In the battle over access to the Hollywood Sign, the Friends of Griffith Park says no one is fighting for the public. It’s petitioning Los Angeles County Superior Court to become a plaintiff in a lawsuit that triggered last month’s closure of Beachwood Canyon, which had been one of the most popular routes for viewing the world-famous landmark.
“To me, it would seem like the city would want to fight for the right of public access, and deciding to close off access through Beachwood Canyon permanently doesn’t show that they made that effort to represent the public,” Gerry Hans, a vice president of the nonprofit, said.
That lawsuit was filed by Sunset Ranch Hollywood, a horseback riding and tour company located at the end of Beachwood Drive in Griffith Park. It accused the city of channeling hikers onto its driveway and blocking cars from getting to its business. Hikers must use the driveway in order to get onto the Hollyridge Trail, which goes right by the sign.
A judge issued a preliminary ruling in the case in February, determining the driveway was on public property, so hikers couldn’t be prevented from using it. The judge ordered the city not to interfere with the ranch’s business, but also said the city needed to “provide access to the Hollyridge trail in a location near the Beachwood gate.”
As a result, the city decided to close the trailhead and redirect hikers to canyons farther east. The closest is Bronson Canyon via Canyon Drive. From there, hikers can connect to the Hollyridge Trail from the Brush Canyon Trail, but it adds at least a (strenuous) 1 mile—and that doesn’t include the distance to get to the trailhead.
“It’s like a 3-mile walk,” said attorney Mike Gatto, who’s representing Friends of Griffith Park. He says the courts were misinformed about that distance, among other things. “They said the Canyon Drive entrance to Griffith Park is 1,500 feet away [from Beachwood Drive] ... maybe for P-22,” he said.
The nonprofit says the decision to block access from Beachwood Canyon “directly contradicts the judge’s ruling” and called the closure “draconian.” Hans said his group has some ideas about how to keep Beachwood open without affecting the stables.
Their motion to intervene was filed jointly with the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Association and the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust, which is led by the great-grandson of the man who donated the land that became Griffith Park.
“The city and stables have not considered ... the interests of hikers, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the people who care about open space,” Gatto said. "This is a public park, and it belongs to the public forever.”
A hearing on the motion to intervene is scheduled for June 13.
- Someone welded shut the Beachwood gate to the Hollywood Sign [Curbed LA]
- City will close Beachwood Canyon access to Hollywood Sign [Curbed LA]
- Beachwood Canyon closure: 5 things to know about the decision to limit access to the Hollywood Sign [Curbed LA]
- The best ways to see the Hollywood Sign [Curbed LA]