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LA Zoo Expansion — FoGP’s Next Steps

On Sep 13, 2023

In 1896 Colonel Griffith J. Griffith donated land that became Griffith Park in order to provide a respite from the pressures of urban life for all people of Los Angeles. Unfortunately – over the years – much has been done to turn this gift into a cash cow. The most recent attempt by the Los Angeles Zoo (“Zoo”) will destroy 16 acres of Griffith Park’s native California chaparral habitat in order to develop the California Planning Area. While some aspects of this Project provide for improved animal habitat and enhancements consistent with the Zoo’s education and conservation purposes, much of the Vision Plan is centered around increasing the use of the Zoo as an entertainment venue and event center.

 

Inspired by the spirit of Griffith’s generosity to the people of Los Angeles, Friends of Griffith Park, and the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust have filed a lawsuit to address and stop portions of the Zoo Vision Plan from becoming a reality.
Click here for FoGP’s accompanying press release.

An article in the LA Times [Sept. 14, 2023] provides more background on this lawsuit.
LAist has also posted an online article.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION & LEAD-UP TO FOGP’S LAWSUIT

UPDATE: AUGUST 3, 2023

Now that the Los Angeles Zoo Vision Plan has been approved at City Council, FoGP is considering options. We greatly appreciate all those who attended/spoke at meetings, or submitted comments to the Council File. We continue to take the position the Zoo seems to ignore — that the Zoo resides in Griffith Park — not the other way around.

Thank you to all who received our eblasts, and reached out to ask about next steps. Moving forward, we will continue to alert our membership and the community regarding decisions made in coordination with other environmental organizations.

Agenda item 21-0828 CD-4
for LA City Council / Wed., Aug. 2, 2023

REVISED FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT (EIR), ENVIRONMENTAL FINDINGS, STATEMENT OF OVERRIDING CONSIDERATIONS, and MITIGATION MONITORING PROGRAM (MMP); NEIGHBORHOODS AND COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE REPORT relative to the certification of the Revised FInal EIR and Project approval for the Los Angeles Zoo Vision Plan.

Recommendations for Council action:
1 CERTIFY that the Revised Final EIR was completed in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act; that the Revised Final EIR was presented to the Council, as the decision-making body of the City; that the Council reviewed and considered the information contained in the Revised Final EIR; and, that the Revised Final EIR reflects and expresses the City’s independent judgment and analysis.
2 ADOPT the Findings and Statement of Overriding Considerations detailed in the June 8, 2023, Zoo report, attached to the Council file.
3 ADOPT the MMP, detailed in the June 8, 2023, Zoo report, attached to the Council file.
4 SPECIFY that the documents constituting the record of proceedings in this matter are at the Office of the City Clerk, 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90012; in the files of the Zoo Department (Zoo) located at 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027 and at the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering, 1169 South Broadway, Suite 600, Los Angeles, California 90015; and any other relevant City department.
5 APPROVE the Project as described as Alternative 1.5: The California Focused Conservation Alternative in the Revised Final EIR and the 2022 Los Angeles Zoo Draft Plan: Alternative 1.5, attached to the Council file.
6 DIRECT the Zoo, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, in consultation with Council District 4, to establish a formal Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMT) monitoring process within 90 days. This formal process should cover all phases of the Vision Plan, and should outline achieving the aspiration of a 15 percent reduction in VMT’s and targets for modeshare split.

Fiscal Impact Statement: The Zoo Department reports that approval and certification of the Vision Plan, and Revised Final EIR, do not have a direct fiscal impact as there is no obligation of funding. Implementation of early phases will facilitate increased attendance and revenue, ensuring a financially sustaining operating model for the Zoo into the future.

Community Impact Statement: Yes
Against unless Amended:
Los Feliz Neighborhood Council
Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council
Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council
Atwater Village Neighborhood Council
Hollywood United Neighborhood Council

For if Amended:
Atwater Village Neighborhood Council
Palms Neighborhood Council
Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council

For Current Plan:
Pico Union Neighborhood Council
Against:
Silver Lake Neighborhood Council

Neighborhoods and Community Enrichment Council Committee Meeting — June 28th, 2023

In late June, Alternative 1.5 was moved forward by the Neighborhoods and Community Enrichment Council Committee. Full Council sign-off is the next final step. The Committee’s approval with only two Council Members presiding seemed preordained. During just the week prior to the hearing, nearly 350 comments were submitted into the Council File in opposition to Alternative 1.5, as written. A Sierra Club petition tallied another 300-plus in opposition. Comments added in support were a mere handful. There was no mention of this intense level of public opposition at the meeting. Instead, the hearing was a victory lap with lavish accolades for people responsible for the Zoo Vision Plan.

