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Sunken City | © carlfbagge
/ Flickr
Sunken City | © carlfbagge / Flickr
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What You Need to Know About Los Angeles’ Sunken City

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 17 July 2017
Sunken City is the moniker given to a cliffside attraction that was once a housing tract before it slowly slid into the sea.

Sunken City lies in San Pedro, not far from Point Fermin. Its exact coordinates, according to Atlas Obscura, are listed as 33°42’21”N 118°17’20”W. Those who venture there find the ruins of a former neighborhood in the form of upheaved sidewalks and streets, as well as long-abandoned Red Car tracks. Graffiti, some fresh and some faded, cover much of it, not unlike similar attractions including Los Angeles’ abandoned zoo or Pacific Palisades’ Murphy Ranch.

The story of Sunken City began in the 1920s when developer George Peck built a six-acre neighborhood of oceanside bungalows. It would have been a charming place to live had the homes not started to slip into the ocean beginning in 1929. According to the Daily Breeze, bentonite clay in the ground became slippery when it interacted with the ever-present waves. It was not much of a disaster, in the scheme of things, and the movement only amounted to about a foot a day. It sounds like a lot, but since it was a slow enough pace, officials were able to move all the bungalows save two. In 1941, a water main break caused the slide to speed up, and the city decided it’d be best if they closed off the land to the public.

Sunken City
Sunken City | ©carlfbagge /Flickr

The area is somewhat unsafe, and several people have fatally fallen or jumped from both Sunken City and the surrounding cliffside in the past several decades. For this reason, the city fenced off Sunken City in the ’80s, and those who visit the spot are technically trespassing. Many visitors report either having to hop or squeeze through fences, which should be a good indication that it’s not exactly open to tourists. The curious may safely view the area from the fence if they’d prefer to avoid any possible danger. Other viewpoints include Point Fermin Park near Paseo del Mar and Gaffey Street or the southern end of Pacific Avenue.

Sunken City
Sunken City | ©Amit/Flickr

There has been some discussion about reopening Sunken City, which does offer epic views, to the public. Those in favor argue that the land is more stable now than it was before and that allowing public access to the area would be a far better use of the land than sealing it off. Additionally, the fence hasn’t kept trespassers away, as demonstrated by the regular posts on social media from those who ignore the no trespassing warnings.

The coast of San Pedro
The coast of San Pedro | ©Sergei Gussev/Flickr