The Sixth Street Bridge
On November 18, 2011, the Los Angeles City Council approved the demolition and replacement of the Sixth Street Bridge (Historic-Cultural Monument #905). Constructed in 1932, the bridge is the longest span over the L.A. River and is arguably one of the most iconic bridges in the city. Unfortunately, the bridge has been suffering structurally from Alkali Silica Reaction (ASR), a chemical reaction that is causing the bridge’s concrete to deteriorate.
The monumental Los Angeles River bridges between Downtown and the San Fernando Valley are some of the City’s most recognizable landmarks, with the 6th Street Bridge easily being the grandest and most signature bridge of the entire grouping. The bridge is recognized throughout the city as a symbol of Los Angeles and is, in fact, one of the most filmed sites in Los Angeles. Recognizing its importance, the Los Angeles City Council declared the 6th Street Bridge a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2008.
After careful review of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in 2009, the Cultural Heritage Commission submitted substantive comments on the alternatives discussed. Understanding the structural issues with the bridge, the staff of the Office of Historic Resources (OHR) and Cultural Heritage Commissioners worked closely with the Bureau of Engineering in studying options to address the bridge’s ASR condition. Because of the extraordinary circumstances created by the ASR condition, the Cultural Heritage Commission and OHR staff believed that the project necessitated a new approach in historic preservation for bridges and other public infrastructure that may be impacted by ASR or other structural issues and deficiencies. The 6th Street Bridge appears at the moment to be the first pre-World War II bridge in the nation to be proposed for complete demolition and replacement because of an ASR condition.
The Cultural Heritage Commission expressed concerns that the project team selected a preferred alternative that would demolish the 6th Street Bridge and replace it with a new cable-supported bridge of contemporary design. The Commission voted unanimously on November 3, 2011 to support a reconstruction alternative that would have, at minimum, replicated the bridge’s iconic double arch span over the LA River.
A significant precedent for such an approach was the reconstruction of Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge in 1991-93. The entire deck of that bridge and many other historic features, including spandrel columns, had been fully reconstructed, rather than repaired, yet retained its listing in the National Register of Historic Places and as a City of Pasadena landmark.
The Commission also emphasized that the new design should recognize that the Sixth Street Bridge is the centerpiece of an ensemble of remarkable historic bridges along the Los Angeles River. While the bridges are individual Historic-Cultural Monuments, rather than formally designated as a historic district, they do also constitute a de facto district.
Ultimately, the City Council concurred with the selection of a contemporary cable-stayed design for the replacement design. The Cultural Heritage Commission will continue to work with Bureau of Engineering staff to help ensure that the new design does not detract from the collective historic significance of the L.A. River bridges.
The OHR will provide further updates on the bridge replacement project as soon as they become available.
The N. Spring Street Bridge
The Los Angeles City Council, incorporating input from the Cultural Heritage Commission, has approved a revised project design for a widening of the North Spring Street Bridge (HCM #900) which will preserve more of the bridge's significant historic features.
Over the past two years, the Commission has expressed concerns about the potential loss of historic status for this and other landmark LA River bridges. The monumental Los Angeles River bridges between Downtown and Griffith Park are some of the City’s most iconic landmarks with a total of 14 bridges designated as Historic-Cultural Monuments, including the North Spring Street Bridge.
Constructed in 1927 near the original site of the founding of the City, the North Spring Street bridge is situated in one of the most historically rich areas of the City, located between two of the oldest Los Angeles River Bridges, the North Main Street Bridge (1910) and the North Broadway-Buena Vista Bridge (1911). The North Spring Street Bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, is listed in the California Register of Historical Resources, and was designated as Historic-Cultural Monument #900 in 2008.
The bridge project as originally proposed would widen the deck by 40' (20’ feet on each side), nearly doubling the size of the current bridge. It would also have removed historic railings, light fixtures, and brackets, obscured the double-arch span over the river, and incorporated new additions mimicking the historic features lost through the widening. The project's EIR concluded that this project would result in an adverse effect and loss of the bridge’s landmark designation.
During 2010, the Commission proposed further study of alternatives that would safeguard the historic designation of the bridge. The staff of the Office of Historic Resources (OHR) worked closely with BOE staff and representatives of Council District 1 to continue developing alternatives that would protect the historic designation of the bridge while also meeting the goals of the project.
These discussions resulted in new project alternative that would leave one side of the bridge completely intact, while pursuing a more modest (22') widening on the other side. The new bridge addition would be somewhat differentiated visually from the historic bridge, in keeping with historic preservation standards, which emphasize the importance of avoiding a false sense of historical development and conveying an accurate sense of time and place.
At its meeting of May 5, 2011 the Cultural Heritage Commission praised the new bridge design concepts and indicated its belief that the new alternative would help ensure that the bridge retain its historic eligibility. The Final EIR was approved by the full City Council on June 14, 2011.
Please contact Edgar Garcia, Preservation Planner with the Office of Historic Resources, at 213-978-1189 for more information regarding the current efforts to preserve the city’s historic bridges.