The Sunken City, originally the Paseo Del Mar neighborhood, is an abandoned oceanfront neighborhood in San Pedro, a port community in the Los Angeles harbor. The exclusive 1920s bungalows were built on a cliff overlooking the ocean, which quickly deteriorated due to erosion. Today, all that remains are palm trees, skewed sidewalks, train tracks, and roads.
The site is fenced off and trespassing is not allowed due to the extreme instability of the cliffs as they continue to slide towards to ocean, albeit at a much slower rate than in 1929. Recently, as many as 18 deaths have occurred in the area and it is unknown whether the victims fell or threw themselves from the cliffs. Many visitors have also been injured due to small shifts in the land and the awkwardness of the uneven ground. Despite the safety risks, the neighborhood has become a popular destination for hiking as well as for visitors seeking an ocean view towards Catalina Island or the port of Los Angeles, and ship spotters come to watch sailboats along the coast. The site is attractive to graffiti artists looking to leave their mark on the apocalyptic landscape, and many of the buckled sidewalks are covered with bright works of art. Sunken City overlooks the Sunken City beach, where visitors will find sunbathing seals and purple urchins living in tide pools. The site may be accessed through a hole in the fence, and although trespassing is illegal, it is frequently visited, having gained cult status as a hidden tourist attraction. Adding to the cult status of the site as a tourist destination is a strong social media presence. The hashtag #sunkencity has over 19,000 uses on Instagram, and the abandoned neighborhood has its own Facebook page. Social media accounts give visitors directions, suggestions, and advice on what to see and do in the abandoned neighborhood. The site has been featured in a movie of the same name, and many local businesses share the Sunken City name as well. The location was recently featured in the season finale of the popular television drama Fear the Walking Dead.
History: The Paseo del Mar neighborhood was built in the 1920s as an upscale development overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Pedro, a suburb of Los Angeles. It wasn’t long before landslides on the Pacific cliffs sent the homes on a 1-foot-per-day slide towards the ocean. In January 1929, both a water main and a gas line broke underneath the Ocean View Inn on Paseo Del Mar. This event caused great damage and, soon after, the neighborhood was completely abandoned, leaving only the 6 acres of sidewalks and roadways. All but two of the bungalow homes were moved to other locations, the remaining two having slid into the ocean. In total, an area of approximately 10.5 acres was displaced by the damage, including a significant portion of neighboring Point Fermin Park. Reports in May 1929, after the site was abandoned, found that a large crack in the cliff spanning 5 acres had opened up, allowing ocean water to saturate the bentonite clay soil from beneath. This caused a large landslide in the cliffs as the underlying heavy, wet soil washed back towards the ocean. Due to the instability of the soil, the site has been fenced off to visitors and a large “No Trespassing” sign was installed in 1987. In 2015, per the proposal of a San Pedro City Councilman, the city considered reopening the site to day-time visitors as a way to curb illicit behavior in the area and to offer residents access to the hiking and ocean views. The film director Martin Scorsese has been vocal in calling for the area to be reopened to the public.
What’s Nearby: Point Fermin Park, which was partially washed away in the same landslide that claimed Sunken City, is located just next door and offers aa large green open space, and the Point Fermin Lighthouse Historic Site and Museum. The lighthouse, built in 1874, was the first navigational light to the Port of San Pedro. Just to the north of the park, visitors will find the Korean Bell of Friendship and Bell Pavilion. The large, intricately decorated bell was donated to the United States from Korea in 1976 to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States and to honor veterans of the Korean War.
500 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731
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