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Where does the Westside start?

Is it a fixed place, with its own borders, customs and society, or only a state of mind? The Westside is a familar concept to any Angeleno. We all know the basics. The Beach. The Pier. The 310 area code. The 405 Freeway. But when it comes down to details, could we actually draw it on a map? How far east does it run? Does it include Malibu? How about West Hollywood?

With no official definition, there's no official answer. That's why we held this debate to ask readers how they define the Westside. We shared our best guess, and then asked you to share your thoughts, and your maps, with everyone below.

Where The Times draws the line

The map above shows how The Times’ Mapping L.A. project frames the region's 23 neighborhoods. Mullholland Drive's sinuous path along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains marks the northern edge. The city's official boundary rounds off the northwestern corner and curves down the coast, stopping short of Westchester and LAX. Culver City, Pico-Robertson and Beverly Hills carve out the difficult eastern boundary, with West Hollywood, La Cienega Boulevard and Mid-City separating the central city.

“You gotta stop it somewhere,” said Doug Smith, the Times staffer responsible for drawing the boundaries. “Not everybody can live on the Westside.”

Where readers draw the line

Readers submitted more than 300 maps, with borders ranging from Lincoln to La Brea and beyond*. The Times analyzed the results and no one definition approached a majority.

The 405 Freeway leads all other candidates in the race to be declared the Westside's eastern border, appearing in nearly 25 percent of reader comments. But it is closely trailed by a diverse field of candidates that includes a dozen different streets and a cast of less precise perennials like traffic, beauty, beaches and Buddhist enlightenment.

The map above shows the L.A. neighborhoods that readers most frequently included in their versions of the Westside. Each time a reader map overlapped with a neighborhood, the neighborhood's score increased. The darkest neighborhoods are the ones readers included most frequently.

Consensus couldn't be found, but several sets of partisans emerged. They include:

The 405 Faithful

The 405 Freeway was the most common answer, a position readers butressed with appeals to tradition.

"Grew up in the Valley. (pre Zappa)," said b martins. "Westside has always been west of 405 north of 10."

The La Cienega Set

As popular as the 405 was, many readers demanded a broader definition. Answers varied widely, but no city street outnumbered La Cienega Boulevard.

"Basically, Mulholland to the north, Santa Monica Fwy to the south, and La Cienega Blvd. to the east," said Robert. "Anybody who says the Westside ends at the 405 is pretty sheltered and doesn't have a very good feel for the city they live in."

The Downtownists

A small but committed group of readers let the city's early history be their guide and cited Downtown L.A. as the dividing line. This group tended to see the city as two parts, one west and one east, with no need for anything in between like The Times' Central L.A.

"It's just geography people," said Jerome. "If Downtown is the center of the city ... then the west side is anything from downtown to the ocean."

The Potter Stewart School

Not everyone picked a city street as their dividing line. A number of readers defined the Westside using the fuzzier measures of class, race and way of life.

"You're cruising down Beverly or Santa Monica Blvd, minding your own business, when all of sudden WHAM, you realize you're surrounded by smug rich white people," said Eric. "What could possibly be going on? You my friend, have entered the Westside Zone. (dee-dee-doo-doo-dee-dee-doo-doo)."

Times Database Editor Doug Smith, a life-long Angeleno and UCLA Bruin, is the staffer responsible for the paper's current Westside boundaries. He said he sides with this camp, drawing a comparison between his method and Justice Potter Stewart's famous approach to defining pornography.

"It's something you feel as you're driving west. You could drive down Santa Monica Boulevard and you'd feel it," Smith said. "You're in a different world."

Does Smith plan to revise The Times' version of the Westside in response to reader maps?

"No. We won't make changes," he said. "Ours is built for the Mapping L.A. site, with a community-first approach. So the regions will continue to be a collection of communities. They are the building blocks."

"If we cut it off at the 405, what are we going to call the rest?" he asked. "The near Westside?"

Ben Welsh, July 24, 2010

* Readers listed each of the following as a potential eastern boundary: Lincoln, Centinela, The 405, Westwood, Doheny, Robertson, La Cienega, Fairfax, La Brea, Highland, Rimpau, Western, Vermont, The 110, Main, and, finally, the L.A. River.

Read all 485 comments and reader-drawn maps

The 10 latest posts are below. Click one to read the complete comment, or browse the whole list.

  10 years, 11 months ago
The 3 W's: Wealth White people= Westside Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills.
  10 years, 11 months ago
West of Main Street to the ocean!
  10 years, 11 months ago
Ocean to just east of Westwood and century city, and Marina Del Rey to Mulholland
Todd M.
  10 years, 11 months ago
Everyone knows Westside is west of the 405.
  10 years, 11 months ago
very close to as shown on the map. ladera heights to the southeast, ocean west, malibu northwest , west hollywood ...
  10 years, 11 months ago
Agree with TJ Quill Westside resident since 1973 and that includes Mandeville Canyon, Santa Monica, Malibu, Palisades and Brentwood.
  10 years, 11 months ago
East to West, La Cienega to the beach. North to South, Crest of the 405 to LAX. You know you're ...
  10 years, 11 months ago
North to Brentwood South to Marina del Rey East to the 405 Freeway West to the ocean
  10 years, 11 months ago
I agree that the Westside ends at the 405. I would throw Manhattan, Playa and El Segundo in there. They ...
  10 years, 11 months ago
The west side... Start from Labrea & San Vincente....from Labrea North, San Vincente West....
Read all 485 comments and reader-drawn maps

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