The Sunken City, by Point Fermin, San Pedro, California, is the remnant of a housing development that was swallowed by the ocean during a landslide almost 100 years ago.
In the 1920s, George Peck began the housing development because he wanted to build homes with the spectacular view of the ocean at the Pr. Fermin cliffs. However, this was done without proper research or geological testing of the site.
In 1929, a landslide started to slowly destroy the new development. Due to constant waves undercutting the bentonite layer (a form of absorbent clay formed by the breakdown of volcanic ash) of the cliffs, damage was done first to a waterline underneath the Ocean View Inn Hotel on Paseo Del Mar and then in subsequent days also to a gas line under the same building.
The ground began to slide toward the ocean at a rate of 11 inches per day, eventually leading to approximately 40,000 square feet of land disappearing. The 600 block of Paseo Del Mar was evacuated and houses were moved. Only two homes, along with commercial buildings, streets and budding foundations, could not be saved.
There are reports of hauntings from the 1929 slide, although there are no records of people actually dying during the landslide.
A fence was erected in 1987, supposedly after multiple deaths occurred from people falling off the cliffs and ruins. After some research, we found evidence of several deaths, however not all are directly linked to the area known as Sunken City. Some seem to have occurred on the cliffs in the surrounding area by Pt. Fermin Park.
The ground is still unstable and the entire coastline is continuously experiencing landslides. Most recently in 2011, along the scenic drive of Paseo Del Mar, a slide caused concrete and rock to fall almost 100 feet and leaving a gaping hole in the road.
In 2015, Councilman Joe Buscaino proposed to reopen the area during the day and install an automatic gate to close it off at night. However, no timeline was given and there is no current info on the status of the proposal.
Despite being fenced off and being illegal to enter, the area is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike (actually receiving a 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor). Families go there for picnics, teenagers hang out and party, and graffiti artists like to leave their colorful paintings on the crumbling foundation and street pieces.
Movies like The Big Lebowski (the famous ash spreading scene) and TV shows like Fear the Walking Dead have used the Sunken City as filming locations.
To get to the ruins of the Sunken City, you have to either climb up the cliffs from the beach which can be accessed from the south, or you have to find the hole dug under the fence by Pt. Fermin Park to the north. However, you have to do this at you own risk, as you are trespassing. The area is officially marked as illegal to enter and warning signs are posted that trespassers will be fined. When we visited the location, it was broad daylight and at least 30 other people were there, climbing in and out of the fenced-in area, having picnics and hanging out to take pictures.
Check out the video below of us exploring the ruins.