Diving into the Infamous Past of the City of West Hollywood


Jon Viscott

WeHo Pride Parade 2022 Photo provided courtesy of the City of West Hollywood. Some rights reserved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/weho/52167511417/in/album-72177720300044714/

“The Creative City” of West Hollywood, known as WeHo by locals, is the cultural and geographic heart of Los Angeles County. It is a robust economic and cultural hotspot that welcomes idealism and creativity. WeHo holds a high torch on community activism and civic pride. No other city has changed the national public agenda as much as West Hollywood!

The History behind West Hollywood

City of West Hollywood is built on the ancestral, and unceded homelands of the Gabrieleño Tongva and Gabrieleño Kizh (“Keesh”) peoples. Prior to the beginning of the Spanish conquest in 1769, the people of these settlements treated their lands with profound respect through cultivating, pruning, sowing, and seasonal burning. The city acknowledges that the land was built upon and has benefited from the Gabrieleño Tongva and Gabrieleño Kizh people’s stewardship over many generations.

The City of West Hollywood has offered a Land Acknowledgement to honor the Tongva and Kizh ancestors, elders, and relations of the past, present, and future. They acknowledge the Tongva and Kizh people who are still present and pledge to honor and elevate their history and culture. They strive to cultivate a restorative relationship with people and place, which involves a commitment to reciprocity, co-stewardship, repair, and rematriation.

Following the establishment of The Town of Sherman in 1886 by Moses Hazeltine Sherman, a real estate developer and entrepreneur, who bought a part of Rancho la Brea to construct two electric railways connecting Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The popularity of motion pictures in the early 20th century attracted many film stars working in nearby Hollywood to live in the town.

By 1925, residents agreed to rename the Town of Sherman to West Hollywood to accentuate the relationship between The Town of Sherman and Hollywood, and its diverse neighborhood.

In 1984, the unlikely coalition of LGBTQ activists, seniors, and renters proposed the idea of the City of West Hollywood. These groups have come together to form a unique city with progressive policies and strong protections for tenants’ rights. Shortly after, the City of West Hollywood was officially declared an independent city on November 28, 1984.

Birds eye view of West Hollywood Sunset Boulevard (Image via WEHO Times)

The “Infamous” Past of West Hollywood

West Hollywood is known for its artistic and creative environment due to its booming art, film industry, and the vast diversity leading to creativity. West Hollywood is a hotpot of diverse cultures and communities, adding onto its charm of the people that live in the area.

West Hollywood is a pioneer in many social issues and agenda that many have avoided covering. West Hollywood is known for its activism, which is a part of the city’s identity. This type of activism was considered radical and liberal during the 20th century. They have constantly set standards for movements that advocate for HIV and AIDS, affordable housing, LGBTQ+ rights, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, etc.

The City of West Hollywood is also a thriving community that houses 4,000 people. 11% of the population, that identifies from the former Soviet Union from the states of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and many more!

WeHo is an active advocate for the legal and civil rights movements for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. “There is a lot of diversity both in age, race, gender, orientation, which is really great,” Erin Snodgrass, a resident from West Hollywood, confirmed with The Grizzly Gazette.

More than 40% of the population identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Taylor Stilwagner, another resident from WeHo and a member of the LGBTQ community, coined the city as, “… the only proper City started by queer people that I know of has certainly shaped the surrounding LA neighborhoods and cities.”

A Local Perspective on West Hollywood

“[West Hollywood] feels like a small community within the larger city of Los Angeles.”

— Erin Snodgrass, West Hollywood Resident

Stilwagner expressed that, “There is no end to the relief felt by living in a community that represents and supports you. All that comfort and safety comes specifically from the founding by in large part LGBTQ+ activists and allies wanting to build and maintain a community that can be that kind of place for the queer community.”

The city dedicates itself to activism and prioritizes the execution of the city’s core values 一 respect and support for the people; responsiveness to the public; idealism, creativity, and innovation; quality of residential life; promoting economic development; public safety; and environmental responsibilities. These all represent their missions and standards for the city for the residents and public to create an efficient friendly environment.

“In Weho, the water we swim in is infinitely more inclusive than outside as it pertains to the LGBTQ+ community. Especially in the day-to-day aspects of life: no one bats an eyelash when my partner and I hold hands walking down the street, no one would question a same sex couple applying for an apartment on their own, and ultimately no one would treat us any differently out in public,” Stilwagner shared of his experience in living in West Hollywood with his partner.

According to Niche.com, WeHo has an “A” for its overall grade in categories and factors that include weather, nightlife, health and fitness, outdoor activities, commute, good for families, diversity, public schools, jobs, crime & safety, housing, and cost of living. WeHo has grounded itself to its residents as a place that, “… offered transplants and newcomers the opportunity to make new friends, meet new people and really build community for themselves,” Snodgrass disclosed.

The deep history that West Hollywood has contributed and engrained has significantly changed the cultural and social landscape that makes West Hollywood what it is today. It is a haven for many, a tourist spot for those visiting Southern California, and a city that strives to represent its citizens.

WeHo is “my home away from home,” Snodgrass shared with The Grizzly Gazette.

Places to Visit in West Hollywood

West Hollywood is known for its advocacy but is also known for its wonderful selections of tourist spots, restaurants, and entertainment places to visit. If ever you are within the area, consider visiting:

  • The Comedy Store or the Laugh Factory for amazing stand-up comedy shows!
  • Whisky A Go Go, the famous nightclub, has been a hot spot to see the top names in rock ‘n roll. Janis Joplin, one of the greatest rock musicians, was a regular performer here while getting her start in Hollywood.
  • Tu Madre, opened in 2015, serves tacos and breakfast burritos in a small and colorful shop, with a secondary location found in Westwood.
  • Pura Vita is a female owned, 100% Plant-Based Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar in the USA found in West Hollywood. If you want a fancy and wonderful dining experience, look no further than Pura Vita!
  • Taking us by a storm is the Miss Melbourne Coffee, an Australian based coffee company serving wonderful coffee, pastries, and vegan based options for you to try out.
    Go Get ‘Em Tiger wants you to love ‘em as much as they love you! Visit them at Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood!
  • Do you love a comfortable and peaceful bookstore? Look no further than the Book Soup! They are a full-service bookstore found on the world-famous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood founded in 1975.
  • Have time on Sundays for a drive down to WeHo? Want to support the local farmers, artisans, and food vendors? Serving and supporting locals since 1991, West Hollywood Farmers’ Market is the perfect place for a relaxed day to go out. But hurry, they are only open from 8am-1pm!
  • The WeHo Pride Parade is the biggest and most joyous party you will never regret going to. Bringing out their pride and personalities, WeHo is kicking-off celebrations across the nation with their parade on Sunday, June 4th, during Pride Month!
  • The Sunset Strip is for those that love long walks, and those that just simply want to appreciate the historic beauty of West Hollywood.

    WeHo residents at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market (Image via SEE LA)

If you or anyone you know is interested in visiting WeHo for any occasion https://www.visitwesthollywood.com/ has everything you need to start planning your trip!