The Los Angeles Conservancy needs your help in supporting the designation of Griffith Park as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). Despite its unquestionable importance to Angelenos and the city itself, the park might not receive the comprehensive designation needed to keep its unique character intact. We need letters of support and attendance at the nomination hearing on October 30; please see details below.
The largest interurban wilderness park in the United States, Griffith Park is a Los Angeles icon, a highly significant cultural landscape, and a vital resource for Angelenos from all walks of life. It dates from 1896, when Colonel Griffith J. Griffith donated over 3,000 acres to the City of Los Angeles, “to be used as a public park for purposes of recreation, health and pleasure, for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the said City of Los Angeles, forever.”
Griffith Park has served these purposes ever since, becoming an integral part of the lives of generations of Angelenos. It is unique, even at a national level, for possessing a large-scale, mostly untouched landscape in the center of an urban metropolis. As a cultural landscape, which is broadly defined as a natural environment affected by human actions, Griffith Park is more than just its individual buildings, hiking trails, or recreational areas. It is the heart and soul of this city and a reminder of what was once here on an even larger scale.
In May, the Griffith Family Trust nominated Griffith Park in its entirety as an HCM to ensure that future developments are reviewed through a transparent public process and are compatible with the historic character of the park. The nomination was prompted by a master plan drafted a few years ago for the park that proposed several new commercial construction projects, including a hotel and an aerial tram; a new master plan is now being prepared.
Seeking to uphold Colonel Griffith’s original intent, the HCM nomination calls out a wide array of historic and natural elements for protection. It identifies thirty-six historically sensitive resources and areas, including buildings, trails, and natural features.
It also includes a broad swath of wilderness area and park-wide objects such as retaining walls, culverts (enclosures for flowing water), and drinking fountains designed in the so-called Park Style seen in national parks of the era. These elements date to the 1930s Depression-era federal work programs, and the style continued to be used by the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks into the 1950s.
Approval of the nomination by the Cultural Heritage Commission, and then by the City Council, would bring Griffith Park the same status already given to city parks such as MacArthur Park and Echo Park. It would help protect the irreplaceable historical elements of the park—not only structures but also the invaluable open spaces that together create a cultural landscape unmatched anywhere in the U.S. Although it would not prevent further development outright, HCM designation would make sure that you and other citizens have the chance to voice your opinion on significant development proposals for the park.
Designation Is Not a Sure Thing:
Despite the undeniable historic importance of Griffith Park, its designation is far from certain. Some city officials and private interests oppose designating the park as a whole, instead supporting the designation of only buildings or certain areas of the park.
Some city agencies also oppose the comprehensive designation, citing concerns about coordinating maintenance and capital improvements. To the contrary, historic designation of the entire park would provide guidelines for decision-making that will protect significant aspects of the park while meeting the needs of visitors, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and other city agencies and utilities.
The Conservancy believes that the park as a whole merits protection as a cultural landscape. If its HCM nomination becomes piecemeal by being limited to buildings or certain areas, large parts of the park will remain vulnerable to incompatible new development that could severely diminish the park’s overall historic integrity—and, as a result, its unique ability to enhance the lives of Angelenos as it has for over a century.
How You Can Help:
The city’s Cultural Heritage Commission will vote on the Griffith Park HCM nomination on Thursday, October 30, 2008. If you believe that Griffith Park deserves designation and protection in its entirety, we need you to show your support before it’s too late.
Here’s how you can help:
1. Send a letter or e-mail to the Cultural Heritage Commission:
Cultural Heritage Commission
Office of Historic Resources
200 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
In your letter, start with something to the effect of: “I strongly support the designation of the whole of Griffith Park as a Historic-Cultural Monument. I hope that you agree and will support it as well.” Customize your letter with your own feelings about the park’s rich history and value to the community. If you’d like, you can use the suggested talking points at http://www.laconservancy.org/issues/griffith_points.doc
To help us track the amount of public support for this nomination, please send a copy of your letter or e-mail to the Conservancy at email@example.com and to the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. If at all possible, attend the Cultural Heritage Commission hearing to show your support in person:
Thursday, October 30, 10 a.m.
Los Angeles City Hall, 10th Floor
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Note: Valid photo ID required for building entry
This hearing is open to the public; you can come and speak to the Commission or simply show your support by your attendance.
3. Spread the word to friends and family to enlist them in the fight to preserve Griffith Park. There is incredible strength in numbers, and the city will listen if enough people voice their support.
4. Sign up for Conservancy Action Alerts for updates.
If you’d like to receive updates on this issue as well as other calls for preservation advocacy, sign up for our action alerts. We send them rarely, only as needed.
To subscribe, visit the Los Angeles Conservancy E-News signup page at http://lac.laconservancy.org/signup and check the “Preservation Action Alerts” box.
Note: By subscribing to action alerts, you will automatically be added to our list to receive general Conservancy E-News, sent every other month. We suggest you try an issue or two to see if you like it, but if you do not want to receive it, simply e-mail Cindy Olnick, communications manager, at email@example.com and she’ll make sure you receive only Action Alerts.
For More Information For more information and a link to the full HCM nomination, please visit the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council’s website at www.ggpnc.org.
Thank you in advance for your support.