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Bridge Reconstruction Forces L.A. Businesses To Relocate

Ani Ucar |
October 22, 2013 | 7:26 p.m. PDT


Sixth Street Bridge, Ani Ucar Neon Tommy
Sixth Street Bridge, Ani Ucar Neon Tommy
The historic Sixth Street Viaduct bridge, featured in movies such as “Grease” and “Terminator 2,” is about to undergo a $401 million transformation.

Los Angeles city council's recent vote lets the city take control of numerous properties near the bridge to make way for its complete demolition and reconstruction. City officials said the effort is necessary because the roughly 80-year-old bridge suffers from a chemical reaction, which causes cracking and expansion within the concrete.

Deputy City Attorney John Minor said a significant earthquake could cause major damage to the bridge.

“Over the years, there have been many attempts to control or limit or slow that process, but it’s like a cancer in the concrete,” Minor said.

Council members approved acquiring, by eminent domain, the remaining properties adjacent to the bridge regardless of whether owners agree on the sale price or want to sell. 

There are 32 businesses and properties on the eastern and western sides of the bridge directly affected by the project, most of which will be funded by the federal government. 

Alfred Mata, the principal civil engineer for the project, said the acquisition of the properties is necessary to make room for improvement.

Widening the bridge from 46 feet to 94 feet would allow for wider sidewalks, roadway shoulders, a bicycle lane and a safety median.

The new design for the bridge would replace a sharp turn at the entrance of the eastern side of the bridge, turning it into a smoother curve. The change would also push the bridge farther north.

“The viaduct is very close to other buildings so we need to make enough space to build it,” said Mata. 

But the city will address traffic congestion during the project's early stages, said Mata.

“Pretty much the first order of construction work we will do is to make those traffic improvements before demolishing the bridge,” said Mata. 

Many business owners in the area, who are not being required to move, said the bridge’s makeover is necessary.

“The development for the area will be fantastic because it’ll really bring the area up to standard, and it will also connect the Arts District with this manufacturing area,” said Erik Nilsen, owner of Lemon Trees Studios, located on Seventh and Myers streets.

But attorney John Peterson, who represents one of the remaining businesses required to move, said the city is not offering fair compensation for property owners. He said the city’s financial offers are based on last year’s real estate values and do not take into account this year's dramatic increase in prices.

“The offer that the city has made, we believe, is very, very low compared to what the value of the property is," Peterson said.

Peterson represents John McShane, president of Stover Seed Co., which is still negotiating compensation with the city.

Located in the Arts District on the corner of East Sixth and Mateo streets, Stover Seed Co. relies on its central location to sell grass, vegetable and other types of seeds.

McShane said it has been difficult to find property in the area that meets his company’s needs and budget.

“We have people who come from Orange County, Ventura County, etcetera, so that is a factor,” McShane said. “We need to find a place that is near public transportation.” 

Traffic will be detoured to the north and south of the viaduct.

The bridge will be closed to traffic from the beginning of 2015, according to Mata. The work is projected to be complete by December 2018.

Reach Contributor Ani Ucar here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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