Start watching

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching

Earth Focus

Start watching

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

That Explains It: Answers to Things You've Always Wondered About L.A.

Support Provided By
'Hollywoodland' sign | Photo: LAPL
'Hollywoodland' sign | Photo: LAPL

Whether you grew up in the megalopolis of Los Angeles or you are a new resident, you've probably noticed landmarks, heard expressions, or seen something peculiar in this dynamic landscape that spiked your curiosity.

Well, look no further! Below are answers to some of your burning questions. Click on the links below for the full story.

1) Why did the Hollywood sign used to say "Hollywoodland"?


2) Why is a part of Wilshire Blvd. called the "Miracle Mile"?


3) Why is the L.A. River channelized?


4) Why do Southern Californians say 'the' before freeway numbers?


5) What did L.A. look like before concrete?


6) What are those cast metal bells along the 101?

el camino real
El Camino Real bell | Photo: Eric Chan /Flickr/Creative Commons License


7) Why is L.A. filled with palm trees?


8) Why is L.A. so spread out?


9) Why is there a freeway bridge out of nowhere at First and Beverly?


10) Who planted all those eucalyptus trees in SoCal?


11) Why are those California state highway markers shaped like a spade?


12) Why were there canals in Venice?


13) What flattened the top of Mt. Lee (of Hollywood Sign fame)?


14) What is the story behind those tunnels in Elysian Park that the 110 runs through?


15) Why does L.A. have clashing street grids?


16) Why is there an annual parade featuring floats covered in roses?


17) What is Christmas Tree Lane?


18) Why is the L.A. skyline so bland?


19) Why are those warm, fall winds called the "Santa Anas"?


Have any other burning questions about why some things in L.A. are the way they are? Leave a question in the comments!

Support Provided By
Read More
An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.
Close up of the Los Angeles Oil Field

A Walk Along L.A.'s Original Borders Reveals Surprising Remnants from the City's Past

To walk the border of the sprawling City of Los Angeles as it is today (about 503 square miles) seems an inconceivable feat for most. But what if that walk circumnavigated the city as it was in 1781 or 1850, when Los Angeles was square-shaped measuring four square leagues?
A black and white postcard photo of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Home in Eagle Rock probably taken a few years after the home opened in 1928. The four-story main building is in the shape of a Maltese cross with Churrigueresque ornamentation over the main door, an the elevator in the center and four wings reaching out.

A Haven for Early Feminists: Eagle Rock's Home of Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Founded by middle-and-upper-class women to push for abstinence and prohibition laws, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union at Eagle Rock became a major force for societal change and a hub for feminist activity in Los Angeles.