Suit Filed vs Closure of Beachwood to Griffith Park
(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.