CityWatch, Oct 28, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 86
RETHINKING LA - The City of LA’s recent decision to close a small Hollywood Hills cul-de-sac and to allow the residents to build a locked gate that excludes the public but provides access to the residents is under attack as a violation of state law.
Solar Drive is a small road that dead-ends above Runyon Canyon, popular to tourists in search of a great view and to hikers in pursuit of a less congested route to the popular canyon trails.
Residents have long complained about traffic and congestion but the recent move to close Solar Drive to the public was attributed to “loitering, littering, smoking and drinking” and the recent City Council approved solution was to allow the residents to build a gate that the Solar Drive residents operated and maintained.
Citizens Coalition of Los Angeles (CC-LA) and Hollywoodians Encouraging Logical Planning (H.E.L.P.) have both stepped into the fray with requests to “rectify the unlawful closure of Streets north of Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.”
Their lawyer has submitted a demand to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, [link] pointing to the CA’s legal obligation to serve his client, the City of LA, with sound legal advice that includes warning the City Council of the illegal nature of the street closure and the resulting liability to both the city and the residents of Solar Drive.
The legal argument against street closures is built on a foundation that holds “the right to travel is based on the inalienable and constitutional right to Liberty. A restriction on travel is a restriction of Liberty. Thus, the state of California finds travel on public roads, including public stairs, sidewalk, cul de sacs, to be a fundamental right.”
The Hollywood Hills area is no stranger to debates over public access vs. public safety and periodically attempts are made to close streets with gates or to close stairways that connect neighborhoods.
The Whitley Heights Civic Association went to the City Council in 1985 for permission to build gates that would keep the public out of their neighborhood. They built the gates but Citizens Against Gated Enclaves (CAGE) sued them and prevailed in Superior Court and then again in the Appellate court, bringing the decade-long battle to an end with the removal of the gates.
The state of California’s Uniformity Code (CVC 21) limits the authority of local municipalities and states “no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.”
The rules governing the closure of streets are quite specific and state “local authorities may not place gates or other selective devices on any street which deny or restrict the access of certain members of the public to the street, while permitting others unrestricted access to the street.”
The fact that locals have complained of criminal activity in the area as justification for the restriction of the public from Solar Drive falls far short of the legal minimum and is unsupported by the City Council motion that referred to “loitering, littering, drinking, and smoking” as the security issues.
Nuisance misdemeanors hardly qualify as “serious and criminal activity” nor do they justify a violation of state law by the City of LA and the residents of Solar Drive. “Inconvenience, disturbing the peace, and potential problems” fail to qualify as conditions that would satisfy the CVC 21101.4 street closure conditions.
There are some that consider the Solar Drive street closure to be the opening move, one that sets up more street closures that will address the complaints of residents throughout the Hollywood Hills.
Recent community meetings have addressed the increasing congestion in the hills caused by tourists in search of the Hollywood Sign and hikers in pursuit of hilltop trails, all to the dismay of the residents who moved to the Hollywood Hills to get away from the crowd.
As the grumbling escalates and tensions increase and the call for street closures continue, the impact of the Solar Drive gate will be powerful and will establish precedent that can be used in other areas to close cul de sacs and stairways, a situation that many consider not only unacceptable but illegal.
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net.)
Graphic credit: LACurbed
Tags: Hollywood Hills, Solar Drive, Solar Drive Gate, Los Angeles, gated communities, street closures, City Council, Runyon Canyon, City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, California Uniformity Code