The president of the debt-ridden Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park has withdrawn his proposal to build a 300-room hotel at the center.
J. Albert Garcia said the hotel proposal attracted too much opposition from officials in Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank, as well as from Burbank residents who live near the center. Critics had complained that the hotel might turn the equestrian center into a congestion-generating commercial facility rather than a public sports center.
"My name is Al Garcia, not Don Quixote," Garcia said Monday. "I'm not going to fight windmills."
Garcia said he made his decision Friday during a meeting of a subcommittee of the Los Angeles Recreation and Park Commission. The subcommittee was appointed to evaluate Garcia's proposal for major expansion of the center after commission members ruled last Thursday that the proposal was too vague for them to make a decision.
Almost all of the center is on Los Angeles city-owned property that borders Glendale and Burbank.
In exchange for Garcia's dropping the hotel, the subcommittee agreed to recommend to the commission that he be allowed to pursue plans for other parts of his proposal, including construction of a health center and an access road from Forest Lawn Drive and the Ventura Freeway. The City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley also must approve any plan before it is implemented.
Garcia said the access road and a bridge across the Los Angeles County flood-control channel, which would put the entrance of the center in Los Angeles instead of Burbank, are "paramount in importance."
"I wish the time and conditions would have permitted further expansion," Garcia said. "The hotel would have been in the best interests of the horse users. . . . But, in exchange for the other things I asked for, I will withdraw the hotel part of the proposal for an indefinite period."
Garcia said, however, that he still hopes to put "minimal lodging accommodations" in the health center for use by visiting equestrians and youths.
Garcia had argued that the health club and hotel were essential for the center to become viable. A management consulting firm hired by one of the center's creditors had reported that the facilities would have generated at least $1 million a year for the center, which has been losing $100,000 a month and is $17 million in debt.
Garcia said the center's management will give its full attention to completing a restaurant, retail shops and more horse stalls and practice rings by next summer.
Richard Riordan, who is a member of the commission and the subcommittee, said the panel had convinced Garcia "that he couldn't get everything.
The Burbank community and other groups like the Friends of Griffith Park would have made it quite difficult for him to build a hotel."
"We should keep our parks free of commercial activity," said Commissioner J. Stanley Sanders. "Al wisely sensed that the climate . . . was against him."
Burbank city officials gave cautious praise to Garcia's decision.
"We will still be looking for the appropriate environmental assessment report on the health center plan," City Atty. Doug Holland said. "I think the City of Los Angeles has to do some serious thinking about what they want to do with the equestrian center. But an extension of Forest Lawn Drive would be an advantage to the city."
The only entrance to the center is off Riverside Drive in Burbank. If the driveway to the center were closed, the entire center would be within Los Angeles city limits.