The Griffith Family Trust presented its application to nominate the entire Griffith Park as a Historic-Cultural Monument to the Cultural Heritage Commission on Thursday, August 21. Daniel Paul and Rick Starzak of the consulting firm Jones & Stokes hired by the Trust described the historical aspects of Griffith Park in a slide presentation. Griffith Park is unique in that it is not only the largest area to be nominated, it also qualifies on all four criteria. All three members of the Griffith Trust, great-grandson Van Griffith, Clare Darden, and Mike Eberts, spoke in support of the nomination. Griffith referred to Col. Griffith’s wish that the park be free to the people and serve as a safety valve. Eberts, author of “Griffith Park: a Centennial History”, called Griffith Park “sacred ground.”
Griffith Trust members: Van Griffith, (his wife Barbara), Clare Darden, Mike Eberts.
Renee Weitzer spoke on behalf of Councilmember Tom LaBonge. She said the Councilman supports the designation of individual buildings like they have at Balboa Park in San Diego, but not the entire park. Renee mentioned the improvements made to the water system in Griffith Park at the urging of LFIA Past President Charlotte De Armond. Weitzer feared that the upgrading could not have been done if the Park had been a monument.
Rec. & Parks General Manager, Jon Kirk Mukri, said he was in favor of the nomination, but he had some concerns and wanted to work with the Cultural Heritage Commission staff to resolve them. The Department of Water and Power (DWP) wanted all of its facilities in the Park designated “noncontributing.” The Bureau of Sanitation (BOS) cited the volume of trash it picks up every day. Bill Delvac, an attorney from Latham & Watkins which represents the Autry National Center, wanted to delete the Griffith Reservation from the nomination. He feels that only the land originally donated by Griffith to the city should be a monument, not the 1,000 acres added later.
As the Cultural Heritage Commission considers Griffith Park HCM, Van Griffith is interviewed by ABC and KFWB.
The only concerns raised about the monument designation came from city agencies. All of the members of the public who spoke were in favor of designation for the entire park. Among those speaking in favor of the monument designation were Flora Chou of the Los Angeles Conservancy; Charlie Fisher of the Highland Park Heritage Trust; Joe Young and Carol Henning of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club; Chris Laib, Marian Dodge, and Chuck Soter of the Los Feliz Improvement Association; Lynn Brown of Equestrian Trails Corral 38; Gerry Hans of the Oaks Homeowners Association; George Grace of the Franklin Hills Residents Association; Louis Alvarado; Angela D’Arcy of City Project; Bernadette Soter of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council; and Kristin Sabo of Amir’s Garden.As also reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Commission then discussed the merits of the nomination. Because only three of the five commissioners were present, the vote had to be unanimous. Commissioner Glen C. Dake did not want to consider the application. He felt that the nomination was too large a geographic area and that the application (350 pages long) did not have enough detail. He thinks that the wilderness is not adequately described. His single No vote could have killed the application.
Commission President Richard Barron argued that Griffith Park without question is worthy of consideration. He is concerned about the commercialization of the park and thinks of the park as a wilderness area. He feels that Griffith Park is an important geographic area and needs more stewardship than that provided by CD 4 and by Rec. & Parks. He stated that DWP and BOS have never objected to any Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). He said that CD 4 needs to be convinced to approve the nomination because “Tom LaBonge wields a big hammer.”
Although Commissioner Louie was concerned about the impact of monument designation on city departments, she moved to consider the nomination.
Ken Bernstein of the Planning Department’s Office of Historic Preservation advises the Cultural Heritage Commission. The staff report found the application complete and recommended considering the nomination. He reminded the Commissioners that their job this day is to decide whether or not to consider the application. He has already met with Rec. & Parks regarding the infrastructure in the Park. He said that repairs to infrastructure such as water, sewer, and gas in historic areas are generally signed off over the counter since they are underground and do not visually impact the monument. Ten city parks already have historic designation and have had no problems. Lambert Giessinger, Historic Preservation Architect of the Planning Department, would work with the applicant to clarify how to address maintenance issues.
After much discussion among the commissioners and staff, Commissioner Dake decided that he did not want the item continued to another date; he would vote yes to consider the nomination provided that his requirements for more information were met. The vote was called, and all three commissioners present voted yes to consider Griffith Park a Historic-Cultural Monument.
What you need to do now:
The Councilman is concerned about the impact a Historic-Cultural Monument designation would have on repairs to the infrastructure in the park. According to Ken Bernstein of the Office of Historic Resources they are not an issue. Please write to Councilman LaBonge now to let him know that you would like the entire park designated. After all, it is the open space that makes the park a park. He needs to hear it from everyone. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at Tom Labonge, City Hall, Room 480, 200 N. Spring St., LA, CA 90012.
Please copy your letters to the Cultural Heritage Commission at email@example.com
and to Rec. & Parks General Manager at JonKirk.Mukri@lacity.org. Make sure you sign your name and address.
Let’s all let them know how much we care about Griffith Park and why we want to preserve it.