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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New 'Griffith Park Park Advisory Board' named, process is suspect

Park Advisory Boards and their members are essential to the overall operation of a recreation facility. The Department of Recreation and Parks believes that the partnership between staff and the community is of primary importance in identifying and meeting the recreational needs of the community. A Park Advisory Board works to make facilities safe, clean, and hospitable while offering guidance and assistance on programming and fundraising.

A Park Advisory Board member must be a community stakeholder and understand the community’s needs and interests. A member should support park improvements and help establish goals for the park. A member should also assist with special events and fundraising for park improvements. All PAB members are selected by the Department of Recreation and Parks staff.

- from Rec and Parks'  Park Advisory Board handbook

First off, let me state that I did apply for this Park Advisory Board (PAB). I knew I would not be named - if you don't know why I knew this, then you clearly don't read this blog often enough.  :-)   I have some longstanding familiarity with the Dept. of Recreation and Parks' PAB system. The main reason I applied is to observe this particular process by being part of it.

Initially there were approximately 20 people who applied to be on this PAB by the published deadline. There were then two days of interviews. Those who applied had a choice of 1 of 2 days in which to schedule the interview. 

Then, mysteriously, at least another one or two days of interviews after the deadline took place, after the initial interviews.

So who actually applied by the deadline? And, how many of those appointed were likely solicited by someone to apply after the official deadline? How many of those were chosen for the PAB? (probably most of them.)


It's worth noting that any PAB is all about the RECREATION.  In fact, PABs are typically associated with a specific Rec Center. Wildlife and environment is not part of the main mission of these boards.

With that in mind, Griffith Park deserves a WASC as well as a PAB.  A WASC is  a Wildlife Areas Steering Committee.  Sepulveda Basin has a longstanding WASC.  I hope environment-minded groups like the Sierra Club - who, glaringly, has no members on this PAB - step up and demand equal time with a WASC for Griffith Park.

Each potential member must .... Be the only representative from an outside organization serving on the PAB.

         - from Rec and Parks'  Park Advisory Board handbook

With this in mind, who was chosen for the Griffith Park PAB?

We're not 100% certain who all these people are exactly as of yet, but the names are correct as provided by the department. Where there is a question about identity, we've marked it with a question mark.
  1. Don Seligman - Treasurer of the Los Feliz Improvement Association.
  2. Ann Marie Johnson - Most recently but not currently Tom LaBonge's field deputy; recent Silverlake Neighborhood Council board member.
  3. Barbara Ferris - Board member of the Neighborhood Council Formerly Called Greater Griffith Park; Symphony in the Glen managing director who has a project in Griffith Park and derives income from activities in the park; Los Feliz Improvement Association board member.
  4. Chip Clements - likely? the Chip Clements who is the owner of Clements Environmental Corp; affiliated with the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association.
  5. Jerry Petryha - likely? a disability lawyer of the same name from Encino.
  6. Ted Johnson - possibly? a writer at Variety by the same name who covers Tom LaBonge's antics.
  7. Alex Chavez - recent Hollywoodland Homeowners Association president.
  8. Chris Laib - Current president of the Los Feliz Improvement Association.
  9. Laura Howe - Friends of Griffith Park volunteer coordinator.
  10. Janell Mullen - likely? an Urban Planner and program manager with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative.
  11. Kris Sullivan - likely? another Hollywoodland Homeowners Association member.
  12. Lynn Brown - Los Angeles Equine Advisory Board.
  13. Susan Swan - Hollywood United Neighborhood Council; Oaks resident almost 30 years.
  14. Susan Lee - likely? the Former CEO, Korean Munhwa Broadcasting Company and current National Director of Urban Peace at The Advancement Project California.
  15. Lucinda Phillips - Longtime Oaks Resident; Friends of Fern Dell.
Looking at the selections, in all honesty I have never seen a park advisory board made up of people who are either employees of or directors of so many special interests and agencies who make money in development-type activities. Typically a park advisory board is made up of neighbors, park volunteers, and a few individuals who have either concessions or facilities in the park itself.

There is also the issue of the requirement quoted above that says just one member of an outside organization can serve on the board.  I count at least three from the Los Feliz Improvement Association, and at least three from the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association.

And then there is the irregularity with the process. This particular irregularity smells of the modus operandi of a certain City Councilmember, doesn't it?  No surprise there.

Meanwhile...





Sunday, September 21, 2014

Now hiring - part time Park Ranger patrol officers

The City of Los Angeles Park Rangers will be hiring part time security officers to work in the Hansen Dam area.