As several have wondered… Was the public even heard?

Those unable to attend or are interested in hearing this meeting are encouraged to tune in to the full audio HERE.

As the newest iteration of the Los Angeles Zoo expansion is being dissembled to the public, Friends of Griffith Park would like to clarify some points.

Friends of Griffith Park has been incredibly involved in analyzing and providing thoughtful feedback at each stage of the LA Zoo’s Vision Plan EIR process to date. We are now being presented with a new Alternative 1.5, as articulated by the Focused, Recirculated EIR (FREIR). FoGP is encouraged to see a number of major changes to this new plan and feel that it is significantly better than the Proposed Project. Notably the recognition that the presence of native species in the Africa Area merits conserving and protecting this hillside against future development. Unfortunately, we can still NOT support this Alternative 1.5 as it has been presented.

Sadly, this new Alternative 1.5 plan still includes the proposed, massive development of the California Area, which encompasses a currently undeveloped, largely native habitat. Beyond just developing this hillside, the prospect of a massive excavation project to create “Condor Canyon” would have an everlasting and unnecessary impact on Griffith Park. We have provided a detailed letter of feedback directly to the FREIR team and would encourage you to read it for more granular details about how we arrived at our conclusion regarding Alt. 1.5.

  • The enormity of habitat destruction of the Condor Canyon is staggering. Excavating more than 74,000 cubic yard of earth/rock will leave permanent scars on this pristine ridgeline. Dump trucks clogging the roads, noise from blasting rock away, razing and bulldozing the land — all for what?
  • The new plan also calls for more event space to be constructed near the entrance, on top of 73,500 sq ft. of visitor centers planned. We can imagine late night parties with excessive sound and lights. Is this appropriate use of the space?
  • LA Zoo animal space would increase while areas for residential wildlife would decrease. Overall, 16.1 acres of land is targeted for development that will displace native trees and plants. Required mitigation does little to offset loss of an entire ecosystem.

We fully support the Zoo’s mission of conservation, outreach and education, and look forward to supporting their plans for modernization and evolution in the future; however, this cannot come at the expense of razing undeveloped lands and disrupting the wildlife (native species) that currently call it home.

The Zoo can meet their objectives of animal care excellence and fulfill their important mission of educating as many people as possible about conservation without destroying this hillside. An updated version of Alternate 1.5 that models its California Area development along the lines of what was proposed in Alternative 1 is a concept we would fully and enthusiastically support.

If, after attending the Zoo public hearing on Aug. 15th at 6 PM, and reading the FoGP response letter, if you would like to provide your own response to this Zoo expansion, please respond no later than August 29, 2022 / 5 PM.

PLEASE NOTE: RESPONSE DATE HAS BEEN EXTENDED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 23, 2022, so please weigh in!

Either mail or email your response and include this information: LA Zoo Vision Plan Focused Recirculated EIR Comments on the subject line to…
Norman Mundy, Environmental Supervisor II
Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Management Group
1149 S. Broadway, Suite 600, Mail Stop 939
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Norman.Mundy@lacity.org

UPDATE:
Tonight (Aug. 15, 2022) the LA Zoo held a public forum and for many who tuned in via Microsoft Teams, it was a frustrating experience when folks attempted to weigh in with public comment. This recording will be shared in the next few days but in the meantime, there is another way to voice your opinion.

More information on the LA Zoo Alt. 1.5 Plan can be accessed HERE.

For Media Contact Information:
Rachel Schwartz / PR Advantedge, Inc.
rachel@pr-a.biz / 310.990.2764


Several areas of concern for FoGP…
Construction along the ridgeline (indicated in RED) to create the huge 18,000 sq. ft. California Visitor Center (1) and creation of Condor Canyon (see second image) would have huge impacts.
FINAL EIR PDF can be accessed here.

