Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lost Paradise

I've recently returned to LA, CA after 3 years. My single favorite destination in LA, perhaps because of its proximity, was Runyon Canyon located in Hollywood. It is an abandoned estate nestled in the middle of the city that allows you to get away from the craziness of the city for 30-45 minutes as you walk from the foothills to the top of the Hollywood Hills. The views are magnificent and if it is clear you can see miles out over the Pacific.

When I first began walking runyon during the early 90s it was relatively quiet, people would bring their dogs and it was a pretty dependable location for celebrity sightings. Over time there were some changes. A local organization pressured the city to provide some improvements as a compromise for the tunnel being built for the subway. Unfortunately these improvements, the designation of Runyon as an official "Off Leash" park, word of mouth and local articles led to greater and greater numbers of visitors.

There was an ongoing battle with residents living on the street that accessed the western gate. They wanted parking to be restricted and of course the visitors wanted to retain that access. I opposed the restricted parking for many years on the basis that it was unfair for homeowners to enjoy such a luxury while the renters at the eastern gate would suffer the overflow.

But then something happened. I can't say when exactly. Maybe seeing yet another $70,000 SUV sitting at the top of the street for 20 minutes, blocking traffic while the driver waited for a parking space to become free so that they could exercise with as little...exercise as possible. Maybe the overwhelming odor from all the dog waste that was building. Maybe seeing the many new trails that were inevitably cut into the hills as more and more people decided to make their own way. Maybe watching the city draw up plans that included the addition of a parking lot in the park, a parking lot that would only bring more and more people and probably a whole new set of problems. Maybe it was a combination but at some point I realized that Runyon was being ruined. And it was its own success that was killing it.

I'm not a conservationist nut who wants to preserve every hotdog stand in LA but I really hated to see this decline. And it was around this time that I left LA.

I am walking Runyon every day. And the changes are dramatic. What was once a pristine hillside has a completely new and heavily used trail. The numbers of visitors has increased as well.

The homeowners did finally win their fight. There is no parking on their street. Except for the priviliged few who I assume cozied up to the locals to get passes. But as much as I still believe it to be "unfair" in every way, I have to admit that I am happy that they won. If you want to walk runyon, you have to make a little more effort. I can't imagine what the numbers would be like if people could still park 100 yards from the gate.

They haven't installed the parking lot but I am told that it is till in the plans. That will be the death of the park. I can only hope it is delayed as long as possible.

I guess I am turning into one of those old fogies who longs for the past but damn that park was great 15 years ago.

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