Never Built: The Santa Monica Causeway

January 30, 2013 § 7 Comments

Hearing the plug on NPR last week for the upcoming exhibition Never Built at the A+D museum, I was reminded of a very bizarre project that I came across in a 1968 issue of California Tomorrow’s excellent journal Cry California, for building a causeway across Santa Monica Bay. The caption to the picture reads: “Santa Monica Bay is the preposed site of a massive earth-filled causeway that would take 120 million cubic yards of fill from the Santa Monica Mountains. The plan would serve developers and oil interests primarily. The plan is actively supported by the City of Santa Monica, the County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Mayor Samuel Yorty. While the program was blocked by the Los Angeles Council, the proposal is by no means dead.”


Sure enough, this project turns out to be included in the Never Built exhibition, though we can be relieved that this particular “visionary work” never left the drawing board. In that sense, this project would seem to run counter to the apparently positive tenor of the exhibition; the curators write wistfully  of “a reluctant city whose institutions and infrastructure have often undermined inventive, challenging urban schemes.” While this certainly applies to projects like the celebrated Olmstead plan for preserving the flood plains of LA’s rivers as parkland, I assume that the curators have not uncritically equated “visionary” with “good.” Obviously, the visionary can cut both ways: the critical point is how to sort out the good visions from the bad ones. Unfortunately, plenty of bad visions have been realized in Los Angeles, but some of the worst, like the Santa Monica Bay Causeway, were stopped. The role of historical groups such as California Tomorrow in generating a discussion about how to develop California responsibly should not be forgotten.

More about the history of the Santa Monica Causeway can be found online here.



Update: I just found a more modest version of this proposal (parkways instead of freeways on the causeway!) in the admirable 1930 Olmstead plan for Los Angeles. The idea was most likely a vestige of the original plan to put the Los Angeles harbor at Santa Monica.


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§ 7 Responses to Never Built: The Santa Monica Causeway

  • Princess Hahamongna says:

    How timely the exhibition is too, in the midst of all this 710 tunnel nonsense.

    • Lloyd E Raynor says:

      Except for the Bitter Cold, I’m glad I moved to Rural Minnesota! I went back in ’09 on Vacation, and couldn’t leave fast enoulgh!

  • Lloyd E Raynor says:

    My father explored the SoBay/LA area by horesback in th 1940’s. In my youth, in the 60’s we tried to trace as many routes as possible by automobile. I still have an old map that shows almost every origional Lake, Slough, River, Spring and Creek in LA County. It’s sad to think that Every one was either lined with cement or diverted underground as a Storm Canal system, and the Lakes had Golf Courses built around them.

  • john q public says:

    they should make more structured plans for a causeway like the florida keys ..

    the u.s.a. dont have the designers ready for such a task ?

    san diego till santa barbara with on and off ramps..

    the over loading of the roads demands this type of expansion .

    this is for the majority over the few .

    them with money and land on the beach .

  • Love all of your posts, especially the ones in LA history. I grew up in Manhattan, near the Ballona wetlands and I’m interested in the Centinella Creek. I followed it to it’s origin on Google Maps but it abruptly ends.

    Keep up the good work!

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