Applications are available at the Griffith Park Ranger Station or by contacting Sr. Ranger Pat Joyce via email: Pat.Joyce@lacity.org

Griffith Park Ranger Station
4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles CA

Friday, September 19, 2014

Beautiful new "Bill Eckert Trail" sign installed today

Photo courtesy A. Torres
Park Ranger Bill Eckert was City of Los Angeles Park Rangers badge #1 and a true legend in Griffith Park.

 

Ranger Bill was present to see the original sign installed, passing away not long after that ceremony. 

Recreation and Parks had stopped making engraved wood signs for the most part at that time, so the first sign had letter decals that recently were failing, peeling and falling off.

The new sign has been engraved like the old style signs and should last decades with proper care.

Park Ranger badge #3 - and another blossoming legend (although he'll deny it), Capt. Albert Torres - made this happen.

Beautiful!!

Read about the legend, Ranger Bill Eckert, here.  


Monday, September 15, 2014

Lawsuit announced at Heritage Tree event

More than one hundred tree lovers came to the Friends of Griffith Park's Heritage Sycamore event on Saturday. Friends board member Gerry Hans announced that Friends along with the Griffith J. Griffith Trust will indeed be filing a lawsuit on the laughable Crystal Springs Little League fields EIR approved by City Hall. It's very sad that Angelenos are forced to sue their own government to force them to obey the law, but recently it seems that this is becoming all too common.

Given the heat on Saturday which topped out in triple digits by early afternoon, this many at a Saturday event is a great turn out! The news about the lawsuit made it all worthwhile. If you would like to support this lawsuit, you can go to the the Friends of Griffith Park's web site and join the organization or maybe PayPal them a little extra love if you are already a member.

Courtesy Friends of Griffith Park

Text of the announcement:
The Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and Friends of Griffith Park will file a lawsuit this week against the City of Los Angeles to stop the construction of ball fields at these four acres of Crystal Springs Picnic Facility. The petition will claim that alternative sites and mitigation were not properly considered.

In reality, this particular location for the ball fields was pre-determined from the start. Other alternatives never had a chance. It was the responsibility of the City to consider all alternatives seriously, including the idea of separating the two ball fields into two separate locations.

Having the two fields here in Crystal Springs produces SIGNIFICANT adverse impacts to the biological resources of this area. It produces SIGNIFICANT adverse impacts to the aesthetics of these historic picnic grounds. Those were the results of the City’s own CEQA findings, not ours.

The project is moving forward any way, after our Commission signed-off on a STATEMENT OF OVER-RIDING CONSIDERATIONS regarding the adverse impacts without even batting an eye.

The project is moving forward any way, after our City Council denied our APPEAL to the CEQA findings.

Do we really need to play ball in court? Maybe so.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kid-friendly event this Saturday to view rare, giant Los Angeles tree slated for destruction

"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues." ~ Dr. Seuss (1904 - 1991), The Lorax

Take a good, long look at this amazing 200 year old tree.  Compare the size of this giant to the people standing beneath its branches in the picture below.

We don't have trees like this in Los Angeles, or do we?  In fact, we do. You can see this giant heritage sycamore in Griffith Park!

But not for long.  If you would like to marvel at the majesty of this original LA River giant, I recommend you go see it at a kid-friendly event this Saturday, because this tree will soon be gone -- destroyed to add two more special interest Little League fields in Crystal Springs where another already exists and goes unused most of the year. The new ballfields are Councilmember Tom LaBonge's "gift" to you before he leaves office.

Visit this giant firsthand this Saturday before it's gone for good  - event details follow below.... way below this giant tree.



From Friends of Griffith Park:

Please join us at the Heritage Sycamore Tree in the Crystal Springs Picnic Area on Saturday, September 13th at 10:00 am.

The Heritage Sycamore is one of the trees the City may remove in order to build ball fields so we're gathering to respect the importance of this and all trees in the Crystal Springs area.

Our goal is for at least 200 of us to gather, one person for each year of the tree's life.

Photojournalists will be on hand to document the event. This will be FUN! Friends of Griffith Park will provide water and soft drinks.

Please bring your enthusiasm and help us spread the word. The more the merrier!

 Kids of all ages are welcome!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Broken Promise: Mukri Out at Rec and Parks … Public is the Big Loser

Scooped everyone's asses today with my article today for CityWatch.

Will get no credit anywhere for doing so.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Broken Promise: Mukri Out at Rec and Parks … Public is the Big Loser

VIEWS ALONG THE WAY-Although there is a pretty good paper trail in the press documenting the promise, the Mayor’s Office has changed their collective mind -- Jon Kirk Mukri (Photo left with Jan Perry) will, in fact, not be returning to manage the Department of Recreation and Parks. Interim General Manager Mike Shull is the Mayor’s new choice to run the department. 

