Canyon Back Alliance Fights Back

Canyon Back Alliance Files Lawsuit Against City of LA Seeking To Restore Public Access Between Mt. St. Mary’s Trail And Canyonback & Big Wild Trails Network!

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 23, 2006  —  Canyon Back Alliance (www.canyonback.org) filed a lawsuit yesterday against the City of Los Angeles, seeking a court order requiring the City to compel removal of the gates and fences that prevent the public from accessing Stoney Hill Road, a public street in the Mountaingate community in Brentwood.

Stoney Hill Road separates the Mt. St. Mary’s Fire Road (“MSM”) Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains from the “Big Wild” network of public trails, which spans 21,000 acres of protected wilderness in the Santa Monica Mountains. Since the 1940s, the MSM Trail was freely used for recreational purposes until the City “withdrew” Stoney Hill Road from public use and then allowed restrictive gates to be installed.

“Mountaingate residents, with the City’s active assistance, have conferred upon themselves the right of exclusive access by gating-off Stoney Hill Road to the public — thereby severing the historical connection between the MSM Trail and the Big Wild,” said Canyon Back Alliance attorney Tom Freeman of Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg. “But Stoney Hill Road is a public street. Nobody has the right to erect gates and hire security guards to keep the public off a public street.”

In court papers filed Feb. 22 with Los Angeles County Superior Court, Canyon Back Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving public access to trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, charges that Stoney Hill Road is a public street and it is therefore illegal to block public access. The Alliance maintains that Mountaingate’s security guards, gates, intimidating signs, and newly-enhanced security fences make public access impossible to all but Stoney Hill residents, their invited guests and employees.

In 1994, the State Court of Appeal held that the City violated state law by allowing residents to erect gates on public streets in the Whitley Heights neighborhood because public streets must be open to all on an equal basis.

“The same clear rule applies to Stoney Hill Road in Mountaingate,” Freeman said. “The City’s refusal to restore public access, despite the Court of Appeal’s unambiguous ruling in the Whitley Heights matter, is simply lawless. We have been trying to get the City to comply with the law for nearly a year. But now, we are looking to the courts to force Mountaingate and the City of Los Angeles to comply with state law.”

Complaint filed in Canyon Back Alliance v. City of Los Angeles.