When we published our first issue nearly three years ago, our creative director, Evan Solano, included a tagline on the back cover: “Why would you want to live anywhere else?” It was partly ironic: less mantra, more a subliminal aimed at the far-right Orange County grifters who purchased and gutted the LA Weekly — and in the process, slandered the city as somehow the cultural inferior of San Francisco.
But the hyperbole contained a partial truth. As a lifelong resident, my bias is deeply ingrained, but for most of the last decade, it was hard to argue that L.A. didn’t occupy the nation’s psychic center of gravity. If its ‘00s music scene was an afterthought compared to Brooklyn’s, it evolved to become a world capital of both the popular and avant-garde in the ‘10s: encompassing the hip-hop splinter sect that started among Flying Lotus and the Low End Theory producers; YG and Odd Future, Drakeo The Ruler and 03 Greedo; TDE and Dam-Funk’s modern funk renaissance. Straight from the westside of Compton, Kendrick Lamar crowned himself the “King of New York” and wrote “Alright,” the anthem of the modern-day civil rights movement. Once oblivious to the idea that culinary genius could be found in a strip mall, the food media came to hail L.A. as America’s best city for dining. Even Jeffrey Deitch took over the Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (let’s not talk about that again).
While never cheap, rent was relatively affordable compared to San Francisco and New York, and it helped entice a generation of artists to a city that they might have sneered at and dismissed with tedious freeway clichés a generation ago. But anyone who has spent time on Westside Rentals or Craigslist, knows that, despite the mid-pandemic dip, rent has become increasingly exorbitant. Home ownership, meanwhile, has become an absurd dream to all but software engineers with a cryptocurrency sideline. Gentrification continues to destroy communities and the city’s character. Despite billions of dollars spent to ameliorate the crisis, the number of the unhoused continues to metastasize, a fact exploited by the unholy trinity of the County Sheriff, Fox News, and the Kevins and Karens on the NextDoor app — all desperate to brand it a flaw of liberal governance and not a feature endemic to metropolitan life under 21st century snuff capitalism.
Much like America itself, L.A. is embroiled in a cold civil war. District Attorney’s office revanchists have teamed with billionaire Republicans and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to try to recall the DA George Gascón and deprive him of the ability to enact the reforms that voters gave him a mandate to do. The two most progressive members of the City Council, Nithya Raman and Mike Bonin, have faced recall attempts within their own districts. The Sheriff’s Department continues to be rife with criminal gangs under investigation from the feds, while Villanueva defies subpoenas and wages a blood vendetta with the Board of Supervisors. The LAPD very much remains the brutal LAPD, siphoning half of the city budget despite persistent and vocal calls to reapportion some funding. The murder rate is the highest it has been in years (albeit a fraction of what it was in the ’90s). As for the deliriously unpopular mayor, Eric Garcetti, he continues to wait for a confirmation to an ambassadorship to India that may never actually happen. To compound the chaos, three former City Council members have been indicted on corruption charges in the last two years.
If the answers were simple, they already would’ve materialized. It doesn’t help that local media remains in a slow death march, despite the indefatigable attempts of our peers and colleagues. Every issue of theLAnd feels like a miracle unto itself. This one has been no different: only made possible by the 513 donors who funded our Kickstarter, and generously allowed this magazine to reach your hands. The reasons extend beyond mere economics as to why few do print anymore. Each story requires rigorous reporting, editing, photography, and design. We’ve been working on this edition for the entirety of the year and have the bags under our eyes to prove it.
theLAnd exists to chronicle all the contradictions, dysfunction, and oblique genius of this deceptively complicated city. Our third full issue contains tales of shady developers gaming the system, the fight to reclaim abandoned homes in El Sereno, and the unsolved mystery of a bombing at an anti-LGBTQ church in El Monte. There are guides to hiking, cynically conceived celebrity weed strains, and the best new pop-up restaurants. There are interviews with L.A.’s greatest living author, 90-year-old John Rechy (City of Night) and first-person chronicles of what it’s like to be homeless and living on Skid Row. We rank the 110 Greatest L.A. Albums and highlight the new Babylon store in West Adams, the type of DIY sanctuary the city desperately needs.
This is L.A. as it stands in 2021: the best nightmare on earth. All we know is that we need to continue to fight to make it more equitable, humane, and livable — because none of us really want to have to move. — Jeff Weiss, for theLAnd Collective