Sadly, on Thursday, March 6, 2014, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted not to declare the Pacific Electric Soto St Bridge a Cultural-Heritage Monument.
To no surprise, Councilmember Jose Huizar chose NOT to support saving this special piece of El Sereno's history. Councilmember Jose Huizar's support was important in saving this historic bridge. Instead, he chose to sell our history and supported a 15 million dollar project that will destroy the bridge.
Councilmember Jose Huizar: Selling & destroying El Sereno's history to the highest bidder. The demolition of the Pacific Electric Soto Street Bridge will begin in June 2014.
We leave you with a great power-point presentation done by local historian Charlie Fisher, on behalf of the El Sereno Historical Society. The power-point was presented to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission on January 16, 2014.
Pacific Electric Soto Street Bridge- Historic Monument Application PDF
As the City moved forward with their plan to demolish the Bridge, we made various Public Records request for documents concerning the Soto Street Bridge. The documents contents 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 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 piecemeal 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.
Before the 1903, the land where the Soto Street Bridge is located used to be underwater, as it was part of an early reservoir that provided LA with essential water. The hillsides formed a natural location for a reservoir. The reservoir provided much of the water for LA's expanding eastside. The Schuetzen Shooting Club was located on the land in front of the reservoir. The hillsides and dam walls made for a perfect shooting range. The Schuetzen Club was reknown for their drinking skills as much as their shooting skills. Many boisterous drinking competitions were said to have taken place alongside the shooting competitions.
In 1903, Henry Huntington extended his Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway line through the east side of the reservoir in order to connect LA with Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley. The Railway extension opened up East LA's (now Lincoln Heights) last undeveloped area to real estate developers and shrunk the reservoir’s size/capacity almost in half. Around the same time, the City extended North Broadway to connect with Mission Road (then known as Alhambra Ave).
The railway expansion also led to the relocation of the Schuetzen Shooting Club to El Sereno, which still remained outside the City's border (El Sereno wouldn't be annexed until 1915). By 1904 the Schuetzen Shooting Club was back in business. Though nothing of it remains, our research has uncovered maps, newspaper articles, and photos which place the location of Schuetzen Park in and around the entrance to Debs Park, adjacent residential streets in El Sereno, and neighboring Monterey Hills.
In 1903, Henry Huntington bought the land on the east side of the reservoir, opening up the land to developers and cutting the reservoir area to almost half its original size.
Map of East LA in 1894, shows the extent of Reservoir #5. The horizontal street to the left of the No 5 is N. Broadway (then known as Downey Avenue).
In 1903, Henry Huntington bought the land on the east side of the reservoir, opening up the land to developers and cutting the reservoir area to almost half its original size.
Map of East LA in 1894, shows the extent of Reservoir #5. The horizontal street to the left of the No 5 is N. Broadway (then known as Downey Avenue).
After the Schuetzen Shooting Club closed its doors, the City of LA declared the area as Schuetzen Park, an open space area for people to use. The park’s was known as Rose Hill Park in early 1920s.
In the 1960s, the City did a land switch and "relocated" Rose Hill Park from one hillside to another. The new park was renamed Montecito Park. (The City developed Schuetzen Park’s origin location into the only example of a planned residential community in Northeast Los Angeles. After a troubling start due to unstable soil and foundation issues, today this planned residential community of condominiums is better known as Monterey Hills. Although originally part of El Sereno and with no official renaming documents, many people consider Monterey Hills to be a separate community. However, there are still many local residents who consider Monterey Hills part of El Sereno).
Montecito Park was later renamed Debs Park, after the late Ernest E. Deb. Ernest E. Debs was a Los Angeles City Councilmember representing the 13th District, from 1947–1958. He also served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the 3rd District, from 1958–1974.
Then & Now: The Historic Pacific Electric Soto Street Bridge
1937 & 2013
Site of Pacific Electric grade separation over Mission Road before construction, February 1936.
Site of Pacific Electric grade separation over Mission Road after construction, March 6, 1937.
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.
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.
We are not the first to see the historical significance of the Soto St Bridge. There was a lot of public input regarding the Soto St Bridge, explaining reasons why the Bridge needs to be saved. This information of the Bridge's historic worth was pointed out in 2002 and 2003. Nonetheless, the facts were ignored and now we find the Bridge in real danger of being lost forever.
Soto St Bridge: Public input of it's historic place in history,
A view of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority's (ex-Pacific Electric) viaduct along Huntington Drive in El Sereno. This image features an MTA car on the viaduct, a coach at street level, and classic Los Angeles haze hugging the hillside. The viaduct still stands. The image was captured September 15, 1951. Alan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection.
Photograph of the Pacific Electric grade separation over Mission Road, [s.d.]. A road lies in the foreground and forks beneath the grade separation at center.
