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A zip-line in Runyon Canyon? No way, Hollywood Hills West residents say

Runyon Canyon zip-line plan meets with forceful opposition from residents

They had high hopes for transporting people through Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. Instead they came out of a meeting with zip.

Jeff Pruitt and Ryan Woods showed up at a recent Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council meeting to clear the air about their idea: to build a zip-line.

They said the opportunity would bring money for the Department of Recreation and Parks that could go toward Runyon Canyon and other parks in the city. The two would give $700,000 in advance of the project for park rangers and improvements in the park.

By the end, they were walking to their cars, away from an ornery audience that had asked questions like: Will "ball gags" be provided for all the people loudly screaming overhead?

Pruitt and Woods' proposal involved installing a nearly half-mile-long line through Runyon Canyon that would attract people to the park. The line would be built by Adventure Solutions, a company that specializes in zip-lines and other outdoor activities, and be managed by Woods and Pruitt. Gliders would start 500 feet above the canyon and land near the entrance to the park at Fuller Gate. The plan would include a shuttle service from Hollywood and Highland to alleviate parking problems that could arise in the surrounding neighborhood.

"We would be supplying some of the best views of the city and the Hollywood sign," Woods said at the outset of the meeting. "That alone would bring hundreds of people for this exciting experience."

The attraction would blend in with the scenery, Woods and Pruitt told a crowd of about 80 people. Previous neighborhood council meetings had also attracted a good number of people concerned over issues — such as tour buses — that they were concerned would change the nature of the neighborhood, said council Vice President Cyd Zeigler. Even before Woods and Pruitt took center stage, the meeting began with spirited complaints about the color of one house.

The signs that things would not go well for the pair came early. Some in the audience quietly, but audibly, scoffed.

Once the presentation was over, people vented about zip-line platforms they insisted would be conspicuous eyesores, the zip-line's effect on wildlife and the loud screaming they expected to pierce the air as people zipped through.

Don Andres, vice president of the nonprofit Friends of Runyon Canyon, said many of the neighbors had heard about the idea eight months ago and already expressed their disapproval.

"I recommend against the park because it conflicts with its premise as a public green space," Andres said, to applause. "The park should focus on givers rather than takers."

Stacy Sillins, a member of Friends of Runyon Canyon, said: "If people want a thrill ride, they can go to Six Flags…. I applaud your entrepreneurial spirit, but this is not the right park. You know that."

Others demanded that the men tell them who they were working with at City Hall. The pair said they did not want to speak on anyone's behalf, though a week after the meeting Woods and Pruitt said they had heard expressions of support from some public officials — prior to the contentious meeting.

"There is something that doesn't pass the smell test," said Susan Mullins, president of the Upper Nichols Canyon neighborhood association. "If someone is encouraging you, we want to know, so we can go after them."

The two men had approached the city Recreation and Parks Department last year about building a zip-line in Griffith Park.

A spokeswoman said the department stopped supporting the plan in Runyon Canyon several months ago. In a recent letter to the president of the department's board of commissioners, Councilman Tom LaBonge said he could not support the zip-line proposal.

"While I do appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit and creative solution of a zip-line to help with some of these challenges," the councilman wrote, "I firmly believe that this idea would be better suited for an alternative location than Runyon Canyon Park."

Pruitt said he was not surprised by the reaction, saying supporters are less likely than opponents to show up to such meetings.

"Essentially, they are anti-development. We could have said we will mow their lawn for free and they would say no," he said. "They were responding with prepared statements to the rumors. They don't want anything new."

jerome.campbell@latimes.com

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