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The Great 1920s Battle That Created Olympic Boulevard

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As Olympic fever burns, we're taking a look at some of the ways Los Angeles's two Summer Olympic Games (1932 and 1984) changed the city. Suggestions? Hit us up at the tipline. First to the most obvious: Olympic Boulevard.

The common story is that Olympic Boulevard was born from a simple renaming of Tenth Street on the occasion of the 1932 Olympics, but the name change actually accompanied LA's first big street modernization project, originally put into motion in the mid-twenties. The whole process was very drawn out and dramatic and is going to sound eerily familiar to anyone who follows LA planning these days (rail line construction in particular comes to mind)--it involved lawsuits galore (including a friendly one to force the issue through the courts), property seizure, and even a mayoral veto. At the time, the legal tussle set a precedent allowing the city to widen streets as it felt necessary. Let's let the LA Times archives tell the story:

Jan. 1, 1925
Eighty million dollars for city's streets

[In an article on a whole bunch of street improvements planned by the city] "?the opening and the widening of Tenth street from the western to the eastern city boundaries so as to make of this a 100-foot traffic artery throughout its length. Work on this project awaits only the action of the courts in making condemnation awards so that the land necessary can be taken over by the city and construction work start."

Jan. 31, 1925
Street opening halted by writ

"Condemnation of property needed in the proposed opening of Ninth and Tenth streets and connecting thoroughfares was halted temporarily yesterday by a preliminary injunction granted by Superior Judge Shaw."

Jun. 21, 1925
Tenth street appeal filed

"The decision against the city by Judge Shaw on one out of the eleven points presented by City Attorney Stephens has had the effect of holding up the improvement, so the City Attorney appealed to the Supreme Court."

Oct. 13, 1925
City's traffic rights upheld

"The widening of Tenth street, the City Attorney said, is "necessitated through the rapid growth of the city and the tremendous increase in the use of the motor vehicles, demanding the widening, extending and co-ordinating of principal thoroughfares in order to accomplish direct and through communication in the city..."

Dec. 19, 1925
Project injunction hit

"An appeal from a Superior Court injunction restraining the city of Los Angeles from proceeding with a condemnation suit for the $10,000,000 project of opening, widening and improving Tenth and Ninth streets and Nines avenue, asserted to be the largest improvement of its kind attempted through any court in this State, was submitted to the State Supreme Court yesterday by City Attorney Stephens after lengthy argument. Decision was reserved.

"Attorneys for the O.T. Johnson estate and other property owners controlling frontage along the line of proposed improvement attacked the condemnation proceedings on highly technical points, among which were allegations that the notice of intention was not brief as required by law and that the property owners would not be given an equal return for the special assessment tax as required by law?"

Mar. 26, 1926
Street widening blocked

"The court sustained the decision of the trial tribunal here, which held the proposed improvement illegal."

"There is nothing, however, to prevent the city from starting all over again with the Tenth-street improvement project, said [City Attorney] Stephens."

Mar. 29, 1926
Street plans up for action

"The new proceedings for the widening of Tenth street will be discussed at this meeting also ? The Tenth street widening is the first move of the huge Major Traffic Plan to be started, but it has been delayed through technicalities."

Mar. 31, 1926
New move in widening instituted

"The Council voted yesterday to instruct the City Attorney to bring in an ordinance instituting new proceedings for the widening and straightening of Tenth street?"

Apr. 7, 1926
Tenth-street plan favored

"Favorable comment upon recommencing the Tenth-street opening and widening project was voiced yesterday by Councilmen following an open hearing on the matter by the Council Street Opening and Widening Committee."

"Apparently there was no opposition to the Tenth-street project, the speakers against it urging changes in the engineering lines or the assessment district."

Apr. 26, 1926
The Tenth-street project

"The opposition comes from a little group of property owners who carried their grievances to court and on highly technical grounds, such as the proper posting of notices, gained an adverse ruling from the State Supreme Court. This same group is now engaged in warfare on the new proceedings before the Council. They are but a handful and in the assessment district are 33,000 lots."

"The engineering lines were drawn and the assessment district spread by the city's experts. On the Tenth-street project they utilized their experience--they ran the lines where they deemed them most suitable and followed the law in levying assessments in proportion to benefit derived.

