We are asking our members to send emails in opposition to the aerial tram. There are many reasons to oppose it and we’ve listed FoGP’s most salient points below. If any of these statements capture your sense of outrage, please feel free to expand upon it and add in other thoughts as well.
After carefully studying the four aerial tram routes Friends of Griffith Park opposes all these routes for the following reasons:
- Permanent destruction of open space, habitat, and wildlife is inevitable.
- The stated purpose of the aerial tram (transit) is simply a pretense for further development into this urban wilderness, while alternatives that would aid in the reduction of tourist traffic and associated problems lie on the shelf collecting dust.
- This massive infrastructure undertaking will lead to large-scale closures to hikers, equestrians and other park users during a long, expensive construction period.
- Col. Griffith’s gift to Los Angeles would be dishonored and could affect the good intentions of other philanthropists in the future.
- The Vision for Griffith Park and the Historical-Cultural Monument designations would both be rendered obsolete.
If you don’t have time or would feel more comfortable using our sample letter below list of recipients, please feel free to forward it to the list of city officials. Simply copy and paste the email addresses below into the TO field of your email or use the ALL Recipients link to include all addresses in one email.
A brief historical background is available below the letter.
Your Email and Phone
A Brief Background
The history of Griffith Park is as complex as the history of Col. Griffith J. Griffith, and the current problems related to traffic and parking are equally complex and in need of a holistic approach as any proposals will have far-reaching effects on the Park as well as this community.
This property was initially donated to Los Angeles on December 16, 1896, by Col. Griffith J. Griffith and his wife, Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer and included 3,015 acres of what was then known as Los Feliz Rancho. Later, Griffith’s son would add an additional 351 acres of land bordering the Los Angeles River. Originally Griffith Park was located far from the city center but Griffith foresaw the city’s expansion; eventually the City of Los Angeles stretched to Griffith Park boundaries, bringing vehicles loaded with day tourists and picnickers who desired a respite from the city.
After many years of uncontrolled use of this parkland, it became clear Griffith Park was in need of protection and in response, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust submitted an application for landmark status that would encompass the entire park. In January, 2009, L.A. City formally adopted Historic-Cultural Monument #942, making Griffith Park the “largest urban wilderness park in the United States.” The designation stipulated that “large portions of this landscape appear to retain integrity dating back to the period of the Gabrielino Indians… the earliest known inhabitants of the region.” Also noted, according to the Daily News, the application filed by the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust identified 36 elements making the 4,218 (now 4,310)-acre park culturally significant, including the Greek Theatre, Griffith Observatory, Mt. Hollywood Tunnel, bird sanctuary, Bronson Caves, the Hollywood sign and Feliz Adobe. “The Wilderness Area is a Historically Sensitive Resource,” per the Monument status documentation (defined explicitly with mapping).
In the 1960s moves were made to alleviate some of the problems associated with increased traffic, created by the overlap of Park/surrounding community/freeway access. While we may think aerial trams are a new concept to help control the traffic, in truth, they are not. A proposal to insert an aerial tram was proposed, and soundly rejected by the community as it would significantly impact the Park and in no way alleviate traffic impacts.
Early Aerial Tram Proposals
To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” In addition to building an aerial tram in the Park in 1942, a revolving restaurant was proposed for the top of Mt. Hollywood and the ridge was extensively graded. Didn’t you wonder why the top of Mt. Hollywood looks so unnaturally flat? The plan eventually died because of World War II and a lack of funding.
In 1960 and again in 1967-1968 plans for an aerial tram resurfaced like a dead body in a river. It was Recreation and Park’s (RAP) solution to alleviating traffic congestion at Griffith Observatory. This time there were two competing proposals for a revolving restaurant and Hollywood Museum although neither was received with enthusiasm. Councilman Art Snyder took a position opposing any aerial tram in Griffith Park. “Not only will such a project inject commercialism into the park and destroy its atmosphere, but it will cause additional traffic congestion in the areas most congested today … it will destroy the usefulness the Griffith Park trail system for amateur riders.”
Snyder was joined in opposition by Councilman Marvin Braude, chair of the Recreation and Parks Committee. “Our people care about these mountains and they do not want them scarred with garish commercial developments. The best thing we can do about the natural beauty of our land is preserve it as a priceless heritage which we are duty-bound to pass on to our children.”
The Los Feliz Improvement Association (LFIA) led the charge in opposing the aerial tram. Snyder received hundreds of letters supporting his opposition to an aerial tram “It will permanently deface the skyline.” “It is contrary to Griffith’s donation as it will give a portion of the park to commercial interests.” “It would be the desecration of one of California’s finest municipal natural parks.” “It would be disastrous to property values.” “It would be using a public park for private gain.” “What use does the city have for another carnival?”
