East LA to Glendale & Back
This 22.6 mile ride visits four historic LA cemeteries and two landmarks that pay homage to those that have called this land home throughout the centuries. Starting at the East LA Civic Center, this route heads west along city streets and starts heading northwest along the LA River Bike Path until the turnaround point at Forest Lawn. This route is meant for riders who are comfortable riding without a bike lane, taking the lane when necessary, and staying vigilant on roads in need of maintenance.
The East LA sections of this route lie just beyond the 1.7 mile radius of contamination from the Exide Battery Recycling Plant. More than 100,000 people in this area have been exposed to lead and other contaminants, with far-reaching effects for generations to come.
Although the plant closed in 2015, the soil in the area remains contaminated. What’s worse, in October 2020 a federal bankruptcy court released Exide from its responsibilities of cleaning up their former facility in Vernon. According to the LA Times, California taxpayers would be left with a bill of more than $270 million for the environmental cleanup.
Community groups such as East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice have long been working to keep Exide accountable and improve the living conditions of people in the area.
This ride takes you to different parts of LA County - starting off in an area with a history of people that build a life in a place where they are discriminated against in a variety of ways. 4
With this ride, we’d like to invite you to take some time to reflect on Life & Death, as we welcome the slowness of winter and approach a season when many cultures remember those who have passed on.
If you’re looking for a long bike ride with some LA history sprinkled in, or an opportunity to do something special for someone you want to honor this season, this ride may be for you.
East LA Civic Center 4801 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90022
This ride starts at the East LA Civic Center. This is right off the L Line (formerly known as the Gold Line) at the aptly named East LA Civic Center Station. If taking the L Line, head to the east exit of the station and cross the street to head north along Civic Center Way. If you’re driving, there is some public parking available along Civic Center Way for three hours. Ride With GPS estimates this as a two hour ride, but as always that depends on your pace and if you stop anywhere to take a lunch break. Take note that on Saturdays, parking is reserved for those visiting the East LA Farmers Market, which runs from 8am to 1pm. There are also some restrooms here that are usually open, just look for the orange/yellow building to the northeast of the parking lot.
Our first landmark is located along Civic Center Way about 70 feet north of E. 3rd St. There you’ll see a sign marking the location of a time capsule buried in 2009. Set to be unearthed 50 years after burial, the time capsule includes some things thought to become obsolete by 2059. The sign itself features articles from the Eastside Sun, a local newspaper that ran from 1945 until 2018. In 1979, the newspaper was sold by its original owner and purchased by a group of 12 Mexican American investors.
The bi-lingual paper covered many stories focused on the lives of the Eastside community, including more than 100 stories on the toxic emissions and lead contamination from the nearby Exide battery recycling plant.
This ride is going to take you to places throughout LA where layers of history lie hidden underneath the passage of time and the pouring of concrete.
We will visit places that present an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of many Angelenos we will never know by name. 2020 has been a year that will echo throughout history. As this year starts coming to a close and we look to the future, what is the legacy we want to leave behind? In 50 years, if someone goes on this ride again, what would we want them to see?
Let’s get started - head to the corner of E. 3rd St and Civic Center Way and make a right onto 3rd. We’re going to head west until we make a left onto S. Eastern Ave.
Serbian, Russian Molokan & Chinese Cemeteries
After passing Ford Blvd and the 710 overpass, the Serbian cemetery will be on your right. This cemetery was consecrated more than 100 years ago in 1908. A lot of the people buried in this cemetery played a role in shaping the literal foundations of Los Angeles. Many of the contractors and workers that put their muscle into the freeways, sewers and pipelines of this City were of Serbian heritage. After making a right onto Eastern, you’ll pass along the north side of the Serbian Cemetery, a Russian Molokan Cemetery, and then over the 710 freeway. After the freeway, there will be a long cinder block wall on your right, behind which lies the Chinese Cemetery. The entrance to the cemetery will be on your right about 100 feet before 1st St. Take the entrance driveway up and around the roundabout. If you are looking for an opportunity to sit and reflect on someone close to you that has passed, this space offers a place to provide an offering and sit in reflection. This cemetery was established in 1922. Prior to this, Chinese people weren’t allowed to purchase burial plots at other locations, and could only be buried at a potter’s field in a section of Evergreen cemetery. While others were buried for free, Chinese people were charged $10 to be buried there. In 1917, the potter’s field cemetery displaced almost 900 Chinese bodies because they were running out of room. The opening of the Chinese Cemetery provided a space for some of these displaced bodies to be buried.
While the late 19th century and early 20th century had people from many countries immigrate to the United States, only one law has ever been implemented that prevents all members of a specific ethnic group/nationality from immigrating to the US. That law is the Chinese Exclusion Act signed by President Arthur in 1882 which barred Chinese people from entering the United States, despite the fact that as many as 20,000 Chinese people worked on the transcontinental railroad throughout California in the 1860s.
