Last night, over a hundred people who walk or bike in and near Griffith Park attended the Griffith Park Advisory Board meeting to express opposition to a current 3-week trial allowing cars on formerly car-free Mount Hollywood Drive. In an attempt to deal with the problem of "too much traffic," the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) has opened one mile of Mt. Hollywood to driving and parking.
A month ago, that quiet park road was off-limits to cars, and home to people on foot and on bike, and even coyotes and other wildlife. Today, it serves a parking lot.
DRP Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan stressed that spring break was the heaviest time of the year for Griffith Park, with car traffic sometimes backing up onto adjacent surface streets. "There's a ton of people coming and there always will be" Regan stated. His statements tended to conflate "people" solely with cars and parking.
With the large standing-room-only crowd in attendance, and more than 50 speaker cards on the Mount Hollywood Drive item, the park board decided to cap testimony at 20 minutes.
Nobody spoke in favor of the pilot.
Many people expressed their deep affinity for Griffith Park's serene car-free roads as a respite to the car-centric streets of Los Angeles. Weighing in against the trial were representatives from cycling organizations, including the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Finish the Ride, Ride to Recovery, and the city's Council-appointed Bicycle Advisory Committee.
Though cyclists comprised the majority of the opposition, hikers and equestrians also expressed frustration with the trial. Friends of Griffith Park board president Gerry Hans spoke on his organization's strong opposition, reiterating concerns raised in the FoGP's comment letter [PDF].
A few speakers attributed the park's worsening traffic problems to Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. LaBonge has had a heavy hand in steering Hollywood Sign tourist traffic away from the well-heeled Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, re-focusing it instead toward Griffith Observatory, then spilling onto Mt. Hollywood Drive.
LaBonge authored city council resolution 14-1723 [PDF] which directs city departments to "temporarily close public streets in the vicinity of the Hollywood Sign as and when it is deemed necessary, including, but not limited to [specified] peak times." Oddly, the resolution justifies street closures on the basis of "CVC Section 21102.2," a non-existent vehicle code. State vehicle code includes Section 21102 for closures around schools and Section 21102.1 for closing alleys, but 21102.2 doesn't exist. (Thanks to friend of the blog Marc Caswell for pointing this out.)
With Councilmember LaBonge termed out, real solutions to the city's Hollywood Sign conundrum are likely to fall to his successor. Both candidates in the Council District 4 run-off, David Ryu and Carolyn Ramsay, attended the park board meeting. Both spoke without taking a firm stand on the Mt. Hollywood Drive trial.
This was only the third meeting of the new Griffith Park board, so the board members were somewhat meager in terms of what advisory position they were willing take on this issue. Though the few boardmembers who spoke stated clear opposition to cars on Mt. Hollywood Drive, they also clarified that the board had not initiated DRP's trial, which was already planned when the park board formed. Ultimately, the board approved a motion to work with DRP to come up with a "comprehensive plan for ingress and egress" to the park.
The board chair invited bicyclists to attend the park board's next meeting on April 23, where the Mt. Hollywood item is again expected to be on the agenda.
In the meantime, cyclists are circulating a change.org petition urging "no cars [and] no trams on Mount Hollywood Drive." Though there was no clear victory -- the trial continues through April 12 -- cyclists and allies were organized, articulate and forceful, sending a clear message to DRP and political leadership on just how important these car-free roads are.