The Suburban Cycle of Life

Adam Meyer describes his parents' and grandparents' experiences growing up in the San Gabriel valley of east Los Angeles and charts the changes that have taken place since they first moved there in the 1950s.
July 25, 2010, 9am PDT | George Haugh
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Both mother and father grew up the children of young families enjoying the prosperous post-war years while claiming their stake on the middle class American Dream.

"My father later explained to me that over the course of 25 years the San Gabriel Valley had devolved from an idyllic bedroom community to a crowded and polluted assortment of endless strip-malls. The year he left, 1973, had one of the worst air-pollution levels on record."

Today the air-quality is significantly improved and the demographic make-up is also drastically different. Areas once evenly split between Mexican-American and white-American families are now mostly home to central American and Chinese immigrants.

"Ultimately these newcomers may be the ones to save suburbs like those in the San Gabriel Valley. They are the ones now starting businesses, improving their houses, and building the new cultural institutions."

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Published on Friday, July 23, 2010 in New Geography
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