The closure of Runyon Canyon—which began last Friday—has resulted in its fair share of tears and outrage. For three months, the popular hiking destination will be closed while work is done on the aging system of pipes that run underneath the park. That necessary upkeep alone is enough to throw park-goers into a tizzy, but a new project has come to light that is sure to raise the ire of the already sensitive Runyon Canyon hiking contingency. The LA Times reports that plans for a corporate-branded basketball court in the park have quietly been on the books since November.
Neima Khaila, CEO of the clothing brand Pink+Dolphin, has agreed to pay for a necessary retaining wall at Runyon, as well as a new dog/human water fountain. In exchange, the city will build a basketball court on the site of a former tennis court. Both new amenities will be branded with corporate logos, the basketball court emblazoned with Pink+Dolphin branding and the fountain touting the name of the AQUAhydrate bottled water company. In total, Pink+Dolphin is putting up $260,000 for the Runyon Canyon project.
Unfortunately for the Recreation and Parks Department, the past few years have been marked by budget cuts, and they are apparently struggling to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the popular park. To combat the lack of city funding, the park created a "partnership and revenue division" to seek out alternative options for financial support.
Another attraction/funding scheme proposed last year almost makes the branded basketball court seem tame in comparison—last April, a pair of entrepreneurs were pitching the idea of a Runyon Canyon zipline. Even with the prospect of raising millions in revenue for the city, not to mention the $700k the zipline impresarios said they would donate to the park up front, the zipline plan drew the ire of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council. After a very cold reception at a neighborhood council meeting, the zipline people quickly put the kibosh on their plan.
A similar fate might be in store for the new basketball court if the neighbors have their say. On Monday, a standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Will & Ariel Durant Library in West Hollywood to air their grievances during another neighborhood council meeting. They say the basketball court project caught them by surprise and lacks both sound testing and a lengthy and intensive environmental impact report process, which is usually reserved for large development projects.
City Councilmember David Ryu appeared at the meeting, despite threats to his physical wellbeing from citizens angered by the Runyon news. As has become typical for him in his short time in office, he appears to be siding with the outraged, calling the park's public outreach efforts a "travesty." Though it may still be a done deal, Ryu plans on meeting with the city attorney to put the brakes on the basketball court.
Friends of Runyon Canyon Park, a nonprofit formed to raise funds for the park, was also thrown under the bus at the neighborhood council meeting—some speakers claimed the organization knew about the basketball plans, but kept mum about it.
The neighborhood council concluded the meeting with a unanimous vote to oppose the project, sparking what could be the beginnings of a long legal fight.