Stoney Hill Enclave Illegally Blocks Public Access
on the Canyonback-Mt. St. Mary’s Trail Route
The Mt. St. Mary’s fire road trail has been used by the public for recreational purposes for many years – long before the Mountaingate development. It is a 2-mile ridgeline trail, with scenic views of the mountains and more recently, the Getty Museum. Critical to the public’s use and enjoyment of the trail was the fact that, before Mountaingate, it was directly connected by a path that ran through the area where the Stoney Hill Enclave is now located. U.S Geological Survey aerial photographs from 1967 demonstrate this historic Canyonback-Mt. St. Mary’s trail route.
Today, however, the historic Mt. St. Mary’s-Canyonback connection is severed by locked gates that keep the public out of the Stoney Hill residential enclave. Signs warn those approaching the Stoney Hill Enclave that this private community and anyone entering it without invitation is a trespasser and will be dealt with under the law: "THIS PROPERTY CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC No Entry Without Permission L.A.M.C Sec. 41.24" Surveillance cameras are posted throughout the gated enclave's streets. Guards at the entry post strictly limit entry to invited visitors and the hired help, whose vehicles must clearly display a bright purple "Service Pass," which differs in color from the "Guest Pass."
While residents of the private residential enclave enjoy unimpeded access to the Mt. St. Mary’s trail from a gate at the terminus of Stoney Hill Road and access to the Canyonback Trail through a gate at the end of Promontory, another street within the gated Enclave. But if you do not live behind the gates and were not invited by someone who does, you better not even try to pass through this private area.
That is a shame, because the streets behind the gates, if unlocked as they once were, would allow trail users to enjoy an almost 2-mile hike from above Mt. St. Mary's College to the Canyonback Trail, thereby connecting to the Kenter Canyon, Westridge, and Sullivan Canyon trails within the Big Wild trail system. Consequently, the ticket for admission on the Mt. St. Mary’s-Canyonback trail route is a home within the gated enclave or an invitation from someone who lives there.
How did this happen?
The City of Los Angeles "withdrew" the public streets within the Stoney Hill Enclave from public use in 1983. By "withdrawing" the streets from public use, under the claimed authority of Government Code section 37359, the City essentially gave the public streets to the Stoney Hill residents for their exclusive use.
The City, however, has no right to provide local residents exclusive access to public streets if those streets would otherwise be used by members of the public for legitimate street purposes. The use of public streets to access recreational parkland is a legitimate use of a public street. And Government Code section 37359 confers on the City no authority to do so.
In Citizens Against Gated Enclaves v. Whitley Heights, 23 Cal. App. 4th 812 (1994), the California Court of Appeal expressly ruled that the City of Los Angeles’ practice of withdrawing withdrawing public streets from public use, in order to allow local residents to enjoy exclusive access to the public streets, was illegal based on long-established precedent.
The City of Los Angeles simply has no right to take public streets from the people and give them to local residents. While the City may institute a formal street vacation in some circumstances, it cannot vacate a public street if it is used by members of the public for any legitimate purpose, including traveling to recreational trails like the Mt. St. Mary's and Canyonback trails, jogging on the streets, or walking dogs. The Court of Appeal ruled that the City’s practice was illegal ten years ago. And the City is duty-bound to comply with the law as interpreted by the state’s courts. But the Stoney Hill Gates remain. And the public's right of access on the streets connecting the Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary's trails is being sacrificed for the illegal gates.
That is why the Canyon Back Alliance has demanded that the City of Los Angeles remove the illegal Gates immediately.