This weekend marks the one year anniversary since I moved to a little community nestled in the San Gabriel foothills. Upon arrival, I moved into a rental house in an unincorporated neighborhood of Glendale, CA called Montrose. Six months later, I moved one unincorporated neighborhood of Glendale, CA called La Crescenta, but I basically hadn’t left the area far enough to feel like I left there really. There’s a few different names of places that are in this little valley, including Vedugo City, La Canada, and even arguably Sunland. Yet the hallmark of the area is Downtown Montrose, a place I fell for from the day I first saw it.
When I try to describe what living in LA is like, I try to get across that the whole of the LA area is nothing but a series of smaller communities and neighborhoods all pushed together. Yes, you can go to any major city or small town and describe it like that; but LA seems to be more amplified in that way. Part of the reason for that is that much of the city is broken up by hills, which geographically separates places from each other. The population of Los Angeles County is nearly 10 million, but our community of Montrose & La Crescenta is just about 20,000 … and there are days that you can’t even tell the other 9.98 million are anywhere nearby.
Downtown Montrose is the most obvious part of this. Located on Honolulu Avenue, the Downtown district in Montrose is about five blocks long (though Montrose blocks, especially in the direction that Honolulu runs are pretty long). It is reminiscent of any small town downtown you may ever see. There are shops, restaurants, banks, dance studios, karate centers, etc. Yet the thing that always jumps out to me is how small town and small buisness all these places are. Sure there is a Starbucks, and the banks are big names, but there isn’t the big name stores here. The jewelry store is family owned, the pet store is family owned, the toy store (like an actual toy store with just toes) is family owned. There is nothing ‘chain’ about the restaurants, yet there is nothing big name about them either. Heck, there are four travel agencies … in the day of on-line travel websites, whens the last time you seen any travel agency at all … and there are four of them. There’s even a bowling alley downtown Montrose, though it is private party only (yet seems always busy … it helps that they haven’t fixed it up since the 70s because, I’ve seen film crews there at least twice this year shooting something).
The downtown business association also puts on a load of events. Usually at least one event per month comes along, from beer fests, wine fests, kids parties, outdoor films, car shows, and the like – usually shutting down a block or two for the weekend to put on the fun. The holiday parade including a month of Santa hanging out on the streets is a real crowd favorite, as well as the Independence Day car show pulling in classic cars from all over the area to line the whole of the downtown. If that’s not enough, every Sunday, half the street is shut down for a farmers market … like a real farmers market, with actual farmers selling farm goods.
On top of all that, the downtown here is absolutely beautiful. Brick benches and pavers line the winding sidewalks. Trees are lit year round creating a magical excursion down the road. People always seem to be walking along there, stopping, talking, eating, laughing. All of this with the background of the mountains on the either side … not to mention a fantastic view of Downtown LA from Oceanview Street.
When I was looking for a place to live, I remember coming across the house I would eventually rent and realizing I had no idea what Montrose was, or where it was at. Now a year on, I feel pretty lucky to have found it. Of course, buyers remorse has me wishing I lived somewhere closer to friends in Pasadena, or within walking distance of this downtown area I am gushing about. But all I need is a Sunday like today, where I can sit out at the Starbucks, bang out a blog post, and head over to the farmers market to stock up on fresh fruit, and not feel like I should be regretting anything.