New Griffith Park Traffic Plan Promising But Flawed

Concerned stakeholders during last night's public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Concerned stakeholders during last night’s public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks has released a new “Griffith Park Action Plan” [PDF] designed to deal with car congestion primarily from Hollywood Sign visitors. Last night, DRP and City Councilmember David Ryu hosted a community meeting to receive public feedback on the proposal. Nearly 200 people attended the forum, where DRP and Ryu received over an hour of public testimony critical of many aspects of the proposal.

Griffith Park’s car traffic woes have been exacerbated by former Councilmember Tom LaBonge catering to rich Beachwood Canyon homeowners pressure to reroute Hollywood Sign tourist traffic. Last year DRP attempted to resolve traffic problems by temporarily adding free parking on formerly car-free park roads; the trial was soundly criticized by park stakeholders.

DRP went back to the drawing board and came up with a new park traffic plan. The plan [PDF] was recently released in the form of Mitigated Negative Declaration documentation asserting DRP’s right to proceed with plan implementation. The plan was profiled at the Los Feliz Ledger, CiclaValley, and KPCC.

What is in the Griffith Park Action Plan

DCP proposes a free “park wide shuttle” that would mostly take visitors from the Greek Theater parking lot to an official Hollywood Sign vista point about a third of a mile above the Griffith Observatory.

GriffithParkShuttleProposal
Proposed “park wide shuttle” routes in Griffith Park. Image via Los Feliz Ledger

Shuttle operations would be paid for through parking revenue. DCP would add parking meters to East and West Observatory Road. Existing free parallel parking on the two-way Observatory Road would be converted to diagonal paid parking on a one-way loop.

The Good

Overall, DRP is looking in the right direction. The problem is too much car traffic; in the words of Ryu, Griffith Park is “being loved to death.” Griffith Park Superintendent Joe Salaices emphasized that “reducing the amount of cars is the number one goal,” later reiterating “I’d love to see no cars in the park.” Tackling a “too many cars” problem means giving visitors better options to arrive by other means.

The DRP proposal to add parking meters sends the right message. Paid parking helps to disincentivize visitors arriving by car. Revenue from the 150 metered parking spaces, according to Salaices, is estimated to be $500,000 annually. All the revenue would be dedicated to Griffith Park purposes, including operating the shuttle and paying park staff.

Public comment on paid parking was mixed. Cyclist Don Ward testified that “charging for parking is long overdue” while another speaker opposed paid parking asserting the importance of parks being reliant on General Fund revenue.

The Bad

Overall, despite good intentions, DCP fell into a tired bureaucratic pattern of publish and defend. Though their plan was described as an initial phase, DCP staff largely defended decisions they had already been made in advance of public input.

The proposed shuttle shuttle service is unlikely to be sufficient to make a dent in Griffith Park traffic. According to Salaices, 390,000 visitors came to observatory-area viewing during the 2015 spring break. To deal with these visitors, DCP is proposing four or five 21-passenger shuttles. One public speaker opined that the “shuttle plan doesn’t add up” by addressing only “one percent of the problem.” 

The extent of the shuttle program is an issue, too. DCP’s proposed shuttle routes attempt to solve area traffic problems with shuttles operating entirely within the boundaries of the park. Visitors would still mostly drive into the park and be diverted to free parking lots closer to park entrances. This could well reduce some observatory-area congestion, but does not address congestion in city streets leading to the park.

Many public speakers complained about car congestion on Vermont Avenue between Los Feliz Boulevard and Griffith Park. Vermont Avenue residents described this area as “the gates of hell” with traffic causing residents to be “held hostage in our homes.” Numerous speakers pressed for shuttle service to serve areas below Los Feliz Boulevard, especially Metro Red Line stations at Sunset/Vermont and Hollywood/Western.

DCP and Ryu appeared sympathetic to concerns over shuttle plan limitations.

Salaices called the proposed shuttle route “phase one” of “a living project.” Salaices stated that DCP is looking “to identify parking lots outside the park” that could be served by shuttle service. Ryu expressed his support for extending the shuttle sooner, stating he supported “phase one shuttle stops outside Griffith Park.” Also, Ryu stated that he hopes to identify a shuttle parking lot outside the park.

