Mulholland Scenic Plan Wending Its Way to Council

Times Staff Writer

An ordinance aimed at restricting development to preserve a scenic stretch of Mulholland Drive will probably come before the Los Angeles City Council in four to six months, city planners said.

The ordinance would affect 22 miles of the mountainous road from Cahuenga Boulevard west to Mulholland Highway in Woodland Hills and would include the unpaved section from Encino Hills Drive to Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills.

The road follows the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Hollywood area to the sea.

“There’s a lot of sentiment among people who live there and those who drive through the area that we preserve it as a scenic driving experience,” said Emily Gabel, a senior city planner responsible for much of the proposal. “That’s what this is intended to do.”


Retaining Character

Under the proposal, known as the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan, Mulholland would remain two lanes except for a 100-yard stretch from Benedict Canyon Drive to Beverly Glen Boulevard in Sherman Oaks and would keep its curves to retain its character and discourage speeding.

The ordinance would require new buildings and homes--including those rebuilt after damage from fire or other natural disasters--to be painted in earth or rock tones and constructed in a manner that would least obstruct views from the road.

Although most residents have reacted favorably to preserving Mulholland’s rustic nature, some landowners are concerned that the ordinance could infringe on property rights.


Gabel said there will be at least three public hearings on the ordinance before it is brought before the City Council. It also must be reviewed by the city’s Planning Department and Planning Commission, she said, a process that will take four to six months.

At various places, Mulholland Drive provides panoramic views of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, the grid of roads through the San Fernando Valley and the rocky cliffs along the Pacific Ocean.

Notorious Originator

William Mulholland originated the idea of a scenic parkway for pleasure driving in 1913, when he was chief engineer for the city’s Water Department. The roadway was opened to traffic in 1924.


The City Council in 1971 incorporated three paragraphs in the zoning laws stating that the road’s natural look should be maintained and development limited.

A citizen’s advisory committee was formed that year to help planners establish design criteria for the roadway. The committee designated an “inner corridor” of 500 feet of land on each side of Mulholland on which new structures were prohibited.

The newly proposed ordinance would also limit development in an “outer corridor” extending half a mile from each side. Commercial buildings would be prohibited, other structures would be limited to a height of 25 feet and only minimal grading would be allowed.

Compromises Likely


Compromises will probably be made as the drafted ordinance works its way through public hearings and committee and council reviews.

“If you don’t start by putting the expectations high, you don’t get anywhere,” said Lotte Melhorn, a member of the citizen’s advisory group and a Mulholland Drive resident for 36 years. “It’s an emotional issue for people who have houses along Mulholland.”

City Planner Violet Moyer said, “People who own the property are concerned about the regulations. A lot of people don’t want view sites, hiking trails. They are afraid it will disturb the wildlife. But most people who hike care about the woods, and they care about the wildlife.

“The idea is to keep it a slow-speed, easy, meandering kind of road. Of course, the people who live there don’t want any development at all.”