Los Angeles is the quintessential freeway city, the place where a parkway to Pasadena spawned a four-level interchange, which in turn spurred a sprawling autobahn lifestyle. Yet the City of Angels was once a trolley town, sending streetcars down dozens of boulevards — Sunset and Santa Monica, Exposition, Venice and Glendale, to name a few. The people who lived in the hilly neighborhoods near downtown needed a way to get home once they got off the trolley, and that’s where the city’s network of public staircases entered the picture.
The city has staircases to the beach, staircases that function as de facto streets, even a staircase used to comic effect by Laurel and Hardy (and a piano). But the best staircase is also one of the most decrepit. With no landscaping, a series of cracked Art Deco posts and a sad-sack mural — the Olympic swimmer with the come-hither look is constantly covered in graffiti — the Clinton Street steps are really the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of public staircases. Yet they have beauty too, rising step by step to the corner of Clinton and Belmont streets, where, once you’re finished gasping and wheezing, you can see the panorama of Echo Park Lake, the ridge line behind it and, on a rare winter’s day, snowcapped mountains.
Clinton Street steps at Glendale Blvd., just north of ?Bellevue Ave.