After three years of public meetings, the Working Group, a panel of citizens appointed to write a new MASTER VISION PLAN, submitted a Draft emphasizing the Park’s preservation as L.A.’s great urban wilderness and a place of free access and recreation. The Draft replaces the Melendrez Plan released in mid-2005 that was widely rejected by the public for its proposals to urbanize and commercialize the Park.
Now the Working Group Draft has been returned to the panel bluelined with changes that dilute and sometimes reverse its recommendations. On the cover, the words Master Plan are deleted and replaced with a new title, Vision Plan, representing a sea change in the document’s authority and function. This is necessary, officials say, to avoid triggering an expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR) “costing hundreds of thousands of dollars” which the City cannot afford.
Yet, only a few pages into the redlined document, these belying words are inserted: “A Master Plan for Griffith Park would be expected to follow the Vision Plan for the Park… and also contain specific projects for the Park…”
This suggests that after the Vision Plan is put to bed and the Working Group retired, the City is poised to find funding to hire consultants to create a real Master Plan for Griffith Park, one recommending capital development – which will trigger an expensive EIR costing six-figures.
The City routinely approves community plans, design review plans, and specific plans without a full EIR. They receive Mitigated Negative Declarations (MND) because a full EIR is not triggered unless there are impacts considered significant enough that they can not be remedied by mitigation. A current example is the City’s Bicycle Plan which includes substantial recommendations for citywide capital improvements. Even some construction projects such as the LA Zoo’s multi-million dollar renovation of its parking lot in Griffith Park received a MND. We submit that the Working Group’s Draft, which is heavy on open space preservation and light on construction projects, does not require a full EIR.
Throughout the open process that resulted in the the new Working Group Draft, the panel and public were told by the Department of Recreation & Parks that due to the nature of the recommendations being made, the final document would not need an EIR. A simple California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) checklist would do. What’s more, the only time an EIR is necessary is when a project proposed within this type of plan is ready to move to the design and construction phase – and even then, only if the environmental impacts of that project are considered significant.
Although the Working Group’s New Draft is not above fact-checking by Rec & Parks before being put out for public review, officials should not resort to bureaucratic manipulations to change the document’s identity and core recommendations. We are nearing the finish line of a community process, during which more than 12,000 public comments were filed and taken into account. Hitting the reset button and claiming that the Master Plan is not a Master Plan at all, does not serve the community or Griffith Park.
Compare the documents yourself. Both the Working Group’s Draft of a New Master Plan for Griffith Park and the version redlined by the City are available for viewing.
Historic Cultural Boundary Map GPboundarymap