Zoo Pressured to Introduce Parking Fees to Griffith Park
IN OUR PUBLIC TRANSIT-DEPRIVED METROPOLIS, charging to park in a regional or community park is tantamount to an admission fee. Currently, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo, a rent-free tenant of Griffith Park, is being pressured to introduce paid parking to the lot that serves its visitors, as well as non-Zoo recreationists and, on occasion, the Autry Museum.
Protests have been lodged by several groups, including the Sierra Club and the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust. They point out that this is a regressive step that will rebound on non-Zoo visitors and violate the spirit of Colonel Griffith's stipulation that access to Griffith Park be free.
The reason cited to justify the fee -- increasing revenue for the Zoo -- does not quite convince. Not only will the major expense of installing and staffing a fee-collection system negate the projected return, the recent report that Zoo receipts are running ahead of plan, suggests that the Zoo should not be asked to take this step at all. Even if deriving more revenue from its operations is a reasonable goal, a minimal increase in ticket price will achieve this efficiently, without increasing the facility's overhead. It will do this without penalizing other park users and setting the disturbing precedent that people should pay to use public parks.
The implications for freeway traffic present an additional problem for the general public. On weekends, northbound motorists on the 5 to 134 freeway transition are mired already in the congestion caused by exiting traffic inching towards the Zoo lot. Adding a fee collection system to this mix would saddle freeway drivers with more delay and turn the 5 into its own kind of parking lot.
So why is the Zoo being pressured to take this unwieldy step? Park watchers agree that a vigorous outcry would greet any proposal to levy parking fees in Griffith Park broached through the usual channels. But while the Zoo is in the Park it is not a park. It is its own City depar tment with a discrete staff and commission, and is not administered by the Department of Recreation & Parks. By quietly first establishing a controversial policy at the Zoo, the City can delay public scrutiny and discussion until it is a done deal. And once parking fees are established at one site, the precedent can be cited to roll out paid parking everywhere in Griffith Park -- as well as in other parks -- whose layouts make it feasible. Even in quirky park properties, fees can still be levied. Parking meters can be expeditiously installed almost anywhere. In exchange for a quick infusion of cash, the City is currently debating transferring municipal parking lots built and operated with public funds into private hands. Privatizing City parking meters, which has happened in other cities, has also been mentioned. This raises additional concerns about the wisdom of initiating paid parking at the Zoo and in our parks. Exactly who will benefit? Certainly not the recession-whipped families and individuals who rely on City parks for free leisure and recreation. This is regressive policy during the best of times---and even more so in a recession.
- Read the City Committee Report on Griffith Park Zoo Pay Parking
Read these community letters opposing Pay Parking at Zoo Lot: