Los Angeles city parks commissioners have recommended diverting $1.25 million from a trust fund for Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood to help purchase 63 acres of parkland in Studio City from a private developer.
The commissioners, by a 5-0 vote, made the recommendation Monday after Councilman Michael Woo called the price tag "an excellent bargain" for parkland "so close to the heart of the city." Woo represents both Hollywood and Studio City.
Woo added that there were "no absolute guarantees" that the Runyon Canyon trust account would be replenished by the city--a point that Commissioner Richard Riordan, an attorney, said was troubling to him.
The Runyon Canyon fund was set up by the city and the Santa Monica Conservancy to make land buys and capital improvements at the 133-acre park. The money may be used for non-Runyon Canyon purposes with the approval of the commission, the City Council and the conservancy.
Riordan said he was concerned about the policy decision to spend scarce parks dollars on an unimproved park in a well-to-do area of Studio City.
The decision may deprive inner-city residents of park services, Riordan complained. He also said children throughout the city might be the losers if the Runyon Canyon improvements are delayed.
The commission vote, if endorsed by the City Council and the Santa Monica Conservancy, would put on indefinite hold on plans to construct a ranger interpretive center and amphitheater for nature classes at Runyon Park.
Woo argued that Fryman Canyon is centrally located enough for inner-city park users, and he pledged to work to get the Runyon Canyon funds replaced.
Members of the Friends of Runyon Canyon, a volunteer group, supported the transfer of funds for the Fryman Canyon deal.
In addition to diverting the $1.25 million from Runyon Canyon, the deal hinges on the council rescinding plans to spend $719,000 on a park project in Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades. The money, also part of the Runyon Canyon trust fund, would help pay for the Fryman Canyon property.
Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the Palisades, has agreed to this plan, according to a Braude aide.
The commission's vote was the first official action at City Hall to implement a deal negotiated by Woo and Mayor Tom Bradley to buy Fryman Canyon for $10.9 million from developer Fred Sahadi. Unless the deal goes through, Sahadi plans to build 26 luxury residences on the woodsy, steep-sloped property, the center of a spirited tug-of-war between the developer and environmentalists.
The Bradley-Woo deal envisions the conservancy contributing $8.7 million toward the purchase price of Fryman Canyon. The city's total share would be almost $1.97 million, while private contributors would provide $240,000.
Although the conservancy--a state parks agency--two months ago voted to kick in up to $8.7 million, it agreed to do so only if state appraisers valued the property at $10.7 million.
So far, however, the maximum state valuation of the property has been $8.7 million.