As the City moves forward with their plan to demolish the Bridge, we have made various Public Records request for documents concerning the Soto Street Bridge. The documents contents have raised many questions about the demolition of this historic gem.
We understand that progress sometimes means making tough decisions. But after reviewing many documents, we have concluded that the demolition of the historic Soto St Bridge over Mission Rd is not in the best interest of the community.
There are many factors that justify a re-evaluation of the Soto Street Bridge Demolition Project. For starters, there is the Bridge’s historic significance. To simply destroy an importance piece of our City and community's historic past without any real effort to preserve our history is a shame. There are also concerns about the shoddy job BOE has done to inform the community about this project. Equally disturbing is the shameful negligence of residents’ safety. Safety concerns have not been addressed leaving residents exposed to dangers unnecessarily for decades.
Even more concerning is the piecemealing of what is in fact one very large project. BOE presents the large Soto Street Project as three individual projects: the demolition of Soto St Bridge over Mission Rd, the widening of Soto Street between Mission Road and Multnomah Street, and the widening of the Soto Street Bridge over Valley Blvd. These three projects should have been evaluated as one long project, requiring an EIR. By piecemealing the projects, BOE avoids the exposure of the combined negative effects these projects will have on the environment and on the Quality of Life in our community.
These facts indicate that the Soto Street Bridge demolition project must be stopped and re-evaluated.
Councilmember Jose Huizar
District 14 Representative
City Hall Office:
200 N. Spring St., Room 465
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 473-7014
Fax: (213) 847-0680
Email: Jose.Huizar@lacity.org, councilmember.Huizar@lacity.org
The arresting spectacle of a four-track interurban system (as distinguished from a four-track electrified steam railway) is perhaps the ultimate development of the age of interurban. The advantage of the four-track system is readily apparent: the local cars and freight trains use one pair of tracks (invariable the outside tracks), leaving the two remaining tracks for the use of high-speed passenger trains making few stops. Pacific Electric enjoyed two four-track systems (Ninth & Hooper-Watts on the Southern District and Indian Village-El Molino on the Northern District) and came within an ace of having a third: Vineyard to Venice on the Western District. PE's total mileage of four-track system was 11.36; 5.99 miles were on the South, and 5.37 were on the North. To the best of the editor's knowledge, no other interurban company anywhere approached these impressive totals.
The question may well be asked: Why didn't the Northern District's four-track system go further than Indian Village? The answer has to be topography. Between Valley Junction and Indian Village there were numerous cuts and fills, plus a viaduct crossing Southern Pacific's main line east. PE never could see its way clear to spend the large sums necessary to four-track this gap. It felt that by judicious scheduling, the cramping effect of the double track system between these points (1.36 miles) could be largely minimized. Between a point just east of Macy St. Bridge and Enchandia Junction (a half mile) there was also a four-track system, but this was operated as a double track system for local cars and freight trains, plus a second two-track system for interurban cars. In effect this worked out to be little better than a long passing track which, much of the time, was blocked by standing freights.
The two outer tracks, comprising a four-track system between Indian Village and El Molino, were constructed by the Los Angeles Interurban Company (a PE affiliate) in 1910 and were placed in operation on October 28th of that year. Two noteworthy improvements took place down the years: the massive concrete viaduct over Mission Road at Huntington Drive which was constructed in 1934, and the rebuilding and lowering of the four-tracks through El Sereno from approximately Eastern Ave to Van Horne Ave in 1928; this featured steel catenary supporting bridges obtained from the Visalia Electric Railway, another SP property. This exemplary four-track system was ripped up after abandonment of passenger service on the Northern District. Today a portion has been utilized for highways, but the major part is a weed-grown eyesore.
Courtesy of: The Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California
The Soto Street Bridge was an important train viaduct used by the famous Pacific Electric Railway, the nation’s most expansive interurban electric railway in terms of track length. The bridge is cumulatively rare, extraordinary and noteworthy in these four respects: 1) It’s a former Pacific Electric inter-urban bridge, 2) Rare example of a railway/railroad bridge converted to highway use, 3) Last 4-track Pacific Electric inter-urban bridge in the south-land (only two 4-track bridges were ever built), 4) It's a very rare four-track bridge not in or adjacent to a railroad or railway storage yard, and 5) The bridge is about 76 years old.
The Pacific Electric Railway was the most widespread and best transportation system the city has ever seen. The Soto Street Bridge was built during the zenith of the P & E Railway and much care was taken in its construction. It's a one-of--kind bridge, probably the last of its kind in the City of Los Angeles.
The demolition of the Soto Street Bridge will destroy a historic icon that played an important role in the growth of Los Angeles, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Pasadena, and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. The Soto Street Bridge served as part of the Pacific Electric Railway System from 1937 to 1951. Its railway service reached out to cities as far east as Colton, San Bernardino, and Monrovia.
The Bureau of Engineering has only recently attempted to pro-actively inform the community of upcoming meetings, using fliers and e-mails to notify residents. However, these attempts are much too late, as residents have no power to voice their concerns or change the plans set over 10 years ago.
The best time for a community to have an impact, voice their concerns, and ask questions to influence the plan/design of the project in in the early stages. In the case of the Soto Street Bridge, this was back in 2002. This was the year the Bureau of Engineering began its initial study of the Bridge. Community input is essential in these large projects because the community has the potential to make or break a project during the early stages.
Through the Public Records Act we uncovered that between the crucial years of 2002-2004, during the time of the initial study, there were only four (4) community meetings held. Of these, one has "unknown location" for the meeting; one was held in Lincoln Heights, leaving only two for El Sereno. Meaning that officially, only three community meetings were held for residents’ input, crucial as to whether or this project was something the community wanted.
