The Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan.
Members of the general public, environmentalists and local government officials fought for decades to protect the scenic treasure that is Mulholland Drive – the great scenic road along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, which was conceived in 1913 and built in 1922. The tireless efforts of these advocates culminated in the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan, which was enacted almost 20 years ago. The Scenic Plan begins with the recognition that Mulholland Drive “makes available to all people spectacular mountain, ocean and city views, and scenic and recreational opportunities from the Hollywood Freeway to the westerly Los Angeles City-County boundary line.” By passing the Specific Plan, the City expressly recognized that Mulholland’s “amenities and resources are valuable to the city as a whole, and should be protected and enhanced by means of land use and design controls tailored to the physical character of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway and Santa Monica Mountains.”
The Proposed Mulholland Realignment.
That historic legacy is now being threatened by a proposal that violates virtually every rule, policy, and guideline in the Specific Plan.
The project would disrupt Mulholland’s continuous alignment.
The proposed Mulholland Bridge Realignment Project would degrade the aesthetic and recreational quality of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway by disrupting the continuous ridgeline alignment of Mulholland Drive. Metro’s plan calls for the east end of the Mulholland Bridge to connect with Skirball Center Drive instead of Mulholland Drive, at the site of an engineered “T” intersection that would require a left-turn for eventual reentry onto Mulholland. This realignment would also be dangerous, especially for cyclists, who would have to maneuver through a signalized intersection, traversing six lanes of traffic just to get to Skirball Center Drive before reaching the continuation of Mulholland Drive, which would greatly increase the safety risks. This detour off continuous Mulholland violates the Specific Plan goal of preserving Mulholland Drive as a continuous, “low-intensity, low-volume, slow-speed, parkway-type setting.”
The project would degrade the scenic views.
The project would likewise degrade the scenic quality of Mulholland Drive along the Bridge by relocating the east end of the Bridge approximately 200-400 feet to the south, changing the angle of the bridge vis-à-vis the I-405, reducing the angle of incline, and lowering the height of the bridge. This would significantly impair the panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley and outlying mountains. The existing scenic view would be replaced with a straight-on eastbound view of massive concrete retaining walls and from all other sides by a close-up view of traffic on the 405 passing underneath a shortened bridge.
The Design Review Board.
Metro, however, cannot unilaterally realign Mulholland. The City of Los Angeles must approve this proposal. The first step was a public hearing on February 17, 2011, before the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Design Review Board, an advisory agency whose recommendations are not binding on the City.
The Board Supports The Specific Plan Protections.
The Board, however, was not persuaded, nor was it intimidated by those who implied that the project was a fait accompli. Members of the Board emphasized that its obligation in applying the Mulholland Specific Plan is to protect a much broader constituency than just the local institutions and those who commute through the area. The Board’s mandate is to protect the public resources of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway for the recreational and aesthetic enjoyment of all members of the public, including those who drive, cycle, jog and hike along the scenic spine of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The Board-imposed conditions.
The Board then unanimously passed a motion to recommend approval of the proposed realignment, but only if Metro returns with a revised proposal that includes (1) the presentation of a new plan for a continuous roadway, without the engineered “T” intersection; (2) the preparation of new architectural design plans for an extraordinary bridge in keeping with Mulholland’s municipal designation as a scenic parkway; (3) the presentation of a written document explaining how Metro will resolve the concerns raised in letters by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Canyon Back Alliance and Brentwood Residents Coalition, and the Bel Air Skycrest Property Owners’ Association (the residential community closest to the project to the west), explaining how the project’s significant impacts will be mitigated; and (4) the submission of all plans required under the Specific Plan, including elements such as irrigation, grading, landscaping, and retaining walls.
Canyon Back Supports The Board’s Determination.
The Board’s motion establishes a set of reasonable guidelines that comply with the Specific Plan and respect the integrity of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway. Metro now has the opportunity to make this project work for everyone — without simply sacrificing the Mulholland public resource to the traffic engineers.
February 16, 2011 – CalTrans turns CEQA on its head by contending that its 2008 environmental review of the proposed reconstruction of Mulholland Bridge – without relocating the bridge off the existing Mulholland Drive alignment – somehow allows it to now move the bridge off the historic Mulholland Drive alignment, because, according to CalTrans, the adverse impacts of the newly-proposed realignment were not identified as potentially adverse impacts of the 2008 reconstruction. In doing so, CalTrans remains oblivious to the fact that the proposed Mulholland realignment would degrade the Mulholland Scenic Parkway forever.
February 16, 2011 – CalTrans/Metro Plan To Degrade Mulholland Scenic Parkway & Core Trail
Metro and CalTrans are trying to ram through the system a project to realign the Mulholland Bridge and widen Skirball Center Drive. In this letter, Canyon Back Alliance and Brentwood Residents Coalition strongly oppose the project as a gross violation of CEQA, which disregards virtually every policy and goal of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan.
February 15, 2011 – Bel Air Skycrest Property Owners’ Assoc., the closest residential community to the west of the Mulholland Bridge, objects to the Mulholland Bridge Realignment as an effort to transform scenic, historic Mulholland Drive from a “low-speed, low-intensity drive” into a major “feeder street” for the institutions on Mulholland and a major cut-through to the 405 freeway, in violation of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan’s policies, objectives and guidelines.
February 11, 2011 – Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations opposes Mulholland Bridge Realignment because CalTrans/Metro has failed to consider the potential degradation of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway, a treasure of the Santa Monica Mountains, asks for a full EIR.
February 17, 2011 – Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, expressing “substantial concern” that the CalTrans/Metro proposal to realign Mulholland and widen Skirball Center Drive would cause significant adverse environmental impacts, asks for further environmental review: “These impacts are a result of the design-build team’s view of this project as solely an engineering challenge, rather than realizing that the realignment, and resulting discontinuity, of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway has a significant impact on cultural, aesthetic, and biological resources. Precisely because these impacts are outside the team’s expertise, additional study is warranted as well as the opportunity for other agencies and members of the public to weigh in with possible mitigation measures.”
February 24, 2011 – Metro Drops Plan To Realign Mulholland Bridge. Metro has announced that it has abandoned its proposal to realign Mulholland. Metro has done the right thing by returning to the original, EIR-approved bridge. The realignment would have created a permanent detour, dividing Mulholland into two, non-continuous roads, forever degrading the scenic and recreational amenities of Mulholland Drive, in exchange for dubious short-term traffic benefits.