Orbital View: It's The Jungle in There

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

From Anthony Quigley’s great IG account of satellite images:

Baldwin Village is called “The Jungle” or “Jungles” by locals because of the tropical trees and foliage, such as palms, banana trees and begonias, that once thrived among the area’s tropical-style postwar apartment buildings. The Los Angeles City Council ostensibly changed the name in 1990, after residents complained that it reinforced the neighborhood’s image as a wild and menacing place. They renamed it Baldwin Village, hoping to reflect the affluent and peaceful Baldwin Hills neighborhood nearby, one of the most affluent African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Here’s an excerpt from a 1988 Los Angeles Times piece on the renaming effort:

“It’s been bad, it’s not a good place for a senior citizen like me,” [resident Booker T.] Burgess said. “People shooting each other, selling drugs on the streets and then threatening to rob you if you go outside. Most of the time, I’m afraid to leave the house.” [...] Tom Reddy Bailey, who has been robbed in broad daylight in front of his home, said he had already stopped telling people he lived in The Jungle, even before the official name change. “As soon as you say that name, they say, ‘Oh, you live over there. We don’t go over there,’” he said. “I just say I live on Gibraltar Avenue, and I don’t say anything else. I never liked the name ‘The Jungle.’ Baldwin Village sounds a lot better. But we need more than just a new name."

City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, whose district includes the neighborhood and who proposed the name change, agreed: “Of course it’s not enough. It was never intended to be enough. But it is a step to show city commitment toward helping the community get back on its feet.”

The neighborhood is the setting for the 2001 film Training Day, which probably set back the rebranding with ominous scenes like this one:

Baldwin Village is also the setting for the 1992 film White Men Can't Jump and the popular music video for Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in Da Paint” (2009).

(See all Orbital Views here)