Of these three, one took place AFTER the City Council had voted to approve the Bridge demolition.
In retrospect, the Bureau of Engineering allowed only two meetings over a 2-year period for community input; leaving very little doubt that the community was left out.
By comparison, since April 2011 to August 14, 2013, the Bureau of Engineering has held no less than nine (9) announced community meetings. None of these made a difference on the outcome of the project. In fact, questions asked at the last two meetings show that none of the Public’s concerns were recorded or taken into account.
Questions asked repeatedly over the last two years remain unanswered. The new project team is quick to use the excuse that they were not aware of these concerns, pretending to be oblivious to the concerns brought up by community members over the last two years.
In reality, the meetings held since 2011 have been all for show. While they claim the seek the community's input, they are set up to make us feel part of the decision making. They use these meetings to really inform us of what has already been decided, without our input.
Two of the main reasons used to justify the demolition of the Soto St Bridge are the sub-standard Bridge railings and the dangers posed to pedestrians/motorist when pedestrians attempt to cross the multi-lane streets. The Soto St Bridge area lacks light signals or painted crosswalks.
The Bureau of Engineering (BOE) is using the high number of accidents that have occurred on or below the Bridge as one of the main reasons the Bridge needs to be demolished. The accident report shows that during a six-year period, between 1994 and 2000, there were 47 accidents, 36 of these with injuries.
However, BOE forgets to mention that funds were allocated to address this safety concern. The funds were intended for safety improvements around the Soto Street Bridge. For example, in 1998, the City Council approved $180,000 to upgrade the Bridge’s railings, stating that:
The Bridge located on Huntington Dr at Soto Ave, in the community of El Sereno, has a metal beam guardrail (MBG) that is outdated, damaged, and unsafe. The guardrail needs to be replaced with a modern standard MBG to protect the public safety and welfare. The City: appropriate $180,000 and authorized the Bureau of Engineering, acting by and through the Board of Public Works, to be the lead agency to direct and coordinate this replacement project.
The money was instead transferred elsewhere; the safety improvement were left undone. Council File 98-0753
In 2000, the City approved the construction of 70 affordable housing units in a 4-story building with 119 parking spaces on a vacant site of 5.62 net acres at 2580 North Soto Street (right adjacent to the Soto St Bridge). Before releasing building permits, the City demanded that the developer cover the cost of putting up a light signal and cross walk. City Council File 00-1168 states:
Prior to any issuance of a building permit for the proposed housing development, the applicant shall install a full traffic signal with pedestrian control at the intersection of Huntington Drive, Huntington Drive South, Canto Drive, Mission Road, at Soto Street including curb ramps for handicapped access, protective wall, adequate exterior lighting in the underpass and painting the proposed crosswalk white to improve pedestrian visibility for drivers. The applicant shall assume the entire cost of the design and installation of a full traffic signal and crosswalk.
These safety improvements, described by the City Council as being of "paramount importance, the very legitimate concern that this project will expose residents to traffic hazards as well as pedestrian hazards due to a lack of sidewalks in the area and due to dangerous intersections at this location. It is important that these traffic safety issues, as well as other issues associated with the large project be given a more thorough review, evaluation, and mitigation." City Council file 00-1168
The developer put up $150,000 required to have the improvements done. Yet, these crucial safety improvements were not done, the developer’s money was instead transferred to Boyle Heights. This would have cost the City ZERO dollars, the developer had agreed to pay for the cost of the study and all the required improvements in FULL. The City decided our safety was not of major importance and the important safety improvements were once again negligently left undone.
According to Caltrans' Bridge Inspection Report, the Soto Street Bridge has an inspection rating of 63.6. Due to it's low rating, Caltrans determined the Bridge to be functionally obsolete. The substandard bridge railings and lack of safety for pedestrians (i.e., no light signal) are noted as reasons for the demolition of the Soto Street Bridge.
The truth is, by not upgrading the bridge railings or implementing other safety measures, the City of Los Angeles (BOE) and Caltrans purposely lowered Bridge’s rating. Had the safety improvements been done back in 1998 & 2000, the Bridge’s inspection rating might have been much higher, possibly high enough to meet the 80 rating needed to be considered functional.
These are just some of the many disturbing facts we have uncovered so far. The pictures below provide a view of the size and scope of the apartments built in 2000. The developer was required to fund the installation of side-walk ramps and Light signals, among other thing. The money was allocated, but the City never followed through on it's own recommendations.
It has been 15 years since 1998, 13 years since 2000;
how many accidents were allowed to take place over the last 13 YEARS?
If the City had made the safety improvements recommended in 1998 and 2000, many of the accidents that have occurred since 1998 may have been prevented.
BOE sights an accident report totaling a mere 6-year period to justify the demolition of the Soto Street Bridge.
But, BOE ignores the fact that it has recklessly put pedestrians’ and motorists’ lives at risk for over 12 years--double the number of years used in their accident report. The number is potentially twice as many as reported from 1994-2000.
BOE's reason: it's not cost effective to install a light signal or other safety measures when the Bridge will eventually be torn down.
We have video of a Caltrans representative actually saying this at the August 1, 2013, community meeting. When a resident questioned this shocking admission, another staff member quickly intervenes and changes the subject (see videos below).
El Sereno Resident harassed by City/CountyCity wants his property but doesn’t want to pay its fair-market value; they have harassed him in search of any violation. He claims at least 25 raids have been conducted on his business in the last 8 years.
article from story printed in La Opinion about the harassment.