The Ugly

In its current form, the plan calls for opening nearly a mile of currently car-free Mount Hollywood Drive. Since the 1970s, these car-free park backroads have been deeply loved by hikers and bicyclists, many of whom testified urging no cars and no shuttles on current car-free park roads.

Why open up this area? DRP apparently assumes that visitors can not make the one-third-mile walk to a newly established Hollywood Sign vista point. Only in Los Angeles would park officials assume that tourists who have traveled thousands of miles to L.A. would be unwilling to walk a third of a mile through a pleasant park setting to get to a Hollywood Sign viewpoint.

Ideally, DRP shuttle plans could drop visitors near the tunnel, and they could walk from there. It may be possible to enhance that last-third-mile gap by non-motorized transportation means: primarily walking, of course, but perhaps also bike-share and/or pedi-cabs. The route is already a wheelchair-accessible paved road.

Next Steps

Councilmember Ryu and DRP General Manager Michael Shull committed to reviewing public comment received and to revising DRP’s proposal. According to Shull, a revised plan is expected to be available in roughly 30 days. DRP hopes to implement the shuttle and parking changes in Fall of 2016.

  • Craig Nelson

    Thanks for the useful summary, I was unable to make the meeting last night so this is a bonus.

    I agree that it’s a step in the right direction. I live right on Hillhurst and Los Feliz, so whilst the traffic can get bad, it’s not exactly ‘the gates of hell’! It’s one of the knockbacks of living near a popular honeypot – traffic.

    I cycle and hike in Griffith a lot and one of the things that hit me when moving here about a year back was the lack of decent wayfinding in the park. I love exploring, but you just can’t find information on routes, suitability, points of interest etc. The only signage is negative ‘don’t light fires’ ‘don’t ride your bike’ etc. It’s not very welcoming…

    In light of this, I think one of the issues is that people just don’t know how far the walk is to the view point – it’s not very far and, as you say, a stunning walk. But, not everyone can get up there – older folks for example (it does get steep in places). So perhaps some pedicabs or electric buggies could reduce the need for polluting, noisy and dangerous vehicles? Combined with some decent signage, the place could be transformed and the DPR could be seen as one of the more innovative departments in Los Angeles.

    I just think they need some smarter people on the job, approach it from a different angle perhaps. Think differently than just bog standard shuttle/pay for parking. I think LA and the Park deserves it.

  • The shuttle is traveling 1/3 of a mile? FFS….who can’t walk that. I walk that from some parking spaces in big box stores. Hell…I think I walk that INSIDE some big box stores. I definitely walk that inside some malls.

  • Craig Nelson

    One other thing – they hired a parking consultant to do the analysis? Someone with a bit more experience in multi-modal/bike/ped would have been far more useful.

  • Phantom Commuter

    The shuttle system is useless if it does not connect with Metro stations. It should be similar to shuttles found in large city and national parks.

  • Chris Wienberg

    At first, I thought shuttles were fine along Mt. Hollywood Dr, but now that I know it’s only a third of a mile to the Hollywood Sign viewpoint I’m inclined against them. That said, I have a couple questions:

    1. It looks like there’s an additional stop above the public view point. What is available up there?
    2. While the road may be paved between the tunnel and the view point, how steep is it? While it may ostensibly be handicap accessible, if the pavement is in poor condition or is steep it may not truly be accessible to those with mobility issues.

    I really hope the plan to charge for parking deep in the park comes through. Those roads are over-utilized and it makes for a poor park experience for everyone. And, it seems like a no-brainer to connect the shuttle system to the nearby Red Line stations. I’ve never used the existing weekend DASH service. How utilized is it?

  • lost_fezil

    It is a steep walk. It’s a great walk but not for everyone. The “viewing” area and the 2nd shuttle stop at the big tree are not for people with mobility issues. The views there are not much better or different than at the Observatory. Having the shuttles enter the closed roads of the park are, in my opinion, a waste. It brings tourists into the wilder interior of the park. The viewing area is often strewn with trash and cigarette butts. It’s one thing to deal with garbage at the Observatory and the Greek, but once people Starbucks cups are being flung into the canyons they’re most likely there to stay. Having the interior roads open just a mile is a foot hold to open up more and more of the park (which would adversely affect wild life and the serene nature of the park interior). The next steps would be shuttles all the way up Mt. Lee Dr., then open all the roads and commuters and whiz through the park from Burbank to Los Feliz –– nature be damned!

