Griffith Park Traffic Response: Poorly Defined Free Parking Expansion Pilot

Cars parking and turning on Mount Hollywood Drive, until recently one of Griffith Park's car-free recreation roads. Photo courtesy Friends of Griffith Park
Cars parking and turning on Mount Hollywood Drive, until recently one of Griffith Park’s car-free recreation roads. Photo courtesy Friends of Griffith Park

The city of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is a 4000+acre green-space gem at the heart of highly developed region.

Since the early 1990s, the park has had an extensive network of closed-to-cars paved roads that crisscross many of its wilderness hillsides. These roads offer a quiet respite from the city, plus incredible views. Like other car-free spaces, they are very popular with people on foot and on bicycle. Friends of Griffith Park’s board president Gerry Hans calls these roads “an unexpected mecca for passive recreation, especially bicyclists.”

The city of Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP, which as of press time had not responded to SBLA’s inquiry) recently began a trial that opened up a one-mile car-free stretch of Mount Hollywood Drive to driving and parking. This is the park road directly west of the Griffith Observatory.

The trial is poorly defined. DRP has yet to put anything in writing about it. In theory, DRP is testing out 200 additional parking spaces, which may someday become paid parking to help drivers access the park and to help the department capture revenue. The plan, as explained by Hans, is for DRP to eventually charge for parking at three locations: Griffith Observatory, Western Canyon Road, and Mount Hollywood Drive. Today, all Griffith Park parking is free, other than at the L.A. Zoo. Why the DRP is giving away free parking to test paid parking is unclear.

During the trial underway, park staff are surveying people who drive and park on the newly-gridlocked Mount Hollywood Drive. Hans reports that DRP personnel are refusing to take input from hikers and bicyclists present, surveying only motorists. The newly opened road, like many places with free parking, has been full of cars driving, parking, and turning around. It has already become an uncomfortable place for walking and bicycling.

The trial opened last Friday, March 20, and is set to last for three weeks.

What’s putting pressure on DRP to do something? It apparently has to do with the longstanding L.A. icon called the Hollywood Sign, which resides in an essentially inaccessible area of Griffith Park. 

Tourists come to Los Angeles from all over the world and want to get to–and take their picture in front of–the sign. The tourists drive through the upscale Beachwood Canyon neighborhood. The Beachwood residents push local politicians to keep non-resident traffic away. Hence, the city is trying to steer tourists to the Griffith Observatory for great views of the Hollywood Sign. (Tourists should really follow Streetsie-winner Alissa Walker’s advice for accessing the Hollywood Sign, but that’s another story.) Below is a screenshot of Google Maps directions to the Hollywood sign today.

Google Maps directions to the Hollywood Sign actually take users to the Griffith Observatory.
Google Maps gives directions to the Hollywood Sign that actually take users to the Griffith Observatory instead. From there, the dotted line represents the view of the sign. Screenshot via Google Maps

Seeing more car traffic in Griffith Park and more congestion around the observatory, DRP is looking for ways to manage traffic volumes. Hence, DRP opted to temporarily convert Mount Hollywood Drive into a new free parking lot.

The Friends of Griffith Park, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club are opposing the trial and any further loss of car-free recreational space in Griffith Park. The Sierra Club posted this alert urging readers to contact DRP. Friends of Griffith Park submitted a strongly worded comment letter [PDF] critiquing the overall vagueness of the trial. The letter concludes:

The problem of too much vehicular traffic can only be solved by reducing the number of vehicles entering the park, not by making more parking available beyond the points where the traffic itself is problematic.

Hans is urging DRP to cancel the trial, and to do an actual plan, studying options such as shuttles connecting with public transit, all vetted in a thorough public process. To some extent, DRP finds itself in a tight spot, trying to balance the needs of locals, tourists, recreation, wildlife, maintenance, and more. But merely plopping in an ill-conceived trial will not please anyone, and is even serving to unite disparate interests against the trial.

Concerned individuals are encouraged to speak about this issue at a public meeting of the city’s Griffith Park Advisory Board. The meeting takes place this Thursday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Griffith Park Visitors Center Auditorium [map]. Additional information is available on the meeting agenda [PDF] and Facebook page. There are group bike rides to the meeting from Sunset Triangle Plaza and from Toluca Lake.

  • 69fasty

    This plan is a move in bad faith to bring vehicles deeper inside the park and across to the Hollywood Sign. I hope someday we learn the real masterminds behind this. Thank you for shining light on this.

  • katywren

    If you’re really interested in understanding how Rec & Parks arrived at their decision to reopen this closed road, please make plans to attend the GPPAB meeting and voice your concerns and opinions. I will definitely be there!

  • Craig

    I’ve just moved to LA from the UK. GP and Mt Holkywood Drive are my respite from the busy streets as a cyclist. I wondered what on earth was going on the other day – cars parked up. This must have been it. Another opportunity to get knocked off my bike, when I shouldn’t really be in that position.

  • Craig Olsson

    For ten years I have enjoyed riding my bike along quiet, car-less Mt. Hollywood Drive. It’s one of the few places in Los Angeles where a cyclist need not worry about inattentive and aggressive drivers. For many good reasons this section of road was closed more than twenty years ago. With cars came trash, drugs, crime, and noise, all of which will return. It’s hard to imagine people will behave any differently. Besides, adding more parking spaces is antithetical to the stated goal of reducing traffic congestion. It will only draw more traffic. Any rancher knows more horse flops draw more flies.

  • Jake Bloo

    Griffith Park should work with the DASH bus system to stop people from driving up. No one needs to drive up that entire way.

  • Darren

    There is currently a DASH shuttle that runs on weekends between the Sunset/Vermont Red Line station and the Observatory. DRP Should consider a toll to drive into the park on weekends and put the revenue into making the shuttle have shorter headways and/or be free. Bryce Canyon in Utah uses a similar system and it works wonderfully.