Love him or hate him, Jon Kirk Mukri is a hell of a damn good manager. The best the City has. 
Before taking the position at Recreation and Parks – the job he always wanted and truly loved – Mukri reformed a completely dysfunctional General Services Department. 

Always a team player, when asked by Mayor Garcetti to temporarily manage a publicly dysfunctional Department of Transportation, Mukri agreed to do so just until Garcetti’s team could find new blood, an outsider, to take over. 

This past week, the Mayor’s Office has decided not to keep that verbal contract, and the best manager City Hall has is out. The big loser in this decision is the public – the Citizens of Los Angeles. 
From 2004 to 2013, Jon Mukri held Recreation and Parks together, keeping it going and continuing to provide much needed services and improvements to the Los Angeles public and parks users under truly crippling economic hardship - hardship that most of the public never really knew was happening.  

What most don’t fully realize is that during his tenure at Recreation and Parks, Jon Mukri managed to make City Hall electeds look great with new parks and programs in spite of the fact that, simultaneously, his department was being bled dry by the same City Hall people. 

The blood-letting was brutal and extensive. Beginning in 2007, the Mayor and City Hall removed all General Fund subsidies to Recreation and Parks to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually. 
They then implemented “chargebacks” as a way to take away City Charter-mandated funding – dedicated parks and recreation funding - from the department. Between 2007 and 2013, “chargebacks” from RAP Operations totaled $155 million. City Hall then cut the Recreation and Parks workforce by almost 40%.   

Recreation and Parks is the most direct service-intensive department in the City. Take away the employees, you take away those services, period. 
It’s a testament to the skills of Jon Mukri and that of his chosen team that the Department of Recreation and Parks even exists as a functional entity under such a prolonged blood-letting by City Hall. But not only did the department continue to function, in many brilliant ways they excelled. 
During this time, Jon Murki and his team created 45 brand new City parks, and there are another 30 new parks in the works. 

They created a Public-Partnership Division that has ongoing partnerships with many high-profile non-profits and agencies to its credit at this time.  
The golf concession was spun-off as its own cost center so that it became a revenue-generator instead of costing the department money annually. One Citywide Needs Assessment was completed and a second one is underway. 

Corruption was rooted out within municipal sports and at least one ex-employee went to prison. 

Front-line public safety departments including Police and Fire do not have to pay for water and power in Los Angeles. 
Recreation and Parks is on the front line of public safety. Healthy, available children’s recreation programming keeps an awful lot of kids from getting into real trouble in their lives. This is not some theory to be debated. It’s a well-proven fact. 
 
On the front line in the field, the department’s Park Rangers are a POST-certified peace officer agency patrolling parks and recreation centers.  It doesn’t get any more front line that that. 

But through “chargebacks”, the Department of Recreation and Parks does have to pay anyway, to the tune of $20-30 million annually. 

Jon Mukri took on the job of offsetting this impact.  State of the art artificial turf fields are in the process of being installed City-wide as water-saving and maintenance reducing measures. Water consumption was reduced by 35% through the installation of green technologies and practices.  

Best environmental practices were utilized to restore a heavily impacted Griffith Park after the significant damage it sustained in the 2007 fire, and hundreds of acres of the park were added through the Save the Hollywood Sign campaign. 

During his tenure, the department installed almost 30 universal playgrounds including the region’s first universal access baseball field, increasing inclusive play across Los Angeles. 

Mukri was also a proponent of ERIP – the incentive plan to allow senior, experienced employees retire early, stating that “ERIP provided a more sensible program to reduce personnel costs while maintaining the dignity of the exceptional employees of our City”.
   
Then there are the Quimby funds. Quimby funds are assessed fees on development projects that significantly impact the immediate neighborhood. They are required to be spent on recreation with a mile or so of the project as a remediation for the project to those directly impacted, and that makes sense from a social justice standpoint. Those directly impacted receive remediation. 

As they did with the City-Charter mandated funding for Recreation and Parks, City Hall continues to drool over the thought of taking the Quimby pot of money for their own pet projects. During his tenure, Mukri’s team created a GIS system to manage this nearly intractable and tightly regulated funding.

Mukri himself managed to keep that pot of funding from the same fate as the City charter mandated funds.  Today it remains within Recreation and Parks, being used for the legally-defined purpose. 
That won’t last long with Mukri out - you can be pretty sure that City Hall will soon pass a Charter change that allows them to take these monies, too. 

