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The LA Times Goes Underground...

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The Belmont Tunnel's graffiti in 2004/Photo by skunks via Flickr

Steve Harvey's "Only in L.A." column this weekend heads underground to some familiar LAist territory: The Belmont Tunnel. The one-mile stretch used to be LA's first--and only--subway, opening in 1925 but shut down thirty years later. Harvey notes that once the Red Cars stopped using the tunnel, it was put to work as "a storage site for survival rations, a holding cell for impounded vehicles, a movie set and, unofficially, a giant graffiti canvas and field of study for urban explorers."

Now the graffiti has been sandblasted off--that's about "150 and 200 coats of paint" that had to go, replaced by "artist Tait Roelofs' colorful mural of a Red Car, which glows in the dark." The graffiti didn't go away without a fight, though; many sought to preserve the guerrilla artwork and the property itself was contested. You can see this from the Tunnel's Toluca Street terminus, but the rest of the tunnel is out of sight, thanks to years of building on top of it.