Step aside, pedestrians: Downtown sidewalk removal was pitched in 1940s Los Angeles

Elevated sidewalk proposal for Los Angeles

The notion of “complete streets” has spread nationwide over the last several years, with policies enacted to accomodate all users: motorists, bicyclists, transit vehicles and their riders and pedestrians.

Safe street design for those using roads and sidewalks sounds rather “pedestrian” today, but it wasn’t always that way — including in Los Angeles.

In 1946, a proposal was made to remove all the street-level sidewalks in downtown and move them up to the second-story of buildings.

The idea was to provide “ultimate traffic relief” in the congested central business district, eliminating the need to wait for traffic signals to change while appealing to the business community in providing an extra floor of display windows.

The full story, along with some eye-popping illustrations can be found on the Library’s Primary Resources blog.


4 replies

  1. Pedestrian bridges can be a good thing, but it depends upon WHERE the bridge is, and what the bridge/ elevated sidewalk’s function is.

    Downtown Long Beach has an odd situation where they have an “upper” downtown near the light rail station and a crowded waterfront which is downhill from there. In the middle is the convention center. They built a pedestrian bridge/ pedestrian promenade to connect these areas, and it works.

    I think something similar could work with Pico Station of the Blue Line and the L.A. Convention Center/ Staples Center/ Farmers Field NFL stadium. Keep pedestrian traffic flowing, and you don’t need “interaction” with the cars on Figueroa or Flower.

    The trouble with the Bunker Hill bridges is that they were done in piecemeal fashion, and not planned out at all.

  2. Isn’t it ironic to read posts over the last several months by pro-transit regulars arguing in FAVOR of ped bridged, when it is the current ped bridges that most transit and urban planners BLAME for lack of lively pedestrian traffic on sidewalks that can also provide a degree of safety. Most have spent the last 3 decades criticizing the current ped bridges what was to be a much larger implementation here in Los Angeles. Now in 2010, we seem to hear the opposite from posters on The Source.

    My, how times change or the pendulum always swings.

  3. A pedestrian bridge should definitely be built (by the private sector!) from the Pico Station all the way across Flower and Figueroa Streets directly to the proposed stadium/convention center plaza!

  4. Of course you can get a see this idea today thanks to the pedestrian bridges implemented in Bunker Hill. From an old LA times article the route is quite confusing, but I use it all the time.

    To accomplish the goals of planners in the 1960s of moving from 1st to 6th without touching a street, the pedestrian must find his way along the unmarked public easement through the grounds of the residential Bunker Hill Towers; walk through the World Trade Center on its second story; take an escalator up to the pedway entering the Bonaventure on the north at its sixth floor; and meander around the hotel’s round silos to find the south pedway, which signs indicate is on the hotel’s third floor but is reached by taking outdoor concrete stairs down to the second floor. The trip is completed by crossing 5th Street and riding down an escalator–if it is working–to return to earth by entering Arco Plaza at the street level.