MacArthur Park looking towards Downtown Los Angeles
|Location||Westlake, Los Angeles|
|Operated by||City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks|
|Status||Open all year|
|Designated:||May 1, 1972|
MacArthur Park (formerly Westlake Park) is a park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, named after General Douglas MacArthur and designated city of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #100.
The park is divided in two by Wilshire Boulevard. The southern portion primarily consists of a lake, while the northern half includes an amphitheatre, bandshell, soccer fields, and a children's playground along with a recreation center operated by the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The bandshell was once home to many organizations and events such as "Jugaremos en Familia" (a live event hosted by Memo Flores for the Hispanic community). MacArthur Park's bandshell has been recently renovated as the Levitt Pavilion is once again the host of jazz, big band, salsa music, beat music, and world music concerts. Since reopening it hosts at least 50 free concerts each summer between June and September.
The lake in MacArthur Park is fed by natural springs (although an artificial bottom to the lake was laid during the construction of the Metro Red Line, opened in 1993). In the past, a fountain with a reflecting pool on the northern end was also fed by the springs. The Westlake/MacArthur Park Red Line station sits across the street.
The park, originally named Westlake Park, was built in the 1880s, along with a similar Eastlake Park, whose lake is artificial, in Los Angeles. Westlake Park was renamed May 7, 1942; Eastlake Park was renamed Lincoln Park. Both Westlake and Eastlake (as well as Echo Park) were built as drinking water reservoirs connected to the city's systems of zanjas (small conveyance channels/trenches). When the city abandoned the non-pressurized zanja system for a pressurized pipe system, these smaller, shallow reservoirs located at low points no longer provided much benefit. They were then converted into parks.
In the mid-19th century the area was a swampland; by the 1890s, it was a vacation destination, surrounded by luxury hotels. In the early part of the 20th century, the MacArthur park area became known as the Champs-Élysées of Los Angeles.
Wilshire Boulevard formerly ended at the lake, but in 1934 a berm was built for it to cross and link up with the existing Orange Street (which ran from Alvarado to Figueroa) into downtown Los Angeles. Orange Street was renamed Wilshire and extended east of Figueroa to Grand Ave. This divided the lake into two halves; the northern one was subsequently drained. During the 1950s the lake featured the rental of electric boats, with the names of comic book animal characters.
According to a Los Angeles Times news story from 1956, two swans named Rudie and Susie hatched their five new cygnets on the island in MacArthur Park Lake, and according to the park superintendent, these were the first swans born in the park in over a decade.
For many years, Filipino World War II veterans protested in the park named after their former commander regarding promises made when they enlisted that the United States had reneged on. In 2009 as part of the stimulus package the Congress awarded lump-sum payments of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who are American citizens and $9,000 to those who are noncitizens.
Despite the rather poetic homage paid to it in the 1968 song, MacArthur Park became known for violence after 1985 when drug-dealing, shoot-outs and the occasional rumored drowning became commonplace, with as many as 30 murders in 1990. The Westlake area has also become famous for the sale of fake identification cards, especially those which allow non-US citizens to work in the US. When the lake was drained in 1973 and 1978 hundreds of handguns and other firearms were found to have been disposed of in the lake.
Gang-on-gang violence still occurs occasionally in and around the park, such as:
In 1995, a small, local gang in the Westlake and Downtown area called the Burlington Street Locos got into an argument with a man who was believed to be in a rival gang called the Crazy Town Locos. A few days before, a member of Crazy Town Locos struck a man from Burlington Street Locos across the face. Seeking revenge, members of the Burlington Street Locos went to look for members of the rival gang and thought that a man who looked like the target was him. Mistakenly, they fired a couple of rounds into his chest, killing him. They put the body in a garbage bag and threw it in the lake.
In 1997, a member of MS 13 was found dead in the MacArthur Park lake. Police found his body two days after he died. Apparently, members of two small-time gangs called the Crazy Riders and the Drifters shot the victim in the chest and head after they found out he was selling crack cocaine on their turf.
