By BARRY LANK
SILVER LAKE – Long ago, pedestrian tunnels seemed like a good idea. Little kids would avoid traffic by walking through a network of underground passageways. What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong. Well, now we know: People sleeping in the tunnels, defecating, leaving garbage.
For the pedestrian tunnel under Sunset Boulevard at Golden Gate Avenue, that ends next month.
Since last spring, the troubled tunnel near Micheltorena Elementary School has been getting methodically erased – the entrance demolished, the tunnel itself back-filled with slurry. It’s all supposed to be completed at the beginning of October at a cost of $160,000, according to the city’s Bureau of Engineering.
Demolition wasn’t the only idea for the tunnel, according to Tony Arranaga, communications director for Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. But in the end, it was the only one left.
“There were conceptual ideas for the tunnel that were floating around, but we did not receive any proposals to maintain or operate the tunnel,” Arranaga said. “Meanwhile, the school, neighbors, nearby businesses, and the LAPD requested the closing of the tunnel since it was becoming a public safety hazard.”
The opening of the tunnel underneath Sunset Boulevard at Golden Gate Avenue in 1924 was welcomed by Silver Lake residents, providing safe passage to children attending Micheltorena Elementary. After several students were hit by cars while crossing Sunset, the city spent $10,400 to build a 75-foot-long tunnel, one of the first of many such underground passages built near schools in the 1920s and 1930s.
Underground pedestrian tunnels didn’t just start being a problem. An L.A. Times story decried the problem in 1987, noting that, as far back as 1975, an Atwater Village tunnel at Fletcher Drive near Estara Avenue was already staying locked except during school hours.
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