A Walk across the Sixth Street Bridge

A view of the Sixth Street Bridge from Mateo Street.

The new Sixth Street Bridge opened in July of this year.  The first few weeks were pretty chaotic, with drivers doing stunts, daredevils climbing the arches, street artists getting creative with spray paint, and more.  Things got so bad the LAPD ended up closing the bridge just to keep a lid on the mayhem.  Scenes of crashes, fireworks and people partying were making the nightly news.

Starting across the bridge from the Downtown side.

But now all the chaos seems to have faded away.  When I took a walk across the bridge earlier in December, there wasn’t much traffic and I saw only a handful of pedestrians.  It was a cool, cloudy day, and things seemed pretty peaceful.

The bridge’s arches create a sense of energy.

I have mixed feelings about the Sixth Street Bridge, which I’ve written about previously.  In this post I want to focus on the positive.  The bridge really is beautiful.  The design, by Michael Maltzan, is impressive, with the fluid lines of the arches rolling off to the horizon.  Walking across you get a sense of being lifted into the air, with stunning views of LA’s various landscapes surrounding you on all sides. 

The new Sixth Street Bridge is actually a replacement for the previous version, which was built in the early 30s.  It’s just one of a series of bridges that run across the LA River between Downtown and East LA, including the Cesar Chavez Bridge, the Fourth Street Bridge, and the Seventh Street Bridge.  All of these were built in the first half of the 20th century.

A view of the Fourth Street Bridge.
A view of the Seventh Street Bridge.

As you can see from the photo above, this area, which borders Downtown LA, is criss-crossed with multiple layers of infrastructure.  Aside from the bridges, you have the concrete surface of the LA River, rows of train tracks, and miles of electric power lines, all surrounded by a massive industrial district. 

The arches rolling off to the horizon.

Beneath the bridge you can see scores of large, nondescript buildings which were built for manufacturing and storage.  These days you’ll probably find that a number of them have been converted to ghost kitchens and cannabis greenhouses.

A view of the industrial district that lies below the Sixth Street Bridge.
Scores of drab buildings cover the landscape.

Nestled inside this vast maze of commercial buildings you’ll often come across pockets that seem neglected or deserted.  These spaces are a magnet for street artists that love the expansive, windowless exterior walls. 

The desolate spaces between these buildings draw street artists…
…who love the wide, windowless exteriors.

Coming down on the other side of the bridge, Sixth Street becomes Whittier Boulevard, which is lined with shops and restaurants serving the working class community of Boyle Heights.

The bridge lands in Boyle Heights.

It will probably be a long time before we can really see the impacts caused by the new Sixth Street Bridge.  There’s been lots of hype about the upside of this new LA landmark, but it’s also likely to accelerate the waves of gentrification and displacement that have been sweeping across the city.  Property values have already risen in Boyle Heights, and so has the number of evictions.

Like I said, though, for the moment I’ll focus on the positive.  It is a lovely bridge.

Putting Lives Back Together

SRHT Main All

LA is suffering from an affordable housing crisis, but there is some good news to celebrate. Thanks to the efforts of the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), formerly homeless people are getting a roof over their heads and a place in the community. The SRHT is using innovative approaches to creating housing in the Downtown area.

Homelessness is a complex problem. It’s not just a matter of giving someone a place to live, because people living on the streets are often struggling with a variety of issues. In the first place, finding a job, which can be tough if you don’t have skills that are currently in demand. Depression, mental illness and substance abuse are also common problems, and these are not solved simply by giving someone the keys to an apartment.

But having a place to live is the first step. And the SRHT offers assistance to people grappling with other issues by creating permanent supportive housing. This means that the residents living in these communities have access to counseling, job training, health care and other services in order to get their life back on track.

The SRHT has been working on two new projects in Downtown. First, let’s take a look at the Star Apartments….

SRHT Star Frnt

The Star Apartments are located near the corner of Sixth and Wall. The project was designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, and they used an interesting approach. The site was occupied by a one-story building, which they wanted to expand to create more units. The solution they hit on was stacking pre-fab cubes on top of the original structure, which in addition to being fast and economical, resulted in a striking piece of design.

SRHT Star Sky 1

You can read more on Maltzan’s web site.

Star Apartments

Next, check out the New Pershing Apartments at Fifth and Main. This project actually combines two structures, the Pershing Hotel and the Roma Hotel, built in 1889 and 1905, respectively. The new design, by Killefer Flammang Architects, preserves original elements of the exterior. In addition to the residential units, the New Pershing will also offer a courtyard, two recreation decks and planters for gardening.

First let’s look at a couple of shots taken while the project was under construction, back in October of 2014. The first was taken from the corner of Fifth and Main.

SRHT Main Const 1

This next photo was taken on Main, directly across from the building.

SRHT Main Const 2

Now let’s look at the finished project.

SRHT Main Frnt

And another shot from Fifth and Main.

SRHT Main Full

Here’s the article that the Downtown News ran on the New Pershing earlier this month.

A Victorian Victory

You can find more information about the SRHT’s activities by visiting their web page. And if you want to support their efforts, I’m sure a donation would be welcome.

Skid Row Housing Trust