Sunken City: The Ruins of an American Suburb
When you first arrive in Sunken City, you are met with a thriving suburbia—popular parks, tourist attractions, and beautiful views of the vast Pacific Ocean. Besides the sparse fences and the occasional "No Trespassing" sign, it would be hard to see that there is anything special in this area of San Pedro at all. The dichotomy of peace and chaos Sunken City offers is not truly showcased until you venture past the fences to discover what those tempting warning signs are guarding.
What is Sunken City?
While a walk around the ruins can give you some clues to what was once here, I left with many questions. What happened to this place and when did it happen? After some digging, the tale of Sunken City truly unraveled. It's a tale of the constant battle between the ocean and the shore, and while humans have figured out ways to fight back the surf, sometimes the swell wins.
This land was once a 6-acre suburban housing track of bungalows built on part of Point Fermin and owned by George H. Peck, a real estate Broker who once owned nearly all of San Pedro. This quaint place many people called home was met with a troubling reality one day in 1929. Their housing track was built on a type of volcanic clay called bentonite (something that today's housing codes would never permit), meaning that after years of added weight and crashing waves, the land began to dive into the sea. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1929, just one day after the initial slide, that "the edge of the crack caved in in front of Charles Fulton's house at 602 Shepard street, leaving a deep hole ten feet long and three feet across."(Portraits of LA). The land slowly broke into the sea, leaving large fissures where roads once lay, and ripples under the foundations of homes. In 1941 a water main break accelerated the cities degeneration at a rate of up to 1 foot a day. After this, the city took action and blocked off the area ever since. Now, all that remains of this suburban neighborhood is a hole in the ground and some relics from over 80 years ago.
How To Get In
While Sunken City seems serene and calm in its withered state, it is certainly not accessed without a few risks. Towering cliffs of loose rock and outreaching pipes surround the entrance, but if you're surefooted and laugh in the face of danger, this is how to get in.
First of all, come during the day. While this may seem counter-intuitive considering the legality of entering, climbing under fences and over rock-faces under the light of the sun will not only make your adventure easier, but far safer. While the signs and fences seem menacing, trespassing is no big issue at Sunken City. Out of the countless times that I've traveled to Sunken City it has never been empty. The chance of you getting busted are slim, though not impossible.
Once you've decided to go, I'd recommend parking at the Point Fermin Park, just past the Korean Freedom Bell and adjacent to the lighthouse. If you are facing the ocean you will see a tan bar fence on your far left side. I wouldn't attempt to climb it. The best option would be to follow it down towards the ocean. You will eventually meet its end which you can simply walk around. It is as easy as that.
What to Expect
While not a lot remains of the city lost to the sea, we can't deny that it is a fascinating place to visit. Most notable is the large road that once connected the neighborhood, which now lies broken and misshapen in the middle of Sunken City. Another amazing attribute of this wasteland is the ample graffiti art. I don't think that there is a single inch of space that some creative minds haven't utilized. This alone is enough to make me return and check in every so often. Each time I return (granted it's usually several months in between each visit), the entire place is covered in new art.
In the end, Sunken City is nothing more than a peaceful place to relax, enjoy the view, and remember the relics of our past. On a clear day you can see the boats as they ease into the harbor, or enjoy a beautiful sunset. The atmosphere there is so quiet and serene that some have taken it on as their own yoga retreat, though I've never seen it with my own eyes. So if you're in the area or willing to take a trip, I recommend you come and visit to marvel at the fickle world we all live in.
If you have already explored and conquered Sunken City, or have a new found need to uncover all of it's secrets, let us know in the comments below!