That 'Corporate-Branded' Runyon Canyon Basketball Court Is Officially Not Happening
(Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)
On Wednesday, the Board of Recreation and Parks officially rescinded their approval for Runyon Canyon's contentious "corporate-branded" basketball court.First, a quick recap for anyone who hasn't been following this important controversy (essential facts in bold):
Runyon Canyon has been closed since April for pipe replacement work. The four-month closure was announced well ahead of time; however, a few weeks before the planned closure, Rec and Parks made another announcement. While they were fixing the pipes, they'd also be replacing an abandoned tennis court with a new basketball court, and some streetwear company would be picking up the tab. Even better, Pink+Dolphin, the afore-mentioned streetwear brand, would also be paying for an “expensive and much-needed” retaining wall on the trail, all to the tune of a cool quarter-million, at no cost to the city. Pretty cool, right? Not exactly. Lunch is never free, and the "sponsored" basketball court would have a big Pink+Dolphin logo on it, as well as a little plaque thanking the company. Needless to say, the joggerati of Runyon Canyon went ballistic. As our friends at the L.A. Times put it, "no good deed goes unpunished."
Tensions over the terrible free basketball court and retaining wall exploded at a packed Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council meeting in early April, where neighbors and parkgoers waited for as long as two hours to voice their dissent. People were appalled at the commercialization of their quiet trail, which had apparently never previously been commercialized, despite being a celebrity see-and-be-seen spot since the turn of the last century, and so paparazzi-filled that Taylor Swift once literally hiked it backwards in order to deprive the 'razzi of a sellable shot. Late-stage Capitalism valet app Curbstand even started offering Runyon-adjacent valet services earlier this year.
According to the L.A. Times, furious neighbors and parkers sued, arguing that "the city had improperly exempted the project from environmental review before approving it," and construction on the court was halted in mid-April.
So, what happens now that Rec and Parks has officially rescinded approval? Nothing good. Here's how the Times sums it up:
Councilman David Ryu, who represents the community around Runyon Canyon, said the city will reimburse Khaila for the $210,000 he has spent so far on the retaining wall, using parks money and City Council discretionary funds. The city will no longer get the basketball court or the water fountain; it will have to pay for the retaining wall that could have been completed for free, and there’s less money available for other valuable park and community projects. And in the future, what sane business person would want to donate his or her time, money or services to the city after watching the Pink Dolphin debacle?
Obviously, the city could have handled the whole thing better (fwiw, don't blame Councilman David Ryu—this mess was already underway before he took office, courtesy of lovable rascal Tom LaBonge), and there should have been some public approval for that giant logo. No one wants to feel like their parks are for sale. That said, Rec and Parks is also chronically underfunded, and, as the Times points out, there is a deep backlog on basic maintenance projects. Parks money saved on Runyon is money that could have gone towards park maintenance in South or East L.A. Would one logo-bearing basketball court on a trail already known for being a place where Miley Cyrus and Patrick Schwarzenegger run into Nicole Richie really have been such a high price to pay? I guess we'll never know.
Rendering of the proposed basketball court and logo.