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City, State Mount Efforts to Keep Horse Trails : Agency Fears Housing Along Hiking Path

January 01, 1987|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

State officials said this week they are worried about how proposed apartment construction along Riverside Drive in the Silver Lake-Los Feliz area may affect their long-term plans for a hiking and equestrian trail between Griffith and Elysian parks.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency, recently protested to the city of Los Angeles that two large housing developments were not required to dedicate space for such a trail on their properties even though the buildings will be located in the corridor where the conservancy hopes one day to build the trail.

"When I heard about this, I was irate," said Clark L. King, deputy director of the conservancy. "How could (the city) be doing this without preserving our right of way?"

Scant Enthusiasm

City planners expressed little enthusiasm for the trail. But, as a result of the conservancy's protest, they said they will require some dedication of land for the trail through one of the two projects. It is too late to do so for the other one because all building permits have been issued and construction has begun, city officials said.

However, King said he remains concerned that other projects could slip through in the future without including room for the trail. "We feel it is the city's responsibility to advise developers," he said.

At a Dec. 18 meeting of the Planning Commission, city staffers told Hartwood Development Inc., which is seeking city permits for its project, that it did not have to set aside land for the path.

Hartwood wants to construct 288 apartments in six buildings along the long and narrow former Pacific Electric trolley car right of way between Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive.

Accord Required

But this week, Gary Morris, the Planning Department official in charge of issuing grading permits for large projects, said Hartwood would not get its permit without first reaching some accommodation with the conservancy.

"We at the city don't care about the exact location of the trail," Morris said.

The state originally wanted the trail on the east bank of the Los Angeles River but residents objected to having horses pass by their homes. In 1983, the state switched locations and mapped out a 5.6-mile-long corridor along the west side of Riverside Drive, just west of the Golden State Freeway.

The goal was to link Griffith and Elysian parks and then--in a more expensive and difficult-to-acquire segment--continue through railroad yards and Chinatown to El Pueblo State Park in downtown Los Angeles.

Presumably, a hiker or rider one day would be able to take the trail from the historic center of the city, hook up with paths in Griffith Park and then continue through the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

No Specific Route

However, the conservancy has never chosen a specific route for the path, which could be as wide as 25 feet when landscaped. And, its officials concede, the plan is fraught with problems, such as a lack of funding from the Legislature, difficult road crossings in industrial areas and hostility from Southern Pacific Railroad.

But the conservancy wants to begin setting aside land even if it takes until the 21st Century--or longer--to build the trail. That is particularly important now, officials say, because part of Riverside Drive appears to be on the verge of changing from a sleepy industrial area to a residential neighborhood for the upwardly mobile.

Municipal review of new building proposals presents an opportunity to get easements for free, the conservancy said.

"Our view is that it doesn't hurt the developers," said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy. At some points, the trail easement would simply be a setback from the sidewalk or the sidewalk itself, he said.

Apartment builders say they are confused.

"We've received mixed signals," Hal Klein, a partner in Hartwood Development, said this week.

"If we are required to, we would have to incorporate (the trail) into our plan somehow. If it really serves a useful purpose, then I guess I don't mind. But if it is only our project and not others . . . then I would have a problem," Klein said.

Never Mentioned

The developers of the other project, a 263-unit building now under construction just north of Hyperion Avenue across from the Griffith Park's Breakfast Club, said the trail was never mentioned during city's long review.

"I never even heard of it," said Stanley Footlik, an associate in Riverside Park Equities, the project developer.

The conservancy's King said the city should have forced Footlik's project to set aside a trail corridor. But King said there is room to put a path on the hill between the apartment building and single-family homes on Waverly Drive.

Asked for his reaction to that idea, Footlik said, "I wouldn't even attempt to say. I have no idea what the conservancy has in mind."

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