Previous Mayor Villaraigosa’s office continually threatened Mukri with removal through the subtle, personal touch of the hideously over-promoted egomaniac, Jeff Carr.  Throughout the personal threats, Mukri continued to make them look good over and over – “them” including then-Councilmember Garcetti. Mukri always had a way of giving the City Hall vultures what they wanted, but managed to do it without losing the recreation programming so needed in this City. 

That is a hell of a talent, and a commitment by the gentlemen to the Citizens of Los Angeles. Other good managers receiving the Jeff Carr treatment eventually gave up and bailed – Bill Robertson retired (and sadly passed away shortly thereafter), and Rita Robinson left for a job with Los Angeles County. Only Jon Mukri remained dedicated to the mission. 

When Garcetti was elected, there were a lot of questions as to whether they would keep Jon Mukri in Recreation and Parks. "Those in the know" were saying that Mayor Garcetti would be exacting revenge on the Recreation and Parks' General Manager because Mukri's significant other, Claire Bartels,was Wendy Gruel's chief of staff when Greuel was a councilmember and Deputy Controller when Greuel was elected City Controller. 

Instead of being removed outright, Mukri was asked to clean up the Department of Transportation, and was clearly promised to be returned to Recreation and Parks when a new general manager was found. That promise was published widely enough at the time to easily corroborate it. 

Unfortunately, as longtime City Hall observers like Ron Kaye and others have pointed out extensively, Mayor Garcetti and his people cannot be trusted. They blow with the breeze. They tell you one thing then do another as easily as they choose what tie the Mayor will wear or when the Mayor should drop an f-bomb. 

It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone then that the Mayor’s people are pulling Mukri out of the Department of Recreation and Parks now. 

Jon Mukri would be at retirement age in a year, and he is not getting the chance to retire out of the department and mission he loved.  A year goes by quickly, and it’s sad that such a committed and talented public servant is not being afforded even this small token in return for service above and beyond the call of duty. 

Given the real talent this gentleman has, it is the Citizens of Los Angeles and our City parks who are being punished. 

Ironically Ms. Claire Bartels remains in the Deputy Controller position today. 


Recreation and Parks was pretty much the last department standing, having not had its leadership replaced with vacuous yes men or unknowing outsiders. A department that hadn’t been bled dry of decency and the leadership that somehow finds a way to provide actual services to tax payers. 

Mike Shull is the new General Manager, effective any day now. He was part of Jon Mukri’s team as the department’s chief engineer – the new construction guy. All of City Hall loves the new construction Shull has done for them over the years.  

The recreation function of the department is what is most threatened by City Hall’s financial draining. 
We’ll find out if the Mayor’s new general manager is up to this challenge, or if recreation will finally die in Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finally! New Illegal Vendors code for parks passed by Commission

Nine very long years after lawsuits at Venice Beach caused it to be suspended, on Wednesday the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners passed a new version of the Illegal Vendors code within LAMC 63.44 sections governing City parks.

And...

It's damn well time they did!

The reticence on the part of the City Attorney to deal with this issue in a reasonably timely fashion is unconscionable. For nine years, the City itself was left wide open to a variety of potentially costly liability lawsuits. After all, if someone falls off a horse they paid to ride in a City park  or someone gets sick from food purchased in a City park, who are they going to sue? How about the equestrian riding on a legal park trail whose horse spooks and throws them when a vendor wagon or vendor with flowers rushes out in front of them - who are they going to sue?

The physical impact to the facilities itself has been pretty bad. City parks are looking like street parties on weekends, with vendors just about everywhere including pushing their carts deep into sensitive wildlife areas of some parks to sell food, toys, beer, cigarettes, and so on.

Concessionaire agreements for the parks dept. were significantly impacted, too. Vendors paying for exclusive contracts in City parks were often inundated with unregulated competition, making such contracts undesirable. This financially impacts the Dept. of Recreation and Parks because they are semi-proprietary and should therefore be able to control any financial undertaking on their properties. Without the suspended code, the Dept. had no control essentially of their own properties.

Meanwhile, Park Rangers and law enforcement were left with no authority to cite on the basis of the illegal vending - period.

Pure anarchy.

With the vote on Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners took the first official step to stopping the anarchy by passing the new ordinance content. It didn't happen quickly, though. This particular issue caused some consternation on the part of the Board  who took their time with it over the course of two meetings with special committees. Their approach to this issue is entirely unlike how they handled the two Tom LaBonge boutique items that failed to have proper CEQA work done on them and rightfully drew lawsuits. The Board passed those easily. I'm trying to decide if the board's new found caution is is a good thing (they're learning), or they were just following someone's (Mayoral?) orders again.

