Will a troubled Silver Lake underpass ever live up to its former glory?


SILVER LAKE — Shopping carts and makeshift tents and bedding line the sidewalks along the both side of the Silver Lake Boulevard as it crosses under Sunset Boulevard. The air smells of pee. The lighting is dim. The curb is crusted with bird waste. Homeless encampments partly block the sidewalk.

“I just tried to walk through there and I could barely get by,” said Matt Garcia, who works nearby.

The underpass — which was once praised for its artistic touches — has seen numerous cleanups over the years.  But now it appears the city is looking at more long-term solutions in light of recent complaints.

Complaints Piling Up

“Over the course of the last term, several constituents who utilize the path expressed concern for their safety,” said Tony Arranaga, communications director for Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. “Pedestrians have expressed concerns that the area is too dark and poses a public safety hazard at night.”

The City Council has approved $100,000 for fiscal year 2017-2018 to begin addressing the issue. While that amount of money might barely replace the light bulbs, it is just initial money for the design phase, Arranaga said

“Mitch will work with his colleagues and city staff to identify additional funding sources throughout the year.”

Former Glory Has Faded Away

The underpass’ architectural features are hard to appreciate given all its current problems. A row of eight, graceful arches on both sides of the underpass form narrow arcades over the sidewalks. Pedestrians enter the dark and dank arcades under imposing walls of brick topped by terracotta medallions depicting the seal of the City of Los Angeles.  It’s hard to believe that in 1934, when this overpass was completed, it was hailed as a thing of beauty and a key part in the transformation of Silver Lake Boulevard into an important roadway.

The completion of the viaducts at Sunset Boulevard and Temple Street in the 1930s created a “north-south artery of special importance in the development of the city,” according to a February 1934 story in the L.A. Times.  “Unobstructed for its entire length when its underpasses are ready, Silver Lake Boulevard will afford a direct and quick-time route for a great flow of traffic midway between the downtown approaches to the Pasadena and east county regions … ”

The Times story reserved special praise for the $135,000 Sunset Boulevard viaduct and the Silver Lake Boulevard underpass below:

“The latter boulevard’s sidewalks under the viaduct are through arcades in the abutments. That of itself is an exceptionally pleasing arrangement from an architectural standpoint. For  the first time in such viaduct construction here, the Sunset viaduct abutments are brick-faced and this touch of artistic design is enhanced by terra-cotta seals of the city medallion-against the structure on either face.”

Sidewalk entrance to the Silver Lake Boulevard tunnel under Sunset

The Eastsider’s Daily email digest includes all new content published on The Eastsider during the last 24 hours. Expect the digest to land in your in email in box around 7 p.m. It’s free to sign up!

Once you submit your information, please check your email box to confirm your subscription.

Load comments