One year ago I spent an afternoon of vibrant sightseeing in San Pedro, a working port community that isn’t at all touristy or gentrified. The area was an intriguing mix of beauty and grit. From high atop Angels Gate Park, which houses the temple-like Korean Friendship Bell, you can see the port’s troop of container cranes, and watch the loaded ships sail away over the ocean.
Descending the hill toward the coast brings you to Point Fermin Park, a seacliff carpet of bright grass, anchored by an intricate lighthouse festooned with pink rosebushes. Across the street, a bona fide biker cafe appeals and intimidates.
Our true purpose in visiting San Pedro was to explore Sunken City, a ruin we found out about in Day Hikes Around Los Angeles. My imagination sprinted ahead of me, and I was picturing tottering mansions out of a Tim Burton movie, which bore no relation to the snaggletoothed concrete slabs that were actually there.
I couldn’t stay disappointed, because Sunken City seemed to function like the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream—a free and lawless space for the entire community to let off steam. The upgraded fence closing the ruins off from the park seemed impenetrable, until an old man pointed out a discreet trench we should sardine through. A jocular group of fortysomething men clustered, drinking, along the niches of a perilous cliff path. Logs still smoldered at a hobo circle littered with party poppers, empty squirt bottles of lighter fluid and a dirty plastic fork. On our way out, we passed two teenagers hand in hand, searching for a makeout spot.