SANTA MONICA Pack a wet suit and hail an eco-friendly Prius taxi. Shop for a book on dog astrology before a surfing lesson or just take a whirl on the solar-powered Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. Whatever you do, don't even think about lighting a cigarette.
This is the west side of Los Angeles, the land of sun and fun and healthy living, like a lyric from the Beach Boys or Katy Perry's "California Gurls" come to life.
Filled with shops hocking organic raw foods and hotels offering sustainable and eco-friendly accommodations, West Los Angeles communities like Santa Monica and Venice fuel the organic, uber-lefty, politically correct stereotypes that lots of non-Californians have of the Golden State.
Plus, there are palm trees and beaches.
You're getting close when you hit the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, with a billboard that tallies the number of smoking deaths each year with a digital counter. (In 2011, that number was more than 420,000.)
Nothing seems to harsh the mellow of folks on the west side like cigarette smoke. Beverly Hills banned smoking at restaurants in 1987 the second American city after Aspen, Colo., to do so though the ordinance was repealed six months later. Now, in Santa Monica, apartment dwellers are barred from lighting up on a patio, desk or balcony within 25 feet of a neighbor. Lighting up while strolling Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade or any outdoor dining area is illegal.
After all, this is a place to clear your lungs with fresh ocean air and eat healthy while reducing your carbon footprint. In some circles here, cooking food is considered sooooo 20 years ago. West L.A. is a hot spot for the raw food movement, which has been embraced by such celebrities as Woody Harrelson and supermodel Carol Alt. Cooking or processing foods is a big no-no for the raw crowd, who believe that heat above 104 degrees F. kills nutrients and other goodies necessary for healthy living.
Raw restaurants serve more than rabbit food. Planet Raw in Santa Monica offers dishes that might otherwise sound fit for a T.G.I.Friday's. Scour the menu and you'll find raw versions of jalapeño poppers, a bacon Western double burger and macho nachos most based on various nutmeats.
Food politics can get kind of thick around here. A natural-foods market called Rawesome has been raided twice for allegedly selling raw dairy products that hadn't met health standards, including unpasteurized goat milk, yogurts and other goods.
If you don't mind your food cooked, you'll find plenty of options while cruising through west L.A. Drop into the Tasting Kitchen, in Venice's trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard shopping district, and you might just get the best brunch of your life.
The frittata with squash blossom and roasted tomato looks like eggy sunshine on a plate and tastes just as dreamy. Or you can kick back with a "morning bracer" cocktail (gin, maraschino, moscato) and soak in the surroundings. The decor is all rich woods and exposed brick, with a couple of trees that cut through the dining room's ground floor.
No wonder the Tasting Kitchen made the cut for GQ magazine's list of "the best new restaurants in America," and that chef Casey Lane was nominated for a James Beard Award.
Back along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which is something like Venice's version of Melrose Avenue with its boutiques and parades of the beautiful people, you'll notice something pretty quickly. Darned near everyone around here owns a dog. Some of the businesses, such as a bar called the Otheroom are pet-friendly.
But maybe Fido's temperament seems a bit off, or he acts wary around the numerous other dogs. Maybe the new moon in the fourth house is just messing with your dog's astrological juju. Better pop into the Modern Dog boutique on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and consult its literature, including a book on dog astrology. Or you can just pamper your pooch with a range of organic treats or a microsuede reversible dog bed for $134.
Nearby Venice Beach feels like the quintessential California. Processions of surfer dudes and dudettes make their way to and from the ocean, skateboarders slash around a beachfront skate park, folks practice roller-disco moves.
Hungry for dinner after a day of beach bumming and shopping? Santa Monica's farm-to-table Italian restaurant Locanda del Lago dedicates a section of the cocktail list to ingredients from the Santa Monica farmers market with organic liquors.
Locanda del Lago also is part of a "meatless Monday" movement an effort by restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint. A report from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, says that if every American went meatless and cheeseless every Monday, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
West Hooker-Poletti, the owner of Locanda del Lago, learned about the "meatless Monday" concept from long-time customer and Hollywood director James Cameron.
"It's about educating people that if they break away from the traditional American diet and not have meat for one day, it can have a beneficial impact on the planet," said Hooker- Poletti. "We were one of the first to embrace it."
If being that socially conscious wining and dining makes you tired, West L.A. offers plenty of lodging, from stately beachside hotels to funky motels where groups of friends can crash on a budget.
If you want those concepts of sustainability and eco-friendly living to apply to your lodging, check the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica. It combines luxury with a Gold LEED rating for its green practices, including woods from sustainable forests, energy-efficient systems and an abundance of recycled materials used in the building's construction. Water consumption is reduced through a low-flow system which makes the hotel's amazing glass shower with a rainfall showerhead even better.
Now, that's how you get clean in California.