The Soto Street bridge was built nearly 80 years ago above an El Sereno intersection that was then among the city’s most busiest and dangerous auto and rail crossings. The nearly 500-foot long span was designed to carry the legendary Pacific Electric trolley cars above vehicle traffic that traveled below the junction where Soto, Mission Road and Huntington Drive meet, reducing the potential for collisions as well as congestion. The Red Cars on Pasadena Short Line stopped running over the Soto Street Bridge in 1951, and the tracks were paved over to allow buses and other vehicles to travel over the span. The city now wants to demolish the steel and concrete bridge as part of a traffic and beautification project. But the El Sereno Historical Society says the aging bridge is worth saving and is seeking to have the structure, which sports some Art Deco-style touches, declared a historic monument, which could possibly complicate the city’s demolition plans.
Last week, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to consider declaring the bridge a monument after a report indicated that the span could be worthy of landmark status. Why is it worth saving? The monument application, filed by the historical society, says the structure is “one of the last intact, representative bridges from the historic Pacific Electric era of interurban commuter railroad system that once covered the Southern California map.”
While El Sereno preservationists want to save the bridge, the city is moving ahead with a $14 million project to remove the bridge, reconfigure the junction to improve conditions for auto and pedestrian traffic as well as add new landscaping. Historical society officials have argued that traffic and safety could be improved by using other measures instead of removing the old bridge.
The historical society, which is also challenging the city’s efforts to recognize a portion of El Sereno as Rose Hills, hailed the Cultural Heritage Commission’s decision to take their landmark application under advisement. “We hope the visit will confirm that the Soto Street Bridge is truly a landmark worthy of historical recognition,” according to a statement on the society’s website.
The campaign to save the Soto Street Bridge is not the only effort to save an old bridge on the Eastside. The city’s plans to demolish the Riverside-Figueroa bridge, which spans the Los Angeles River between Cypress Park and Elysian Valley, has been challenged by a group of architects and their supporters who want to reuse the bridge for public open space.