“A paper street or paper road is a street or road that appears on maps but has not been built.”
“Beware! Paper Streets” cautions a sign hung by the Kirkwood Bowl Foundation towards the base of Laurel Canyon, LA, where I lived for most of 2018.
Paper streets are used in real estate cons of all sizes. Up in the Hollywood Hills, as these scams go, unsuspecting non-Angelino buyers purchase land on a paper street, sight-unseen, in hopes of building a home. These marks then arrive at their land with an invalid deed and dashed dreams.
Enough of these streets show up on Google Maps, each with a checkered history, replete with fleece, to warrant warning signs around the Canyon.
West Elusive Street was the paper street I explored most, at the apex-turnaround of my old running route, off Jewett Drive. Part of West Elusive spurs up between two houses to the Canyon summit. The bulk of West Elusive, off a bit further at the true end of Jewett, functions as a footpath through jade and succulent scrub brush, dropping you off the summit to the top of Utica Drive.
Curiously, the sign on Gould faced uphill, warning those leaving the Canyon, whereas perhaps its alarm is most useful before an unfinished extension of road indicates trouble ahead.
Paper streets convey how cruel we can be to each other, and how most things too-good-to-be-true prey on the trust we need in the world to enjoy life. The Bowl Foundation’s sign admonishes putting blind faith in strangers, even though life gets pretty lonely if you can’t trust anyone.
As I traversed the canyon that year, I felt sorry for the streets themselves, as the sign cast them as dangerous. In that they’re mostly undriveable, yeah, don’t risk your car’s suspension.
Other than to errant drivers, however, their foxtail-laden cracked concrete slabs pose no inherent threat.…