L.A.'s Sunken City, at the southernmost tip of San Pedro. Flickr/J_sh.

You may soon be able to (legally) explore part of Los Angeles that began sliding into the sea in the 1920s.

In her 2000 work on Los Angeles, the UCLA architecture theorist Dana Cuff gives La La Land a new nickname: “Lurch City.” Modern cities—and particularly Los Angeles, she argues—are the products of “convulsions,” series of disruptions in which old visions of the metropolis suddenly lurch to make way for new ones. This seems particularly true in L.A., which bloomed quickly (its population grew 200-fold between 1870 and 1970) and seems always on the cusp of natural disaster—fire, earthquake, flood and now, drought.

In late 1920s, the ground below a six-acre tract of bungalows in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro began to (somewhat slowly) lurch into the sea. By 1941, authorities had fenced off the area and declared it inaccessible to visitors. Only two houses ended up sliding into the ocean, but the small neighborhood’s buckled roads and broken pipes remain.

Exploring Sunken City. (Flickr/J_sh)

Despite laws barring them from what’s now called Sunken City, Angelenos haven’t stayed away. Today, the area is covered in graffiti, ready evidence that hikers, artists, curious tourists, and local teenagers trespass in the area all the time.

(Flickr/J_sh)

But a new proposal would see Sunken City reopened to the public. According to LAist, Councilmember Joe Buscaino has asked L.A. park officials to allow urban explorers access to Sunken City during the day, and to install a gate that would automatically lock at sunset. Neighbors argue that by regulating access to the area instead of banning it, Los Angeles will create a safer environment for those who are going to visit, legally or not.

(Flickr/J_sh.)

For now, Sunken City remains a reminder that any city on the coast is fragile, and subject to the whims of the lurching ground below.

Want to take a better look for yourself? A 2013 video from the YouTube series Tom Explores Los Angles allows viewers to virtually wander around Sunken City—without breaking any laws.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Amazon HQ2

    Amazon’s HQ2 Fiasco Will Cost the Company More Than It Costs New York

    The mega-company has bucked dealing reasonably with New York City, Seattle, and any community that asks them to pay for its freight.

  2. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  3. Transportation

    With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

    Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

  4. A photo of a visitor posing for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville
    Perspective

    Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

    From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?

  5. Life

    The Town Where Retirees Can’t Retire

    In fast-aging pockets of rural America, older residents are going back to work. But not always because they need the money.