Los Angeles, its modern rise to world-class city steeped in Spanish mission roots, has brushed over many of its multicultural landmarks.
A broad survey being conducted throughout the city is unearthing vast historic resources within its diverse neighborhoods.
"Certainly, one of the goals of Survey Los Angeles and community outreach has been to identify historic places associated with the rich heritage of Los Angeles and diverse communities," said Ken Bernstein, director of the city Office of Historic Resources.
The Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey, central to the city's first comprehensive historic preservation effort, is looking beyond just the big stuff.
The $5 million SurveyLA, launched four years ago courtesy of a Getty Foundation grant, wants the nitty gritty about L.A.'s broad heritage.
And that means looking for landmarks that also tell the stories of its black, Latino and Asian communities.
This spring, the office will survey Pacoima, a historically black neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley now devoid of landmarks.
"You'd think there would be a landmark, but there's not," said the Rev. Zedar Broadous, of Pacoima, whose father, civic activist and pastor Hillary T.
The city survey has recently identified sites associated with minorities. Those include, for example:
• The site in South Los Angeles off Crenshaw Boulevard, where bonzai landscaping and Japanese designs survive long past the Japanese-American residents who created them.
• The affluent Sugar Hill neighborhood of West Adams, where black celebrities such as Hattie McDaniel once stood up against racially restrictive real estate covenants.
• The Motel Hacienda, a $3-a-night dive on Figueroa Street where soul singer Sam Cooke met his bloody end.
But in the Valley, local, state and federal landmarks have long favored Mission-era or postwar sites associated with white suburbia.
Of the city's 1,012 historic landmarks, only three pertain to the working-class Northeast Valley: the San Fernando Mission; an equestrian neighborhood in Sun Valley; and the First Los Angeles Cascades, where William Mulholland's first waters gushed into Sylmar a century ago this year.
Then there's Griffith Ranch, commemorated by a state brass marker heralding where silent film pioneer D.W. Griffith drew inspiration for "The Birth of a Nation," (1915) which glorified the Ku Klux Klan.
SurveyLA now seeks public input on other historic sites across the city at myhistoricla.org.
"Most of the Valley (historic) sites I wouldn't call in underserved communities," Bernstein said. "But we'll get there."
African-Americans in Pacoima point to the once-robust black community once excluded from buying or renting homes elsewhere across the Valley.
They hail Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church, the granddaddy of black Valley churches.
They hail Styles Ville Barber Shop & Beauty Salon, the region's oldest black barber shop and gathering spot for more than half a century.
They hail the homes of black actors William Marshall, Don Blackman and Albert Reed, who each once lived in Pacoima.
Or the headquarters of civic activists like the late Marie Harris, which some say deserve landmark status. For decades, the honorary mayor of Pacoima held teenage pageants, political fundraisers, expos and even helped launch the Valley secession movement at her home on Welk Avenue.
"It's because of the incredible significance, unselfish contributions she made to this community," said daughter Rolene Naveja, 65, who lives in the home. "This house was established as the social showplace of the community."