City of West Hollywood Historical Context Study

View of the Gay Pride Parade in Hollywood


City of West Hollywood Historical Context Study

This document represents a city's resolve to understand its history and patterns of discrimination as it strives to become an equitable place to live, work and play.

In December 2021, the City of West Hollywood asked City staff to prepare a Historical Context Study: an analysis of historical patterns involving discriminatory housing and land use policy practices. This project, a first-of-its-kind for the City of West Hollywood, studied patterns (including periods before the City’s 1984 incorporation) that reinforced racial and class biases affecting people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

One vital component of this project was a public outreach program in which information was solicited from members of the West Hollywood community regarding their own experiences with discrimination living, working, or playing in the City. Outreach included a series of community listening sessions and a page on the City’s website, which included a form that community members could use to provide input and information anonymously. The purpose of community engagement was to get public input to tailor the Historical Context Study to West Hollywood to include its community’s direct experiences.

The Architectural Resources Group presented the findings of the completed Study to the West Hollywood City Council and the Social Justice Advisory Board, which will use the Study to inform their future work. The completed Study traces the history of racism and discrimination from the 19th to the present. It provides a historical overview of West Hollywood to familiarize readers with the area’s history, with an emphasis on the history of the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ communities there.

The aim was to produce a study that would help West Hollywood move into the future with a better and deeper understanding of the discrimination its residents faced, creating a more equitable city for them to live in. It illustrates how cities are proceeding with inclusion and reparations efforts and how those efforts can be tied to place. While not specifically place-based in the way a traditional Historic Context Statement is, the Study documents how racism and discrimination affected West Hollywood as it developed in the 20th century, which is intrinsically tied to the built environment. It illustrates how history affects the present and can inform the future. It shows how such a study can explore these difficult topics while not focusing solely on underrepresented communities as victims but also examining how they pushed for their rights and what has been done to rectify these wrongs.

The Historical Context Study can inspire future efforts in the City of West Hollywood and in other cities as they contemplate similar projects. In 2024, the Conservancy awarded this project a Preservation Award.

The Historical Context Study can be viewed here.

Historic Preservation Consultant: Architectural Resources Group 

West Hollywood Community Development Department Staff: Yvonne Quarker, Jasmine Duckworth, Andi Lovano 

View of West Hollywood from Charles Harper’s estate, 1900. | Courtesy LosAngeles Public Library
Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, 1939. | Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, 1920. | Courtesy Los Angeles public Library
Map based upon the 1939 Homeowners’ Loan Corporation maps for West Hollywood. Much of West Hollywood was given a C-yellow rating, and one area (between Sunset Boulevard on the north, Santa Monica Boulevard on the south, and Clark Street on the west, and Hancock Street on the east) was given a D-red rating. HOLC realtors cited West Hollywood’s older homes and lack of deed and zoning restrictions as the reasons for its low ratings. | Map created by Architectural Resources Group.
Because Mrs. Isabel Crocker, shown in her gift shop, is three-quarter American Indian, she and family must vacate their West Hollywood home, says court, owing to non-Caucasian deed restriction.
Isabel Crocker in her gift shop, must vacate due to non-Caucasian deed restriction in Los Angeles, Calif., 1947. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photograph Collection.
West Hollywood became a center for counterculture, as clubs, like Pandora's Box and Gazzarri’s Nightclub attracted younger crowds in the 1960s and 1970s. | Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Voting ad created by the West Hollywood Incorporation Committee.
Beginning in the late 1970s, concerns in West Hollywood over a rent control law, set to expire in 1985, initiated a new drive towards incorporation. | Courtesy of University of Southern California Digital Library
West Hollywood becomes its own city, 1984.
View of the Gay Pride Parade in Hollywood
Gay Pride parade on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, 1984. | Photo by Mike Sergieff/Herald Examiner Collection/LAPL
In 2023, the City of West Hollywood Historical Context Study documented discrimination patterns and trends against BIPOC and LGBTQ communities.
1940 GIS demographic maps of West Hollywood and surrounding areas.
1970 GIS demographic maps of West Hollywood and surrounding areas.
1990 GIS demographic maps of West Hollywood and surrounding areas. | ARG