Let's hope this is a good thing and they're learning.

I should note that it was Rocky Delgadillo and Carmen Trutanich's office who let this crap slide. These two really were a complete waste of taxpayer dollars, weren't they? Thank you to Mike Feuer's office for handling this.

The code update also includes a tightened definition of Camping in Parks, which should help with transient management issues. Next stop is a vote at City Council. Hopefully these past nine years of park impacts have not been lost on councilmembers, and they pass this without changes.

Link to the new code is here. 

Or read on Scribd -

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jon Mukri back to Rec and Parks, and other park notes

For the past ten months, RAP GM Jon Kirk Mukri has been doing Mayor Garcetti a solid by managing Los Angeles's beleaguered  Dept. of Transportation while the Mayor searched for a new GM for that department.  Approved last week, Ms. Seleta Reynolds starts as the new DOT GM in mid-August.

At the time Mukri began babysitting DOT, he was still the General Manager of Recreation and Parks. Ostensibly, that has not changed. Mukri is still the General Manager of the Dept. of Recreation and Parks. Come August, will the Mayor return Mukri - arguably the most talented  manager in Los Angeles - to Recreation and Parks? Or come August, will the Mayor's wife (Amy Wakeland) be allowed to continue filling key Recreation and Parks positions with more of her girlfriends.


Speaking of Mrs. Garcetti's friends, Kafi Blumenfield - aka Mrs. Bob Blumenfield - seems to have gone missing from the Recreation and Parks Commissioners' coffee klatch.  Given the hideous conflict of interest her appointment represented, it's good to see that someone finally came to their senses on this. The Recreation and Parks Commission has a great deal more legal and fiscal power than most of the other figurehead commissions in Los Angeles. Recreation and Parks is semi-proprietary, and pretty much every major department activity must be approved by the Commission.

Given the poor legal performance by Mrs. Garcetti's friends on the Crystal Springs Baseball Fields project and the "Old Zoo Performance Stage" ... or whatever new name the Bandshell has this week, one can only hope that a new commissioner without baggage but with enough technical knowledge and actual talent will be appointed to replace Blumenfield.

We've previously noted another key poor legal performance in the same hearing by Acting Rec and Parks GM Mike Shull. Shull stated for the record that neighborhood children will walk to the new ballfields from surrounding neighborhoods. Honestly? The proposed fields are more than a mile from just the the park entrance. The walk through the park is along a public and sometimes secluded jogging trail. Any parent would think twice about before letting their child walk alone or even with friends on it. 

Thinking we've had enough of the bullshit pretend leadership being appointed over our City parks. Seriously. One way or another, it's time for a real manager to take back the managerial reins of Recreation and Parks.


Griffith Park is getting a Park Advisory Board. Yes, you heard that correctly. The current councilmember vociferously opposed this idea when the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group originally proposed it a few years back, but now it is happening. Unfortunately, the surprising acquiescence on said councilmember's part is likely due to a plan to fill the board with their chosen people.

From all appearances, at this point in time there is an actual process in place for the selection to the new Griffith (Park?) Park Advisory Board. Personally, I actually believe in the Park Advisory Board system in principle. I hope the establishment of Griffith Park's first PAB is completed with due diligence and foresight, not politics. Fingers crossed.


Still empty.
Finally...properly staffing and supporting Park Rangers remains a thinly veiled joke in Los Angeles. No new hires, no proper Chief as required by POST, and no action on the Mitch O'Farrell motion to resurrect a real Ranger program. That motion was supposed to be heard in April. To date? Crickets...  Meanwhile, the Ranger Division struggles to have one single full peace officer Park Ranger available a couple times a week for the new Hansen Dam Ranger Station. That station needs twelve Rangers plus Park Patrol officers for full coverage.

A token four new Rangers and a supervisor is included in the FY15 budget, but no action on that either. Four new Rangers doesn't even cover attrition, folks.  I'd laugh, but honestly as a dedicated parks volunteer, I find the hypocrisy -- "Los Angeles cares about our parks, parks resources, and park safety" blah blah -- utterly nauseating. Cities that have nice things take good care of their nice things. To look at our parks right now, Los Angeles must not give even the slimmest of shits about them.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Want to bid on Griffith Park's annual(sic) Halloween event?

This is interesting. The story goes that Ten-Thirty-One created this event and, with support from the council office, "convinced" Recreation and Parks to let them have the Old Zoo for the Disneyland-worthy spectacle.  For 2014, Recreation and Parks is originating this event as if it were a longstanding thing.

