CGS Conference in Los Angeles

Usually LAGS ends the spring lectures with a student night, letting students present their work.  This year though the California Geographical Society (CGS) was in town.  They worked with LAGS and hosted the 68th Annual CGS Conference at Los Angeles City College.  This year’s conference was titled:

Los Angeles:
A World City by Subway & Light Rail

The conference was from May 2nd to 4th and featured academic presentations and field trips.  The first day had field trips and the opening events, a kick-off mixer with a BBQ dinner and a keynote address.

Photo by GeoMaster.

Photo by GeoMaster.

May 2nd

The keynote address was by Glen Creason on Los Angeles maps.  He started with some of the oldest maps, which show California as an island.  This stems from a misconception from a 1510 romance novel Las sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, which included this passage:

Know, that on the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

Creason then moved on to maps from the time of Spanish rule and showed how names changed and how people’s influence on the land is still present today.

Maps showing water rights displayed how Mexican law dictated that the water belonged to the city rather than the owner of the land the water flowed through.  This type of law is more commonly known as pueblo water rights.  There was also a system of donation lots, in which the person made a down payment and the land was improved by putting up buildings and then they would get the land for free.

One of the richest men at the time was Abel Sterns, nicknamed “horseface” but because of his wealth, he got to marry the most beautiful woman at the time.  The woman later remarried a man named Baker, who we get the name and place Bakersfield from.  Sterns though also left his mark and has a street named after him in Long Beach.

Creason went on to list the name changes of several cities and streets in the Los Angeles area: Santa Maria became Beverly Hills.  Charity St. became Grand St.  Grasshopper became Figuero St.  Central Park became Pershing Square.

When talking about Plat Maps (showing the division and ownership of land), Creason mentioned how the Sisters of Charity partially owned a street called Lovers Lane.  There were booster maps, which were used to get people to come to Los Angeles, portraying it as a “Garden City”.  These maps are available from the Library of Congress.

May 3rd

The second day was the main day, filled with poster, map and paper presentations from undergraduate and graduate students and professionals.  Each section was also a competition for the best poster, paper and map.  The undergraduate posters category was dominated by my alma mater CSULB (ok, so it was because the feminist geography class was required to present) but still – Go Beach!  Posters and maps were displayed in the morning while papers and workshops were presented in the afternoon.  I attended one workshop on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and three paper presentations.

Photos by GeoMaster.

The GIS workshop was by Steve Graves and titled “Capturing the Hollywood Arsonist: Introducing GIS in Introductory Geography Courses”.  Graves presented a system by Cal State Northridge that can be used to teach students the practical (and fun) applications of learning GIS.  He presented the case using a real event and person.  (It gets technical in the next paragraph, so if you know nothing about GIS you might want to skip to the next section.)

Graves said that criminals tend to be lazy and don’t stray too far to commit crimes.  He showed us how to use GIS to find where the arsonist lived by examining the sites where the arsonist set fires.  We looked at spatial location using the directional distribution tool and drew an elliptical circle with the top four suspects within.  We then saw a liner bias, especially after viewing the road and terrain layers.  The Hollywood Hills created a barrier for the arsonist, forcing him to take the freeway to find the particular buildings that he liked to burn (using his M.O.).  Then Graves used the mean center tool (latitude and longitude) to look at the arson locations themselves.  We saw that the mean center was at a non-appropriate place and so had to run the median center tool to take into account spatial outliers.  Then Graves turned the arsonists’ layer back on to find the real arsonist’s address.  Last he used the measure tool to measure and find the nearest arsonist’s address location and at that point it was quite obvious who it was.

This workshop was fascinating and there are hopes to make this type of system and learning style more accessible to community colleges and maybe even high schools.

Photos by GeoMaster.

The first paper presentation I attended was by Lisa Kim Davis from UCLA and was titled “Early 20th Century Korean Communities in LA and California”.  Davis talked about how and why Koreans settled where they did.  Many of the first Koreans were exiles or diplomats.  She talked about the Korean Independence Movement in California and displayed a 1935 map that showed the addresses of the Movement people.  A more recent example was the resettlement of Korean Americans after the Riots of 1992.  Many Korean American’s buildings were destroyed or damaged, but they kept them and moved out of the area to safer places like South Bay.  This created small Korea Towns outside of the original area.

Photos by GeoMaster.

The next presentation was by Matthew Derrick from CSU Humbolt and was titled “Perspectives on the State of Jefferson: In Search of a Working Region”.  The State of Jefferson was a declaration of independence from California and Oregon by certain rural counties in Northern California and Southern Oregon in 1941.  The name comes from the President Thomas Jefferson and the people threatened to secede and create a 51st state.  They gained media attention when they occupied Highway 99 and passed out their declaration to people.  The people were also trying to get the government’s attention to receive help with the mineral extraction business.  The movement died out after the attacks on Pearl Harbor because of the country’s intense patriotism.

Derrick though mentioned that the movement might be trying to come back, according to a 2013 article on Herald and News by Devan Schwartz.  Derrick ended with a quote by A.B. Murphey 2013:

An expanded geographic engagement with grand regional narratives requires periodic pulling back from scrutiny of individual cases to consider broader patterns and processes and a heightened effort not just to critique but to propose concrete alternatives.

Photos by GeoMaster.

Unfortunately I forgot to take notes on the last presentation, but it was by an undergraduate student, Matt Conway, from UC Santa Barbara and was titled “Predicting the Popularity of Bicycle Sharing Stations: An Accessibility-Based Approach”.  This paper won first place in the undergrad category.

Photos by GeoMaster.

The last event of the conference was the banquet.  This event was just too have fun, announce awards, win raffle items and eat good food.  Two CSULB students won awards for their posters and some even won the raffle.  It was the perfect way to end an amazing conference.  I probably won’t be able to attend next year’s because it’s all the way up in Humbolt, but I’m so glad that I got to attend it this year.

Photos by GeoMaster.

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