Sunday, October 08, 2006

Music To My Ears!

HOLLYWOOD HILLS, CA. - This morning Tom LaBonge greeted me with the proud announcement “Congratulations! You can ride your bike to the Griffith Observatory now. Of course ya still gotta make a reservation but you’re welcome to ride your bike!”

This is great news and the reversal in the Department of Recreation and Parks policy is the result of over a year of lobbying that began in the Friends of the Observatory community meetings, the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group meetings, and the Franklin Corridor Mobility Action Committee meetings and continued through the offices of Mayor Villagairosa, Council President Garcetti, Council Member Tom LaBonge and concluded with the Recreation and Parks Commission.

At issue was the re-opening plan for the popular Griffith Observatory. The initial plan called for a car-free solution to the anticipated deluge of fans using an online advanced reservation timed entry system and shuttle service to move the Observatory guests up and down the hill to the Observatory. While we applauded the evolved and out of character car-free solution, we were shocked to find that it came with a hiker and cyclist prohibition. The plan required ALL guests to use the shuttle, paying what is currently an $8 shuttle/reservation “cost-recovery” fee to visit the Griffith Observatory.

(This fee is the subject of much debate and possible litigation. Griffith J. Griffith donated the land and the money for the Observatory with the stipulation that it be open to the public “free of charge.” Hence the RAP use of the phrase “cost-recovery” and its application to the shuttle and the reservation system.)

The City of Los Angeles Birthday Party on Labor Day provided an opportunity for face-to-face appeals to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Larry Franks and officials of Recreation and Parks and by the following week the plan presented to the RAP Commission was being revised.

All of this brings us to a victory that is significant for a few reasons. Of course, hiker and cyclist access to the Griffith Observatory is the obvious benefit to this long journey.

In addition it also marks a significant step to a car-free or car-lite environment in Griffith Park. (Currently the online directions only refer to freeway access. The automobile bias in the Rec and Parks M.O. is palpable.) The past enmity between some of the user groups at Griffith Park has resulted in screaming matches as cyclists have tried to gain access to the parks. As such, this welcoming gesture from RAP to cyclists is truly a significant milestone.

And in the big picture, for the first time that I am aware of, the Los Angeles Times uses a phrase that is indeed “Music To My Ears” – access is free to those who hike or bicycle.

This is complemented by the Griffith Observatory which says that all guests must “use the shuttle, hike or ride a bicycle.”

As if that wasn’t enough Tom LaBonge writes in his newsletter Griffith Observatory visitors “will be required to either take a shuttle, walk or cycle to the site.”

These are words I never thought I would hear spoken in Los Angeles!

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