Seventy-five years after William Mulholland suggested creating a scenic road along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles city planners on Thursday designated Mulholland Drive a scenic parkway.
The Los Angeles Planning Commission also voted 5 to 0 to impose strict development controls to preserve scenic views along the 22-mile roadway, which extends from the Cahuenga Pass to Woodland Hills.
If approved by the City Council, the new regulations will restrict the height, color and location of any new homes built within half a mile of the meandering, two-lane road.
The planners’ approval of the parkway plan--which has come after 17 years of study by a citizens’ committee--was hailed by environmentalists, but was angrily criticized by some mountain property owners, who said it will make their land worthless.
“We will fight this all the way,” said George Caloyannidis, leader of a group called Hands Off Mulholland. “We believe our council representatives will listen. I don’t think that a plan that does not have the support of the community can fly.”
During about 19 hours of public hearings in recent months, opponents have repeatedly complained that the parkway plan violates private property rights and exposes mountain dwellers to crime and fire danger.
“It’s dictatorial . . . like East Germany, to tell us what color to paint our house,” property owner Christine Tittel told commissioners as they met in Van Nuys to vote on the parkway proposal.
Others complained that a series of additional scenic overlooks, which officials want to build as part of the parkway, will draw more visitors and lead to increased crime and vandalism.
“This method of preserving Mulholland will destroy Mulholland,” said Kathy Landers, who lives below an already-built Hollywood Bowl overlook. “The minute you give access to public land with these overlooks and trails, the area becomes trashed.”
Mulholland Drive--named after the city engineer who designed the system that brought water to Los Angeles from the Eastern Sierra--is famous for its spectacular sunsets and its nighttime views of lights in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. Some Los Angeles residents also use it as a lovers’ lane and as a popular, although illegal, predawn road-racing course.
Details of Plan
Supporters of the parkway plan contend that the development controls will prevent the construction of gaudy, out-of-scale houses away from the roadway all the way west to its connection with Los Angeles County’s Mulholland Highway in Woodland Hills.
The plan, as approved Thursday, would limit the height of homes to 45 feet--although they could be no higher than 15 feet if they are within 100 feet of the road--ban extensive grading within sight of the roadway, prohibit certain types of night lighting and regulate such things as the look of gates and fences, requiring that they have a natural look such as “rough-cut, unfinished wood” or “native-type stone.” Such features as drain pipes would have to be painted black or “earth-tone brown.”
Supporters of the plan include Mayor Tom Bradley, who urged planners in a letter to “protect this most valuable resource for all the people of Los Angeles.” The proposed scenic controls, he said, balance the needs of residents, property owners and visitors.
“Development is not curtailed, yet it must respect the unique character of the scenic parkway,” Bradley said.
Other backers have contended that the scenic parkway designation will keep Mulholland Drive from being widened into a four-lane road that would trigger further development in the mountains between the Valley and the Los Angeles Basin.
On Thursday, supporters of the plan urged commissioners not to water it down before the City Council votes on it.
“We feel years and years of constructive work has gone into this plan,” said Irma Dobbyn, a representative of the Tarzana Property Owners Assn. “It shouldn’t be met now with destructive work.”
After making a few last-minute wording changes--and making a last-minute phone call to city lawyers to verify the legality of what they were doing--planners approved it.
The planners said a special citizens’ committee will be created to review future building proposals along Mulholland. Hardship waivers will be considered for landowners who have problems with the maximum 45-foot construction height limit, earthen color paint requirement, hillside bulldozing restrictions and building-placement rules.
“Not everybody’s happy,” acknowledged commission Chairman William Luddy. “But a major step has been taken to preserve natural resources while being cognizant of the rights of people who live there.”
No date has been set for the plan to come before the City Council.