Lawsuit Filed to Open Beachwood Gate to Hollywood Sign

Some residents in the hills near Griffith Park say their once-quiet neighborhoods have been overrun by tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign. Photo: Frederick Dennstedt / Flickr Creative Commons.

GRIFFITH PARK—Three entities filed a new lawsuit July 18th in Los Angeles Superior Court against the city of Los Angeles demanding it re-open a popular access point at the end of Beachwood Canyon Drive leading to the iconic Hollywood Sign.

Attorneys for plaintiffs Friends of Griffith Park, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Assoc. claim in the 12-page filing the city violated state and city law and ordinances, various community plans and the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, when it closed the gate as part of a legal settlement with the Sunset Ranch Stables, who had claimed that hordes of tourists, hikers and pedestrians—seeking to hike the Hollyridge Trail to the sign—had trespassed on their property, negatively affecting their business.

In that ruling, Judge Elizabeth Feffer ordered the gate closed but for the city to provide public access to the Hollyridge Trail at a location as close as practical.

In response, the city shuttered the gate April 18th and chose to redirect pedestrians to another park entrance at Bronson Canyon, located at the end of Canyon Drive, about 2 1/2 miles away.

The lawsuit states the city acted improperly in its actions in a variety of ways including that by closing the gate, it gave public land to a commercial entity and that any decision to close access to the park had to be determined publicly by the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks Commission and possibly by the Los Angeles City Council.

In redirecting cars of pedestrians to the Bronson Canyon entrance, the new suit claims the city did so without evaluating the impact of that decision on the residential neighborhood near that access point, which, the lawsuit said is in violation of CEQA.

The city’s decision, “heavily burdened an adjoining neighborhood, with added traffic, dust, noise [and] detriment to wildlife,” attorneys Mitchell Tsia and Mike Gatto wrote in the pleading.

The document also claims the city violated open meeting laws in deciding to close the gate and the office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, “acted in excess of his authority,” to do so in a settlement with the stables.

The city, decades ago, entered into an agreement with the stables guaranteeing the ranch the right to use the public trailhead in perpetuity for access to its privately owned, two-acre parcel inside Griffith Park. There is no other way to access the ranch from public roads.

The issue of public access through this particular gate into Griffith Park has been ongoing, with homeowners saying their neighborhood of narrow streets without sidewalks has been overrun by cars and pedestrians seeking to get near the sign. Many of them have cited safety issues as well as crude and reckless behavior by some driving and walking in the neighborhood as a reason to close the gate.

Meanwhile, a number of others, like the petitioners in the latest legal action and some other Beachwood Canyon locals are demanding that no access point into Griffith Park ever be shuttered, citing Griffith’s mandate when donating the land to the city: that the park should remain freely accessible to everyone.

This is now the third lawsuit that has been filed against the city regarding the issue of the Beachwood gate.

For his part, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who oversees Griffith Park as well as Beachwood Canyon, expressed disappointment over the new lawsuit.

Previously, he has said he and his staff have held countless meetings with stakeholders to find a compromise to the issue.

“However, opposing views and constant litigation and has kept the city from moving forward on long-term solutions for our neighborhoods and a better experience for park users,” he said through his spokesperson Estevan Montemayor. “This subject has pitted neighborhood against neighborhood, which has only worsened over the last few years.”

According to the statement, Ryu is “disappointed that instead of working with the city to find common ground, another piece of litigation has been filed which will create more uncertainty about the future of park access and neighborhood relief.”

Recently, a Beachwood resident and former civil engineer said he has come up with a way to have public access near the closed gate without impeding on Sunset Ranch’s property, while some residents from another neighborhood, called Wonder View—about four miles west of Beachwood Canyon—say that since the gate closure their neighborhood has also been overrun with tourists hoping to get near the Hollywood Sign. Read those stories here: Public Access, Wonder View.

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