Legal urban exploration in Los Angeles?
May 29, 2008 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What are some great old buildings and derelict locations in and around the Los Angeles area that can be entered legally?

I love photographing old buildings, the more run-down the better, but I don't really know where to go around LA. They don't have to be abandoned, though. For example, I'd also be happy with shabby hotels that have been around for forever but haven't been kept up particularly well.

I have been to the Linda Vista hospital and around Grand Central Air Terminal. I plan on visiting the site of the old LA zoo soon. That's it, really, and I'd like to find more. I'd prefer places I can get permission to enter or that are out in the open. I'm not asking anyone to help me trespass!
posted by katillathehun to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Union Station, is gorgeous, though not entirely abandoned. When I was living in LA about three years ago, we wandered around in the abandoned restraurant part and couldn't believe how amazing and beautiful it was. Very much worth a look. The architecture is wonderful.
posted by lottie at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2008

the keyword you're looking for is 'urban exploration' and 'urban exploring'. there are plenty of groups around the world that do this regularly. i'd suggest starting here.
posted by Mach5 at 3:37 PM on May 29, 2008

And here's a link to an LA-based Urban Exploration meetup group - they'd probably be the go-to resource for such skulduggery... err, artistic outings.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:40 PM on May 29, 2008

it's not exactly "buildings" anymore, but the"Sunken City" down by Long Beach is really cool- it's a whole neighborhood that sunk sometime in the 20s. (I'm not sure about the legality, but I was there last year and there were no "keep out" signs or anything, just a short fence you have to hop)
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:06 PM on May 29, 2008

If you find the creek on the far side of Will Roger's Park, and follow the trail all the way up, there's an entire abandoned neighborhood up in the woods (which apparently was a Nazi-sympathizer camp during WWII). Very creepy and bizarre... watch out for mountain lions.
posted by rooftop secrets at 4:29 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's a drive, but if you're in the desert, there are some "ruined" cities along the coast of the Salton Sea on Highway 111. I was just out there a few weeks ago and took these photos in North Shore, CA.

There was a "no trespassing" sign on the beach that we didn't see until after we left and it's probably not legal to wander in the buildings, but they were completely open to the elements. Also, there are some people living there, but not near the ruined buildings by the beach. It was a fascinating place--forgotten Americana, to be sure.
posted by faunafrailty at 4:38 PM on May 29, 2008

it's not exactly "buildings" anymore, but the"Sunken City" down by Long Beach is really cool- it's a whole neighborhood that sunk sometime in the 20s.

The Sunken City is in San Pedro and isn't what it sounds like. There are a few old road signs and and foundations from old structures, but there are no standing structures remaining. If you sneak past all the "Do Not Enter" signs, you'll be able to commune with pods of teenage potheads sitting on cement benches.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:02 PM on May 29, 2008

If you're in West LA, the WWII observation posts (later converted to part of the Nike missile program, then decommissioned & abandoned) are a nice little sidenote. They're off the unpaved and quite rocky part of Mulholland that goes through the Santa Monica mountains, so it has a nice "away from the city" kind of feel when you're up there. The area is really popular with mountain bikers, so you won't be completely isolated, but it's a neat bit of LA & cold war history.

If you're into obscure bits of urban history or architecture, or just like peering into hidden corners of the region, I'd link up with the LA Conservancy to find folks of like mind. Their tours and events are really low key, and will give you legal access to buildings that are normally closed to the public - often the tours are just the owner or manager of the building showing folks around. The old movie palaces downtown are a treat to walk through, particularly the ones that only open for LA conservancy events.

Barring that, you'd be amazed how many times I've been let into buildings by just happening to bump into someone coming in or out of the building who gave an impromptu tour, particularly when I mentioned I was a LA Conservancy member and was just into old buildings and LA history, and not some freaky vandal. Ask respectfully and most doors will open to you - or a telephone number will appear for someone who can give you legal permission.

It isn't abandoned, but for sheer coolness factor, I like the Bradbury building in downtown. Not only is it interesting architecturally (the roof is semidetached, if I remember correctly), but it was used as the set for Sebastian's home in Blade Runner (one of my all time favourite LA movies). Bradbury Building
posted by Grrlscout at 10:49 PM on May 29, 2008

Seconding the Salton Sea. I just went last weekend, and it has some interesting areas. North Shore has some meaty areas to explore, for example a motel that as of Monday had a leather couch in its drained pool. There's also a playground just feet away from the shore, where the dead fish pile up.

If you head further down Hwy 111, there's a small town called Bombay Beach. There's a small neighborhood containing mostly somewhat intact houses and trailers, but also a few collapsing houses. If you head for the shore, there's a berm. Travel up the berm and you find what I assume used to be the sea floor. There are old cars, shopping carts, tires, even houses and foundations partially submerged in sand or dirt. Here's a picture. Travel up and down the shore, there is a lot to see.

In this town there's a restaurant called Ski Inn which serves beer and some basic hamburger/sandwich type stuff. It draws an interesting local crowd with some very welcoming people. It was the highlight of my trip, and I recommend stopping by.

I'm sure there was more I haven't seen around the Salton Sea, so don't be afraid to look around, that's what we did.
posted by malapropist at 12:57 AM on May 30, 2008

Response by poster: I'm making a list of places to visit, including some of the great suggestions here. Thanks everyone!
posted by katillathehun at 10:10 AM on June 18, 2008

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