By David Ferrell

With  Councilman Tom LaBonge hailing it as “the greatest gift ever given to the city of Los Angeles,” the L.A. City Council granted unanimous final approval today to naming sprawling, mountainous Griffith Park a historic landmark.

The hard-won designation, supported by neighborhood groups and citizens who deluged City Hall with more than 15,000 petitions, grew out of a backlash over widely villified proposals to “master plan” the park by erecting aerial tramways, restaurants and hotels in the massive wilderness area.

Now, any new development will be subject to review by the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, purportedly to make sure they do not damage the park's historical character.    But as we, Mayorsam blog and others have noted, the measure was severely weakened by some tricky final language.

That language specifically excludes from the landmark protections the Los

Angeles Zoo, the expansion-prone types who control the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage,

the land in  empty and grassy Toyon Canyon (a former landfill), and a few other areas.

Exploiting those compromises, LaBonge was able to get various city

departments and the City Council to agree to the plan without losing

the critical endorsement of pro-landmark groups.

None of those activists were allowed to testify on Tuesday, since

the issue had already been aired at public hearings. LaBonge did

introduce Griffith “Van” Griffith, great-grandson of the man who

donated the park to L.A., who read an excerpt of Col. Griffith J.

Griffith's unpublished autobiography, in which the early Los Angeles

pioneer expressed dreams of getting rich enough to give the huge

property to the people for a magnificent park.

Despite the self-congratulatory City Hall spin, the greatest

“gift” was not the complex compromise approved today by the council to save

the park from pro-development City Hall itself. Most would agree, the

gift came waaay back in 1898 (yes 1898), with the colonel's grant of land to city

dwellers for their free use into perpetuity, of an urban park free of


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