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About West Hollywood

West Hollywood, an incorporated city in Los Angeles County, California, was founded on 29 November 1984. The total residential population is just over 37,000; however, the nighttime and weekend population swells to between 80,000 and 100,000, with a high of up to 500,000 during major events such as Halloween or the Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department which provides police services for West Hollywood. The city is one of the most notable gay villages in the United States. This area is occasionally referred to as WeHo and BoysTown.

West Hollywood is bordered on the north by the Santa Monica Mountains, on the east by the Hollywood District of Los Angeles, on the west by the city of Beverly Hills and on the south by the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.



Although most historical writings about West Hollywood begin in the late 18th century, the land was already inhabited when the Portuguese explorer Cabrillo arrived offshore, claiming the land for Spain. Canoeing out to greet him were some of the 5,000 members of the Tongva tribe, a nation of gentle hunters and gatherers, known for their reverence of dancing and courage. These indigenous people were forcibly acculturated by the ever-encroaching Spanish mission system, and were almost decimated by disease by 1771. To add insult to injury, their tribal name was changed to “Gabrielinos”, a reference to the Mission de San Gabriel that ravaged their culture and overtook their land .

By 1780, the now famous “Sunset Strip” was the major connecting road for el Pueblo de Los Angeles and all ranches westward to the Pacific Ocean. The land went through various owners and names in the next 100 years, with names such as La Brea and Plummer in the historical record. Most of the area was part of the Rancho La Brea, and eventually came under the ownership of the Hancock family.

In the last years of the 19th century the first large development in what would become West Hollywood, the town of Sherman, was established by Moses Sherman and his partners in the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway, an interurban line which would become part of the Pacific Electric Railway system. Sherman was the location of the railroad's main shops, yards and carbarns. Many working class employees of the railroad took up residence in the town. It was during this time that the city began to earn its reputation for being a loosely-regulated, liquor-friendly spot for eccentric folks wary of government interference. The town chose not to incorporate into Los Angeles, and was proud to be called “West Hollywood”, borrowing glamour and celebrity from the new movie colony bursting onto the scene one town to the east.

For many years, the area that is now the City of West Hollywood was an unincorporated area in the midst of the City of Los Angeles, but was under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County. Because gambling was illegal in the city of Los Angeles, but legal in the county, the 1920s saw the proliferation of many nightclubs and casinos along the section of the Sunset Strip that did not fall within the Los Angeles city limits. As a result, these businesses were immune from the heavy-handed treatment by the LAPD. (The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was and still is in charge of policing the area.)

Movie people were attracted to this less restricted county area and a number of architecturally fine apartment houses and apartment hotels were built. Movie fans throughout the world knew that Ciro's, the Mocambo, the Trocadero, the Garden of Allah, the Chateau Marmont and the Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard were places where movie stars could be seen.

Eventually, the area and its extravagant night spots lost favor with movie people. But the Strip and its restaurants, bars and clubs continued to be an attraction for locals and out-of-town tourists. In the late 1960s, the Strip was transformed again during the hippie movement. Young people from all over the country flocked to West Hollywood clubs such as the Whisky a Go Go, Barney's Beanery and the Troubadour.

In the 1960s, a club called Ciro's held the first gay dance nights on Sundays, known as "Tea Dances" [or "T-Dances"]. Men dancing together was illegal in those days, but as with the casinos and speakeasies that had gone before, the laws were not strictly enforced. This tolerance led to more gay clubs after Ciro's closed, as well as the end of the anti-gay laws that prohibited dancing between two persons of the same gender in Los Angeles County. The building that Ciro's occupied is now the home of The Comedy Store.

Pacific Design Center "Big Blue Whale"
Pacific Design Center "Big Blue Whale"

Always friendly to creative folks, the design and decorating industry took root in the 1950’s, culminating in the completion of the 750,000 square foot Pacific Design Center in 1975. The 1960’s brought “hippie” culture and a thriving music publishing industry to town. Emboldened by the Stonewall Riots of 1969, gays from all over Los Angeles flocked to West Hollywood, many fleeing from the homophobic harassment of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Still unincorporated, gays and lesbians found refuge here, patrolled by the markedly less brutal Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The most recent migration to West Hollywood came about after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when thousands of Russian Jews immigrated in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

West Hollywood, therefore, was a community of persecuted and creative citizens, ripe for the political organization which began in earnest in 1984. Still governed by the County of Los Angeles, there arose a great revolt when L.A. began planning to dismantle rent control. This area was a densely-populated area of renters, many of whom would not be able to afford the skyrocketing prices in the rental market of that time. Greatly assisted by the Community for Economic Survival (CES), a tight coalition of seniors, Jews, gays and renters swiftly voted to incorporate as the City of West Hollywood, immediately adopting one of the strongest rent control laws in the nation. The CES continues to hold much favor among the city’s voters, with 20 out of 24 council members (thus far) being CES-endorsed.

