Griffith Park Aerial Tramway Routes Revealed

The Griffith Park Aerial Tramway (aka the Griffith Park Gondola) is moving forward on its feasibility study process, and new images of the potential tramway routes made it to the internet this week. 

The Facebook Page for Amir’s Garden posted an update with information from one of their readers named George Grace. Grace compiled some information from members of the Sierra Club and Friends of Griffith Park, and shared an image from one of those meetings that portrayed some of the potential routes of the proposed Griffith Park Aerial Tramway:

an image of a map of the proposed routes for the griffith park aerial tramway

Source: Facebook

Some things to note about the proposed Griffith Park Aerial Tramway routes

The following points are all quotes taken from George Grace’s message to the Amir’s Garden page:

  • The black dots on the map indicate the placement of towers for the tramway. All of these towers would have to be built. There are 19 towers along on Route 4, which also looks like it would be constructed directly over the Eileen Getty Ridge Trail between Cahuenga Peak and Mount Lee.
  • Route 1 originates at Travel Town. Route 2 originates at the Zoo Parking Lot. Route 3 originates at the Zoo Magnet School. Route 4 originates at Warner Brothers.
  • Routes 1, 2, and 3 would terminate at a viewing platform at Tyrolian Tank near the Deronda Drive Gate. Route 4 would terminate at the Hollywood Sign with a viewing platform in front of it.
  • Routes 1, 2, and 3 all look like they would require heavy construction in the relatively quiet portion of the park between Mounts Chapel and Mount Bell. It looks like the “Angle Station” would be built directly on top of the peak known as Baby Bell and affect several hiking routes nearby.
  • Routes 2 and 3 appear to require construction inside Amir’s Garden and the Griffith Park Boys Camp.
  • The Tyrolian Tank/Deronda Drive viewing platform would be completely fenced. Tram travelers would be allowed off and on the tram, but there would be no access to any trails, and no access from trails or the Deronda Drive gate to the viewing platform. There may be a place to get water and go to the bathroom, but nothing beyond that is planned.
  • For Route 1, the Martinez Horse Arena would be turned into a parking lot. The tram would pass under the electrical tower on that route.
  • The tram on Route 2 would pass under the DWP power lines but directly over the Zoo.
  • Route 3 would require the DWP to raise the power lines so the tram could go under them.
  • Gondolas would hold 8-10 people at a time.
  • The tramway will accommodate between 20-95 rides an hour (for a total of 160-950 people per hour)
  • The rumored cost of the ride will be $3/person.
  • A full powerpoint presentation with this information should be available at the Griffith Park Aerial Transit project website. As of Monday, March 9, the presentation is not there.
  • No financial planning or environmental impact reporting was mentioned at the meeting.

Reaching Out about the Aerial Tramway

In his comments, Grace also mentioned that Stantec, the company presenting these potential routes, has already met with a number of stakeholders on this project. They presented the information to the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and Friends of Griffith Park. The Los Feliz Improvement Association is scheduled to have a meeting this week and the Sierra Club’s meeting is set for March 23. Stantec is also holding a “Town Hall” style meeting at Friendship Auditorium inside Griffith Park on Saturday, March 28th from 10:30AM-12:30PM. It is not clear whether or not that meeting is open to the public.

Criticism from the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust

Two scans of a formal response from the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust were also included in the Facebook Post. The letter is dated July 31, 2019 and detail the group’s opposition to the aerial tramway project in general. The Trust makes a number of solid arguments but rightfully leans on Griffith J. Griffith’s own wishes for the land he donated specifically as a city park — that it’s important that portion of the park remain as undeveloped and undisturbed as possible.

The letter is worth reading in its entirety, but this quote in particular sums it up nicely:

Regular park users who participate in team sports, hiking and riding the park’s numerous trails come here to re-charge their batteries after work. They look upon the parks as the place to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Los Angeles. The more interference caused by built structures with the noise and activity they bring, the less the park maintains its bucolic atmosphere and the less park users will look upon it as a welcome respite from everyday stresses.

What Happens Next with the Griffith Park Gondola?

The proposed Griffith Park Aerial Tramway is still in its planning phases. The routes we see proposed here are only preliminary routes determined by the feasibility study. Once the information is presented to stakeholders — and to the public — then one or more of the proposals will get an environmental impact report done.

I’ve already written about how the earlier proposed route (currently Route 4 here) was a bad idea that would forever alter the park. Some of the alternate ideas I wrote about in that piece have come to fruition — Griffith Park’s website did get a nice facelift and the newly-launched Parkline Shuttle is a tremendous step in the right direction.

To me this whole tramway still seems like a solution in search of a problem. Initially the tram was pitched as a way to reduce tourist traffic in Hollywoodland. This proposal now drops all of that foot traffic off within eye and earshot of those same homes, while destroying the (relatively) undisturbed wilderness of the park, ruining eye-lines to the sign from the city below, and requiring construction of new structures on hiking and equestrian trails throughout the park.

Now the project seems to be justifying itself as a traffic solution for the park instead. But I don’t know if there’s a serious traffic problem inside Griffith Park and I don’t think the city or the park should be encouraging people to treat the park as a commuting route in the first place. We already ruined Elysian Park and MacArthur Park by building huge multi-lane thoroughfares in the middle of them, and the fact that Griffith’s highway would be in the sky doesn’t make it any less intrusive.

If we are looking for ways to move people around the park without cars (and we should be), we should instead focus on expanding the Parkline Shuttle. Expand the route through Fern Dell at the very least (where a Metro B Line connection is a 10 minute walk away), and consider re-routing the line to directly connect to the B Line at either Hollywood/Western and/or Sunset/Vermont so users don’t have to transfer from the DASH to use it. I’ve also heard people pitch extending the Parkline in the north to the North Hollywood or Universal City B Line subway stations, which I think is an excellent idea. That connects the majority of the park and doesn’t require construction in the park’s backcountry. (I’d also love to see the Parkline connect to Brush Canyon and the Lake Hollywood Reservoir, but that will likely be a few years down the road).

how could we possibly get people around the park without an aerial tram?

Whose Park Is Griffith Park?

A large number of the complaints about the park over the years seem to fall into a certain type of category. The people seen as causing the problems are often cast as visitors and tourists — folks coming from all over the world to snap a selfie with the Hollywood Sign, even if they have to crawl over residential neighborhoods and jump fences to do it. It is interesting that in order to “solve” that issue and protect Griffith Park for Angelenos, our leading solution involves destroying the aesthetics and wilderness qualities of the park we are ostensibly trying to protect.

If we’re trying to preserve views of the Hollywood Sign, why are we putting a tram line and visitor viewing stations in front of it? If we’re trying to solve traffic issues around the park (which is a stretch), why are we not better utilizing the Parkline shuttle service or or the heavy rail stations that are already close to the park? If we don’t want visitors all crowding the same few Hollywood Sign viewpoints, why aren’t we doing a better job of publicizing the many, many alternates?

What You Can Do

It’s still relatively early in this process, but it’s not too early to get involved to help protect Griffith Park from this unnecessary development.

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