As a cleanup crew strained to pull junk and trash out of a nearby ravine, environmentalists trying to turn a 22-mile segment of Mulholland Drive into a scenic mountain parkway struggled Monday to pull their troubled campaign out of the fire.
Supporters, seeking to counter charges that the parkway would lead to increased trash problems, proposed that a $1-million fund be created to pay for permanent cleanup efforts.
The cleanup plan was offered on the eve of the third of three public hearings on the parkway proposal. Officials said the earlier hearings were dominated by opponents of the scenic corridor concept--many of whom have complained about illegal dumping and vandalism.
Today's hearing will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at El Camino Real High School, 5440 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. Planning Commission members are expected to take up the matter in February after the hearing officer makes his recommendation.
The scenic parkway plan proposes restrictions on new construction along the twisting, two-lane road along the San Fernando Valley's south rim between Cahuenga and Topanga Canyon boulevards. The proposal, the result of a 16-year study by a citizens' committee, also calls for new trails and scenic overlooks.
Backers of the parkway staged a news conference at a Mulholland vista point overlooking Sherman Oaks to show how they are tackling the trash problem.
"It's a key issue," said Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "Nobody wants to see their community trashed. We will not be able to have a successful plan unless we get a handle on the trash problem."
Edmiston said his state-chartered agency is paying the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to make weekly cleanup sweeps along parts of Mulholland. An eight-member work crew was using ropes Monday to haul discarded appliances, furniture and other debris from the ravine.
The Conservancy is also recommending that the parkway plan be changed to include the permanent cleanup fund.
The proposal, up to now, has called for cleanup work to be financed from fines paid by people caught illegally parking or vandalizing Mulholland overlooks. Conservancy rangers have been issuing about 60 citations a week for such offenses.
According to Edmiston, his agency could receive about $46 million if a park bond initiative is approved by voters in June. By banking $1 million of that to create the cleanup fund, the interest of about $150,000 a year could be used to supplement regular roadside trash pickups, he said.
King Woods, a city planner conducting the parkway hearings, said a permanent cleanup plan would be a welcome addition.
About 70% of the 83 people who have already testified opposed the proposed ordinance, Woods said. Most have cited concerns over trash and vandalism around the overlooks, as well as height limitations proposed for new homes along a half-mile-wide strip on either side of the roadway.
"Mostly, people who come to hearings are those opposed to what's being discussed," Woods said in an interview Monday.
That is worrisome to members of the committee that drew up the proposal.
"We're very concerned that the criticisms will prevail when it comes time for this plan to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council," committee member Jerry Daniel said Monday.
Said Florence Verger, who has served on the advisory panel since its inception: "I think the opponents are making their point very strongly. . . ."
Rights Not Surrendered
Pat Rosenfeld, another 16-year committee member, stressed that property owners would not surrender their rights if the proposed ordinance passes.
"We don't stop people from building on their lots. We simply ask them to site it in such a way as to hold the height down to protect the view," Rosenfeld said. If someone wants to build within the corridor, but "out of sight" of the roadway, "they can do whatever they want," she said.
Opponents who monitored Monday's news conference were not convinced, however. They were also skeptical that a cleanup campaign would solve problems caused by increased numbers of visitors to Mulholland Drive.
Despite roadside cleanup efforts, "the overlooks and the trails will be a continuous source of trash, loud radios and parties," said opposition leader George Caloyannidis.
He said the city should conduct an inventory along Mulholland to determine what land it needs to save important views of the Valley and Los Angeles.
"I don't think anyone will have any problem with 14 or 15 viewpoints that are properly designed," he said.