Comments

19 Comments

  1. Heather Parker

    Why on earth would you remove protected trees???? So many things wrong with this proposed expansion, including the points already made. The zoo is part of Griffith Park, not the other way around. Keep disrupting Gaia with developments and disrupting the land. Not good. No to this project.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      We’ve been wondering the same thing since the Zoo Vision Plan first came onto the scene. And we concur – the Los Angeles Zoo resides in Griffith Park, and therefore, should respect the land it occupies. Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  2. Denise Weintraub

    I’m writing to oppose the LA Zoo Alternative 1.5 Expansion plan. Griffith Park is an urban oasis that has been designated for much enjoyed and needed outdoor recreation as well as the harmonious co-existence of plants, animals and humans alike! It is unparalleled in the United States and needs to remain as such!

    The Alternative 1.5 plan still includes the proposed, massive development of the California Area, which encompasses a currently undeveloped, largely native habitat. Beyond just developing this hillside, the prospect of a massive excavation project to create ‘Condor Canyon’

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      Denise… you hit a key point the L.A. Zoo seems unwilling to acknowledge…
      The Zoo resides in Griffith Park… not the other way around.
      Thanks for making that point, and for pointing out some of the more egregious elements of the current plan.

      Reply
  3. Chris Runco

    I just sent my comments into Norman Mundy at the L.A. Bureau of Engineering. After reviewing the Zoo proposal in detail, I believe it has many good ideas, but the massive excavation and civil work described at the Entry Area and the proposed Condor Canyon project are not only incredibly expensive, but totally unnecessary. They do not really add to the greater accessibility of the Zoo, which is the stated purpose. I have worked on many such projects in the past, so I know what it takes for accessibility, and a Condor Canyon is not it!
    I would like to send FOGP a copy of my comments, but I cannot find any contact information for the group or any of its officers. If there is an email, please send it to me. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      Speaking for all of us at FoGP, thank you for your comments and thank you for reaching out to Norman Mundy to voice your opinion.

      Reply
  4. charlie and rose kaplan

    no to this project

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Lim

    No to the destruction of the natural habitat at one of the most beautiful parts of Griffith Park, which includes the Condor Trail and Skyline Trail, for creating another [second-rate] amusement park by the name of “Condor Canyon” for rock climbing. This area is already in usage as a popular equesterian trail. Adding an equesterian lodge could provide a weekend recreation venue which does not involve the wide-scale destruction of natural habitat.

    Although the L.A. Zoo has provided affordable recreation activity for Los Angeles families, its primary value consists of being affordable. The increase of visitors for the new amusement park will only increase traffic congestion and SMOG. If the L.A. Zoo is anything to go by, we see birds in captivity and clipped wings, for the sake of providing a spectacle to visitors. At certain spots of the Zoo which are designated for bird watching, we don’t see any birds. Nature cannot fluorish in captivity.

    We don’t have a Griffith Park Nature Center, while other regional parks have a nature center. The park can provide an important venue for youth and public education.

    Reply
  6. Kristin Sabo

    Every time you turn around, the Zoo is trying to take over more of the urban wilderness interior of Griffith Park and it’s getting old now.

    What really needs to happen is that they need to move to a different location outside of Griffith park where they have the room to expand as needed. A site where future expansion can be taken into consideration in the purchase of land.

    I’ll let the Council of 15 fight it out for where they find that land. However, no conversion of parkland to the glorified amusement park with animals that the Zoo has become unless it is replaced with new, equal open space acreage within City limits as the City Charter states.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      Thanks for stating what many have been feeling, ever since this expansion project was first floated.

      If the Zoo wants to move further afield, this Parkland should be off the table, since 133 acres is a really small landmass…
      What happens when this entity wants to further expand? More natural habitat would be fought over ‘

      Reply
    • Jennifer Lim

      Why does the LA Zoo need to expand? It already has taken up 133 acres and left behind ugly cages and tunnels in its former site.

      In 1967, Berlin and Los Angeles became sister cities, memorialized by the planting of pines and other trees in the Berlin Forest on the east side of Griffith Park. So far, it looks like the only landscape contribution to that area of the park.

      Incidentally, the Berlin Zoo (Berlin Zoological Garden) has used only 86.5 acres to house 1,373 species and 20,219 animals, being the most visited zoo in Europe with 3.5 million visitors. Their architecture is nothing short of breathtaking. See e.g. their Elephant Gate and Lion Gate. The Berlin Zoo is one of the most famous and popular zoos in the world, often ranked side by side with the San Diego Zoo. By the way, the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park only has 100 acres to house 650 species and 3,500 animals.

