ELITISTS? HOW THE WESTSIDE FEELS
BUT, ACROSS TOWN on the Westside, there are strong objections to the charges of elitism.
Councilwoman Galanter, who represents an area encompassing Venice, Westchester and Crenshaw, says the elitist charge is misleading. "I don't think that's the issue," she says. "The fact that the hillside in question is located in an area of relatively affluent residents I don't think is a relevant issue. If it were a hillside next to the Coast Highway, next to a resource that everybody depends on , and it were in a poor area, I would feel exactly the same way about it.
"Let's acknowledge that we don't do as well in some areas as we do in other areas in creating the environment everybody would like to live in," she says. "I don't think there is any question about that. We have not done as well in providing housing, providing jobs accessible to where housing is. But there are two ways to go. One way is to say we should clean up the environment for everybody, which is what I say. The other way is to say if we haven't cleaned it up in East Los Angeles or South-Central, we shouldn't clean it up anywhere. I don't think that is an option."
Galanter adds another factor that rarely surfaces in the discussion: Along with the wealth of the Westside comes social concern. "If you look at the contributors to a lot of organizations which help (social causes), you find a lot of those people," she says.
Roger Diamond is a Pacific Palisades attorney and a founding member of No Oil. While time and endless battles have forced others to retire, Diamond stays on. His children, infants when he began the fight, are now old enough to vote against oil drilling in November.
The argument that No Oil is elitist is "a clever campaign ploy but it is simply not true," Diamond says. "The people who use the beaches are the people from the inner city, the minorities, so I think their interests are more at stake than the residents'."
Yet there does seem to be a feeling in parts of the rest of Los Angeles that the Westside is more equal than other parts of the city. The phrase "the Westside" has come to mean more than a geographic area of the city. It has come, in recent years, to represent a certain way of life led by what many see as a privileged class of people.
In the early '70s\o7 ,\f7 Mar Vista, for example, was a modest name for a still-modest neighborhood. So were Westwood or--south of Wilshire Boulevard--Baja Westwood, and West Los Angeles. Nobody said they lived on the Westside. But, as prices of small tract homes skyrocketed, this vast area of flatlands became more fashionable. A style developed: trendy restaurants serving high-priced, tiny portions of food; expensive outfits to wear to aerobics classes; first-run movies exclusively in Westwood, gourmet supermarkets.
More important, the area became a dominant power in politics. More and more wealthy people lived there, including many entertainment-industry leaders. Many were Democrats, a substantial number loyal to the the liberal tradition of their Jewish heritage. They became a major financial support of the Democratic Party, which controls the offices--local and congressional--in the liberal city of Los Angeles. Their wealth supported Democratic campaigns in predominantly black South-Central Los Angeles and on the Latino Eastside. Mayor Bradley's election in 1973, and his subsequent campaigns, owed much to Westside financial support. Bradley, with his home base in South-Central and his backing on the Westside, came to symbolize the black-Jewish coalition in the city's politics.
But the growing wealth and power bred resentment. Blacks were angry when Westside Jewish leaders demanded in 1985 that the mayor denounce Black Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan, feeling that the mayor should not have to take orders from his Westside financial backers. Some Westside political leaders were put off by black support for the Jackson presidential campaign, especially after the ugly exchange between New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Jackson during this year's New York primary.
The most recent flare-up occurred when a young woman was shot to death Jan. 30 on the streets of Westwood. The police department quickly deployed more police officers in the area. And the City Council, especially Yaroslavsky, who represents Westwood, responded by offering a $10,000 reward for the suspects in the shooting. Residents and representatives of other parts of the city, particularly South-Central L.A., were angry. They contended that their neighborhoods are subject to such violence all the time and that they don't receive special treatment from the city.
By this year, the Westside, its affluent way of life and its political power had become an attractive target for Occidental and its campaign team.