Gordon Whitnall of the Griffith Trust said, “We have an obligation to Col. Griffith to accomplish that which he had in mind, Nature was his objective.” The PTA stated, “All parks should be used for recreational purposes.” The League of Women Voters declared, “Parks should be contrasts to urban development.” Hollywoodland Improvement Assn. said, “We cannot make a gift of property to private enterprise.” The Los Feliz Improvement Assn. objected to the high visibility of the system on the south slopes of the mountain, “Keep the park available to the people.”
Back in 2003, the city hired an outside consulting group, Melendrez Design Partners, to create a Griffith Park Master Plan that would become a roadmap for its future. Prior to start of the plan, three workshops were held to gather input and ideas from the public. The public sent a clear message to the consultants … leave the park alone because the public loves it the way it is now.
Two years and $400,000 later, the city publicly released the plan. Needless to say, the public was horrified at what had transpired behind closed doors. Among the exploitative attractions proposed were two aerial trams, a commercial pleasure pier bordering the river, a culinary school, and an “eco-hotel.”
The community of Griffith Park patrons and protectors soundly rejected the Melendrez Plan. They also shamed the city for the wasteful expenditure. Eventually, with support from RAP and the council district (CD4) office, a community-based Master Plan Working Group was formed. The 11-member panel met for eight years with the public in attendance at regular meetings. The end product was a draft Master Plan more fitting to the spirit of Colonel Griffith’s gift. The document recognized this park for the people of Los Angeles was created so the community could escape the hustle-bustle of urban living by returning to nature. The concept of Griffith Park as urban wilderness was embraced.
Ultimately, the draft Master Plan, sterilized by the city, was adopted by L.A. City Council, and signed by Mayor Garcetti as “A Vision for Griffith Park” in January 2014. The Vision Plan clearly spells out concerns about preservation of wildlife, wildlife corridors, native species and park biodiversity. “Recreation & Parks should avoid… negatively impact[ing]the natural environment of the Park as well as mobility, views, wildlife corridors or landscaping of the Park. (p.46) The plan was also concerned about the park becoming a victim of privatization and commercialization. Under the heading Avoid Evicting or Displacing Established Park Users: “Ensure that no decision as to the addition, demolition or replacement of a facility results in an existing Park user no longer having access to necessary facilities.” (p.56)
In 2020, the “Save Griffith Park” car stickers may again need distribution as the aerial tram clearly stands at odds with many recommendations outlined in the Vision Plan. “At this time, there is no clearly identified need for new recreational rides, such as railroads, aerial tramways or funiculars.” (p.70) The community’s determination to protect the country’s largest urban wilderness park can be extremely powerful, especially in light of the City’s current aerial tram scheme.
The aerial tram – once again revisited
Fast forward to 2020 as another proposal to install a “closed loop” aerial tram in Griffith Park begins to take shape. While we are being told that we are currently in the feasibility stage of such a project, after carefully studying all of the information presented by Stantec (engineering) and Consensus (outreach/consulting) we are nothing short of alarmed at what is being considered.
What is at stake is a massive, commercial infrastructure system that will have permanent, far-reaching, and devastating impacts on the park. Specifically, this aerial system would be extensive with 2.5 miles of towers, cables, and gondolas traversing the Wilderness Area.
What will this aerial tram look like? Towers looming 45-100 ft. overhead along heavily trafficked trails, supporting 25-95 gondolas ferrying 8-10 people per gondola. Several routes further necessitate an 8000 sq. ft., 26 ft. tall angle station mounted atop the scenic ridgeline of “Baby Bell.” A sprawling, 20,000 sq. ft. “corral/viewing station” holding as many as 2,000 visitors per hour. This is not something that has any place in Griffith Park, now or ever!
It is difficult to mentally grasp the enormity of such an ill-advised proposal. To give you a better sense of the sheer scale, we have commissioned several renderings to help visualize the true impact if this scheme is executed.
Luckily, we’re not alone in this fight. YOU have a voice as well and we implore you to use it. Please fill out the survey so Consensus and the City can appreciate your opposition to the further commercialization and destruction of our beloved park. The park has faced numerous threats over the years, and while trams are not a new one, this proposal is here, now.
It’s time… add your voice to PROTECT GRIFFITH PARK!
For those interested in learning more about the Dixon Report, the full report can be accessed here.
More information on project scope and impacts can be accessed at UrbanizeLA
Another way to voice your opposition to the project… Sign the petition at the Sierra Club Campaign