Legally, Recreation and Parks probably has to put the event out to bid. But we all know just how recent a thing this amusement park attraction really is.

Well, some other event company could conceivably win this contract. That would be fascinating.

Interested? If you are interested in bidding on the annual (sic) Halloween event in Griffith Park, follow this link to the opportunity.

Good luck bidder ... erm, bidders!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

“Great Horror Campout” - vulgar sanctioned abuse of a park system's gem

Is Griffith Park a emerging"Disneyland", or is it an Urban Wilderness Park? 

Lame duck Councilmember Tom LaBonge eats away at remaining habitat with this childish self-indulgence by loading it onto a fragile ecosystem of Griffith Park - a park that, to quote Labonge himself, is "the heart and lungs of Los Angeles."

Originally published by the Sierra Club.
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THE “GREAT HORROR CAMPOUT” IS A HORROR INDEED
by Carol Henning

Classy stuff.
The perpetrators of commercial exploitation simply cannot leave Griffith Park alone. Are you weary of reading articles about the ongoing campaign to use the park as a venue for tawdry spectacles that rake in profits for private business while inconveniencing the public? Then tell them to stop!

The Great Horror Campout is the latest money-making scheme of Ten-Thirty-one productions, the company that brought Haunted Hayride to the park. The Campout seems to be a longer, nastier version of the Hayride. It debuts at the Old Zoo June 6th and 7th and then goes nationwide this summer. “Only the dawning sun will save you,” cackles the Campout website. “CAMP AT YOUR OWN RISK,” it warns. “This camps [sic] only desire is to ruin you!” It lasts all night, during which time you will be chased by scary clowns (Last year they rode motorcycles.), ax-wielding rednecks, and the chupacabra (whatever they are). Campout patrons must agree to be “forcibly handled, moved, bound, hooded, chained and subjected to simulated torture” by the Campout cast of monsters. Writing about her fun experience at last year’s Campout, a young woman told Yelp that she got hooded and put in the van, put in a cage, locked in a trunk, trapped by a mothman, forced to get on her knees multiple times and made to break off a man’s finger. Gosh, can you think of a jollier way to spend a night? Another positive review praised the event for being “bloody, gross and loud.”

Some negative reviews called the Campout a “total ripoff; no scares.” Much of the criticism was aimed at the food served (The price included dinner and a sort of breakfast). It turns out the food was “all vegan and very gross.” One of last year’s patrons huffed: “This is why the rest of the country thinks L.A. is full of new age hippy freaks.” Not to worry. This year’s buffet dinner is being catered by Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger of Street and Mud Hen Tavern. Mark Cuban’s $2 million dollar investment will make this year’s event a bit more up-market than the one last year, which was held near Chinatown. Campers complained about the dirt lot with few trees and about downtown lights, which made total darkness impossible.

Eager for an opportunity to better please patrons and to raise prices, Ten-Thirty-one Productions cast covetous eyes on Griffith Park’s Old Zoo area, the site of their yearly Haunted Hayride. As usual, the L.A. Parks Foundation, the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks Commissioners, and probably a certain City Councilmember, rolled out the (blood) red carpet of welcome to Ten-Thirty-one Productions. Thus, another event celebrating the violent, the bloody and the gross gets inflicted on Griffith Park. If the Hell Hunt, which involves some bathing in blood, a sacrificial voodoo ritual, and digging through road kill, along with being hooded and chained, appeals to someone you know, potential patrons can rent a two-person tent for $223 per person or a four-person tent for $159 per person. Organizers expect 400-500 attendees. There are special “Chicken Zones” for timid folks who want to camp at the Old Zoo but do not want to be dragged about by monsters. The Campout website promises that, if wimps cannot take anymore, they can shout “I WANT MY MOMMY,” and “the nightmare will end.”

And so realistic.
It is fun to write about bad taste, but the point of the story is this: The Great Horror Campout will occupy the Old Zoo, which has been designated a “wilderness area” within a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Aren’t such landmarks supposed to be shown some respect? In 2008, The Griffith Family Trust proposed Historic-Cultural Monument status for the whole park. This was supported by the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter as well as other environmental and community groups. What do the wilderness designation and monument status mean to Ten-Thirty-one Productions and to people willing to pay more than $200 for a “bloody, gross, loud” night? Probably nothing.

