The million-dollar solution for the crumbling cliffs of Sunset Boulevard

The steep slopes along Sunset Boulevard on the border of Echo Park and Silver Lake have been crumbling for decades, with the winter rains sending rocks, mud and debris  on to the sidewalk and street below. Now, the city is preparing a long-term solution to address the problem but it’s going to be costly. On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works approved hiring a design firm to come up with plans for retaining walls  to shore up a 200-foot-long section of the slope  on the north side of  Sunset between  Waterloo Street and  Coronado Terrace. Those walls alone could cost $1 million but engineers warned much more work will be required.

“The project involved the stabilization of the barren and steep slope adjacent to Sunset Boulevard with construction of soil nailing retaining walls,” said a Bureau of Engineering summary of the project.  “Mitigation of the unstable slope is urgent as they pose a danger to pedestrians and vehicles.”

The $1 million wall would be completed by 2014  but it would only serve as the first phase of a three-phase project.  Money for those future phases, however, has not been set aside and it’s unclear when they will ever begin, said  Gene Edwards, a civil engineer with the city’s Geotechnical Engineering Group.

Also unclear is what the soil nailing retaining wall will look like to passersby. The exterior of the soil nail barrier could be  covered either with a steel mesh or a layer of shotcrete, a form of concrete that forms a thin shell. A decision about the wall surface will be made as part of the initial design by MARRS Services.   “In short, we are exploring both types of finishes…along with other alternatives yet to be identified.”

The crumbling walls of sandstone in portions of Echo Park and Silver Lake are the legacy of the teams of workers who carved and blasted their way through the hills in the 1880s to build a path for what became Sunset Boulevard.


  1. The only way to deal with this problem is with a road diet!

  2. Don’t let them shotcrete it!!
    This “solution” was stopped over 15-years ago on Sunset at Sutherland and the mesh has worked great.

  3. How about a carbon-sequestering green wall of low-maintenance vegetation with a thousand times higher visual appeal than more concrete?

    • And how does putting even more weight onto the steep slope that’s falling apart help with the initial problem? And who will maintain this living wall? The city is so broke they don’t even know if this design will be funded to ever build. Maybe its time for people living there to have a fundraiser to beautify and save the slope.

  4. Or how about something that stops debris from killing pedestrians and drivers like right now? A gouge into a hillside is never going to look pretty, but the primary concern should obviously be a matter of safety rather than aesthetics.

  5. I agree with echo. The mesh has worked well at sunset and sutherland. There is no reason for them to try and squeeze out more money to make this process even more long and complicated.

  6. Ben must be an engineer or contractor. I haven’t heard of any deaths or injuries.

    • That’s because this hasn’t failed yet. Everything is always fine for everyone until something breaks. The City would not be spending money to fix this unless there was a real problem. I am an engineer and the idea of engineering is to build or fix things so they don’t kill people. Soil Nails are still a relatively new design in the scheme of things, but they are still approved to be used in the City.

  7. I agree with FarmerV on this one – low maintenance vegetation would be a vast improvement over concrete. Perhaps there’s someway that could be combined with mesh? I don’t know.

  8. $1M is a bargain for a project of this size, it needs to be handled. Any solution is better than what we have now, which is an embarrassing mess.

  9. Embarrassment? Please don’t tell me you’re a white transplant from out of state. If you have an issue with Echo Park, leave. It’s life. It happens. Nothing is permanent. I’ve lived in Echo Park 28 years. I don’t think it’s embarrassing. It’s a natural cycle. What would you say about the home owners in Malibu who live through landslides and soil corrosion? Oh, it’s SOO embarrassing that our neighbor’s home just slide into the sea. Whoops. Seriously. Shut up. No one is gonna go…you live in Echo Park? The place where the hillside is crumbling? OMG. I can’t be seen with you. Idiot.

    And yes, mesh and vegetation sounds like a fairly reasonable idea.

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