Social Services

West Hollywood, with a gay population of 41%, has been disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic which has ravaged the gay male population since the early 1980’s. Always in the vanguard of services to its residents, the city funds or subsidizes a vast array of services for those living with HIV or AIDS. AIDS Healthcare Foundation parks a Mobile HIV/STD testing van outside of the city’s busiest nightclubs on Friday and Saturday nights, and again on Sunday afternoons. This outreach attempts to intervene with those young people most at-risk for HIV infection. Another organization receiving city funding is Project Angel Food, which prepares and delivers hundreds of fresh lunches and dinners daily, specially prepared under the supervision of a registered dietician who tailors the meals to meet individual client’s nutritional needs. AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) provides assistance to clients navigating the maze of available public benefits, and is a national leader for AIDS policy and advocacy issues. APLA also provides free dental, psychotherapy and pharmaceutical services. AID for AIDS[1] provides direct financial support, assisting clients with paying rent, utility and pharmacy expenses. With the ever-growing arsenal of anti-retroviral therapies, the City also subsidizes agencies that help clients train for a return to the workforce. West Hollywood subsidizes programs for its growing population of children through a partnership with the USDA and local schools. “Healthy Start West Hollywood”, a program of the city’s Social Services division, introduces pre-Kindergarten through High School age kids to the benefits of good nutrition through such activities as collective vegetable gardens and yoga. The special needs of senior citizens are addressed through a variety of programs. The City either funds or subsidizes agencies that offer adult day care, a roommate matching service, and nutritious meals. The West Hollywood Senior Center is not only a place for recreation, excursions and socializing, but also offers counseling and case management as needed. The City of West Hollywood also seeks to address the health needs of residents who might not have adequate insurance by subsidizing the LA Free Clinic and The LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Between these two sites, residents can access free medical, dental, legal and mental health services. The City’s Women’s Advisory Board publishes guides on sexual assault prevention, nightclub safety, and how to access rape services.


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West Hollywood City Hall on Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood City Hall on Santa Monica Boulevard

The City is nationally known as a frontrunner in social justice legislation. A comprehensive Domestic Partnership Ordinance, one of the first in the United States, allows those couples that are currently prohibited from marrying (same-sex), and those that can marry, but choose not to (heterosexual), to register their union with the City. These unions are treated on an equal basis with legal marriages in regards to city-level benefits and services. Legislation prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, on the basis of sexual orientation, is widely recognized as the toughest in the nation. Prohibitions against harassment on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, marital status or mental condition offer further protections to vulnerable residents. Religious discrimination is banned within the City. Liberal city legislation also bans the sale of handguns, prohibits smoking in public places, prohibits cats from being de-clawed for non-medical reasons, and restricts the City from doing business directly, or indirectly via vendors, with any country known to violate human rights. Residents of the City vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and regularly pass ordinances geared toward reducing discrimination, and protecting the health and dignity of all living things.

West Hollywood was the first city in the USA to enact a law banning cat declawing, though the ban was eventually struck down as the result of a 2006 ruling by The Los Angeles Superior Court [2]. Also, the city is one of 19 in California that has banned the use of gas-powered leaf-blowers [3]. On February 19, 2001, West Hollywood became the second city in the United States (after Boulder, Colorado) to change the term pet "owner" to pet "guardian" in their municipal codes [4].

West Hollywood was the first city in the country to have a majority-gay city council[5], and in 1985 it was the first city to have same gender domestic partnership registration for its residents, as well as same gender domestic partner benefits for its employees. The city is also one of 92 jurisdictions in the country where it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression [6].

Council member John Heilman is the city's longest-serving council member (having served continuously since 1984) and finished serving his sixth term as mayor in April 2007. This position is mostly a ceremonial post that rotates on an annual basis among the council members. Council member John Duran currently serves as Mayor and his colleague Jeffrey Prang serves as Mayor Pro Tempore.


West Hollywood is located at 34°5′16″N, 118°22′20″W (34.087909, -118.372160)GR1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.9 km² (1.9 mi²), all land.


1 As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 35,716 people, 23,120 households, and 5,202 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,335.1/km² (18,992.7/mi²). There were 24,110 housing units at an average density of 4,951.6/km² (12,821.0/mi²), making West Hollywood one of the most densely populated cities in the US. The racial makeup of the city was 86.43% White, 3.78% Asian, 3.09% African American, 0.36% Native American, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 2.87% from other races, and 3.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.80% of the population.

There were 23,120 households out of which 5.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 16.4% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 77.5% were non-families. 60.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.53 and the average family size was 2.50.

