Runyon Canyon Follow-Up: No Parking Any Time
“The parking lot idea, putting a lot inside Runyon Canyon, is dead on arrival. It’s not going to happen.” – John C. Gile, President, Friends of Runyon Canyon
With apologies to Jackie Gleason, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Call it a simple misunderstanding.
Or clumsy public relations. Or meager community outreach. What we don’t have here, it seems, is a grand conspiracy to turn Runyon Canyon into a theme park. At least not yet.
As reported in this space several weeks ago, the Friends of Runyon Canyon, a non-profit whose mission is to “preserve and protect” Runyon Canyon park, recently released a conceptual plan, posted on outdoor kiosks, that included an artist’s rendering of an in-park café and parking lot. How a nature advocacy organization could support such patently horrible ideas was open to speculation; few people other than FORC board members fully understood what had transpired and what was to come.
Last week, after persistent community outcry, the President of Friends of Runyon Canyon, Mr. John C. Gile, invited this writer for an explanatory walk. We spent 90-minutes hiking the trails, picking up litter and learning why Friends of Runyon Canyon thought building “amenities” in a semi-wild area was an idea worth pursuing. The short answer, according to Gile: FORC believed that’s what the public wanted. Now, Gile said, they realize this is probably not what the public wants.
And it’s not what Gile wants. Although the President of FORC wasn’t able to declare unequivocally that the proposed restaurant/café would be scrapped, Gile did promise that “the parking lot will not happen.” He said, “The idea is dead on arrival. It’s not going to happen.”
The restaurant concept is “not a high priority,” and no substantive work is being done to execute this element of the vision plan, Gile said.
Before the vision plan was compiled, Gile explained, there was a period of public comment and survey input that lead FORC to believe that adding on-site parking was the community’s main desire. We’ve talked to nearly 100 neighborhood people about this; no one recalls having had an opportunity to make their position known prior to posting the plans. Now you still can. Now you must. It’s not too late.
Send an email to email@example.com. Tell him and FORC what you want and don’t want in Runyon Canyon Park. While you’re at it, you can call Councilman David Ryu’s office and let him also know how you feel about cars and cooking in nature: 213-473-7004.
Be clear: If you do not want a parking lot, a café, or other “amenities” that require developing a natural treasure, say so. “I do NOT want a parking lot or café in Runyon Canyon.”
FORC is meant to serve the community, not antagonize it. If you desire a Ferris wheel and mule rides to Mulholland, say so. If you want Wolfgang Puck to open a series of gourmet vegan snack shops on the way up the hill, tell them. But if you want Runyon to remain undeveloped, undisturbed and lovingly cared for as you would a fragile work of art, please do write and call!
During our walk, Gile outlined several FORC initiatives currently in process:
+ New trash receptacles.
+ New “farm fencing” along cliff-sides and eroding trails.
+ Renovating the ruined tennis court into a new basketball court.
+ Repairing the East Trail steps on the steep dirt path.
+ Acquiring two parcels of privately held land inside the park’s borders, preventing further home building on the West Trail near the hideous mansions currently besmirching the ridgeline.
+ Installing new drinking fountains.
+ Hiring youth ambassadors and custodians to direct visitors and maintain cleanliness.
+ Installing new bathrooms.
For the record, we’re opposed to paid docents if the model requires the park to produce revenue. A foundation grant or charitable gift to cover costs would be great; turning Runyon into a cash-producing business, even of the most modest means, is antithetical to its long-term wellness. Much better, we think, would be to organize cheerful volunteers to perform these services. Consider us hereby available.
We’re also opposed to building bathrooms. Gile explained that there are already sewer lines in place, and that FORC would be working with urban planners to minimize the predictable negative results of creating a convenient shelter for vagrants and mischief makers. But bathrooms require ongoing maintenance, security and cleaning, and that means, of course, additional payroll costs – which once more puts pressure on the park to “pay for itself,” which then opens the door to more revenue-producing schemes. Like a café. Or zip-line rides.
That last one was actually proposed (and summarily ridiculed and rejected). What other imaginative profit schemes, we wonder, will appear in the coming year? To make sure FORC and the City of Los Angeles understand your wishes – that Runyon Canyon should be carefully preserved and not developed in any way – call City Councilmember Ryu, 213-473-7004 and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you can tell Mr. Gile your thoughts in person. He’s there almost every day.
And so are we.