Vote to Officially Carve Up Griffith Park for Special Interests Expected Today
LeBong 'negotiated' the deals in the fifteen minutes before the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee moved the Griffith Park Historic Monument application forward with those last minute changes as part of the package. The duplicitous parties included the Griffith Trust, the Autry, DWP, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.
The Griffith Trust, chaired by the great-grandson of the larger-than-life historical figure, Col. Griffith Jenkins Griffith, is the organization who began the process to have the entire park designated a City of Los Angeles Cultural Historic Landmark. In an LA Weekly article about the need for the application, about Los Angeles' s most visible icon Van Griffith was quoted as saying: "It’s not a theme park. It’s not a movie studio. People don’t want to see it turned into Disneyland ..."
Yet even Griffith himself drank LeBong's koolaid, agreeing to exclude huge chunks of the park in the time prior to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM's) January 12th vote for as yet unknown reasons. Since the changes were at the last minute, there was obviously no public comment on them and there was nothing in writing for anyone to examine, including PLUM committee members (Reyes, Weiss, Huizar) themselves.
During the entire PLUM hearing, wannabe City Attorney Jack Weiss never bothered to even sit up from his perpetual chair slump while Reyes seemed amused by public concern that the park remain whole in the application, in spite of the fact that more than 15,000 people -- 15,000 VOTERS -- signed a petition to safeguard Griffith Park. The evidence pretty much leads one to the conclusion that this so-called last minute wrangling was pre-planned, with the PLUM Committee in on the deal.
As for why Van Griffith allowed LeBong to have his way with his family's gift to the citizens of Los Angeles is anyone's guess, including Griffith's. From the LA Weekly:
The chafing question now, though, is whether the unwieldy preservation plan, jam-packed with City Hall–esque exclusions and qualifications that almost nobody can decipher, will accomplish what homeowners and activists have fought for — a Griffith Park protected forever from chains and large-scale development. Or is the door still open to traffic-generating restaurants, aerial tramways and theme hotels?
“I’m not sure myself,” says Griffith “Van” Griffith, who has spearheaded the defense of the mountainous 4,218 acres, a crown jewel among the nation’s urban parks. “It seems like a kind of gray area floating in limbo. If they wanted to put aerial trams in the zoo, I don’t know what would happen.”
What does this mean for Griffith Park?
As for the clowncilmember who admits to idolizing Walt Disney, the opportunity to formalize such zones of development opportunity in his personal back yard must be LeBong's greatest wet dream ever. So what has been magically 'excluded' without public process from the Griffith Park Historic Landmark application?
Biggest Holes Awaiting Development:
1. Griffith Park land leased to the Autry Museum for the criminal sum of $1 per year.
No matter how you slice it, the Autry Museum is simply a lessee of City park land. However, the Autry behaves as if they own this public land. The Autry's plans for '....their land', quoting Latham and Watkins' cave dweller Bill Delvac read as Disneyland meets the Wild West. Gene Autry's little monument to the fictitious history of the television cowboy is a private non-profit corporation that in 1985 was given a land lease of 10 acres of Griffith Park in a backroom deal proffered by Tom LeBong's predecessor through the Board of Referred Powers, which -- deja vu! -- may one again be raised from the dead to approve the Autry's current expansion plans. The merger agreement between the Southwest Museum Corporation and the Autry's Griffith Park museum promised that the art and rare artifacts displayed in the museum would stay in the SW's Mt. Washington location, keeping the City's oldest museum viable.
Expansion plan phase 1 and 2 nearly triples the size of the Griffith Park facility and takes physical control of the Southwest Museum's billion dollar inventory, while reducing the SW Museum to a community college classroom. A 100' tower (in violation of current zoning), garish advertising, an expanded event venue with another alcohol license, and a parking garage swallow up the remaining green space around the Autry.
2. Toyon Canyon Restoration Area.
In the 1950s, Los Angeles made the decision to shove a municipal garbage dump in the heart of the park, filling in Toyon Canyon with millions if not billions of tons of refuse.
The impact of such an action has been almost beyond mitigation. It destroyed habitat, buried a number of natural streams that provided water to the plants and animals in the area, polluted the ground water and air via the millions of truck trips to and from the facility, and created a methane-filled mountain of potential landslide that today must be carefully groomed and maintained to keep it from sliding onto a popular picnic area below. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the Bureau of Sanitation, tasked with this maintenance, does not have the correct diameter of pipe installed to handle turbulent-flow runoff at the level needed in Southern California. If true, ignoring the huge environmental devastation this landfill brought to the local ecosystem, families with children at the Mineral Wells Picnic Area may be in physical danger on a regular basis.
Of the many possible, the one true mitigation measure promised to the citizens, both human and animal, was the restoration of the canyon -- now a mountain -- to natural habitat. The official Toyon Canyon Landfill Closure Plan calls for exactly this. Closure and restoration of a landfill to usable land takes decades. Today, partway through the official closure process, endangered bird species such as the shy meadowlark have already returned to Toyon.
In conversations between members of the press and Tom LeBong's office, regarding Toyon, representatives from CD 4 have reiterated the councilman's mounting frustration at "...letting all that land go to waste." To the controversial 2005 Melendrez draft of the Griffith Park Master Plan, LeBong has added full-sized baseball fields with lights, parking, and cable cars running from either the Zoo or the picnic area to the top. "Angel's Flight meets Dodger Stadium", if you will. Although LeBong has had to distance himself from the Melendrez draft due to major public backlash, he still chafes at all that wasted land up there.
Expect these little projects to be back on the table after today.
Dumping things like landfills and City Clowncil-kitch seems to be the ongoing fate of Los Angeles' most iconic piece of land. When the residents of Silverlake decided they wanted to keep their reservoir above-ground where they could enjoy the view and 'passively' recreating around its perimeter, the below-ground tanks planned for Silverlake were unceremoniously dumped into Griffith Park without any public process. "Headworks", lying next to the main equestrian entrance into Griffith Park, had been slated for trails and an equestrian picnic area. The land where DWP will be burying part of Los Angeles' s water system is next to the 134 freeway and LA River and is highly polluted by MTBE. DWP authorities promise the tanks will not leak or be contaminated by the ground pollution. However, the DWP plan calls for directing part of the LA River through the property and back out into the channel.
No comment so far on just how much MTBE if any will be added to the river itself.