We all play What If? games. What If? I had played my hunch on the lottery — those numbers won! What If? I had married so-and-so, who I knew in high school, and who is now a famous (and wealthy) movie star? You get the drift.
What If? is a way to describe counterfactual history by exploring what did not happen in order better to understand what did happen.
So, here's a What If? for the communities of Chavez Ravine — la Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop:
Here's what Alfred proposed to do with the land owned by the 'heirs of Francisco Solano' in 1897, apart from the already-developing Solano Canyon:
This block, called Solano Tract No. 2, contains 720 numbered, 120' x 40' lots on 122½ acres. In terms of the Chavez Ravine communities, Solano Tract No. 2 covers all of la Loma (and more that was never built on), plus about half of Palo Verde, up to a point between Reposa and Gabriel Streets. About 80–90 lots in Palo Verde would not have been covered by this map, nor was any of Bishop. Notice Effie Street running horizontally through the center of the map and Solano Avenue near the top. The top of the original, 17-acre Solano Tract is just barely outlined at the right-hand side of the map.
Alfred Solano was a surveyor and civil engineer, but he was also a businessman and philanthropist. He cared enough about the land that he preserved it after the deaths of his parents. He had obtained, on behalf of the Solano heirs, clear title to the land. When he sold property, the buyer knew he was being passed clear title. Now imagine that roughly 85% of the residents of la Loma and Palo Verde had clear title to their land and homes, and that their houses were built according to the building codes in effect at the time.
Is it likely, then, that the so-called slum communities of la Loma and Palo Verde with their undesirable immigrant residents living in shacks would have been the target of a proposed low-income housing development? I think not.
And if the land had not come into the possession of the City through eminent domain, would they have thought to locate a Major League Baseball franchise there?
I think not ...
An afterword: From entries in Alfred Solano's diaries, it is clear that the terrain — the steepness of the loma — is what precluded the original Solano Tract No. 2 subdivision from coming to fruition.
But what if that had not frustrated Alfred's plan?
What If? ...
About the Author
Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional
engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research
full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, he is particularly interested in the displacement of the nearly 1,100 families that lived in the Chavez Ravine communities of la Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop to make way, ultimately, for the construction of Dodger Stadium. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles with the founders on September 4, 1781.
"Thank you for such an informative site which highlights the plight of those relocated from Chavez Ravine. My stepfather was a happy child growing up in the Palo Verde area. He had many stories about living in the area and working at the [Ayala] store."