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JAMES RICCI : Metropolis / Snapshots From The Center
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We, the People of Census Tract 2675.01

April 29, 2001|JAMES RICCI

You can walk the boundaries of my census tract in 41 minutes. Ambulating each of its five east-west and eight north-south streets takes one hour and 42 minutes.

My census tract is known to the United States Census Bureau as California Los Angeles County Tract 2675.01, an unfashionable part of West L.A. southeast of where Santa Monica Boulevard intersects Bundy Drive. It is a slightly deformed rectangle of 1.4 square miles wherein dwell, according to newly released figures from the 2000 census, 5,307 of us. Its limits are Ohio Avenue on the north, Federal Avenue on the east, Nebraska Avenue on the south and Brockton Avenue on the west.

Not many people are mindful of their census tracts. They think, instead, in terms of their neighborhoods, their sides of town, their cities. These, however, are vague socio-geographic concepts, especially in ever-morphing Los Angeles.

The beauty of the census tract is that it exists to be known concretely. It is an island of definitiveness in a sea of conjecture about the nature of where you live. Your census tract says something concrete about your place in the nation and, therefore, about you. It is a lens through which you can know yourself in relation to the people around you, rather than from within yourself (which usually produces such mixed results).

We of Tract 2675.01 are about 18.7 millionths of the United States populace, down from 19 millionths in 1990, even though our numbers increased by 522.

So far, the Census Bureau has released only minimal 2000-vintage information about us--raw numbers and racial breakdowns, primarily. More granular data will be unveiled over the ensuing months and years.

What can be said of my census tract racially is this: We are at least 40.7% white, 29.8% Latino, 19.9% Asian and 2.4% black. These percentages represent, respectively, a sizable loss, and three very significant gains.

Other current truths about my tract, not yet specified by the 2000 census, are suggested by a careful walk of the place, and the 1990 census' pinpointing of trends that clearly have continued.

For example, we have no parks (Stoner Recreation Center lies just south, on the other side of Nebraska), no public schools and no hardware stores.

Buses skim the top of our tract along Santa Monica Boulevard, which means we can get around without cars. But we don't. The 1990 census estimated that 3,433 vehicles were being kept in our census tract, one for every 1.4 persons. The number surely has increased since then, judging from the incessant traffic that hiccups through the gantlets of stop signs at our intersections.

In 1990, we of 2675.01 were quite educated, and likely remain so. An estimated 43% held college degrees in 1990, a function, no doubt, of our easy access to UCLA's graduate and professional schools.

Alas, we probably have not gotten rich since 1990, when our median household income was estimated at $31,800 a year ($1,744 higher than the national median then).

On the bright side, however, we are probably still pretty young, 60% of tract-dwellers having been between the ages of 21 and 39 in 1990. Although at 54 I personally will be providing upward pressure on the 2000 figure, the continued influx of young Latinos and UCLA grad students will be pushing it downward.

And, should you be interested, my tract mates and I are likely as available now as in 1990, when an estimated one-fourth of all households consisted of one person (52% of our males over the age of 15 and 59% of our females had never been married).

We of 2675.01 are almost certainly renters, by an overwhelming percentage. Of the 2,398 occupied housing units in 1990, 87% were rentals, and there has been little to indicate a downward change. It looks, moreover, as if we have filled the place up. "Vacancy" signs today are hard to find.

New apartment and condominium buildings continue to devour our single-family houses. Walking the tract, you can't help but notice how few are the survivors. Some, crowded on three sides by sun-blocking apartment buildings that fill every square foot of their lots, cling to a claustrophobic grace; others, dilapidating, huddle amid overgrown vegetation. The days of both seem numbered.

Finally, we are perennial newcomers. The 1990 census estimated that 40% of tract residents had moved into their dwellings within the preceding year, and 75% within the preceding five. Judging from the turnover in my apartment building, my census tract remains a place of transition--L.A. writ small.

That probably means I'm in transition, too. In 1990, I didn't live in 2675.01, but in a census tract 2,500 miles away (I wonder if I'm missed?). By the 2010 census, chances are I'll be somewhere else, and that place will say something about me I can't even know yet.

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