In April, an Earth Day event was held in Griffith Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge gave a speech. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti gave a speech about the value of wilderness. Griffith Park is an urban wilderness. In spite of its location in the middle of L.A.’s highly urbanized landscape, the park is home to large mammals, including mule deer, fox, coyotes, bobcats and one mountain lion. That is the thing about wilderness; it is not empty. It provides habitat for plants and animals. The hills above the Old Zoo are full of birds, bats and bunnies. They are one of only a couple places in the park where gray fox can be found. How will the resident animals be affected by strobe lights and sudden loud noises? At last year’s Campout, patrons who had dozed off in their tents were awakened at 4:30 a.m. by blasting music. Imagine having your rest or your night hunting and foraging interrupted by shrieking humans, “sudden loud noises” and “flashing lights.” But, who cares about traumatized wildlife when there is money to be made? Shame on the public officials who sell out Griffith Park so readily.

A quick look at the Big Picture should remind us that human beings are only a strand in the web of life on this planet. We depend on other animals, on plants, on air, on water. Until we value these more than we value a fist full of dollars, we will continue to destroy the world that sustains us.

...

If you would like to remind public officials of the consequences of their venal behavior, here are some names and addresses: 


Mayor Eric Garcetti
Room 303, Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
mayor@lacity.org

Councilmember Tom LaBonge
Room 480, Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

Lynn Alvarez, President
Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department
Board of Commissioners
221 N. Figueroa St., Suite 1510
Los Angeles, CA 90012
rap.commissioners@lacity.org

Friday, May 9, 2014

CEQA Appeals filed on EIR approvals for Crystal Springs, Old Zoo projects

Finally! 

No press releases yet that we know of, but the Griffith Family Trust, Friends of Griffith Park, and the Sierra Club Griffith Park Chapter have filed CEQA appeals on two EIRs  - one for more Crystal Springs baseball fields, and on the Old Zoo Performance Stage. Both were naively approved by the Mayor's new Recreation and Parks Commission last month.

You can read the appeals here (Crystal Springs) and here (Old Zoo).

Will Arts Parks Health Aging and River Committee chair Mitch O' Farrell even hear these appeals?

If, and when may depend upon just how dedicated he is to his great friend, Tom LaBonge. Should be interesting.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Encino wants more Park Rangers!

....yet City Hall still doesn't get the message. Four new full-time Rangers and one Supervisor  (who are replacing three retirees), and still no Chief for FY15 doesn't constitute any kind of investment in the Park Ranger Division.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Upcoming Rec & Parks Budget Hearing -- don't waste your time.

For the past decade or so, a number of parks advocates including myself have braved the annual May Day labor protests downtown to go to City Hall in person and express our support for City parks and recreation in Los Angeles.

This Thursday the May Day cycle continues - City Hall's Budget & Finance Committee will be holding their public hearing on this Mayor's proposed budget for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

This year, however, I won't be wasting my time on this sorid farce.


The farce:

Since 2007, our electeds have happily stripped more than $155 million and almost half the workforce from the Dept. of Recreation and Parks via "chargebacks" - the almost-certainly illegal act of taking City Charter-mandated money designated specifically for this department. Until Mayor Villaraigosa,  City Hall rightfully recognized these monies as untouchable. They were granted to the Department of Recreation and Parks by The Citizens of Los Angeles in the 1920s and continued to be so in every update of the City Charter to date.

Mayor Villaraigosa, his Chief of Staff, Jeff Carr, and his CAO, Miguel Santana, came up with "chargebacks" as a way to effectively steal these funds. We've discussed ad nauseum the perversion of the public will that are "chargebacks" here on this blog over the years.

 $155 million in taken Charter-mandated monies later, Santana is still CAO. His budget continues to balance the City's budget on the backs of the Children of Los Angeles. Our new Mayor apparently sees no reason to stop this shameful theft. 

Neither does Recreation and Park's (Interim) General Manager, Mike Shull, apparently. His response to the Mayor's budget? An apothetic, simple letter that nit-picking a couple of things and essentially fails to discuss the big picture in context.

And then there's the Budget and Finance Committee's handling of last year's Recreation and Parks hearing. The only thing the shameless members of the Budget and Finance Committee actually accomplished was to make sure the individual parks and recreation facilities in their own districts received special treatment.  Paul Koretz was the worst offender in this area. Finally, CAO Santana actually taunted Rec and Parks' Regina Adams after her impassioned plea to correct the City's path.

Expect the same shameless behavior this year; the Budget and Finance Committee membership is essentially unchanged from last year, and, amazingly, Santana is still CAO.

Taken in totality, there is absolutely no reason to go Downtown this week. There is no swaying this much groupthink. Who wants to waste their time trying to talk ethics, logic, and priorities to these people?

I won't be bothering. You probably shouldn't be bothering, either.

