LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — 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 on April 18, with officials saying they were obeying a court order. But a motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday by Friends of Griffith Park, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Association claims the move directly contradicts the judge’s ruling.
“The Griffith Family Trust is extremely adamant about changing the decision that the city of Los Angeles made,” Gerry Hans, vice president of the nonprofit group Friends of Griffith Park, told KCAL9 Tuesday.
Friends of Griffith Park works closely with the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust, the private family trust that represents the estate of Griffith J. Griffith, the wealthy industrialist who donated the land that became Griffith Park.
“Hopefully we can give the city the opportunity to take a second look,” Hans said.
The closure stemmed from a legal battle over access to the Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables on Beachwood Drive, which provides horseback rides in Griffith Park.
Sunset Ranch has long had a legal agreement allowing people to come and go through a 20-foot-wide strip of land near the gate. But in their lawsuit, the ranch owners complained that the city began funneling hikers onto its “exclusive easement road” by advertising that pedestrians could safely access the area using a new gate, which was interfering with its business.
“It’s a public park and you’re denying the public access to it, it’s unfathomable,” neighbor Isabelle Megginson told KCAL9 Tuesday.
According to a statement issued in March by the Los Angeles Department 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 that the city had the discretion to determine the method by which it provides the public with access to the trail. Since the gate was closed, nearby access points at Canyon Road and the Vermont Canyon entrances have remained open.
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.”
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