"Upon the Tenth-street project to a degree depends the whole, the Major Traffic Plan."

May 5, 1926
Step taken for artery project

"An important official step for the creation of Tenth street as a cross-town major traffic artery was taken by the Council yesterday when instructions were given the City Attorney and City Engineer to prepare and bring into the Council the ordinance of intention."

"Success for the Tenth-street matter was gained only after a hectic session of the Council, featured by heated expressions thrown about by Councilman at one another ? Councilmen Shaw and Hall fell out and bandied words. Mr. Shaw accused Mr. Hall of attempting the defeat of the entire matter, and Mr. Hall leaped to his feet, shouting he was 'not representing any obstructionist.'"

Sep. 4, 1926
Tenth street map approved

"The assessment district map adopted yesterday on motion of Councilman Allan, seconded by Councilman Shaw, was substantially the same as the map under the former proceedings ? except that at the northwest corner of Tenth street and Figueroa street, and at the southwest corner of Wilton Place and Tenth street, the former small slivers of private property are now included in the land to be condemned."

Sep. 24, 1926
Mayor approves project

"This was the first of the great street-opening and widening projects set under way in Los Angeles."

Oct. 4, 1926
Progress made in traffic plan

"Tenth street is the largest of the [unreadable] involved. Tenth street at present is narrow and without adequate terminals. When completed, Tenth will be 100 feet wide from Burck place, which is just west of Windsor Boulevard, to Indiana street, the east city limits.

"From Burck Place west, a connection will be made with Country Club Drive which in turn will connect with a new street to be cut through to the beach at Santa Monica. Just east of Main street, Tenth street will be cut through to Ninth and San Pedro streets. Ninth street will be widened to Mines and Indiana, where a connection will be made with Telegraph Road."

Oct. 10, 1926
Street plan projected

"It has been unofficially estimated to cost $6,000,000 and it will increase property values, according to the authorities on such matters, two or three times this amount."

Jan. 9, 1927
New Tenth street act approved

"Mayor Cryer yesterday signed the new ordinance of intention for the opening, widening and extending of Tenth street, the city's first major traffic improvement."

"The estimated cost of acquiring of the land needed for the street opening and widening is between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000."

Jan. 30, 1927
Writ filed over Tenth street job

"The Board of Public Works purposely refused to publish or post the notices of the impending improvement, so that a friendly test suit could be instituted. Anna Frank, one of the property owners involved, has now applied for a write of mandate, to compel the Board of Public Works to proceed. At the hearing, all legal points under discussion will be taken up, so that the scope, purpose and validity of the opening and widening act of 1903, under which the Tenth-street proceedings were started, may be tested."

Jun. 21, 1927
Tenth-street plans upheld

"Through a decision handed down by the California Suprem[e] Court sitting in San Francisco yesterday the final barrier against the extension and widening of Tenth street, also the remaining barriers against the completion of the first unit of the Major Traffic Plan and several other street improvement projects were removed?"

Aug. 25, 1927
Tenth widening plan advanced

"?[yesterday] the City Council spent the entire day hearing protests against the improvement and then denied them. Thus the way was cleared yesterday for the adoption of the final ordinance, and then will follow during the next three years the hearings by referees of the cases to condemn the land required for the street widening."

"Councilman Shaw said that the widening of Tenth street is of vital importance if Los Angeles is to go ahead with major street improvements necessary to handle the traffic of a great city. 'Los Angeles was laid out as a horse and buggy town,' said Councilman Shaw, 'and it is necessary that we widen streets and create great through arteries of travel to handle present automobile and other traffic.'"

Sep. 22, 1927
Artery on Tenth nearer

"The final ordinance for the opening and widening of Tenth street as a 100-foot traffic artery from the east to the west city boundary, a distance of twelve miles, was adopted unanimously by the City Council yesterday. This action clears away all legal obstacles to the carrying out of this great street-opening and widening project, and the first of tis magnitude started under way in Los Angeles. "

"Because of the general benefit to be received by the entire city from the improvement of Tenth street, the final ordinance adopted yesterday provides that the city shall contribute $1,500,000 toward the cost of the opening and widening of this street."

