As a no-nonsense environmentalist, a resident of Los Feliz, and a father of four, Tomas O’Grady cares deeply about the future of Griffith Park. Like its New York counterpart, the park acts as a release valve for the day-to- day pressures of a large city. Unlike Central Park though, it performs the additional function of being the last real refuge for wildlife on this side of town.
“While yes, it is a people’s park, leaving the untouched areas untouched for the wildlife that is left is simply the right thing to do. Once and for all, without any grayness, we need to preserve and restore wilderness areas in the park. The City Council, in its efforts to “improve” the park, seems intent on turning it into an amusement park rather than an honest to goodness “natural park,” says Tomas O’Grady.
PAST ATTEMPTS TO DEVELOP THE PARK
In the late 1960s, the Department of Recreation and Parks proposed an “improved” park complete with paved parking lots, restaurants, expanded commercial activity, and an aerial tramway. These plans were floated without the input of the public at large, let alone the residents of Los Feliz. Ordinary people of all walks of life protested and this plan was thankfully killed.
In 2005 our representatives in City Hall took another stab at an “improved park” plan. This master plan, or the Melendrez plan (named after the consultants who were paid $400,000 to draft it), proposed more new multilevel parking structures, aerial tramways, a hotel, and a destination restaurant. These plans again were proposed with little or no public input.
Amid controversy, Councilman Tom LaBonge famously declared about these tramways and hotels, “Don’t worry, none of these things are funded.”
What followed was a classic finger pointing exercise. The consultants insisted they were told to add the hotel and tramway and all the other man-made improvements and Mr. LaBonge said he did no such thing. Meanwhile, we the taxpayers are left holding the bill, not to mention an incredible sense of betrayal of the public trust.
The image versus the reality on this issue is incredible. Why would we the taxpayer fund the drawing of a plan, which included all of these items if our elected representivives did not instruct the Melendrez people to include them in the first place? This plan by the way is now UNAVAILABLE to the public.
“I do not know what makes me more depressed. That we spent all this money on a plan that has a hotel IN Griffith Park or that no one will take responsibility for this or that we have elected politicians who are so in their own world and so arrogant that they thought that this would fly even for a second. Again, $400,000 gone and no one to be held accountable for the money or the intent. Are there any stand up people left in City Hall?
“When I think of the bake sales at Franklin Elementary often bringing in less than $60 after parents and students work hard on them, all to help make up for the lack of public resources available to us, it breaks my heart to think of what $400,000 could have been spent on. A better deal for us the taxpayers would have been for them to have copied the sixties plan and put a new date on it.”
A report from the Los Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club by Danila Oder summed this debacle up perfectly:
“Imagine Griffith Park with two aerial tramways, six multilevel parking garages, information kiosks, a shuttle bus system, campus-style entrance kiosks, a commercialized bridge over the Los Angeles River, and sports fields and a hotel in the park interior. All of these features are proposed in the Griffith Park Master Plan, released in March by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks…….”read the full story
“Here we go again. Out on the campaign trail, just about everyone believes that our incumbent has fought to protect the park from would-be developers. I guess that is why CD4 has a $100,000+ per year, taxpayer funded, communications director. The fact of the matter is that time and time again, this incumbent politician has put forward his almost childish take on what the park, and for that matter other public spaces, ought to become with little regard for expert input and zero regard for public input. He thinks that he knows best. Additionally, he has managed to pit everyone against each other. The City of Los Angeles can no longer afford this nonsense. This is serious stuff.”
The Melendrez plan was the final straw, and as a result of this debacle an application was filed almost immediately for a monument status that would “protect the park” once and for all.
“I had just joined the neighborhood council and I was complaining that we were spending $500 of public money to get the word out about the benefits of making the park an ‘untouchable monument.’ ‘Why don’t we just call the council office and make sure Councilman LaBonge is on board?’ I said. It was made very clear to me that the councilman would act appropriately only when he was forced to do so,” Tomas says.
We should not have to drag our representatives kicking and screaming to do the right thing.
The park is now protected but there are still many interpretive loopholes in the designation language and almost zero trust in the city to do the right thing moving forward.
“The City of Los Angeles does not need an ‘improved’ Griffith Park, but smaller playgrounds and amenities close to where we live. Any permanent construction or development should be rejected unless it is completely necessary to maintain or enhance the wilderness of the park. New ball fields and other improvements, as proposed by the incumbent, ought to be built not way up in the park but close to where people live.”
The Griffith Park Working Group, made up of volunteers, was charged with creating once and for all a master plan for the park. This incredibly detailed document, apparently too black and white, too clear, has been renamed a “vision plan” by the City.
“We need a real watertight master plan,” Tomas says.
The park, considering its history of intrigue, needs a permanent “citizens’ management board” made up of volunteers from the relevant stakeholder groups.
“Considering how much has been botched thus far, how much has been wasted thus far, we need checks and balances. You simply can’t have one council person making decisions or having incredible sway over those decisions for the largest urban park in the United States as if it were his or her own back yard.”