Your Stimulus Dollars At Work: The Sunset Strip Is Being Resurfaced for the First Time in 75 Years

Sunset Strip at Laurel Ave. Left: Venerable strip joint, Body Shop
Sunset Strip at Laurel Ave.; at left, the Body Shop
The Sunset Strip is one of the most famous streets on the planet, so you might assume it has been resurfaced every now and then over the 104 years it has existed — but you would be wrong.

Thanks to federal stimulus funding, the Strip — the 12 blocks of Sunset Boulevard that traverse the city of West Hollywood — is being repaved for the first time since the mid-1930s, when the dusty dirt road first graded in 1906 was paved using poured cement.

Even before it was paved, the 1.5 mile stretch had become a prime commuter route for movie stars who lived in Beverly Hills to the west and worked at studios in Hollywood to the east. Now, seven decades after the concrete was poured, the Strip still serves as a major east-west commuter route through Los Angeles’ Westside sprawl.

By day, the elite meet at lunch spots and shop at high-end stores that straddle the boulevard at Sunset Plaza , which first opened in the 1920s and is still operated by the same family that has owned land since the 19th century. By night, of course, the Strip is crowded with clubgoers lining up at music venues like the Whisky a Go-Go and the Roxy, comedy clubs like the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store and at the Strip’s last remaining strip joint, the Body Shop, which has been in operation since the 1960s.

Beyond its commercial uses, the Strip has always had a strong residential component. The list of one-time residents is a who’s who of Hollywood: Paris Hilton was living on Kings Road in 2007 when she spent time in jail for breaking parole. Lindsey Lohan ran up a $1 million tab when she lived in the Chateau Marmont Hotel a few years ago. Clark Gable once lived at the Marmont, too. It was there that he romanced Jean Harlow while she was on her honeymoon. John Wayne lived in an apartment at the Sunset Tower, as did the gangster Bugsy Siegel until his arrest there in 1944 for bookmaking. Bette Davis spent her later years in the Colonial House Apartments on Havenhurst Drive. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who was married to someone else, secretly shared a bungalow on director George Cukor’s Cordell Avenue estate. Marilyn Monroe rented an apartment on DeLongpre Ave. after her split with Joe DiMaggio. Cary Grant and Randolph Scott lived together on the Strip for many years in the 1930s. But hands down the most famous resident of the Strip has to be Ronald Reagan, who lived in three different places along the boulevard before, during and after his marriage to Jane Wyman.

But despite all the glam and glitz, the Strip has become careworn and shabby in spots lately. The upgrade comes as its character is transitioning from primarily an entertainment and commercial zone back to its roots as a residential district — several high-rise condo and luxury hotel developments were in the planning stages before the 2008 economic collapse.

Funding for the Strip’s upgrade comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill — over $700 billion intended to help the country recover from the devastating effects of the Bush Recession. In addition to $47 billion allocated to infrastructure projects like repaving the Strip, funding from ARRA was has been set aside to cover for health-care costs for the unemployed, supplement income for low income workers and the unemployed and to reimburse Social Security recipients who did not receive cost of living increases because COLAs are tied to inflation, which was wiped out by the recession. Other ARRA funds are intended to bolster education, energy, homeland security and law enforcement while the country recovers from the results of decades of disastrous right-wing economic policies.

The Strip has not been resurfaced in all these years primarily because it hasn’t needed it. The original concrete surface had held up well, mostly because the ground below it is never subjected to freezing. Still, as noted, Sunset is a major commuter route — traffic is basically strapped down during morning and evening commutes — and the concrete, which has been heavily patched over the years, has been showing its age. Sidewalks were also badly in need of repair and infrastructure upgrades to traffic signals and the like were overdue.

Here is a list of improvements (PDF) that are underway:

  • Roadway Resurfacing
  • Replacement of Broken and Damaged Sidewalks
  • Traffic Signal Upgrades
  • Medians
  • Trees
  • Sidewalk Widening at Sunset Plaza
  • Pedestrian Enhancements

Not everyone is happy about these long overdue improvements, of course. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is facing reelection and running scared that he’ll be targeted by tea baggers who hate any government spending that doesn’t suit their own selfish needs — not to mention the fact that he’s facing voters for the first time since it was revealed that he has had a predilection for prostitutes — called the project funding “wasteful pork barrel spending.” The Senate Republican leadership put the project on its hit list, sneering at it as “a free million-dollar nose job from Uncle Sam.”

For the record, the congressman who represents the Strip is Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The senators are both Democrats, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Construction began in January and will be completed in July.

4 Comments

  • Nikolai
    May 12, 2010 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Remember the old TV series?

    “77, Sunset Strip” snap snap

    • May 13, 2010 - 7:20 am | Permalink

      Yup, the exteriors were filmed at Dino’s Lodge, Dean Martin’s restaurant at 8524 Sunset on the Strip. (It’s impossible to snap your fingers to 8524, however.) There is no 77 Sunset Blvd., but if there had been, it would have been about 10 miles east of the Strip in downtown Los Angeles. Dean lived in the Sierra Tower, a block off the Strip, in his later years.

  • May 14, 2010 - 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in Beverly Hills and the Strip was one of my stompin’ grounds in the ’60s. Thanks for the memories.

    I just hope they’ve got new gals at The Body Shop…

    I blogged this. Go read if you wish.

    http://alterx.blogspot.com/2010/05/your-stimulus-dollars-at-work.html

  • Pingback: On Fixing Things « Just Above Sunset

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