In the city the population was spread out with 5.7% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 48.6% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 123.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 125.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,914, and the median income for a family was $41,463. Males had a median income of $45,598 versus $35,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $38,302. About 7.3% of families and 11.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.0% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.

According to the city of West Hollywood's demographic profile, gleaned from the 2000 Census, the 2000 Customer Satisfaction Survey, the 1998 Community Needs Assessment Survey, and the 1994 Community Needs Assessment Survey, gay or bisexual men account for 41% of the population. Of these, 60% are between the ages of 25-44, 27% are living with HIV/AIDS, and 8% are living with a same sex partner/spouse.

Landmarks and distinctive places

The Pacific Design Center building is informally known as the "Blue Whale."
The Pacific Design Center building is informally known as the "Blue Whale."

West Hollywood has a distinctive street design scheme, with postmodern street signs featuring a blue map of the city. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department vehicles that patrol West Hollywood feature the same map of the city, but in the rainbow colors of the gay community.

Because of the large gay population and the large numbers of gay-oriented businesses, West Hollywood became prominently known as a gay village. The section of Santa Monica Boulevard from La Cienega Boulevard to Robertson Boulevard, known as "boys' town," is among the most popular gay neighborhoods in the world, with numerous well-known spots such as the nightclubs Rage and Mickys.

Today, West Hollywood contains some of the most exclusive condominium complexes on the West Coast with "name" buildings such as Shorham Towers and Sierra Towers. On the exclusive cul-de sac Alta Loma Road are the popular buildings known as The Empire West and The Park Wellington.

Alta Loma Road is also home to the exclusive hotel "The Sunset Marquis" with its famous 45-person Whisky Bar and a recording studio that has been the home to many hits. Alta Loma Road was one of the main locations for the film Perfect. Actor Sal Mineo lived on this street in the 1970s; he was murdered in his carport just around the corner from Alta Loma Road on Holloway Drive.

The western stretch of Melrose Avenue, between Fairfax Avenue and Doheny Drive, is notable for its trendy clothing boutiques, interior design shops, restaurants and antique stores. The west end of Melrose, near the Pacific Design Center, is especially known for its exclusive furniture.

The area around Fountain Avenue, Harper Avenue and Havenhurst Drive contains a high concentration of landmark 1920s Spanish Revival and Art Deco apartment buildings by such noted architects as Leland Bryant. This historic district has been home to many celebrities and at one time the Sunset Tower at 8358 Sunset Boulevard was home to Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, the Gabor Sisters, John Wayne and Howard Hughes.

The Robertson/West 3rd Street area is another area in West Hollywood with hip shops and cafés.

Notable business and attractions in West Hollywood include:


West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

The West Hollywood Halloween Carnival is an event that takes place annually on October 31. The largest Halloween street party in the United States (spanning over one mile of Santa Monica Boulevard from La Cienega Boulevard on the East to Doheny and the Beverly Hills border on the West), the 2005 Carnival was reported to have more than 350,000 people in attendance, with some traveling from other countries specifically for this event and has already been estimated to have peaked over 500,000 this year where pop diva Tiffany performed and was named honorary mayor of the city.

Christopher Street West ("CSW")

Christopher Street West is a Gay Pride parade and festival that was first held in June 1970 in Hollywood to commemorate the first anniversary of Stonewall riots in New York. After incorporation, the event moved to West Hollywood and is typically held the second weekend in June so as not to conflict with the celebrations in San Francisco and New York City, and with Father's Day (because many deputies request that day off and do not want to work overtime on that day).

Frontrunners GLBT Pride Run is a 5k/10k run/walk held on the Sunday morning of GLBT Pride.

Atmosphere International

A new refined trade show experience that excites and entertains through groundbreaking design, vibrant energy, personalized and professional service, combining the best of traditional and alternative fashion. Showcasing hot, new talented designers alongside established brands. Creating a exquisite one-stop Trade/Consumer event.


A small portion of West Hollywood is jointly zoned to Hollywood High School (pictured) and Fairfax
A small portion of West Hollywood is jointly zoned to Hollywood High School (pictured) and Fairfax

West Hollywood is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District [7].

Elementary schools that serve sections of West Hollywood include:

Most of West Hollywood is zoned to Bancroft Middle School. Some portions in the south are zoned to John Burroughs Middle School. Students living in the Los Angeles area known as Beverly Hills Post Office, usually attend West Hollywood Elementary but then go to Emerson Middle School.

All of West Hollywood is zoned to Fairfax High School; some areas are jointly zoned to Fairfax High School and Hollywood High School.

Fire service

The Los Angeles County Fire Department operates two fire stations in West Hollywood as a part of Battalion 1 [8].

Postal services

The United States Postal Service operates the West Branch Post Office at 820 North San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, California, 90069-9998.

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