Suit Filed vs Closure of Beachwood to Griffith Park

5-cover-art_beachwood_los-feliz_may-2016-copy(GRIFFITH PARK) Three local organizations are challenging the city of Los Angeles’ recent decision to close a main access point to one of the easiest and most direct trail routes to the iconic Hollywood Sign.

The city permanently closed the Beachwood Drive gate to the Hollyridge Trail April 18, with officials saying they were obeying a court order.

But a motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today by Friends of Griffith Park, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Assoc. claims the move directly contradicts the judge’s ruling.

“A basic right of Angelenos is access to its public parks. Any access threatened by special interest groups to Griffith Parkland is a violation of Col. Griffith’s declaration that the park be free and open to all,” said Clare Darden, a trustee for the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust.

The closure stemmed from litigation regarding access to the Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables, also on Beachwood Drive, which provides horseback rides in Griffith Park as well as boarding for horses.

According to long held documents with the city as well as a recent court order, the ranch owns a 20-foot strip of land near the gate. Trespassers, according to ranch owners, came and went on that land, over the years, but their numbers became exponential after the advent of GPS and the ubiquity of smartphones.

In their lawsuit, ranch owners eventually complained the city made the crush of visitors and tourists worse as it began funneling hikers onto its “exclusive easement road” with advertising, via a press release, that pedestrians could safely access the area using a new gate, which was interfering with its’ business.

According to a statement issued in March by the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks, “The court ruled that pedestrian access along the road to Sunset Ranch was incompatible with Sunset Ranch’s legal easement and impeded their ability to conduct business.”

A February ruling by Judge Elizabeth Feffer found the city had to provide access to the trail “as is practicable” at a location near the Beachwood gate but that would not interfere with the ranch’s use of the roadway easement.

Feffer also ruled the city had discretion to determine the method by which it provides the public with access to the trail. Since then, the city has redirected pedestrians to nearby access points to Griffith Park at Canyon and Vermont Canyon roads.

But in a statement, the Griffith Park organizations that filed the motion accused the city and Sunset Ranch of entering an “improper backroom deal” when the gate was permanently closed, “giving control over a gate (paid for at taxpayer expense) and a trailhead (which belongs to the public) to a private party, forever.”

A homeowners’ group in the area has also filed a lawsuit with the city to shut the trailhead down at Beachwood Canyon saying the estimated annual tens of thousands of tourists that previously used the access point, prior to its closure in April, created an unsafe environment.

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1 Response

  1. Allison Cohen says:

    Thank you for publishing and educating the public on topics relating to the preservation of both the parks and neighborhoods.

    I would like to add some comments to “It’s Sunset for Beachwood Canyon Access to Griffith Park.” The entire park issue is complex and inter-connects many previous articles you have published. In particular, I am concerned about some of the quotes Mr. Laib expressed in this article. To set the record straight, three of our Hollywoodland board members requested two meetings with Mr. Laib in 2016 (shortly after a RAP MMD Circulation plan public meeting occurred). Our purpose was to discuss common ground solutions, recognizing Los Feliz and Hollywoodland are affected by park related traffic and needed to work together. He chose not participate and never followed through with dialogue, despite our attempts.

    To better understand our issues people need to understand our unique history and physical characteristics relative to the city and park. Geographically, Hollywoodland is further into the canyon than any other residential community bordering park land. Hollywoodland is a residential community of 570 homes with substandard streets, a small commercial center, a 2 acre commercial horse facility (all surrounded by three sides of open space). This open space encompasses 444 acres that was gifted to the city in 1944 by the Sherman Company, the same concern that developed the Hollywoodland tract in 1923. There are numerous easement protections assured to property owners throughout Hollywoodland Tract 6450. Please see my website hollywoodlandgiftedpark.com for more facts, maps and details.

    Mr. Laib’s quotes need clarity: “We oppose any trail closures to the park”. The easement road leading to the Sunset Stables/Ranch was never an official opening into the Hollywoodland Gifted Park (HGP) section of Griffith Park (GP). All Hollywoodland residential streets dead-end at the gift. There are no official openings into the HGP section through the residential Hollywoodland. The official opening into the Sherman Gift has always been through Canyon Drive in Brush/Bronson Canyon.

    “It was a condition of the Griffith gift that the park be available to all Angelenos”. Mr. Griffith’s 1896 donation was completely different than the 1944 Sherman Company donation. Pls see website for clarity.

    “Kicking the can further east”, that is not problem-solving. It’s just creating new gridlock for other neighborhoods.” This was and is not our intent. We have been advocates of developing other access points and venues from the Forest Lawn side for some time. Please see 1988 proposal attached. Currently we are advocating an approach from Forest Lawn and Toyon ( posted on HGP). If Mr. Laib would have taken the time to meet with us we all could have been united as property owners and park protectors rather than dividers.

    Our offer to have dialogue still remains open.

    In reference to the recent legal filing by Friends of Griffith Park, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the Oaks Homeowners Association: These groups should be a bit embarrassed about their lack of history and understanding of facts. They can educate themselves by referencing Hollywoodlandgiftedpark.com. I do have opinions on the homepage, but all other information has been researched and noted.

    The restored easement road at the end of Beachwood Drive was originally owned by the Sherman Company. In the early 1940’s Sherman Company gave Eben Coe, the Ranch owner an ingress/egress easement. Those easement rights stayed with the land and is noted on on tract maps. The open space land discussed by the Griffith Trust, etc. was never part of the original Griffith land donation.

    This open space was part of General Moses Sherman’s Hollywoodland tract 6450 developed in 1923. Tract 6450 encompasses the Hollywoodland residential area beginning at the stone gates, north to the sign, west to Lake Hollywood and east to Brush/ Bronson Canyon. The tract’s 444 acre open space land surrounding the Hollywoodland residential community was donated to the city of Los Angeles by the Sherman Company in 1944.

    I hope this helps. I appreciate you interest and your professionalism relative to the articles you offer. We need more objectivity and fact checking in all media outlets today.

    Sincerely,
    Christine Mills O’Brien
    Hollywoodland and Hollywoodland Gifted Park

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