In 2001, a couple of members of the notorious 18th Street gang had a shootout with their rivals, the MS 13. A 18th Street clique known as MacArthur Park clique got into an argument with members of MS 13 which eventually led to a shootout. There were three deaths and two injuries.
In 2002, members of the 18th Street gang saw a member of a rival gang and beat the victim until he was critical. A day later, members of the victim's gang approached members of the 18th Street gang and started firing with semi-automatic pistols. This event led to the death of two 18th Street gang members and an injury to an innocent bystander.
In 2005, three bodies in a trash bag were found in the lake. They were tied together and thrown into the lake after they had been stabbed and beaten. One of the bodies was identified as a member of MS 13.
In 2008, a shooting occurred while a birthday party was being held. Members of the 18th Street gang started firing toward a crowd filled with rival gang members. This led to the death of three people, a rival gang member plus a mother and a child.
May Day Mêlée with LAPD
In the evening, police commanders declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and give the order to disperse. The police then cleared the park, using what some thought was excessive force against those who disobeyed the order. Sanjukta Paul, a female National Lawyer's Guild observer, was beaten repeatedly by an LAPD officer, including a blow to the kidneys, as she attempted to impede the progress of the police.
Another police officer was seen throwing a news camera from a cameraman as well as beating news reporters attempting to access their news vans. Protestors clashed with members of the LAPD, suffering reportedly excessive force, with rubber bullets, property damage, tear gas canisters being used on a mostly peaceful crowd at the hands of police officers equipped in full riot gear. At a subsequent press conference, LAPD Chief William Bratton said an investigation was underway to "determine if the use of force was appropriate" and that "the vast majority of people who were [at MacArthur Park] were behaving appropriately." 
Beginning in 2002 the Los Angeles Police Department, and business and community leaders led a revitalization effort that has led to the installation of surveillance cameras, the opening of a recreation center, increased business, early-morning drink vendors, a new Metro station, the return of the paddle boats and the fountain, and large community festivals attracting thousands. In 2007, Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park opened, providing the public with over fifty free concerts each summer and attracting families from around the city. Most recently, in 2005 the park was celebrated for having the highest reduction of crime statistics per resident in the United States.
In 2007, the paddle boats returned. They were available for rent on the weekends in 2009. By early 2010, the boathouse was closed. Eventually, the paddle boats were removed. A colony of feral cats use it as a home. Thus, as of the fall of 2011, the defunct boathouse stands in disrepair and paddle boats are absent. The lake continues to host a number of waterfowl species, thousands of pigeons and small fish, and the fountain continues to spout a high column of water, but the lake water is dark green and layered with floating garbage. Public urination in the park is illegal but commonplace.
- MacArthur Park is famous for the song named after it, written by Jimmy Webb and first performed by Richard Harris in 1968.
- MacArthur Park/Westlake Park and its boats figure prominently as the scene of a murder in the 1949 film noir Killer Bait (AKA Too Late for Tears) with Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy.
- MacArthur Park is featured in the 2008 video game, Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
- In the Simpsons episode "A Fish Called Selma", Troy McClure's agent, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, is named "MacArthur Parker."
- The MacArthur Park bandshell was painted by local artists and graffiti artists under the direction of Otis Parsons. Some of the artists involved were: Robert Williams, Skill, John "Zender" Estrada, Hector "Hex" Rios, Geo, Exit, Trip, Hate Prime, Relic, Galo "MAKE" Canote, RickOne and others. Various Dates. Some of the artwork was featured in the book Spray Can Art by Henry Chalfant and Jim Prigoff
- The park was the setting for Joseph Wambaugh's novel The Choirboys.
- MacArthur Park was featured in the 1997 film Volcano, as well as the 2005 film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
- MacArthur Park was also featured in the 2001 Sundance film MacArthur Park.