  • ijfsfj

    So many people are rightly angry about this. This is Garcetti selling us all down the river. There are better ways to handle the demands and keep the park clean and natural! This need to end immediately. Totally awful idea, was LADOT, or anyone with city planning savvy consulted in this mess?

  • ijfsfj

    A major component of this is wealthy beechwood canyon types complaining to the city officials about tourists, this is their solution, to ruin our car-free public park space. If I bought a house under the eiffel tower how much right do I have to complain about there being tourists in the neighborhood?

  • Dora Herrera

    The road was closed in 1992 for a reason. That reason all exists and, the road is now used daily by bicyclists, hikers, euestrians and runners that will be endangered by the re-introduction of vehicular traffic.

  • It really is astonishing to me why there are high volumes of car traffic going through parks. At least here the traffic is accessing the park. Both in my city, and in NYC though, you have parks, with major through routes traversing them. Its boggles the mind.

  • Alicia

    “an unexpected mecca for passive recreation, especially bicyclists.”

    Who came up with the term “passive recreation”? Or is that a typo? Last time I checked, bicycling wasn’t “passive.”

  • MyKingdom4aHorse

    I can’t believe Tom LaBonehead is selling out his beloved Equestrian friends to appease the affluent Beachwood CYN 1%. I guess he can play both sides since he doesn’t have to run for office again. LAME DUCK LABONER STOP IT NOW.

  • mpg

    If you really want to see the Hollywood Sign, drive to the dog park (Lake Hollywood Park), or hike to the top from either Bronson Canyon or the top of Beachwood Drive, or just see it at a distance from Hollywood and Highland.

    Directing tourists to go to Griffith Park to see the Hollywood Sign is just mean.

  • Can’t We All Get Along

    It is indeed interesting how “Bicycle Advocates” are the self-appointed champions of “Share The Road,” until they don’t want to. By labeling other people as “Elitists” (homeowners), they are actually showing their own Elitist colors.

    In case you two-wheeled Anarchists don’t understand, and you don’t, a lot of cyclists also drive motor vehicles. Just because someone does not share your politics, viewpoints, or lifestyles, does not make them the enemy (how tolerant of you, right?). You hate cars. We get that. You are also not the only people on the planet. Remember that Sharing Thing? Yes, it is more than a concept.

    And, for the record, back at you on the exclusivity of the road argument in Griffith Park, because you have all of L.A. County to ride in, as well.

    It is clear you do not want to share, but to dominate. That is not being a good citizen. Share, don’t scare.

  • Cars have 99.99% of all roads, all the time. This road (was) one of the only permanently car-free paved areas in Los Angeles. I predominately drive and only bike occasionally for recreation, but you’re being reactionary. This isn’t about sharing, it’s about keeping griffith park from being a giant winding parking lot.

  • ijfsfj

    Thanks for enlightening that idiot Ezra.

  • Neel K

    This is a spectacularly bad idea – I grew up nearby and learned to love cycling because of the freedom of riding on that road! This is turning an (admittedly already paved) paradise into a parking lot!

  • Mike

    First off, stop being so dramatic.

    I run and hike in the park and agree with the cyclists. This is a TERRIBLE idea. There is nowhere to walk. Also the place is already trashed.

  • MyKongdom4AHorse

    This is not about access or sharing the road. These roads are now wildlife corrodors – this ia a land grab for parking. The park is a place to get away frim traffic. There are places for cars only – freeways, there are placresfor shared access – city streets, and there are places for non-moterized access. It is that simple. Making it a bike issue is a red herring to obfiscate the issue and show how narrow you thinking is.

  • El Sharto

    STFU you ignorant moron.

  • El Phucko

    the mastermind is that stupid Yokel Tom LaBonge. He talks like an ignorant BUFFOON about anything and digresses from one incoherent thought into oblivion. the ONLY reason he lasted 12 years is because he did the bidding of his wealthy gerrymandered richie rich constituents. let the record show that this meat head ruined the park at the behest of a bunch of assholes in the hills.

  • maudelynn13

    Directing them into neighborhoods with tiny roads, no parking and hair pin turns is even meaner.

  • S_grant

    Maybe the people who bought houses on tiny roads aren’t too smart, and their lack of intelligence should be rewarded with tourist traffic. You bought a house near the Hollywood sign, that was your mistake.

  • Chineseguy27

    There is a Dash shuttle working currently. It is operating daily while the park is conducting the trial. The Dash picks up by the Greek Theater shuttles to the Observatory and back again. The fare is only $0.50

  • ubrayj02

    Cars in parks? NOT A PROBLEM!

    Parks and Wrecks has this on lock:

  • Jake Bloo

    I agree that there is already DASH service, but I belive it could be improved and better publicized so that it becomes not only an alternative, but the best way to visit Griffith park.

  • katywren

    So… tell us how you really feel about LaBonge.

    Although I do agree he deserves the blame for quite a bit, I think there’s a lot of blame to go around. There is a huge problem when councilpersons are allowed enormous control over things occurring within their districts (including parklands).

    If this is a case of “Whatever Tom wants, Tom gets…” perhaps LA should reevaluate whether this type of autonomy is such a good idea (especially when a park of this magnitude is involved).

    We know what happened to this Griffith Park in 2007… are we going to wait for another conflagration to occur before we decide to protect this parkland for future Angelenos?

  • Matt

    I once heard that Griffith gave the estate to the City of L.A. on the condition that it will always be free, including parking. I went to the Observatory this weekend and noticed parking meters all over near the Observatory for $4 an hour. I thought that was atrocious. If there is any truth to what I heard the Griffith family should put a stop to the City’s greed and make parking free again.


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