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Hollywood residents find their own solution for reopening Beachwood Canyon

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A popular hiking trail at the top of Beachwood closed in April

The pedestrian gate at the top of Beachwood Drive.
Liz Kuball

Hollywood residents are trying to put pressure on the city to reopen Beachwood Drive as a launching point for hiking in Griffith Park and viewing the world-famous Hollywood Sign.

Frustrated by the city’s decision to shutter a popular trailhead at the top of the street, residents have pinpointed a location for a new trailhead that they say would comply with a court order that triggered the closure in April.

They want to carve a new trailhead on city-owned property to the right of the shuttered trailhead. That option was endorsed Monday night by the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council.

“Local access points ... a visitor’s center ... a gondola ... all of these options need to be looked at seriously, and unfortunately the city’s back has got to be against the wall before they do it,” says neighborhood councilmember Sheila Irani. “We now have to force the issue.”

A Hollywood resident and civil engineer, Mike Kaczynski, came up with this solution.
Via Hollywood United Neighborhood Council

Monday’s board meeting drew dozens of residents, the majority of whom spoke passionately about giving the public as much access to the park as possible. That’s a big turnaround from the past few years, when the most vocal residents had been those trying to keep tourists off of Beachwood.

There are two main reasons residents are advocating for more access. They say they believe it’s the right thing to do, because it’s a public park and the streets that feed into it are public, too. They also say corking one entrance only makes traffic at the other entrances worse, and one neighborhood shouldn’t see relief at the expense of others.

“It is our home and we do love to show it off, but we have to do it in a safe and sane way,” says Sandra Lambert, who has lived on Canyon Drive, a few blocks east of Beachwood, since 1975. “I agree that all of the neighborhoods should share the burden [of the traffic.]”

The decision to close the trailhead at the top of Beachwood stems from a lawsuit filed by Sunset Ranch Hollywood, a horseback riding and tour company located at the end of Beachwood Drive. The ranch accused the city of channeling hikers onto its driveway and blocking cars from getting to its business. Hikers walked on the driveway in order to get onto the Hollyridge Trail, which goes right by the sign.

A judge issued a preliminary injunction in February ordering the city to stop “precluding ingress or egress of vehicles relating to Sunset Ranch.” But the order also said the city had to provide public access to the Hollyridge Trail, “at a location as close to” the Beachwood gate as possible.

The city agreed in March to lock the gate and direct visitors to Canyon Drive in Bronson Canyon. But the trail from there is much steeper—and longer.

To come up with the alternate trailhead at Beachwood, the Griffith Park Advisory Board enlisted the help of Hollywood resident and civil engineer Mike Kaczynski. He says he consulted with the city’s public works and planning departments and used city property records and aerial footage from Google Maps before recommending a new gate and path to Hollyridge from a spot located just a few feet from the existing gate.

He says the city could either carve switchbacks into the property to connect Beachwood Drive to the trial or install a modular staircase.

This solution wouldn’t solve Beachwood’s traffic problems. As the Griffith Park Advisory Board notes:

... This solution is in no way meant to address the traffic congestion or the impact from increased tourism to view the Hollywood Sign on upper Beachwood Drive. This issue is not a Griffith Park problem, but a street services problem, and requires a more global solution involving all the surrounding streets and communities outside the Park. ... Both the February 3 order and the March 13 stipulation were only meant to address the Sunset Stables right of way, and the preferred solution is compatible with and satisfies the court order and later stipulation.

Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who reps the area, isn’t latching onto the idea, but he’s not dismissing it either. One of his field deputies, Shannon Prior, says it’s one of the options he’s studying. Ryu, she says, believes, “it’s not one alternative access point that’s going to solve this problem.” Prior told residents to be patient. Finding a “holistic solution,” she says, will take time.

Meanwhile the recreation and parks department has told Curbed it’s, "not prepared to review or comment on” the proposal.

"Two city entities that are there to represent the citizenry are taking a public stand on an issue that the rest of the city officials (Council District 4, rec and parks, mayor) refuse to even comment on,” says Griffith Park Advisory Board member Kris Sullivan.

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