Aldous Huxley disparagingly described LA as ‘nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis’ in 1925. The celebrated author’s presence in Los Angeles (as a screenwriter) is a clue to its explosive growth, its magnetic appeal transcending class, culture and continents. After the San Francisco earthquake (1906) stymied its main west coast rival, LA’s vital break was securing a guaranteed water supply through its Owens River Aqueduct (1913). In arid southern California, water was a critical amenity, and LA exploited it to the hilt, offering access to neighbouring townships (including Hollywood) if they agreed to incorporation. The movie industry was a major growth catalyst, but so, more prosaically, was Ford’s Model T factory (1914), drawing in automotive satellite industries. The Pacific Electric Railway initially enabled LA’s characteristic sprawl; later, its jungle of freeways cast the tentacles of urbanization ever-wider. To the west San Fernando, ‘America’s Suburb’, grew in the 1940s, through working-class ‘white flight’ from the inner city.
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