New section of freeway open: Working on underpass at Huntington Drive and Soto. May 15, 1957.
Mission/Soto Street Bridge in 1990s.
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.
Soto Bridge PRA002 Montecito Heights
Soto St Bridge PRA006 Hillside Village
Soto Bridge PRA003
El Sereno &
Soto St Bridge PRA007
Soto Bridge PRA004
Soto St Bridge PRA008
El Sereno & Lincoln Heights
Soto St Bridge PRA005
NO COMMUNITY MEETINGS WERE EVER HELD IN MONTECITO HEIGHTS
Two of the main reasons used to justify the demolition of the Soto Street 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 Street 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.
The pictures above provides 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.
This informational packet was handed out at a meeting on February 16, 2012. It's sad to see all the accidents and injuries that took place over a 6 YEAR period. 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.
The fact that the Department of Public Works and our City representatives allowed this to continue for so many years is beyond comprehension. 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 had video of a Caltrans representative actually saying this at the August 13, 2013, community meeting. When a resident questioned this shocking admission, another staff member quickly intervenes and changes the subject
We know about the terrible accidents that have occurred on or under this bridge, not to mention those who have been hurt trying to cross these major streets. Yet all these years, nothing was done to ensure the public's safety even though the funding was available. Accidents were allowed simply because the safety and lives of the community's residents is considered not economically feasible.
Worst yet is the use of these accidents by BOE as a primary reason for the demolition of the bridge, with the line that they are doing us a favor. Adding insult to injury, the funds were not used within the community of El Sereno. The funds ended up at the Hollenbeck Youth Center, in Boyle Heights.
WE KNOW THE BRIDGE IS BEING TORN DOWN BECAUSE THE BRIDGE PREVENTS LARGE HEAVY TRUCKS FROM USING THIS ROUTE. THE BRIDGE HAS NOT BEEN UPGRADED OR RETROFITTED, DESPITE HAVING THE FUNDING TO DO SO.
With the Bridge gone, more trucks will be able to us Soto/Huntington, right down the middle of our community.
Above is video of how little the City thinks about our health. They know trucks use along this route will increase, but didn't bother to conduct studies to see what the negative health and environmental effects may be. For years residents have voiced their concerns about the number of trucks that will potentially use this route. These questions have never been addressed. Studies show that an increase truck traffic also increases health risks. We are sure to see more chronic ailments affecting the young and old as truck traffic through our community increases.
In another show of negligence, neither BOE nor Caltrans has conducted studies to see what health and environmental impact these trucks will have on the community. The amount of trucks that may potentially use this corridor remains unknown. As the number of trucks increases, so will the negative environmental and health affects on the community.
BOE states that the bridge's current vertical clearance of 14 ft is inadequate and is below the accepted standard. Yet, our research has revealed that the current standard for vertical clearance is 14 ft 6 inches.
In other words, BOE is using a mere six inches as a major reason to destroy this bridge. Scrapping off six inches from the roadway would be much cheaper and easier, bringing the bridge within the accepted standard for vertical clearance.
BOE had nothing to say about this fact when it was presented to them back in January 2014. This is just another unreasonable excuse being used by the city in order to destroy this historic bridge.
In the end, the facts are clear:
The Soto St Bridge has NOT been a safety hazard to our community. What has been truly HAZARDOUS to the lives of residents in El Sereno is the neglect of the bridge and our community by those we expect to speak on our behalf: our elected officials.
Our elected officials have the responsibility to ensure the public's safety. Instead these official chose to save a few dollars and in exchange continue risking our safety and lives.
They have gambled with our safety all these years, and now use the terrible accidents--which were purposely allowed in the first place--to justify the destruction of a Local Historic Landmark and Community Gateway. The Soto Street Bridge must be preserved for it's historic importance to El Sereno's and the City's history.
These photos were taken on the same Sunday afternoon, within a 15 minute time span.
The fact that it was a Sunday, with relatively low vehicle traffic compared to weekdays, provides a glimpse to the risks residents are put into on a daily basis.
During the weekdays there are three to four times more cars on the road and there is no light signal for over a quarter mile in each direction.
If you want to cross, you have to risk the gauntlet of cars going down this busy street.
The traffic study being used does not reflect the true volume of traffic and does not consider the negative long term effects this traffic will have on the community. The study itself is well over a decade old.
While the Soto St Bridge's destruction will not be the cause of these social ills, the overall effect of the project will in the long run. The changes that will be brought about will affect everyone living along the route of Huntington Dr, Soto St, and Mission Rd because it will in a sense make Huntington Drive, Soto St, and Mission Rd virtual street freeways, all leading to Downtown or to USC's Health School Campus and Hospital. The study plan does not take into account a few facts that are a cause us great concern to us:
1) It will destroy a historic monument of El Sereno's, South Pasadena's, and Pasadena's past. The Soto St Bridge served as part of the Pacific Electric Railway System from 1937 to 1951. El Sereno has already lost so much of its historic buildings and places because of the lack information and/or lack of support from the city representatives, which is needed to have the buildings and places formally recognized as historic.
