LOS ANGELES — Three local organizations are challenging the city’s 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 May 1 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.
“A basic right of Angelenos is access to its public parks. Any access threatened by special interest groups to Griffith Park land is a violation of Colonel Griffith’s declaration that the park be free and open to all,” said Clare Darden, a trustee for the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust.
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.
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.
But 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.”