      In comparison, LA Zoo houses 270 species and 1,400 animals on its present land area of 133 acres. You will find that several exhibits are missing their animal resident[s] in chief. So the zoo is not running out of space, but simply running out of ideas. The entrance of the LA Zoo looks like a BIG PRISON ENTRANCE. Although the zoo took on the aspiration of becoming a certified botanic garden in 2002, what I’ve seen are tropical palm trees and other plants looking in distress.

      You can catch glimpses of the natural beauty of Griffith Park in the natural slopes and native trees flanking the stalls, fences and structures built by the zoo. In comparison, the South Coast Botanic Garden actually planted and created a botanic garden (oooh….aaahh….) on a former landfill. Yet they seem do not seem to run out of creative displays and educational events year round.

      So now the LA Zoo is nursing the ambition of building a safari park in Griffith Park (to follow the example of the 1,800 acre San Diego Safari Park which is only 2 hours drive away)? This ambition is misplaced. There is a more urgent need to use the available areas of the park for outdoor classes and youth education, and to avoid a future of mass incarceration.

      Reply
  7. DIANE WEISS

    For the love of Mother Nature, I am begging you to stop the Zoo Expansion plan! Please only update the existing footprint and do not add one leaf’s worth of destruction to our incredible park.
    The World Wildlife Fund has reported that 60% of our global wildlife has disappeared in only 40 years. Please stop and think about this. Forty years. Sixty percent of our precious animals and flora. Gone. How? BY THOUGHTLESS HUMAN DESECRATION AND DEVELOPMENT. And this is EXACTLY how it occurs. Greedy, short-term thinking. Think again! NO DEVELOPMENT IN GRIFFITH PARK.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      FoGP believes the same values should be applied to areas such as Griffith…
      Unfortunately, we have little control over natural resources like the Park and can only provide expertise and guidance. In fact, Dr. Dan Cooper (FoGP advisor) was one of those who spoke at the last public forum, in addition to FoGP boardmember Miguel Ordenana and others from the scientific community. It remains to be seen if the City will consider these comments as well as others made by the community. Thanks for your comments.

      We urge you, and others to reach out and address your concerns to Norman Mundy ‘

      Reply
  8. Susana Rinderle

    Just submitted!

    Dear Mr. Mundy — please let this show I am deeply opposed to the L.A. Zoo expansion. I am a Los Angeles native, a Glendale resident, and a volunteer with the Raptor Study. I appreciate the Zoo’s mission of conservation, outreach and education, as well as its interest in modernization. However, we do not need more development — in Griffith Park or Los Angeles in general.

    We do not need more cars. We do not need more lights or noise. We do not need more destruction of wildlife and native species. And for what benefit, anyway? To make room for more humans and non-native species? To put more animals in cages for human consumption? No thank you. The Zoo should not become an Instagram-worthy amusement park, but remain a place of education, respect, and conservation. It should focus on being better co-participants in nature and stewards of the earth. Have we learned nothing from the abundant data and stories about how we’re destroying the environment and causing suffering? Let’s show how humans can learn and be better instead of doing the same old crap and destroying everything in our wake. We Angelenos know better.

    NO on the LA Zoo Expansion!

    Reply
  9. Shaun Apffel

    Nope. Not in favor of the destruction to create the canyon proposal. Why not work with the habitat and natural areas present at Griffith Park and accentuate the natural resources here? Good steps taken in redirecting previous proposals of tram and amusement/ entertainment ideas

    Reply
  10. Lionel Mares

    I wrote an email to Norman about this issue. I am concerned about the further destruction of Public Lands at Griffith Park. I do not want to see any more land development and habitat destruction on our public lands such as Griffith Park. We preserve it for future generations. I go to Griffith Park to go hiking and I enjoy it. I also go bicycling there as well. I would rather see more trees planted and plants rather than cages where animals are contained. I am skeptical about this plan by the L.A. Zoo.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      Thank you Lionel, and thank you for your public comments during the Zoo’s recent presentation. You pointedly stated the frustration many on the call were feeling…

      Reply
    • Kathryn Louyse

      John, while we appreciate your words, we also hope you’ll weigh in at the LA City level as many (not completely understanding the scope of the project) are weighing in ‘

      Reply

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