El Sereno preservationists seek to save Soto Street bridge

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.


  1. Although I’m generally sympathetic to preservation movements in L.A., I think this particular bridge isn’t the most worthy recipient of historic status. First off, it’s a blight – but that’s one mans opinion. Further, the improvements slated will be far better for the community than an old, non-architecturally significant bridge. I know everyone wants to put in their ten cents, but that’s what makes L.A. consistently turn in ho-hum projects.

  2. Yay preserving things in general but this bridge is a scary anti-human beast. It feels very “Escape from LA” when you ride a bike or walk under it. The sidewalk ends at this bridge on Soto. It really was poorly designed to benefit anyone except for solo car drivers. It divides the community and makes the whole place feel unsafe.

    The designs that I’ve seen for its replacement are, unfortunately, right out of the City of Irvine school of road planning. Some work needs to be done to turn this area into a gateway to the SGV that it ought to be up Huntington. There is no safe way to cycle between LA and the SGV and this or Valley are prime streets that are underutilized by car traffic (Except for the 30 minute peak a.m. rush).

  3. I generally like preservation but agree with ubrayj02 and Chapps on this. The re-design, while flawed, will make walking and bicycling at this intersection more accessible and safe. The current situation is insane, not very friendly unless you drive 45mph+

  4. The reason the area is dangerous is because the City never did the improvements it was suppose to. A light signal with a cross-walk on Mission Road and another on Huntington Drive N will make the area much safer for pedestrians.

    Also, the Bureau of Engineering can easily re-configure the north bound lanes on Mission Road to go under the bridge and then straight to S. Huntington Drive. The streets were originally designed to go under the bridge and safely onto S. Huntington Drive, Instead, drivers are forced to navigate through a wacky curve just to get onto N Huntington Drive.

    It’s not hard to re-set the streets back to the way they were intended to be. It’s the City’s fault the area is unsafe and its been allowed to continue like this for years because they need a reason to destroy a historic landmark.

    There is no reason to destroy a unique piece of our City’s history when a few safety measures and simple road work is all that is needed. Kudos to the historical society.

  5. It’s not a historic landmark. Throw it down and improve the area.

  6. There is no doubt the bridge is historic, it just needs some TLC. Some people are stupid enough to believe the bridge is the cause of the problems. Wrong, El Sereno is neglected and that’s the councilman’s fault. Save the bridge and make Huizar improve the area.

  7. I’ve always found this bridge to be creepy, obstructive and ill-designed. I imagine El Sereno will be going through many infrastructurial changes in the future to accommodate the young buyers flooding the area to buy homes formerly owned by working class retiree’s, and making it more pedestrian\bike friendly.

  8. I for one am glad it’s going down! I was informed by a representative from Graffiti busters that it was going down which would help reduce the gang and tagging activity in this area.

  9. Have you thought of the gang violence? There planning to build a park area right across my home i can imaginable the shit that’s gonna go down


  11. That bridge is a complete disaster. I live right across the street and I have lost count of the many accidents that I have personally witnessed. The view from my kitchen window is just atrocious, all that graffiti makes me gag. I can never wash my dishes in peace without looking out my window and having to stare at all that ugly writing. But then this man in a light blue truck stops by everyday and removes most of it. He’s a nice man. He doesn’t talk much but he’s very kind. He said he’s retired and wants his community to be clean. He says he does it for free. I would say that’s very honorable. Anyhow, let’s remove this ugly bridge asap. That’ll be less work for this special man.

    Mary M.

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