Monday, March 31, 2014

RAP Commission vote on Crystal Springs ball fields is Wednesday

Update 4/2/14:

Long meeting, but easily passed by the Commission, unanimously.
Interesting that someone pointed out that putting active recreation for children within 500' of a freeway is against recommendations by the LA County Dept of Health. "No problem there", says the Commission with their vote. Personally, as someone who was once a child with asthma, I have to side with the LA County Dept. of Health. Enjoy deep-breathing those PM-2.5s, baseball kids.

Overall, it is worth noting that the comments and questions by the new Commissioners were not very legally, morally, or politically sophisticated, which is extremely disappointing.
 

Meanwhile, three four! of Tom LaBonge's current employees spoke in Public Comment in favor of the project, making a complete mockery of the process. Can you say 'conflict of interest'? I bet you can.

Looking forward to the lawsuit(s) about the weak EIR -- IF the community hasn't given up yet.

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This Wednesday, the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners will be voting on whether to approve additional baseball fields into the heavily used Crystal Springs picnic area. The specifics of this issue have been discussed in a number of articles on this site - read here.

If you haven't yet weighed in on the Crystal Springs Picnic Area ball fields proposal yet, please email your comments to: 

RAP.Commissioners@LACity.org


You may use this header template to help direct your comments to this issue:

PUBLIC COMMENT

Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners meeting April 2, 2014

Board Report # 14-061 – proposed new baseball fields at Crystal Springs Picnic Area

Position: (AGAINST or FOR the project - state which you are)

Commission President Alvarez and honorable Recreation and Parks Commissioners,

Please......
.......your comments .....

Sincerely,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grand-opening Thursday: First new LA Park Ranger Station in 35 years

The first new Park Ranger Station in Los Angeles in more than three decades opens this Thursday.

Now it would be nice if Los Angeles would actually allow Recreation and Parks to hire some full Park Rangers to man the station. Twelve Rangers are needed for reasonable coverage - they're allowing only 4 to be hired as of today.


Come on by for the grand opening and let the City know we want more Park Rangers!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If the Public gives up

"The only way LaBonge gets to gut the picnic area is if the public gives up."

I hope the part of "the Public" who has the resources to file lawsuits on the EIR for this project understands this.

Screen shot of Mr. Abram's learned commentary to a CityWatch article regarding Tom LaBonge's proposed gutting of the Crystal Springs picnic area for more baseball fields:

Friends of Griffith Park baseball fields presser lacks

New press release from the Friends of Griffith Park opposing yet more ballfields in Crystal Springs is below.

It's pretty lightweight, quite honestly.  The loud, pro-Crystal Springs nuts claim incorrectly that those opposed to the project in Crystal Springs are NIMBYs who don't want ballfields anywhere in Griffith Park, period. 

A stronger, more strategic statement from the Friends -- themselves constant targets of the nuts in question -- would have included likely support for this project if it were located at Ferraro Fields which is in Griffith Park and far better suited to the use.

The Mayor's newly-appointed Recreation and Parks Commission appointees don't dare challenge this project and will easily pass Councilmember LaBonge's legacy project at their April 2nd meeting. Then, hopefully, come the lawsuits against an unresponsive and very weak EIR.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Yet more problems with new ballfields if built in Crystal Springs

This is from a public comment letter to Recreation and Parks Commissioners by a recently retired Park Ranger with nearly 3 decades on the job. Someone who spent almost every day on the job in Crystal Springs, where the Ranger Station is located.

Their concerns are not addressed in the EIR, and their concerns evaporate if this project is built in Ferraro.

These are those concerns:
The Crystal Springs Picnic areas are among the most heavily used areas in Griffith Park and are already filled to capacity on many weekends.

The ball field project would remove a large portion of the picnic grounds from public use. The circular road system that is there now replaced a cul de sac system which was abandoned in the 1970s because of severe traffic impacts. The ball field project would recreate the cul de sac system - it didn't work then and it won't work now due to severe traffic impacts.

The destruction of so many mature heritage trees is unthinkable.

In addition, the (Park) Ranger fire station is located in this area and this project will certainly impact emergency response times if it does not cause relocation of the facility. ...

But go ahead, Councilmember LaBonge - shove your legacy project into Crystal Springs anyway.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Van Griffith's opposition to locating new ballfields in Crystal Springs

As it stands now, Councilmember Tom LaBonge and his supporters are determined to go against much of the park-going public and displace hundreds of predominantly Latino families because he is unwilling to change the location of his own legacy project.

Worse yet,  LaBonge is willing to go against the wishes of the very family that gave Los Angeles both Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory for the same reason.

How ugly is that?

Councilmember, put your project in Ferraro, where most people - including the Griffith Family - agree it should be.