Garcetti’s Gondola Fizzling?

Cable cars and tramways are ubiquitous worldwide, like the one pictured above in Locarno, Switzerland. Could one be a possible solution for Griffith Park’s tourism woes? Photo: Getty Images.

BEACHWOOD CANYON—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s idea for a gondola to shuttle tourists directly to the Hollywood Sign made big waves in local press in May, but since then, the idea appears to have fizzled.

Garcetti floated the gondola idea during an interview on a May 8th episode of ABC7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers.

His suggestion was just the latest in a years-long saga to try and bring relief to residents living below the sign, some of whom say selfie-seeking tourists have overrun their once bucolic neighborhood since the advent of GPS technology in the late 2000s.

“I think we need to have access to the Hollywood Sign, both for residents and people who come here,” Garcetti said in the ABC7 interview.

“One of the ideas I’m looking at … is what could we do to actually bring people to the summit, to where the Hollywood Sign is, without going through the neighborhoods to the south. Could we come up from Universal Studios? Could we even have a gondola that goes up there or something that brought people there, [that] would earn money that we could put back into traffic mitigation and improving [Griffith] [P]ark?”

But Garcetti’s aides a few weeks later would not commit to whether or not the Mayor is pushing for a gondola or tram to ferry hikers, pedestrians and tourists to the Hollywood Sign, but only offered this comment: “Mayor Garcetti is open to exploring ideas that ease congestion and encourages creative thinking when looking at ways to give Angelenos and tourists better access to the Hollywood Sign and other iconic landmarks and destinations,” said George Kivork, Garcetti’s press secretary.

The gondola idea quickly became the biggest story coming out of Garcetti’s wide ranging, 20-minute interview with the local television station—sparking articles in the Los Angeles Times, Curbed LA, LAist, Los Angeles Magazine and other publications. Additionally, the topic was also discussed on local radio.

But just weeks later, the idea appears to have no legs.

“Are people still talking about that? I thought that was all over and done with two weeks ago,” said Marian Dodge, vice president of Friends of Griffith Park, a non-profit organization that promotes preservation of and access to Griffith Park. “It does not solve the basic issue of public access to the park,” Dodge said. “It does not get the Beachwood Gate reopened.”

In mid-April, the city closed the Beachwood Gate, a popular entrance to the Hollywood Sign’s hiking trails at the end of Beachwood Drive. The closure was the result of a lawsuit between the city and the Sunset Ranch, a local horse stable located beyond the Beachwood Gate entrance to Griffith Park.

Dodge said a gondola could also compromise the very thing that makes the park so special.

“What many people say they like about Griffith Park is the urban wilderness, it’s that you can live in a huge urban area and be away from it all in just a few minutes and having a gondola swinging over your head destroys the urban wilderness atmosphere,” she said.

The Hollywoodland Homeowners Assoc., which represents many households in the upper portion of Beachwood Canyon closest to the Hollywood Sign, however, said they would be open to the gondola idea.

“We support and look forward to working with the city towards anything that will alleviate the stress not only on our neighborhood, but on all the neighborhoods that abut Griffith Park,” said Tara Stephenson, the association’s president.

Stephenson said her organization has heard many ideas over the years to solve the Hollywood Sign issue, and that they would be open to such a solution if the idea were to regain traction.

“I’m not saying: yes, the gondola is the solution. [But] we want to work with the city to find a plan,” Stephenson said.

The idea for a gondola or tramway has been discussed over the decades, most recently in 2005, when a consultancy group called Melendrez recommended it again in a new “Master Plan,” for the park, commissioned by then Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge.

Melendrez also recommended other changes to the park including a destination restaurant, a hotel and a so-called “Pleasure Pier” over the Los Angeles River connecting Griffith Park to Atwater Village.

The consultancy’s recommendation was widely panned, with many saying such changes would overly commercialize the park, likening it to “Disneyfication.”

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