In Fryman Canyon, they no longer allow you to park on the streets to the public trailhead, but they love their Harvard socialism.
There is a small pay lot on Laurel Canyon that has perhaps 1/3 of the capacity needed for weekend hikers. In the event of overflow, we would use one of the many empty streets nearby and partake of the public good known as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, an accommodation the gentry has done away with. First by guile, and now by civic order they’ve persisted.
There are three houses on this street for sale, all over $5 million. Is this in keeping with Elizabeth’s claim to be capitalist to her bones?
Are we allowed to walk here? I’m not sure. That gate definitely says no. For good measure, it also has a lock.
On the other hand, it is temptingly ajar. Always an invitation to a lifelong marshmallow test defier like myself.
Wait. What’s that at the first landing of the stairs? A 1930’s era city light pole. Okay, so this is a public right of way. Good to know. Why then, the gate?
Let’s back up. A half hour earlier, we were in the Cahuenga Pass on our way to the Tree of Wisdom. Only we couldn’t exit southbound on Barham. The entire off-ramp had been removed, just like the one at Skirball was removed from the 405 last year. Both lead into the hills. Hmmm.
Well…why don’t we just get off at Highland and hike around Whitley Heights instead? Aren’t there a bunch of stairs up in there, just like in Echo Park and Beachwood Canyon? Yeah, let’s do that! So here we are, our first stairs. Up we go…
WTF? Who put this here? Down we retreated….
Stairway #2. Looks good! A slight right turn at the top, and then…
Seriously? Is this legal?
Think again, peasant, before breaching the perimeter of Bella Vista Way. Smithers, release the hounds! Okay. We’re getting the picture.
Around we wound, up through the graciously appointed Mediterranean village of secreted courtyards of Rudolph Valentino and Jean Harlow, passing four locked stairways, until at the top we came upon The Whitley Terrace Steps. The one on the map. Another gate. With a lock.
But, the gate was open….a clear invitation to mock the swells…
At the bottom, predictably, another gate. Tellingly, it also wasn’t locked.
The message, clearly intended for interlopers from the Valley as well as tourists from Omaha, was you are not allowed to walk here. You are trespassing in someone else’s yard. These stairs, which were built by the City of Los Angeles and are as much a part of the civic infrastructure as Griffith Park are off limits to you. They belong to us now. You know why? Because we put a gate here andno one who works for the city has the integrity balls to tells us to take it down.
This guy pushed me to the shoulder today on my way to work. If you center the transaxle of a Humvee equidistant from each curb, then floor it for a full block, two and half tons of banana yellow tempered steel will leave the Little People with limited option not to give way. It’s called owning the road. A concept Che would understand.
David Simon, the creator-producer of the HBO series The Wire recently gave a speech in which he lamented what he saw as a two-tiered economic system in America, divided between haves and have-nots: “My country is a horror show.” After some rumination on the wisdom of Marx, and a lament on the impact of money in elections, he concluded, without irony, the time might be right for people to “pick up a brick”. At what or whom the bricks would be hurled was left unsaid. I thought of this as I was trying to park yesterday at Runyon Canyon.
Runyon Canyon, the most popular hiking trail in the city of Los Angeles, has no parking lot. Consider that for a moment. It also has no bus service. Unless one has the good fortune ($$$) to live nearby, one is obliged to arrive by car. Not so long ago one could park anywhere along Vista and Fuller, all the way up to the park gates. Then the folks in the big houses petitioned the city to eliminate all street parking in front of their homes. Not that they were impacted in any way directly vis-a-vis parking. Every house on those blocks has ample garage and driveway space. No, what the homeowners objected to was the use of their street by their fellow Angelenos, even though these were the only access points to the park. The purpose of the parking ban was to inhibit people from using the park at all. Effectively, to privatize public space. In practice this didn’t happen. Hikers parked in the available spots south of Franklin and hiked a few extra blocks, past angry signs like this one. We were inconvenienced, but we chalked it up to calories burned and made the best of it.
That arrangement is now a memory. The city has eliminated nearly all non-permit parking within range of the Runyon gates. Parking Enforcement Priuses silently trawl the neighborhood for tickets, assisted by confusing and at times contradictory signage. Which is to say, liberal Democratic Los Angeles has declared war on its people at the behest of the wealthy. The ticket revenue is now a de facto usage fee for what was formerly a public park. As a point of comparison imagine the residents of the Dakota Apartments cordoning off the crosswalk at 72nd and Central Park West and slapping a surcharge on the exit turnstiles at the subway station to limit visitors to Strawberry Fields. How long do you think New Yorkers would stand for that?
Is it not enough there is no equivalent to Central Park, or even Golden Gate Park, in Los Angeles? The City’s investment in recreative public space are a pair of gates, some garbage cans and an unmaintained dirt trail. It may not have been much, but it offered a grand view and a chance for folks from different tax brackets to admire one another. Even this widow’s mite is being withdrawn from the public commons bit by bit, first with the trail grab alongside the Pink Wedding Cake house on Solar Drive and now this….reverse Homestead Act for the Gentry. Obama signs were recently thick upon the ground here, but now only the stoop labor remains, toiling beneath the palm fronds. As for the rest of us? Well…when the Hour of the Brick comes round, I can think of a place to start.