2) The planned project is all about destroying part of our history for the sake of improving the streets to making it easier for outside commuters to travel to and from their jobs. But it does nothing for the residents who live on the streets and hills adjacent to this planned project. While outside commuters benefit from the destruction from the historic bridge, with new car lanes and newly paved roads, the streets on the hills in the El Sereno/Lincoln Heights communities still languish in oblivion.
Many of the streets running through the hills are in very bad condition and in urgent need of repair. The streets of these communities have languished in this state for years, mainly due to the excuse that the city/council district does not have the money to repair them. Yet, Councilman Jose Huizar is able to somehow find the money needed to destroy the bridge and help make streets a super-highway for others to use. It's a lack of consideration for all those property owners & tax-payers who deserve to have their tax-dollars work for them as well.
3) The study plan does not take into account the fact that this increase in traffic, especially truck traffic, means pollution being put into the air. This will affect homeowners, residents, but more importantly, all the elementary school children and young adults attending schools or living what will become a super-highway.
More studies need to be carefully considered and researched before any bridge destruction can begin. Especially alarming is the increase in Semi-trucks who will be able to use this shortcut for trucking companies delivering freight to businesses in the Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley. The reason that semi-trucks have not used this route in the past is because of the Soto St/Mission Bridge. The bridge lacks the clearance needed for semi-trucks to go under the bridge and the bridge's capacity limit is lower than what it needs to be for semi-trucks to continuously travel on the bridge itself. In effect the Soto/Mission Bridge has been a positive for the community to have. The Bridge needs to continue where it is for this reason alone. The time to stop this is NOW.
Huntington Drive Elementary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School, Semillas del Pueblo Charter School, El Sereno Elementary, All Saints Catholic School, Cesar Chavez Elementary, and Sierra Vista Elementary are all located along this corridor. This children will be highly exposed to higher truck and car fumes, with untold health consequences emerging later on in their lives because of this constant exposure to fumes and exhaust. There are already many studies showing how a quickly person's health is negatively affected with even a small increase in the amount of exhaust and fumes, as well as showing the long term risk and dangers of such exposure.
Again, these studies show how our health is affected when we are exposed to these toxic fumes for even a short period of time. Imagine what the consequences will be to our health, especially the health of our young children, when we are bombarded with the long term exposure to these same toxic fumes. This is exactly what we are in for if this Bridge project is allowed.
The Big Picture:
Two related projects that need to be considered and looked into is the Soto Street Widening from Multnomah Street to North Mission Road and the Soto Street over Valley Blvd Project. These projects have been brought up by BOE at several meetings, yet very little information has been shared with the public. It turns out that these two projects are in fact extensions of the Soto Street Bridge Demolition Project; all three projects are connected directly to each other. The great negative environmental impact can easily be seen when these three projects are viewed together. The reason behind this separation of the projects has to do with what the project will bring to the community in the long run: higher volume of traffic, higher noise, air, and environmental pollution, very likely a increase in population and housing construction.
In a nut shell, these projects will bring a quick and unwanted change to the Quality of Life and to the character of the community. If the community was made aware of the true significance these projects will have on the Quality of Life there will be a lot of opposition from any of these projects being approved. This is what BOE and USC leave out of their presentation because if residents knew these facts and what they changes really mean they would be very much against any of these projects.
Also,these projects are being presented piecemeal because when viewed together the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) rules and regulation currently being used would be invalid. More stringent and far reaching regulation would be imposed under the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA), which is designed to make sure that people and the environment are not going to be subjected to negative health and life altering changes. This is the big reason why we are only getting parts of the project at a time, so these regulations are not used because BOE, USC, and Councilmember Jose Huizar know it would mean the end of this negative and destructive project.
All this room and still the Bureau of Engineers (BOE) is unable to design a safer way for cars and people to travel through here.
The Soto St Bridge's construction began in 1936 as a grade separation for the Pacific Electric Pasadena Short Line and the Sierra Vista Local Line (which primarily served the residents living in El Sereno).
The Bridge was completed in1937 and carried the interurban Pacific Electric red cars, which served El Sereno, South Pasadena, Pasadena, Alhambra, and the San Gabriel Valley.
