became the Port of Los Angeles’ primary economic activity. But with increased production and activity came an increase in air pollution. The first recognized episodes of smog in Los Angeles occurred in the summer of 1943. Visibility was limited to only three blocks and residents suffered from smarting eyes, respiratory discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. The phenomenon was termed a “gas attack,” and was blamed on a nearby butadiene plant, but the situation did not improve when the plant was shut down. Smog events continued to plague Los Angeles throughout the 1940s (Figure 10-1).

The post-World War II economic boom was characterized by lateral development into the San Fernando Valley, enabled by the creation of a freeway system which would grow to become one of the world’s largest. Right around this time, many urban regions in North America began phasing out electric streetcars in favor of buses, and as Los Angeles’ streetcars went out of business, personal automobiles filled the void. In addition to being a major consumer of automobiles, Los Angeles was also the United States’ second largest manufacturer behind Detroit, and also a major manufacturer of tires.

FIGURE 10-1 View of part of the Los Angeles Civic Center masked by smog in 1948.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library.



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