escort troops of children dressed like Siberians when the temperature drops below 60 F across the busy intersection to school; and Chinese tourists quickly move from the lobby of the Holiday Inn built by investors from their homeland onto tour buses in search of more savory parts of the valley.

This series will explore the stories of of the people who make their livelihoods here and call this place home. I hope you enjoy.

[1] San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments

[2] East of East: A Brief History (and Geography) of the San Gabriel Valley, Wendy Cheng

[3] Economic snapshot: San Gabriel Valley working to regain jobs, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Kevin Smith

Garrison Turner·
2 min
2 cards

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