Twenty years ago today the people of the district of Los Angeles called Lake View Terrace learned that the old adage that “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” was a load of bull.
In 1991, most people in L.A. didn’t know the place existed. I lived in Pasadena at the time, just 15 minutes away down the 210 freeway, without ever having heard of Lake View Terrace.
But that all changed forever on the early morning of March 3, 1991, when a group of police officers were caught on video beating a black man named Rodney King near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Osborne Street.
King, who was driving drunk, had led cops on a high-speed chase up the 210, and Lake View Terrace just happened to be where the pursuit ended after King exited off the freeway.
This was unfortunate for the people of this district. Immediately, their hidden corner of Los Angeles, which abuts the San Gabriel mountains, was subjected to international scrutiny. This only intensified after the police officers were acquitted a year later, which touched off the bloody Rodney King Riots in L.A. that claimed over 50 lives and destroyed over $1 billion in property.
I stopped by the site yesterday to see how things had changed. I often pass through Lake View Terrace on the 210, but it had been awhile since I had been to the actual spot, which is near Hansen Dam.
Since the site has changed a bit since my last visit I thought I would ask around to make sure my memory of the events was correct.
One would think that since this was by far the biggest thing to ever happen in their district, that locals would have the details of the beating ingrained in their minds to quickly relate to any cultural tourist like me who just happened to stop by. This was not the case.
“I’m not really sure. I think it was across the street.”
This was the reply I got from the proprietor of a liquor store at the intersection when I asked him the exact spot of the beating. This was understandable in his case because he had only arrived in this country from Syria five years ago.
I thought I would inquire in a new library near the site that was constructed just a few years ago. Surely as custodians of knowledge, they ought to know the details, right?
“I’ve heard it was nearby, but I’m not really sure where exactly,” replied one of the librarians who then referred me to a supervisor. The supervisor then admitted that he didn’t know the details either and began an unsuccessful search for the location on the County’s clunky online reference system.
I remembered that the incident took place in a parking lot across from the Mountainback Apartments. It was from these apartments that a plumber named George Holliday videotaped the beating from his balcony.
I walked over to the former site of the lot, which is now occupied by an uncompleted children’s museum. As I approached the spot, an NBC news van drove up, the passenger’s side window rolled down, and a reporter then asked me where the beating took place.
Have we really lost this much history in only twenty years?
What I suspect is that since Lake View Terrace’s single shining moment in the spotlight was one of shame, not glory, that most people have chosen to just forget the whole thing and just move on.
And who can blame them?