Councilman calls out Sixth Street Bridge vandals

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Bemoaning the “rude, inexcusable, immature, self-absorbed behavior” that has forced multiple closures of the Sixth Street Bridge, City Councilman Kevin de León said people painting graffiti, doing donuts in their cars and even getting haircuts on the bridge since it opened three weeks ago in his district need to start acting more maturely.

Speaking to reporters at City Hall July 29, de León pledged that “We’re not going to allow a small group of individuals to taint the image of the city or the bridge itself.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the folks who have experienced that bridge love that bridge,” de León said. “It fills them with a sense of pride. They are over the moon on this bridge right here.”

The City Council’s Public Works Committee, of which de León is a member, recommended July 27 that the council approve $706,000 to remove graffiti and provide other maintenance on the Sixth Street Bridge after police closed it to traffic four times in five days.

De León also introduced a motion July 29 requesting that the city clarify its laws so that “it is clear what actions are illegal to do” on the bridge and that the city attorney prepare an urgency ordinance prohibiting activities such as street takeovers, drag racing and accessing areas outside the bridge’s fencing. He requested that several city agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, report back with plans for staffing and resources for better security on the bridge.

The bridge, connecting Boyle Heights with the downtown Arts District, was closed July 26 after “illegal activity” that included people converging on the span, performing spinouts, burnouts or blocking traffic.

The bridge opened July 10 to much fanfare, marking a key milestone in a construction project that began in 2016 to replace a 1932-vintage structure. But city officials, including de León, were not anticipating what would come next.

“I don’t think that you consider and actually visualize or prepare for someone who was actually going to give a haircut or receive a haircut on the median in the middle of the bridge,” de León said. “That’s the height of absurdity.

“I don’t know if that’s what makes L.A. funky and cool and hip. With the good comes the bad and all that. But whoever would’ve thought that? In our wildest dreams.”

To underscore de León’s point that the Sixth Street Bridge fell victim to being the first major bridge to open in the social media era, several tweets showing a man getting a haircut in the middle of the bridge last week drew thousands of likes on Twitter.

Graffiti is also an issue. Removal crews have cleaned up an average of 1,244 square feet of graffiti each day since the bridge opened and spent an average of 21 1/2 hours a day at the bridge. Part of the plan is to allocate more than $100,000 per month for three months for graffiti removal and tagging enforcement. De León said graffiti is a ubiquitous problem that is not unique to this bridge.

“The graffiti’s not going to disappear overnight,” de León said. “I wish that folks could self-regulate their behaviors. And instead of costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis to clean up the mess they leave for all of us, that they would step up and do the right thing. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be the reality for the near future.”

De León admitted that the bollards meant to separate bicycles from cars are not working, with pictures posted to social media showing cars running over them. He said he would reexamine the bollards because they are “not going to protect the bicyclists or a family.”

De León feared the worst-case scenario of the antics, such as someone slipping and falling off the archways or a car wiping out while doing a donut and crashing into a family.

“We’re just going to work out those kinks that we have to work out,” de León said. “This is not going to last for a long time.”