Above: Photograph of the Pacific Electric grade separation over Mission Road, showing details of north end of the structure, May 5, 1937
As it stands, the Soto Street Bridge over Mission Road is to be demolished within the next two months. Despite the community’s objection to the destruction of this historic landmark, the project has proceeded forward on grounds that the Soto Street Bridge was determined not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
We have uncovered evidence that shows the Soto Street Bridge IS in fact a Historic Landmark worth preserving. We also uncovered evidence of manipulation on the Soto Street Bridge’s historic significance. The alteration of the bridge’s historical significance allows BOE to continue its plan to demolish the Soto Street Bridge.
A review of documents associated with the Soto Street Bridge project reveal that statements on Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) 523 Forms submitted in December of 2002 do not correspond to the statements in Dr. Portia Lee’s original 2001 Historic Architectural Survey Report (HASR). The 2002 DPR 523 Form submitted for the Soto St Bridge over Mission Road claims to quote Dr. Portia Lee’s HASR findings, stating,
“The relevant historic content to determine the significance of the Soto Street Bridge appears to be Criteria A. Originally constructed as a grade separation for rail transportation (Pasadena Short Line) enhancement and safety, the bridge, now used strictly for automobile transportation, has lost its historic function and lacks integrity of material, design, feeling and association. It therefore does not appear to be eligible for listing in the National Register under Criteria A. Although it retains many of the original Art Deco design elements, they are not significant and the bridge lacks architectural quality and distinction. Therefore, it does not meet National Register Criterion C. The bridge is not associated with important historic personages, as no direct association with Henry Huntington or his successors can be made. Therefore, it does not appear eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion B.”
However, Dr. Portia Lee’s original 2001 HASR reveals that her statements are the exact opposite of those in the DPR 523 Form (attachment B). Dr. Lee’s report states that the bridge’s relevant historic content falls under Criterion C, Architecture-Art Deco and that it retains many of the Art Deco ornamental elements for qualification under Criterion C, Design and Construction. Dr. Lee also points out that the Soto Street Bridge has historic significance under Criterion A, which also makes the Soto St Bridge eligible as a Historic Landmark. Dr. Portia Lee’s original Significance statements are,
“The relevant historic content to determine significance for the Soto Street Bridge over Mission Road and Huntington Drive appears to be Criterion C, Architecture: Art Deco Public Works Projects in Los Angeles in the 1930s. In addition to its significance through Art Deco ornamentation, it has some historic significance under Criterion A through its association with the Federal Aid Projects of the Depression era. In addition, the bridge conveys its significance as part of the historic Pasadena Short Line railroad. The Bridge has retained substantial integrity with the exception of association lost when the bridge was taken out of rail service. It also appears that some decorative features may have been lost in seismic upgrade.
Originally built as a grade separation for rail transportation enhancement and safety, the bridge has lost its historic function. However, it retains many of the Art Deco ornamental elements for qualification under Criterion C, Design and Construction. These elements are significant, although they do not appear to be strong enough to warrant an upgrading of the structure to Category 4, Eligible for the National Register.”
The manipulation of Professor Portia Lee’s original report allowed BOE/Caltrans to skirt around important California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) laws. Under CEQA, historical resources are considered part of the environment and a project that may cause a substantial adverse effect on the significance of a historical resource is a project that may have a significant effect on the environment.
Even if the decorative elements, substantial artistic integrity, and historic significance as part of the Pasadena Short Line were not enough to upgrade its eligibility for the NRHP, the bridge is still eligible for preservation as a California Historic Landmark, under California Office of Historic Preservation. The bridge also has great historic significance at the local level to merit preservation in the City’s Office of Historic Resources.
In addition to the artistic and historic significance with the Pacific Electric’s Pasadena Short Line, several other factors make this bridge worthy of preservation. For example, 1) It’s the last 4 track Pacific Electric inter-urban bridge in the southland, 2) It’s a rare example of a railway/railroad bridge converted to highway use, 3) It is a very rare four-track bridge not in or adjacent to a railroad or railway storage yard, and 4) The bridge is 77-years old.
The preservation of the Soto Street Bridge directly adheres to the North East Community Plan’s Goal #14: a community which preserves and restores the monuments, cultural resources, neighborhoods and landmarks which have historical and/or cultural significance, and Objective 14.1, to ensure that the plan area's significant cultural and historical resources are protected, preserved and/or enhanced. The destruction of the Soto St Bridge goes against the goals and policies outlined in the North East Community Plan.
The destruction of the last rare and authentic Pacific Electric landmark will mark the end of any tangible connection to P&E’s existence and its important contribution to our City and community’s development. It will also be another profound and irreplaceable loss of El Sereno’s historic past.
Whether through error and/or unintended misstatement of Dr. Lee’s original HASR findings, the result has been the misidentification of the Soto St Bridge as a non-historic landmark. Your immediate intervention is required to stop the unnecessary destruction of this historic bridge. We are asking you to stop this project until the historical significance of the Soto Street Bridge is reviewed and reevaluated by a qualified third party.