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City Puts Privatizing the Operation of the Los Angeles Zoo on Fast Track

CATEGORY: In the News |
On Mar 5, 2015

DSC02611Since its establishment as a rent-free tenant of Griffith Park in 1912, the Los Angeles Zoo has been supported in the main by tax-paying citizens. Currently, the City is nearing the completion of a Zoo Capital Improvement Project costing nearly $172 million, while the parking lot that serves the Zoo is undergoing a $14.9 million renovation.

The lion’s share of these funds come from tax-payer funded propositions and a significant portion of the Zoo’s day-to-day operations are supported by taxes. It is clear that the people of Los Angeles are the major investors and stakeholders in the Zoo.

Nevertheless, many L.A.residents are not aware that in order to reduce the City’s General Fund contribution to the ongoing support of the Zoo, officials are on the verge of issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) whose purpose is to transfer management of the Zoo to a private operator.

The pros and cons of public vs. private management are many and reflect many interests including, but not limited to, the Zoo’s employees, its membership-support group GLAZA, animal advocates and others. In the event that the City Council does vote to approve and release an RFP seeking a private Zoo operator, Friends of Griffith Park has requested that it require that the successful applicant indicate a willingness to operate the Zoo in a manner that is sensitive to its host and context, Griffith Park. Specifically, FoGP has asked that the Draft RFP’s language be amended to specify that:

1. Griffith Park is designated by UCLA as a County of Los Angeles area of Critical Environmental Concern for its substantial populations of native flora and fauna.
2. Griffith Park is the largest City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. While the Zoo facility is not historically significant in itself, it is located within Griffith Park’s landmark’s boundaries and is adjacent to areas of Griffith Park that are historically important.
3. The welfare of its animals remain the Zoo’s central purpose and that compliance with the highest standards of animal care be affirmed by the City on an annual basis.
4. Operation and management of the Zoo be conducted with transparency and accountability to the City and the public. Given that its property, buildings and animals will continue to be owned by the people of Los Angeles no less should be accepted.

The justification for the potential transfer of the Zoo’s operations to a private partner begins and ends with the official desire to tail off financial support for the Zoo. However, if the Zoo becomes profit-based, can it continue to be an educational institution whose primary purpose is species conservation? Or will its emphasis shift to entertainment at the expense of its core mission? Will it continue to be a responsible tenant of Griffith Park? These are the big questions.



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