Skip to comments.'Sunken City' A Reminder Of An Ill-Fated Residential Area
Posted on 06/13/2008 5:43:39 AM PDT by blam
Sunken City' a reminder of an ill-fated residential area
By Josh Grossberg, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/11/2008 01:00:00 AM PDT
Jessica Bagwell of Walnut photographs the ruins at Sunken City as a school project on landscape architecture and plant resilience at Cal Poly Pomona. (Sean Hiller/Staff Photographer)
But the property also features a less-savory aspect of life in Southern California: treacherous and unstable terrain.
Now ominously known as "Sunken City," the 6-acre parcel overlooking the cliffs at the southernmost tip of Los Angeles, in San Pedro, was once dotted with homes - a community of bungalows owned by Harbor Area developer George Peck.
Now, misshapen slabs of concrete that once formed a straight sidewalk protrude from the rocky ground next to Point Fermin Park. And foundations of the
A man walks along broken sections of asphalt that used to connect to the foot of Pacific Avenue in San Pedro. Sections of the former road have broken apart during land slides at the top of the cliff near Pt. Fermin. The area is refered to by locals as Sunken City. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)
long-lost homes sit exposed, covered with weeds and graffiti. It looks like something from an end-of-the-world science fiction movie. "The manhole entrances were all brickwork," says John Nieto, education director for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
"There's all this ancient 80-year-old stuff - you can see the type of construction of the roads and the type of construction of the electric line. It's almost like an archaeology exhibit."
One day in 1929, a chunk of earth roughly 400 by 1,000 feet began sliding into the sea just south of Pacific Avenue and Shepard Street.
Experts estimated that the ground shifted nearly a foot a day.
Officials had time to move most of the houses, but two
of the residences closest to the cliff had to be abandoned.
Then, in 1941, a water main break accelerated the landslide so severely that the city had to permanently fence off the area.
Two factors contributed to the crumbling landscape.
First, the constant crush of the waves below gradually weakened the bluff's stability. But perhaps more damaging was the presence of a clay called bentonite in the ground.
When the clay came into contact with water - which could
Rick Zambrano carries his daughter Makayla, as he and Artie Miramontes enter Sunken City by going around the fence in Point Fermin Park in November 2006. A new fence may be erected in attempts to keep people out of the area. (Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer)
have occurred naturally or from residential irrigation - the land became unstable, even slippery. Developers have never ventured back to the location, but the location continues to change ever so slowly because of the shifting soil. New cracks and fissures appear with every heavy rain.
The area - which is owned by the city Department of Recreation and Parks - is currently off-limits, but can be viewed from the south end of Pacific Avenue or the east end of Point Fermin Park at Paseo del Mar and Gaffey Street.
Even so, despite the "No Trespassing" signs, the area draws countless hikers, adventurers and late-night partygoers, who often bring alcohol with them.
People venturing there do so at their peril -
Sunken City, where years of erosion have left a former San Pedro neighborhood in riuns is an attraction for locals to walk, climb and hangout. (Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer)
several times a year, somebody gets too close to the edge and falls to their death below. The area also sees its share of suicides. In 1987, Los Angeles officials agreed to spend $140,000 erecting a permanent wrought-iron fence around the area, but trespassers frequently find their way around the barrier.
The area may not always be closed off to the public. In recent years, the state Coastal Conservancy has been exploring ways to improve the Sunken City, including opening the site to the public and installing a trail.
Until that happens, the ruins stand as a reminder that nature can thwart even the best-laid plans of man.
Remnants of the former San Pedro neighborhood still leave clues of what used to be here at Sunken City where Pacific Avenue dead ends. (Sean Hiller/Staff Photographer)
You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-sliding away...
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