Dirt: Viral Viaduct
The people's TikTok playground.
Lisa Kwon, our Los Angeles correspondent, makes the case for user-generated content on taxpayer-generated infrastructure.
The people of Los Angeles are getting slammed for making content on our new public bridge, the Sixth Street Viaduct. In its now sixth week of opening, the stunning $588 million project has been the site of hilarious viral videos of fate-tempters walking or skating on its concrete arches, lowrider bikers carving the car lanes, and a barber hooking men up with fades in the center of the road.
A few of LA’s beloved radio personalities recorded a podcast episode on it. A quinceañera party turned out for a photo shoot. Burnouts have christened the asphalt with their skid marks (Note: there are improvements that could be made to protect pedestrians and bikers using their respective lanes). Every tweet, Instagram, and TikTok made from the bridge is a pure output of joy. For a fleeting moment, we are unified around good, agenda-less L.A. content.
As we bear witness to many Angelenos’ most wholesome fifteen minutes of fame with their bridge videos, the city of Los Angeles is dead set on wresting them away. Nearby residents in working-class Latinx neighborhoods like Boyle Heights have been stopped from entering the public space at arbitrary times. To make matters worse, starting September 1, the city can close the Sixth Street Bridge to the public for film productions with little notice to accommodate. Just when we find a force in this narrowing gap where unabashed play and content could possibly coexist, LA finds a way to extinguish it.
Truthfully, it was only a matter of time. The original bridge was nearly an IMDB-certified actor with cameos in Grease, Anchorman, and To Live and Die in L.A., along with music videos for Madonna, Kanye, Pharrell, and Missy Elliott. The return of the Sixth Street Viaduct is a return to Hollywood. If you want to film something set in Los Angeles or provide commentary on shambolic automotive culture, what better way than to do it on a behemoth structure that the city erected with a four-lane highway (four lanes too many in the year 2022)?
Come September, stunts and comedy on the Sixth Street Viaduct will return to being performed by Hollywood professionals. We will have to turn to streaming devices or $20 movie tickets to see the choreography in action, because we are not allowed to imagine it for ourselves. Inevitably, a sitcom will parody our creative homespun content that gives the industry interesting material in the first place.
Though the city is full of influencers and content creators, as a brand, LA hates—dare I say it— unvetted, less glossy user-generated content because it belies the boostery antics that it would rather put on display. The Sixth Street Viaduct’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was filled with organized photo opportunities for the city councilmember; hours later, a massive police presence loomed upon a nonviolent crowd drinking and parading down the bridge.
Two weeks ago, LAPD closed the bridge for four nights for “illegal activity,” cutting off a reliable mode of transportation and site of leisure for families in nearby neighborhoods. Believe it or not, this helps nobody—including the architects behind the project. Any halt in activity by the police or a private enterprise is a disservice to well-meaning designers who provide solutions and fixes based on civic input. Instead of listening to blatant, beautiful feedback via viral content, the city has effectively shut down an opportunity to recreate a new public space for play. — Lisa Kwon
The Dirt: Why punish Angelenos for minding their own business in what should be the freest spot in town?
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