- In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Carlton Banks decides to take a trip to MacArthur Park after dark in an attempt to win a bet and prove to Will that he can "make it" in Compton, California.
- In the horror novel World War Z, it is said that MacArthur Park is being used as a potato farm.
- Jimmy Webb's song "MacArthur Park" is referenced in the Michelle Shocked song "Come a Long Way": "I heard the screams of the dying dark / Through the sweet green icing of MacArthur Park."
- The song "Leave It" by the progressive rock group Yes, from the album 90125, includes the line "MacArthur Park in the driving snow".
- In the Gym Class Heroes music video for Cupid's Chokehold (the As Cruel as School Children version) directed by Alan Ferguson, Travis McCoy and factitious girlfriend Katy Perry meet in MacArthur Park along with dancing cupids
- In the movie Training Day, Jake stops two drug addicts from raping a 14 year old girl near MacArthur Park.
- Rob Dyrdek's MTV show Rob & Big featured MacArthur park in an episode where Rob broke two skateboarding world records bringing his total that day to a total of 21 separate skateboarding world records. (305 - Guinness)
- The song "Lazy Days" by the pop group Shwayze, from the album Shwayze, mentions "walkin' through MacArthur Park."
- In the film Havoc, Allison meets Hector in MacArthur Park the afternoon before she is arrested.
- In the film Money Talks, Chris Tucker's character named Franklin Hatchet goes to a nightspot looking for someone named Aaron. A doorman opens and Franklin proceeds to explain how he knows Aaron. "Tell him I was there when he shot Baby Bro at MacArthur Park."
- On the television show The Shield, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) instructs a Salvadoran gangster Guardo Lima (Luis Antonio Ramos) to place $50,000 in a trash can by the lake.
- MacArthur Park also appeared in the Numb3rs episode "Hangman" (season 6, episode 1).
- MacArthur Park is featured in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.
- MacArthur Park is featured in the 2011 FX series American Horror Story.
- In the 1987 sci-fi thriller The Hidden, a sociopathic alien that can possess human bodies leads the Los Angeles Police Department on a high-speed car chase through MacArthur Park.
- The bridge that inspired Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to write Under the Bridge, a song by the American Rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, is located in MacArthur Park.
- "It's General MacArthur Not Westlake Park From Now On," Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1942, 1
- "HISTORIC-CULTURAL MONUMENT (HCM) REPORT". Los Angeles Department of City Planning. November 10, 2004. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
- "Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park event listing". dublab. Los Angeles, CA: Future Roots. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- "Metro Red Line". Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
- "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth", Blake Glumprecht, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999,
- MacArthur Park Swans Welcome Two Cygnets: Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.:Apr 26, 1958. p. 3 (1 pp.)
- Filipino Veterans Chain Selves to Statue in Protest
- Filipino Veterans Benefit in Stimulus Bill
- MacArthur Park Lake's muddy bottom yields raw materials for free-form sculptures that are also time capsules
- Teresa Watanabe and Francisco Vara-Orta (May 2, 2007). "Small turnout, big questions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- "Police Terror in the Park". LA Indy Media. May 2, 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2007.
- "LAPD Officers Use Force to Disperse Immigration Marchers". Newscorp. May 2, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
- "Bratton: Officers' Conduct May Be Inappropriate". KTLA. May 2, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
- Weary Paddle Boats Are Returning To Echo Park Lake (http://la.curbed.com/archives/2007/11/weary_paddle_bo.php, visited 2/14/2012)
- Pedaling around MacArthur Park (http://susanacker.blogspot.com/2009/03/pedaling-around-macarthur-park.html, visted 2/14/2012)
- This will be your last weekend to ride the Echo Park Lake pedal boats (http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2009/07/this-will-be-your-last-weekend-to-ride-the-echo-park-lake-pedal-boats/, visited 2/14/2012)
- Personal observation of a frequent park user.
- "Jeff Goldblum". IMDb. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
- "MacArthur Park (2001/I)". IMDb. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
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