Elysian Valley is a small bedroom community of the City of Los Angeles, California.
Developed as a working class community of small bungalow and cottage homes, Elysian Valley thrived through the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s because of its proximity to downtown Los Angeles and the growing communities of Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and Cypress Park. Riverside Drive was a center of commerce and business, anchored by the neighborhood's public library at the corner of Riverside Drive and Allesandro Street.
In the 1950s, Elysian Valley was severely impacted by the construction of U.S. Interstate Five (known as "I-5" or the "Golden State Freeway"). The freeway, which runs north-south from the U.S.-Mexico border in California to Washington State, was constructed through Elysian Valley, displacing both residents and businesses. The commercial corridor along Riverside Drive ceased to exist, and the freeway served to effectively isolate Elysian Valley from other local communities, such as Echo Park and Silver Lake. The public library was razed, never to be replaced. In the 1960s, additional residents were displaced by the construction of State Route 2 (known locally as the "Glendale Freeway").
Today, Elysian Valley remains without retail business (aside from two liquor stores and two grocery stores) or other services, however, many residents consider this a blessing, as the area remains in a marked state of isolation. This leaves the community with only shopping options in adjacent Silver Lake and Cypress Park.
The only library available to residents is independently operated by the Elysian Valley United Community Services Center (CSC), a local non-profit group organized in the 1990s by three area teachers. Although millions of dollars are slated to be invested in the Elysian Valley basin of the Los Angeles River, funds to bring added commercial services to the neighborhood residents remain scarce.
Originally called Gopher Flats at the turn of the century, with housing for railroad workers, Elysian Valley today is sometimes referred to as "Frogtown" based on events related to the area's proximity to the Los Angeles River. Account from long-time local residents ascribes the name to a connection between the annual exodus of frogs from the Los Angeles River into Elysian Valley. The most recent peak in this phenomenon was in the 1960s and 1970s when the frog population increased, literally covering the streets and lawns of the neighborhood. This occurred after several major floods in the 1930s when the river basin remained wild, prior to flood control channeling constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Many residents are eager to reclaim the name "Frogtown" from its gang association because its generational use predates the gang and is based on this historical and naturally occurring event. The almost inexistent local gang, Frogtown, has diminished greatly in size from a high of 3000 members in the 1970s to a handful today , due in part to long-term incarcerations, successful re-habilitations, marriage and familial resposibilites, and as middle-age has advanced, many ex-gang-members have diverted their attentions from illegal activities to managing inherited properties left to them by their parents. Gentrification has also been a factor.
A street hockey team from the Elysian Valley, the Oros Goldbricks, played in the FSHL (the Federal Street Hockey League) , which in 1975 advanced to the Los Angeles Street Hockey Championship finals, losing 4 games to 3 to the Preston Avenue Sharks of the MSHL, (Metropolitan Street Hockey League). In 1979 the Goldbricks did win the city championship, defeating the Melrose Phantoms, 4 games to 2. In 1978 and 1979, the Goldbricks also won the Atwater Open, but lost in the 1980 finals to the Duvall Alphas, another Elysian Valley team. The 1979 victory was significant because they defeated a team from Glendale, the Glendale Bruins, most of whose members were experienced ice-hockey players. The FSHL, based mostly in Silverlake, Atwater and Elysian Valley, and which started play in 1973, disbanded around 1982.
More recently, Elysian Valley is home to United Cycling Club, the 2006 Southern California/Nevada Juniors competitive road cycling champions, and overall points leaders, with eight members earning state champion jerseys. The club competes throughout Southern California in various cycling disciplines including criterium, track, time trial and road recing. One United Cycling Club member won third place in the 2006 Juniors National criterium championships in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The club is currently in first place in the Southern California/Nevada "So Cal Cup."
United Cycling Club is a program of the aforementioned Elysian Valley United, which provides the club, equipment, bicycles, fees and training at no cost to local families in need.
Elysian Valley is also home to the world famous Knightsbridge Theater, located on Riverside Drive.
Roughly, Elysian Valley borders Atwater Village on the north-west, Elysian Park on the southeast and south, Silverlake on the southwest and Cypress Park on the north-east. Its boundaries are considered Fletcher Drive on the northwest, Riverside Drive on the west, the Figueroa Street Bridge on the south, and the Los Angeles River on the north-north-east boundary; in fact, the river runs the entire length of Elysian Valley's northern edge.
The area is well connected to Los Angeles freeways, with the Interstate 5 and 110 Freeways having entry and exits on Riverside Drive, and connections to the 101, 10, and 2 Freeways within the neighborhood.
Elysian Valley is divided between the ZIP codes of 90039 and 90031. Demographic information regarding the latter zipcode area does not necessarily reflect Elysian Valley residents, due to it mostly encompassing neighborhoods south of the Figueroa Street Bridge, with markedly different demographics.
While concrete data for the neighborhood is lacking, estimates indicate that Elysian Valley is primarily composed of Asian and Latino residents with some Whites (non-Hispanic). In 2000, the per capita income was estimated at approximately $20,000, putting in the same category as Canoga Park or Glendale.
Dorris Place Elementary, in the heart of the Elysian Valley on Riverside Drive, is one the higher rated public schools in the area, and is located in one of the most picturesque and historic brick buildings owned by the LAUSD. The school building has appeared in several movies, television shows, and commercials.
The community is included as part of the Silver Lake General Plan. In 2002, Elysian Valley was approved by the City of Los Angeles to have its own neighborhood council (Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council) which oversaw its affairs. The EVRNC has been known to proactively oppose zoning changes in an attempt to protect a stock for lower income rental units. This stance developed through local concern for the displacement of current residents arising from increased property rental values citywide.
City Planning had recommended an Artist Overlay District for the small light industrial strip which is immediately adjacent to a residential zone. Current use dictated it. There have been conversions to artists studios dating back 40 years or more.
Elysian Valley runs parallel with one of the few portions of the Los Angeles River with a natural river bed. In this area, great blue herons, white egrets, mallards, cormorants and other fowl are abundant. Carp are present in the river as well as the Western Toad from which the neighborhood gets its name. In years past, crawfish have been abundant. Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, environmental groups who work county wide to protect the city's natural resources, take great interest in the portions of the L.A. River which still have a natural river bed like Elysian Valley.