Aerial trams in Griffith Park have been on the drawing board many times in the past, most recently in 1960, 1968, and 2005. Each time, the public was outraged for so many good reasons. And each time, in the end, the people of Los Angeles came together to defend the very essence of Griffith Park, as an expansive, accessible wilderness within a massive metropolis.
The ruse for the currently proposed “Aerial Transit System,” is rooted in the need for traffic congestion relief to residential communities taking the brunt of Hollywood Sign visitor impacts. Some would like the public to believe an aerial tram will help. Most understand this proposal will not provide any relief.
In 2017, Dixon Unlimited, a parking consultant from San Diego, was commissioned to find strategies to reduce traffic, congestion and hazards in affected areas on the south side of the Hollywood Sign. Many viable and reasonable ideas came from the community. In the final Dixon Report, the aerial tram appeared as one of 29 strategies, although it was not one declared as supported by the stakeholders who met several times with the consultants. It was the most colossal and expensive of all strategies! Why would it be moved ahead of all other strategies?
The Dixon Study was completed in early 2018, and in March, 2019, $600,000 was approved for engineering giant Stantec to determine the best alignments. More money was needed, so another $150,000 was approved for an expanded scope of study. Sure enough, Stantec was able to determine three possible routes for a “mono-cable detachable gondola,” with up to 95-100 gondola cars traversing more than two-miles of the Park’s designated “wilderness area.” A fourth option was gratuitously provided by the civic-minded Warner Bros., neighbor to the Park.
Stantec has done a limited amount of outreach with the public and is due to report results to the City. Next, the City will make a decision whether to proceed with more studies and design work with a chosen alignment.
So far, approximately 25 letters of opposition have been sent by local neighborhood councils, advisory boards, homeowner associations, as well as environmental and advocacy organizations. Petitions in opposition have clocked well over 3,400 signers and counting.
In its September letter addressed to Mayor Garcetti, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Council members, FoGP called for a halt in the study process now after the second of four phases has been completed. We are confident at least some allocated funds would be recovered, as they are much needed with the City-declared fiscal crisis. Our letter cites the public’s unwillingness on many counts to allow an aerial tram to change Griffith Park forever.
A solution looking for a problem
Stantec has made it clear their job is merely to address questions and comments regarding the aerial tram itself. By relying and referencing the Dixon Report, Stantec has falsely validated the aerial tram as a real viable solution to traffic and congestion problems. Instead, this concept will merely add another attraction to Griffith Park targeted toward tourism and monetization of the Park on a massive scale.
The gift to the “plain people”
Colonel Griffith’s gift in 1896 would be dishonored. His visionary proclamation of the “healing powers of nature” is now supported by notable health organizations, preached by many environmental organizations, and backed by science!
Conflict with City-approved policies
A Vision for Griffith Park was adopted and celebrated by the City in 2014. Yet, a project of this scale clearly would violate specific messaging within it, for example, “avoid infringing upon natural areas, preserve the identified Wilderness Area,” and “there is no clearly identified need for new recreational rides.”
Historic-Cultural Monument # 942 declares the Wilderness Area of Griffith Park a historically sensitive resource. It references landscapes retaining their integrity dating back to the period of Gabrielino Indians known to be the earliest inhabitants of the region. The character of this natural wilderness area would be spoiled by the visual intrusion of moving gondolas and metallic towers.
Above all, inevitable permanent destruction would be inflicted upon precious open space, habitat and wildlife refuge. Various sensitive species in both plant and animal kingdoms persist in various locations where up to 24 towers would be erected. Invasive weeds would inadvertently be introduced affecting ecosystems balanced by nature alone. Sonic and visual disturbance would increase. Reproductive success of sensitive ground birds in scrub habitat could be adversely impacted. And much more.
Safety and evacuation
How would an evacuation of such large scale, up to 500-1,000 people, be possible during a brush fire? In the last two years, 177 acres burned in Griffith Park, with an average of eight significant brush fires per year. Mechanical and power failures, as well as earthquake emergencies are also possible. Heat inside sun-exposed gondola cars is a persistent problem at many aerial tram installations during the summer months.
~Gerry Hans, FoGP president
Aerial Tram rendering, courtesy of CARTIFACT
Interested in getting more information about the proposed Griffith Park Aerial Tram? Friends of Griffith Park has weighed in on this issue. You can read our letter, plus receive more information and a petition to voice your concerns.