Looking north on Spring Street from Sixth Street c.1940-2011

c. 1940-2011

After decades of neglect, the rebirth of Spring Street as an active mixed-use residential and retail street is one of downtown Los Angeles’ greatest success stories. Yet despite the preservation of its historic highrises, its street-level views have changed dramatically since the neighborhood’s prewar heyday.

Though now largely forgotten, Spring Street’s towers were once interspersed by multiple clusters of low-rise buildings, two of which are seen on both sides of the top photograph. During the mid-century decades, these low-rise blocks were virtually obliterated in favor of surface parking lots, leaving behind a gap-toothed street wall and pockets of little activity. In 1970, several years after the end of streetcar service, Spring Street was converted into a one-way thoroughfare, greatly increasing vehicle travel speeds along its length. Both changes resulted in substantial degradations to the corridor’s pedestrian environment. Even its street trees, Indian Laurel figs first planted in the late 1950s, have outgrown their welcome; the perennially overgrown canopy fairly blackens the sidewalks and storefronts below on all but the brightest of summer days.

Nonetheless, Spring Street may be due for significant reconfigurations to its streetscape by the end of the year. Current plans advanced by the Department of Transportation, Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition call for the installation of a buffered green bike lane to replace two existing car lanes, as well as the replacement of parking spaces on the 600 block by two parklets.

Spring Street to get bike lane, ‘parklets’ [Los Angeles Downtown News]

Source: Sherman, Gene. “Cityside with Gene Sherman.” Los Angeles Times. 4 Mar. 1958. 2.
Original photo: “Chs-m24429 – View down a street at 5245 Spring Street.” California Historical Society Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/search/controller/view/chs-m24429.html?x=1319264383916.

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3 Responses to Looking north on Spring Street from Sixth Street c.1940-2011

  1. Kat says:

    I love those ficus trees! I couldn’t imagine how crappy Spring would look now without their small contribution of green.

  2. BGFA (@bgfa) says:

    I agree about the trees, they are like an urban forest oasis. They are all over downtown and some of them are massive; they are the only thing to provide full shade on to days, and make the street pleasant.

  3. Brian Hsu says:

    I think the problem with ficus trees is you either love them or hate them. I absolutely love street trees and the shade they provide, and I wish that every street in the city had more of them. My view is that ficus trees in particular provide excessive shade when unproperly trimmed, sharply reducing the visibility of nearby buildings and contributing to an overall unkempt and neglected appearance. This is not to mention the well-known damage that their aggressive roots cause to sidewalks and underground utilities. I do think we can all agree however, that it would be nice to see a far greater number and variety of trees on our streets. Thank you for your comments!

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