  • Craig Nelson

    I think I can answer…

    1. The road goes on and there are a number of trail heads. I presume the shuttle will drop people on the trail to the Hollywood Sign.
    2. It can get pretty steep – it’s one of my ‘training’ hills when I’m on my bike and it does pitch up.

    There is already a shuttle to the Observatory from the Redline – I think it runs most days and definitely at the weekend. I’ve used it to get up to the Observatory when I’m really lazy! Whenever I’ve been on it it has been busy.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    The grade is over 7% and in some places 10%. Steep enough for crying children and not accessible for the disabled.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    As stated above, the grade is over 7% and in some places 10%. Steep enough for crying children and not accessible for the disabled.

  • Chris

    Do children really cry when a hill is “too” steep? Never been a parent, but I’ve been a kid and we used to play in the hills all the time, tear free.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    I’ve seen the under 5’s have temper tantrums…

    As for me, once I was over seven, I always enjoyed a good hike. (I do not recall ever not wanting to go for a hike.)

  • LAifer

    The shuttle to the Observatory from the Metro Red Line station only operates on weekends. And it has 35-minute intervals between buses, so assuming two buses per hour that’s about a max of 80 people/hour that can use the shuttle service.

  • bikecar101.com

    We left the meeting in amazement at the panels inability to produce numbers regarding the following:

    1) Greenhouse Gas Emissions produced by the shuttles on an annual basis.

    2) Volume of bicycle riders traveling up the closed portion of Mt. Hollywood.

    We figured these were ‘soft-ball’ type questions which could be answered with relative ease. The type of shuttle is important (i.e., electric, hybrid, etc.) — since the shuttle will be sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians.

    Overall, the meeting was informative. The problem seems to be a huge issue. We are definitely not a fan of moving the parking to the red line station. That parking structure should be reserved for those using the red line. Although, we are advocating for the use of bicycle + trains. Therefore, if each of us rode our bicycles and used the train systems in the area, this would not be an issue.

  • Petra

    From last night’s Griffith Park Traffic Plan meeting:

    1. “I will not support any plan that moves traffic from one neighborhood to another.”

    – Councilmember David E. Ryu

    I say: Well, Councilmember, without breaking a sweat you are supporting a plan that moves tourist traffic from the south side of the park into the interior of the park and the north side of the park – ‘neighborhoods’ currently free for the most part of Hollywood Sign and Observatory users.

    As the CD 4 representative, the welfare of ALL of Griffith Park is your responsibility. So are you a hypocrite, or is it simply because the park and wildlife cannot vote? I’d like to know. I imagine other park users and stakeholders would like to know, too.

    2. ‘Rec and Parks will be installing sharrows so that drivers in the park know that they are sharing the road with bikes and to make it safer for bikes.’

    -Paraphrase of Griffith Park Superintendant Joe Saliaces

    I say: Well, Joe – if you think sharrows will make a difference in the speed in which commuters and other non-park users race through Griffith Park, you are sadly out of touch with your own park. In fact, your plan doesn’t even mention the people who commute through your park at breakneck speeds and without care for bikers, hikers, picnicers, wildlife or anyone else in the park.

    Is @Councilmember David Ryu hallucinating along with you on this? So far it appears so.

    Sincerely,

    Kristin Sabo, steward/caretaker of Amir’s Garden since 2003.

  • So? Its really really short, it is good for them. And fine, provide some sort of golf cart for those who are truly mobility impaired. Doesn’t the US have a serious obesity epidemic right now? Perhaps this type of thing is a contributing factor.

  • Azunyan

    You’re expecting that everyone is healthy with legs and that there are no disabled or the elderly in this world who’d want to go to Griffith Park Observatory.

  • No, the path is paved and apparently wheelchair accessible, as per the article. So how am I suggesting that only able bodied folks can use it? Besides, as I pointed out in another comment, if there are those who truly need help, then there can some type of small mobility vehicle, like a golf car, to help those people, and only those people. Its the same thing they do in airports. Shuttling the average person 1/3 of a mile is one of the reasons there’s a huge obesity epidemic in our world.