Jan 2, 1928
Tenth street suit prepared

"Announcement was made yesterday by City Attorney Stephens that the complaint in the condemnation case for the opening and widening of Tenth street as a 100-foot traffic artery from the east to west city boundaries will be filed with the Superior Court this month. As there are between 3000 and 3500 defendants in this case, whose property is to be taken for the street widening, it will be June before all defendants can be served with copies of the complaint and the summonses to appear before referees to set forth claims as to the compensation to be paid for their land."

Jul. 29, 1929
Tenth street's name proposed

"Olympic Boulevard is the name proposed for the new Tenth street [unreadable] the Tenth-street District Improvement Association at a meeting Thursday evening in the Tenth-street school. The selection will be sent to Council with a request that the change be made as soon as the entire street has been improved."

Nov. 16, 1929
Fox studio lot divided by highway

"The proposed boulevard will start at Indiana avenue and run west on Tenth street, which will be widened under proceedings which are well advanced. Then it will be carried along Country Club Drive, already the requisite width and which will be paved to its full width."

"At present the street ends at the east wall of the Fox studio, but right of way through the studio grounds for Olympic Boulevard will be acquired under condemnation proceedings now pending under an ordinance for the opening and widening of Louisiana avenue, which has its eastern terminus at the west wall of the studio."

"The city of Santa Monica, it is understood, will start proceedings soon to carry Olympic Boulevard through the city along Colorado street to the ocean, as Wilshire Boulevard was carried to the ocean along Nevada street."

Jun. 29, 1930
Tenth street plans move

"The Engineer also reminded the Council that tentative plans for the improvement provide for a ten-inch pavement, cement curbs, sidewalks, concrete gutters and all necessary underground structures. The existing pavement is to be retained wherever possible and the new pavement is to be of asphaltic concrete. The roadway is to be seventy feet wide between San Pedro and Hoover streets and seventy-four feet wide on the rest of the thoroughfare."

Jul. 18, 1930
Mayor bans major city boulevard

"Mayor Porter vetoed the final ordinance for the Olympic Boulevard and Stanley avenue improvement district, which contains two and one-half miles of paving and improving along Tenth street or Olympic Boulevard."

"The mayor proposes that the project be started all over again and that existing grades be used."

Aug. 2, 1930
County antes share to pave Tenth street

"The Council recently unanimously overrode Mayor Porter's veto of the final ordinance for the paving of the western stretch of Tenth street, known as Olympic Boulevard..."

Sep. 16, 1930
Boulevard paving job contracted

"The contract for paving and improving Olympic Boulevard, formerly Tenth street, between Rimpau and Robertson boulevards, was awarded by the Board of Public Works yesterday to George H. Oswald for $458,138."

"The work includes about fives miles of compressed concrete paving, seventy feet wide, with storm drains, gutters, sewers and curbs. The contract is given 180 days to do the work."

Dec. 7, 1930
Olympic Boulevard partly open

"Over four miles of seven-inch pressed concrete street seventy-four feet wide will be added to the city's boulevards when the Olympic Boulevard gap between Robertson and Rimpau is completed, rapid progress on which is being made at the present time.

"Up to last night the two miles of storm drain were half finished, the mile of sanitary sewer was three-fourths complete and the heavy cut and fill near La Brea over half-ready for the pavement. The grade on the rest is almost ready, and most of the public utility connections are installed.

"Whereas this highway will eventually lead to the ocean, carrying Tenth-street traffic westward, and serve as a great east-and-west artery between Pico and Wilshire, it now begins, starting on the western end, at the Westwood golf course. It starts as dead-end street, 100 feet wide and with ornamental lights, and with seventy-four feet of compressed concrete between curbs. However, this street at present is little known and little used in spite of the fact that it continues from the golf course to Robertson Boulevard as a full 100-foot highway."

Mar. 23, 1931
Olympic Boulevard to have bus line

"Permission for the operation of a bus service by the Los Angeles Railway motorcoach division on Olympic Boulevard, between Los Angeles High School and Masselin avenue, petitioned for by residents along Olympic Boulevard west of Rimpau, has been granted?"

Dec. 11, 1931
Light project stirs row

"Installation of an ornamental lighting system on Olympic Boulevard between Rimpau and Robertson boulevards came before the City Council yesterday and occasioned recriminations and accusations between members of that body and for a time held forth the promise of fisticuffs. The project temporarily was defeated."