Beachwood Seeks Relief from Visitor Crush

By Ryan White, Ledger Contributing Writer

Beachwood

BEACHWOOD CANYON—Resident Sarajane Schwartz has seen changes over the 35 years she’s called Beachwood Canyon home. But nothing compares to the last three, when she said the neighborhood has been under near-constant siege by GPS-wielding tourists seeking views using their phone’s GPS mapping, to find the Hollywood sign and access to Griffith Park’s trails.

With the visitors bring problems: long lines of traffic clogging narrow canyon roads, pedestrians walking down the middle of streets with no sidewalks, and impromptu picnics along otherwise quiet streets and homeowners’ yards. Schwartz says tourists regularly ask her for water or to use her home’s bathroom. Less gracious visitors have been spotted urinating in front yards, she said.

“This whole place is like Disneyland, except they wouldn’t allow this is in Disneyland because there’s no supervision,” said Schwartz, calling Beachwood Drive “a mile-long parking lot.”

Beachwood Canyon residents hope a series of preferential parking districts (PPDs)—permit zones that limit who can park on a given street—will bring some relief on streets such as Hollyridge, Deronda and Ledgewood drives.

Residents of Beachwood Canyon’s upper reaches, known as Hollywoodland, say new city measures to control traffic and congestion are also sorely needed.

“[T]his gridlock issue has escalated, yet it’s not a holiday, and it’s going on during the week,” said Fran Reichenbach, Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association board member, in an email.

But Schwartz and some of her neighbors say the parking restrictions are little more than a band-aid.

“The PPDs are a very reluctant solution,” she said. “No one here loves them, but we’re reluctantly doing it because it’s so dangerous up here.”

Local resident Christine O’Brien, former president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Assoc., said pedestrians are often oblivious to traffic.

“They walk two or three abreast, walking with traffic,” she said. “You have to start citing some of these people.”

Shutting down the Hollyridge lot and trailhead at the end Beachwood Drive – some residents say the trailhead’s small gravel parking lot was installed illegally in 2002 without proper public hearings and environmental reviews – would be music to the ears of some Beachwood residents.

“If we do this together, the fact that there is no access to Griffith Park from Beachwood Canyon and almost zero legal parking available in the area will spread like the wildfire from a carelessly tossed cigarette butt,” the area’s recent neighborhood newsletter wrote.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the Beachwood area, said when he first started hiking the area in 1978, he would see five cars parked near the Hollyridge trailhead at sunrise.

“Now, on most days, especially weekends, the parking lot is filled at sunrise with cars,” LaBonge said. “People want to hike and exercise.”

While LaBonge said he is not fond of shutting the trailhead access, he said he has spoken with the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks about possibly closing the trailhead area during peak hours, say from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., from spring break on through the summer.

But according to Raul Leon, senior park maintenance supervisor, he wasn’t aware of any imminent trailhead closures for the site.

Other ideas include a designated vista point for tourists seeking views of the sign, or a shuttle from a metro station up through Beachwood to reduce traffic, the latter of which residents adamantly oppose.

“Personally, I believe in the park system and that people [should] have access to it,” LaBonge said. “But you got to have balance, and right now it’s not balanced.”

LaBonge has requested a report—expected in March—from several city departments on possible traffic and safety improvements for the area.

As dusk approached on a recent Monday evening, a stream of cars, many with out-of-state plates, idled or searched for parking on Beachwood, as a large “LOT FULL” sign sat in the middle of the street near the Hollyridge trailhead gate.

Local resident O’Brien says the promotion of the Hollywood sign by the tourism and entertainment industries are also partly to blame.

“When you allow a company to film and show the sign as its background and millions and millions of people see that, it gives the message you can go there, you can drive there, you can be there, and the hell with the surrounding neighborhood, the hell with the environment,” she said.

Some residents, are still weighing possible legal action to pressure the city to address what they consider environmental and safety violations including traffic-induced delays for emergency vehicles, as well as the potential for a cigarette to ignite the drought-stricken hills surrounding the homes.

“It’s just a matter of time before there’s going to be a horrible, horrible, tragedy up here,” resident Schwartz said. “The city has been warned. It’s negligent that they’re allowing this condition to happen.”

 

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