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Looks Like The Old Zoo In Griffith Park Will Finally Get A Permanent Performance Stage

The Old Zoo in Griffith Park (Photo by Archie Tucker via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Though it's flown pretty under the radar, there is a plan to build a permanent performance stage in the grassy knoll at the center of the old Los Angeles Zoo, in Griffith Park. For the past couple years, the proposed stage has been tied up in a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Griffith Park, who argued the stage would have an adverse effect on the park and its wildlife.

Now, however, an L.A. County Superior Court Judge has issued a ruling against the Friends of Griffith Park, clearing the way for Los Angeles to build a stage as it originally planned to do more than two years ago, according to the Los Feliz Ledger. As Curbed LA points out, construction on the stage was originally supposed to have been completed back in June of 2015.

The idea for the permanent stage was born out of the enormous amount of time and energy spent each year erecting and striking a temporary stage used in the summer months. Two groups, Symphony in the Glen and the Independent Shakespeare Co. stage regular events at the Old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park each summer. While the two groups have coordinated with Recreation and Parks Department officials to ensure a stage was always built for their summer programming, the repeating the process to build and tear down a temporary stage each year is costly.

The stage would be funded using left over money from a late 90s city ballot measure known as Proposition K, which allocated about $25 million specifically for park maintenance and renovation. Aside from the stage, the plan to improve the area around the Old L.A. Zoo includes resurfacing and improving the area's parking facilities, an overhaul of the existing bathrooms in the area and building permanent sound and lighting infrastructure. Walkways and paths would also be rebuilt in compliance with ADA standards for wheelchair accessibility.

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The Friends of Griffith Park first filed their lawsuit against the project in 2014, when the city first approved the construction project. The Friends objected that the project was too large, and worried the project would lead to the commercialization of the old zoo area inside Griffith Park.

"Small early-evening audiences are not objectionable and everyone appreciates the arts being brought into the serenity of the Old Zoo,” wrote Friends of Griffith Park President, Gerry Hans, to the Los Felix Ledger. “However, the scale of the project has escalated exponentially. Right now the project seems to be a moving-target with multiple phases.”

The stress is over whether or not the permanent stage would eventually lead to a year-round calendar of events, adding a large amount of traffic and people to the park during night-time hours.

The judge, a man named Richard L. Fruin, disagreed, and argued that the park was an ideal place to build a stage given the role of the park is for public use:

Petitioners do not offer substantial evident that a permanent stage in the Meadow will have substantial negative effects. Petitioners complain that the introduction of an open-air stage will detract from the natural beauty and serenity of the Meadow. The meadow, however, is a developed area intended to serve park users rather than a wilderness area… There is no substantial evidence, given the history of the meadow that an open-air stage will ‘substantially degrade the existing visual character of [the] quality of the site.