Caltrans seeks to make L.A.’s first freeway a national monument after demolishing historic features *

Caltrans is seeking the city’s support in declaring the Arroyo Seco Parkway, also known as the 110 Pasadena Freeway, a national historic monument. On Thursday, the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission will review a staff recommendation to support having the West’s oldest freeway listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  But the state highway agency’s effort to designate the freeway a national historic monument comes only months after it angered the Highland Park Heritage Trust and other preservationists by demolishing sections of the freeway median and other features for a safety improvement project. Preservationists had tried to block the construction project to find a way to save what were viewed as the historic features of the freeway, which opened in 1940 as a scenic highway linking downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena.

The Highland Park Heritage Trust said it supports the nomination. But the group said in a statement that it was concerned about “the nomination’s lack of clarity” about what features of the highway contribute to its historic status  and make them worthy of protection.  “Not enough was written in the nomination to easily understand all the elements that are part of the road, how much is still intact and can/should be preserved going forward,” said Highland Park group said.

The proposed motion before the Cultural Heritage Commission said  that the city has concerns “about the ongoing loss of historic fabric” related to the Caltrans project. But the city hopes that declaring the Arroyo Seco Parkway a national monument will guide work on the creation of a proposed Arroyo Seco Parkway Historic District along the freeway.

* Update: The Cultural Heritage Commission on Thursday, Oct. 7 voted to support the motion with modifications. The motion  now goes to the City Council for review and a vote.

Postcard image from ArroyoSeco.org; bottom photo from Highland Park Heritage Trust


  1. I don’t get why they’re so worked up about the safety improvements – the new barriers look much better than the rusty, beat-up guard rails and chain-link fences that they replaced. There was nothing historic about what was destroyed, in my opinion. The freeway is still pretty to drive through, and stronger safety features are needed for the idiots who drive 70mph and possibly end up in the arroyo.

  2. Agreed Palmero. i drive this freeway a couple times a week and it looks much better. of course, it would be great if it looked like the picture above and the tagging wasnt there, as well as all the crap built around it.

    Btw, anyone have luck with caltrans in regards to graffiti removal? i have notified them a couple times but nothing seems to be done.

  3. they need too hire me 2 remove the graffiti in rosehills 90032 u dont see graffiti i am the rosehills remover here when i ride my blue truck around everyday i look 4 graffiti when there is graffiti it comes down the next day or even the same day . i am a member of the 932nbc “

  4. Giving the freeway a historic designation will make it nearly impossible to make changes, whether to improve its appearance, safety, increase capacity, or remove it altogether.

    We should oppose this – there is no reason to give the freeway a “historic” designation that outweighs the public benefit of having future flexibility.

    If anything, it is only “historic” in that it was the death-knell for LA’s transit system, Pacific Electric Railway. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was essentially an adaptation of the story. What is the legacy of the Arroyo Seco Parkway? Traffic and Pollution.

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