Digging History at Broadway Place
Long-abandoned streetcar tracks are revealed beneath partially torn up Broadway Place.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Work on a triangular plot of land at Broadway and Olympic burst into the news on July 14, when a busted water main sent a river down Main Street.
The story of one of Downtown’s oddest blocks began in 1919, though, when Broadway was extended from 10th Street – today known as Olympic – down to Pico. The street’s former southern end, a diagonal connection to Main Street, was officially renamed to Broadway Place that same year.
The extension had long been a priority for the city, but protests by property owners in the route of the new street stalled the effort. The city eventually had to use condemnation proceedings to take land on 10th and 11th for the street.
New double streetcar tracks on the Broadway extension were estimated to divert 963 cars each day off Main Street, which was already carrying Spring Street’s cars.
Broadway continued its southern push in 1931, when it was extended well south of Downtown. Broadway Place, meanwhile, continued to stretch just 330 feet. It stayed on the maps, though, as one of Downtown’s odder little streets.
Streetcars, and later busses, did continue to use Broadway Place at least through the 1950s.
In 2003 property owner L&R Investments, owners of Joe’s Parking Lots, petitioned the city for a “vacation,” an action that would give up the public’s right to the land and allow it to revert to the property owner. In the documents, the city said that the land is "unnecessary for present or prospective public use" and that it is "not needed for nonmotorized transportation purposes."
The City Council adopted the vacation action in November of that year, but the conditions that it placed on L&R were never fulfilled. Regardless, the street was blocked off and striped to become a part of the parking lot the company operated next door.
In 2008 the council re-approved the vacation, which had expired the previous year.
It was another 18 months before work began on the site, and it quickly halted after the water main break. Little has changed on the parcel in the last few weeks, leaving it fenced off and the old roadway only partially removed.
The street may finally be disappearing, but not before some of its history comes back into view. Streetcar tracks now poke out of the ground near Broadway, a reminder of those cars that once crowded onto Main.