Tram System Proposed for J. Paul Getty Center

Times Staff Writer

Plans for a six-level underground parking structure and a $6-million electric shuttle system were unveiled Wednesday at the planned J. Paul Getty Center in the hills above Brentwood.

The plans, which were submitted to the Los Angeles Planning Commission for approval, call for a tram system to carry visitors three-quarters of a mile uphill from the parking lot to a museum and other facilities.

Coordinated by computer, two 80-foot-long trams would be pulled by steel cable along a guideway running parallel to Getty Center Drive. The system would link the parking structure with a 110-acre museum complex that will be located on a hilltop northwest of the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and Sunset Boulevard.

Stephen D. Rountree, director of the J. Paul Getty Trust’s building program, said he expects the Los Angeles Planning Department to make a decision on this stage of the project within 30 days.


The master plan for the $300-million project gained final approval from the Los Angeles Planning Commission in June, 1987, after Getty officials won the support of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn. during lengthy negotiations on the size and appearance of the project.

The homeowners association has taken no official position on the new designs. However, Hugh Snow, a member of its executive board, questioned whether the parking structure and a one-story reception and shuttle-boarding area designed by architect Richard Meier are consistent with the master plans approved by the Planning Commission.

‘A Massive Wall’

Snow, who said he was speaking only for himself, said the parking structure’s side wall, which would stick out above the grade because of the slope of the hill, would violate the master plan. “It (would be) a massive wall if you looked at it from the freeway direction,” he said.


Snow said the reception area also would violate the master plan because the parking structure was not supposed to have any buildings on its roof.

Philippa Calnan, public affairs director for the Getty Trust, defended the design. “We feel that the parking structure and the shuttle boarding area are in substantial compliance with the master plan approved by the commission,” she said.

The wall of the reception area will be landscaped with trees to give it a more natural appearance, Calnan said.

The master plan would have permitted two separate parking structures--one near the freeway exit and a second in a ravine, Calnan said. But Meier consolidated the parking in one structure to preserve the ravine’s aesthetic value, she said.

The Planning Commission has delegated the Planning Department with the authority to ensure that specific designs for the project conform with the master plan.

Rountree said the complex at the bottom of the hill will be built first so that construction workers can have a place to park when they work on the center. The parking lot should be completed by early 1990; the whole project is scheduled to be finished by 1994.

‘Cleaner Approach’

The trams were chosen because they are quiet and non-polluting, Rountree said. “It seemed to us that there had to be a better way than old buses (driving) on a road. This just seemed a cleaner, tidier approach to the whole thing.”


Snow called the trams a “vast improvement” on previous ideas for a shuttle system. “It removes the noise and the fumes and keeps the traffic off the Brentwood side of the hill,” he said. The trams will be modeled on those in use in Tampa Bay, Fla., and at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Rountree said. Similar in operation to elevators, they will leave from opposite ends of the track simultaneously and pass at a double-width point in the middle of the track. Each tram will carry 90 passengers.

If approval is given by the Planning Department, the trust intends to begin construction of the entrance facilities later this year. The decision can be appealed to the Planning Commission.

The 12-building complex will provide a main location for the Getty Trust’s Los Angeles programs. A new museum, an art history center, a conservation institute, and administrative offices for the J. Paul Getty Trust are among the five acres of buildings planned for the 110-acre site.