Artist sPOTlight: The Battle Over 'Sunken City' - Culture | MERRY JANE
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Artist sPOTlight: The Battle Over 'Sunken City'

Local graffiti artists and residents fight to open up LA's ultimate smoke spot to the public.

by Ben Adams

Tucked away in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, Sunken City is the post-apocalyptic graffiti zone that was used as a backdrop for the season finale of AMC's Fear of the Walking Dead.

Unfortunately, LA's ultimate sesh spot is fenced off--but that hasn't stopped the daily flow of “tourists” aching for ambiance and peace of mind. In recent years, graffiti artists and local residents have been battling to open up Sunken City to the public.

There's a reason the city wants to keep people away.

Coastal San Pedro and the surrounding area is one of the most geologically unstable coastlines in Southern California. Geologists estimate that at one time, Sunken City sunk at a rate of 11 inches per day.

The recent announcement of a geological study which began in March could unlock the future of the city where vibrant illegal street art and geology collide.

The notorious coastline is located 9 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. The city is still concerned about liability issues surrounding the landslide-prone area.

Geologists hope to remove unstable debris that make the area dangerous to trespassers. The Los Angeles city Department of Recreation and Parks approved the study. Engineers hope to install underground anchors and drains similar to those that support the Paseo del Mar coastline.

Los Angeles city councilman Joe Buscaino has been busy looking into the possibility of opening up the 6-acre property, which would allow the constant hordes of thrill-seekers that already comb the area.

“As you are aware, the rich history and scenic views from Sunken City in San Pedro tend to attract many visitors from throughout the region on a daily basis,” Buscaino wrote last year.

“It is one of the only areas along our coastline that remains closed to the public.” In 1929, an entire neighborhood in San Pedro crumbled into the ocean, leaving blank slabs of concrete as canvas for graffiti artists. In 1987, the city of Los Angeles built a wrought-iron fence around Sunken City.

The LAPD takes a no-nonsense and somewhat aggressive approach toward trespassers.

“A couple of weeks back a friend and I rolled a joint and went to Sunken City for some scenery and silence,” Amanda Arslan, a real estate manager and local resident told MERRY JANE.

“In the middle of our sesh an LAPD helicopter started circling overhead. Unfazed, we kept smoking. All of a sudden a voice boomed out saying that we were trespassing and police were waiting to give us a ticket and remind us that trespassing is a misdemeanor.”

Buscaino's proposal would not remove the 1987 fence, but it would add a gate and open during daylight hours.

Residents have argued that the fence does nothing to keep trespassers out. Attorneys Douglas P. Carstens and Michelle Black wrote, “Areas around California where public access to potentially dangerous areas has been allowed in a very popular and successful way include the following: the Los Angeles River, Black’s Beach in San Diego, Douglas Family Reserve in Santa Barbara, Palisades Park in Santa Monica and in the city of Rancho Palos Verdes ... Trump National Golf Course and the Terranea Resort.”

Opening up the fence has little effect on the number of visitors that sesh in Sunken City everyday. A gate would at least keep trespassers from climbing the fence.


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Benjamin Adams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a slew of publications including CULTURE, Cannabis Now Magazine and The 420 Book and Vice. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenBot11 and Facebook @byBenBot.



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