  • Azunyan

    If you say so, please upload a GoPro video on Youtube doing what you’re say you advocate. Otherwise, it’s all talk and theories without understanding the substance.

  • Dumbass, I live nowhere near that. The article is what says the path is paved and wheelchair accessible. Feel free to take it up with the author.

  • Azunyan

    So if you live nowhere near it, then why are you even bothered about others making decisions about something where you don’t even live? Friggin’ authoritarians, sheesh.

  • I’m not allowed to have an opinion because I don’t live there? I thought this was an online message board where everyone can post their input. I guess I was wrong.

  • Azunyan

    You’re not posting input, you’re demanding that there should be no transit access to the observatory. If you don’t live in LA, then you don’t pay taxes to LA. If you don’t pay taxes to LA, then you have no voice in what people of LA wants their elected officials to do to solve the traffic problem to the Observatory.

    Furthermore, you make it sound like that 1/3 of a mile to a top of the hill is easy. When I made the statement that you can just do what you say by showing a GoPro video of you doing it, you back out. You’re a wuss, the minute you see how tough it is, you’re the type who’s immediately gonna hail an Uber to get to the observatory.

    BTW, if you want to see what the trek is, all you need to do is use Google Street view and see what it is. You don’t do that either. All you are a spoiled brat who wants everyone to do your own way with no one arguing against you. You know what that is? It’s called authoritarianism. You hide behind “opinions” when what you really want is everyone to shut up and listen and do exactly what you want.

  • TerranceS

    The path in question is a paved asphalt road, at least 30′ wide, which used to accommodate vehicles until the ’70s. It is in good shape and the 1/3 mile to the viewpoint is currently easily travelled by anyone in an electric wheelchair or other mobility device. There is a mild, continuous slope that would require someone in a manual wheelchair to be pretty fit, however, there are certainly many sidewalks in neighborhoods adjoining Griffith which are much, much steeper. As for the Observatory, there is ADA compliant parking right in front of it, and staff allows disabled folks to be dropped off virtually right at the front door.

  • Bernard Finucane

    As someone who lives on the other side of the planet, I’d like to remind folks that this park is an icon on the level of the Statue of Liberty. That’s the way it is seen by foreign tourists.

    Treating it as a normal park is just dumb. The total user experience of the visitor needs to be rethought. The shuttle shouldn’t just be a replacement for cars, it should be a tourist attraction. The community obviously needs to be involved, but they need to apüpreciate that they live in a very special place.

  • A private shuttle is not “transit access”, and I’m arguing that shuttling able bodied people 1/3 of a mile is ridiculous. That *is* a point of view on this article that is talking about the plan to shuttle people 1/3 of a mile. I don’t know what you’re ranting about here. Now you’re calling me a wuss and telling me that I’d back out of walking up a hill. Then accusing me of being a spoiled brat and authoritarianism. You don’t know anything about me, your clearly not here for a discussion, and you seem to have some issues of your own you should deal with. You should seek professional help.

  • calwatch

    Do three shuttles an hour, driven by professionals, really cause an issue? I don’t think so.

  • calwatch

    Thanks for creating a strawman that no one mentioned.

  • It isn’t exactly the point, that being said, I would argue that traffic of any kind does disrupt the car free environment that people might be out to enjoy.

  • SZwartz

    Yes, we definitely need smarter people on the job. The way LA city council makes decisions, however, leaves no room for smarter people. After a while, people realize that the decision-making process starts and ends with the councilman. Whatever a councilman decides is what the city adopts.

    That makes each council district into a fiefdom where only the word of the Lord and master counts. The councilman does not have to listen to facts or follow the law or make any sense. Councilmen side with whomever can help them the most in the next election. Councilmen do not get voted out of office in LA — it takes 51% to unseat a councilman and Angelenos are dumb voters who vote by name recognition. I am certain that if Charlies Manson had been on the CD 4 ballot, he would have been elected our new councilman.

    Nothing will change until LA changes its dysfunctional city council structure and we all know THAT is not going to happen.
    http://bit.ly/1W74Er9 2-7-2016, Zwartz Talk, The Corruption Eradicator for LA City Council

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The new Griffith Park plan minimizes car access while adding new shuttle service. Photo courtesy Friends of Griffith Park

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