The trailer for Damien Chazelle’s latest film, the Los Angeles-set La La Land, arrived on Wednesday. It’s a gorgeous ode to the city, with Gosling singing an original song—”City of Stars”—throughout.
Besides building anticipation for its December release, the movie also featured an image of Stone and Gosling smooching on an Angels Flight funicular car. The “shortest railway in the world,” which connects Bunker Hill to the Historic Core via a one-minute ride, is currently closed to the public after years of drama: It opened in 1901, closed in 1969 when the neighborhood was flattened for the skyscrapers that dot it today, reopened in a nearby spot in 1996, closed after a fatal accident in 2001, finally reopened in 2010, and closed again after a minor derailment in 2013. Its absence feels even more acute following the resurgence of nearby Grand Central Market.
So when can we live out our own La La Land/500 Days of Summer fantasies? Everything remains in limbo, but we’re hearing rumblings that an announcement may be made soon. We spoke with Richard Schave, a local historian and operator of the Esotouric bus tours with his wife, Kim Cooper. The couple are members of the Friends and Neighbors Society (FANS) of Angels Flight, an informal group pushing to reopen the funicular.
Following the safety issues, and the discovery that a tree branch was being used to bypass a safety feature, the FANS board is searching for a new operator, Schave tells us, adding it will likely be an organization with some funicular experience or knowledge. Schave is crossing his fingers that there’s news on that front soon.
Also, a reopening will require an adjacent walkway—per the California Public Utilities Commission, which control all railways in the state—so riders can quickly evacuate in the case of an emergency (in 2013, firefighters had to rescue stranded passengers). Whether the walkway will require a time-consuming environmental review is anybody’s guess. Donald Spivack, a former official with the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency and a longtime proponent of Angels Flight, says an EIR for the walkway would likely cost less than $100,000, something that could likely be raised through a crowdfunding site. Who knows how much the walkway will be? Vested locals will likely have a hand in paying for it, as Schave bemoaned a lack of will from downtown corporations to chip in for reopening costs.
So, now, we wait.
Until then, Angels Flight is still open for film shoots (as La La Land proves), which helps provide some funds. Schave, Cooper, and other FANS are keeping an eye on the funicular to clean up trash and scrub off graffiti from the two 115-year-old rail cars, which are currently just sitting on the tracks. During a recent clean-up, Schave put together this interactive—360º views!—scan of Angels Flight. It’s wonderful, but will make you long for the old girl even more.