When The City Was Silent

Published Jul 31, 2020


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March came hard for Los Angeles. COVID-19 was spreading across the region, and local officials began to shut down the city to slow transmission of the coronavirus that causes it.

Bars, movie theaters, and restaurants were the first to close. Employees who could work from home were encouraged to so. And students had their classes moved online, for what would turn out to be the rest of the year.

Stricter stay at home orders soon followed. Angelenos with homes were locked down, and some without homes were locked out. Leaving home was restricted to essential workers going to essential jobs, and people getting essential supplies and services, like groceries and medicine.

For a few weeks Los Angeles looked wildly different. Traffic was almost non-existent, once bustling neighborhoods and commercial districts looked like scenes straight out of a post apocalyptic film, and a new surreal silence set in across the city.

I ventured out to document what it looked like when most of L.A. stayed home, capturing the silent streets on video:


And in photographs:

(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Chinatown Central Plaza: Restaurants in Chinatown were among the first to be hit by what quickly became an industry-wide crisis.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

LACMA: Not a selfie-taker in sight at the art museum's "Urban Light" installation.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Walt Disney Concert Hall: By late March, music festivals, concerts, performances across Los Angeles were being cancelled. Disney Hall looked abandoned.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

The Wiltern: The sign at popular music venue proved overly optimistic.


(Chava Sanchez)

Pantages: On normally crowded Hollywood Blvd., a lone man walks past the shuttered gates of the Pantages theater. Months later, performances of Hamilton remain canceled for now.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

El Capitan: On this Friday night in March, there was no sign of the throngs of noisy tourists typically bustling around Hollywood.


Olvera Street: On this weekend in late March, Olvera's shops were shuttered. The rain added to the hard-to-describe mood.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Rodeo Drive: At the time, all non-essential businesses, including retail stores were ordered to close.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Santa Monica Pier: The pier was gated up and closed to the public. Beaches became a popular hang out spot as events, restaurants, and bars where closed. Throngs of beachgoers would gather for hours prompting officials to close the beaches for a period of time.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Grand Central Market: Many of downtown restaurants were closed, and those that remain open were take-out only. People were social distancing as required, and security guards at the entrances limited the number of people inside.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Chairs up on tables at Grand Central Market, a scene that that quickly become a familiar sight at the region's restaurants as sitting down for a meal was prohibited.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Fig at 7th: California Pizza Kitchen in downtown Los Angeles.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Santee Alley: L.A.'s Fashion district is one of the busiest areas in the city. Usually packed full of shoppers. Banners throughout the alley even claim to be open 365 days a year. Every shop in this alley was closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in late March.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Fashion District: A bust models a full face mask next to a sign that reads "avoid COVID-19 Mask."


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Nearby, a street vendor sold face masks for $5 a piece tries to get the attention of passing cars.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

L.A. City Hall: At rush hour on Tuesday March 24, the streets where mostly empty except for the unhoused Angelenos that make this area their home.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Venice Beach: Shuttered shops at Venice's Boardwalk.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Muscle Beach: No muscles to see at outside gymnasium in Venice. Gyms across the state were deemed as non-essential and closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Metro Center: People wearing masks became the norm on Metro trains.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

A group of women cover their faces with scarves while waiting for the Metro Red Line.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Some took wearing a face covering an extra step like this man wearing a full face gas mask.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Empty entrance to the Metro Red and Purple line at Union Station during rush hour on March 23, 2020.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Guards standby to make sure that only ticketed passengers or those carrying valid TAP cards enter the passageway to Union Station West.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

A solitary passenger walks towards Union Station west during what is usually rush hour on March 23, 2020.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

A notice to passengers about modified schedules due to COVID-19 at Pershing Square Station on March 23, 2020.


(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

This is what Metro stations looked like on most days. The state ordered Californians to stay home and metro ridership has plummeted.


(Chava Sanchez)

Empty Stairway into the 7th street Metro Hub during afternoon rush hour on Thursday, March 19.


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Above the freeways: A birds eye view of the nearly empty intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways in downtown Los Angeles.


Image Credit (top): Chava Sanchez/LAist