A Former Civil Engineer Weighs in on How to Solve the Beachwood Problem

A sign posted in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, where residents claim Hollywood sign tourism has created quality of life and safety concerns. Photo: ConstantinAB // flickr: Creative Commons

The Griffith Park Advisory Board, with the support of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council (HUNC), has forwarded a revised plan to city officials regarding reinstating public access at the top of Beachwood Drive leading to the Hollywood Sign.

The proposed path would utilize a small piece of city-owned property near the recently shuttered Beachwood gate which could be carved out in such a way that hikers and tourists could use the trail without violating a court-ordered clearance of the area prefacing neighbor Sunset Ranch Hollywood stables.

The alternative idea was created by former civil engineer Michael Kaczynski, who was enlisted to work on the issue by the Griffith Park Advisory Board, a Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks volunteer entity formed to promote and protect the parks interests.

Kaczynski, 44, who now works in real estate and has lived on Beachwood Drive since 2014, said the city could create the path by carving switchbacks—essentially a 180-degree bend in a path leading up the hillside—or by using a prefabricated metal modular staircase to connect Beachwood Drive to the trail.

The decision to close the trailhead atop Beachwood in mid-April was done by the city after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that hordes of tourists and hikers accessing the trailhead to the Hollywood Sign had trespassed over land the Sunset Ranch Stables shares with the city. In doing so, owners for the stables said in court documents, the steady flood of tourists and hikers interfered with the stables’ business.

A judge issued a preliminary injunction in February ordering the city to close the gate to pedestrians leading to Sunset Ranch and to provide, instead, an alternative opening to the park “at a location as close to” as possible to the Beachwood gate.

Much to the dismay of some, the city did not create a new access point, near the now-shuttered gate, but instead directed tourists and others about 2 ½ miles away to an existing entry point to the park, at Bronson Canyon, at the end of Canyon Drive. Homeowners there have now complained the flood of traffic and tourists has only been relocated to their area.

According to Kaczynski, he agreed to get involved because he felt the city’s actions were nefarious.

“The [Beachwood] closure was done in the cover of darkness,” he said. “There wasn’t any public discussion about it. It felt like a backroom deal.”

According to Kaczynski, Beachwood Canyon since its closure is “a ghost town.”

“If you don’t like the pedestrian traffic, go live in a rural or gated community. This is a city,” he said.

Some residents of Beachwood Canyon have complained that since the advent of GPS on smartphones, their neighborhood has been overrun with tourists. Because Beachwood Canyon Drive lacks sidewalks and other infrastructure, having so many people on the street, either in cars or on foot, are a safety concern, they say. They have also complained there are no restrooms for so many tourists and hikers and, as such, some people have relieved themselves in their bushes and on their property.

The issue has pitted some of the areas homeowners against others who say Griffith Park—and all its access points—must remain open for all to use and enjoy.

“It’s frustrating to me as a homeowner and tax payer that these people are the voice of the neighborhood,” he said.

Kaczynski, whose civil engineering career took him to site development projects in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Dubai, said he consulted with Los Angeles’ city planning and public works departments and utilized city property records, Google Earth aerial imagery and U.S. Geological Surveys to construct his suggestion for a new gate and path to the Hollyridge Trail Head across a sliver of city land east of the closed Beachwood gate.

Kris Sullivan of Griffith Park Advisory Board’s executive committee proposed investigating the alternate access point last spring.

“Mike was in the audience. He said he would like to help anyway he could,” said Sullivan. “He knows what to do. He was able to get through all the maze. He knows surveyors.”

After Kaczynski completed his recommendation, the board forwarded the plan to city officials in late May.

“We sent it out to [Council District 4 Los Angeles City Councilman David] Ryu, the Mayor, the City Attorney,” Sullivan said. “Not one of those agencies responded. …

We’re trying to keep the issue alive. Really, the next step is to give the green light [to Kaczynski’s concept].”

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