After exiting the Chinese Cemetery and making a left to head east on 1st St, you’ll pass by Evergreen Cemetery in about 1.5 miles. If you’re looking for another opportunity to sit in reflection, there are some benches along 1st St that face the cemetery. If you’re up for a quick detour, the entrance to the cemetery is around the corner on Evergreen Ave. Evergreen Cemetery stands out as one of the only cemeteries to allow black funerals during its time. Segregation and land owning restrictions applied not just to housing, but to burial plots as well. In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that restricting land deeds based on race violated the 14th amendment. For more detailed info about who is buried here, visit the LA History Archive. Of particular note is Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818-1891), who successfully contested her slave status in court in California in 1856. She settled in LA and saved money working as a midwife and nurse, established the oldest African American church in LA, and became a philanthropist for all of Los Angeles. She is considered an American hero.
El Aliso Tree
Our first stop after crossing over the LA River on the 1st St bridge doesn’t look like much at all. It took me a few double takes between my map and the street during my scouting trip to pinpoint the location of the plaque commemorating this sycamore tree. As you’re heading north nearing the end of Vignes St where it meets Commercial St, this plaque is on the north side of the street, close to the stop sign. The plaque reads as follows: “EL ALISO Kizh-Gabrieleno sacred sycamore tree - Sha’Var Here once stood the grandest of all sycamore (sha’var) trees measuring 60 feet high with a canopy spreading 200 feet wide. The tree was given the Spanish name of El Aliso. The original inhabitants of this area, the Kizh (Keech) or Gabrieleno were known as the people of the willow houses. These indigenous people have occupied this land for over 12,000 years. Their once peaceful life was forever changed by the California mission era. Always important in their history is this tree which once served as a site of worship, gathering and prayer for the Kizh. Native leaders would travel from as far away as Yuma, Arizona to unite at this sacred site. This Koo Nas Gna, or sacred burial place, is home to many Kizh burials as it once stood at the center of one of the largest Kizh villages, Yangna, now known as Los Angeles.
While El Aliso is long gone, the shade it provided no longer available and the memory of the conversations under its branches long lost, its significance to the Kizh is not forgotten. While its physical presence is gone, the oral history handed down through the generations has kept its beauty and story alive in the Kizh people. Chief Ernie P. Teutimez Salas, April 2019 This plaque is dedicated by the City of Los Angeles to the original native inhabitants of this area, the Kizh - many of whom are still alive today.” Having sprung from the earth sometime in the late 1400s, this tree started dying a slow death in 1889 after many of its branches were removed to make way for a brewery expansion. After a branch fell and caused some property damage, the rest of the tree’s branches were removed in 1892, and it was felled and sold for firewood in 1895.
River Path Awareness
After joining the northern section of the LA River Bike Path, the need for awareness to pedestrians and construction projects is evidenced by signs posted throughout the path. In 2016, many people were calling for a ban on bicycles along this path due to a high number of tragic collisions between pedestrians and cyclists. As Ted Rogers from BikinginLA puts it, “it’s up to all of us to ride in a safe and careful manner around pedestrians, to slow down and give them as much passing room as we’d expect from a motor vehicle. And give some kind of audible warning before passing to avoid tragedies like this, whether it’s “passing on your left” or a cheerful “good morning.”” Construction of the Taylor Yard Bikeway Pedestrian Bridge Project calls for a detour off the bike path at Shoredale Ave, along Blake, and then back onto the path via Newell St. The work has been making visible progress and construction is estimated to continue until March 2021. Once you reach the end of this route that goes along the River Path, you’re going to make a left onto the Red Car Bridge. Once across the bridge, you’ll make a slight right and then a left onto a dirt path that will take you onto a smaller section of Glendale Blvd before joining up with the main road (with a bike lane) at Hollydale Drive.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Our turnaround point is Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. This route will guide you to the Little Church of the Flowers, one of the site’s non-denominational chapels, near which you will find a restroom. From here you can take some time to explore or reflect before turning around to head back.
First Jewish Site & Chavez Ravine
This is the site of the first Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles, which dates back to 1855. The cemetery was moved in 1902, and this Historical Landmark was placed here to mark the location. The sign reads: “First Jewish Site in Los Angeles The Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles (1854). First charitable organization in the city. Acquired this site by deed on April 9, 1855 from the city council fo a sacred burial ground. This property represented the first organized community effort by the pioneer jewish settlers. California registered historical landmark no. 822. Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. September 29, 1968.” Somewhere in this neighborhood also lies Cemetery Ravine, a canyon in the Elysian Hills that served as a Catholic burial ground. After being filled in with dirt for the construction of Dodger Stadium in 1959, no trace remains of Cemetery Ravine or the adjacent Chavez Ravine community.
Our ride ends at Pico/Aliso L Line Station. Originally this was going to end at Union Station, around which ancestral indigenous remains have been found numerous times during construction of transit projects. But due to the service interruption between Union Station and Pico/Aliso from the construction of the Regional Connector (how ironic), we’ll go the literal extra mile to Pico/Aliso so we can hop on the L train and head back to our starting point at East LA Civic Center.