LA Zoo Master Plan: Prioritizing Parking + Pollution?

(Google Maps composite of LA Zoo Parking lot & Arclight Hollywood Parking)

Los Angeles is in the midst of a “do as I say, not do as I do” approach to environmentalism and transportation, and you can now add the LA Zoo to that trend.

Griffith Park is one of the greatest and most visited public parks in the world and it’s popularity only seems to be on the rise.

The LA Zoo is wrapping up their EIR Scoping and Outreach for their Master Plan which looks forward thinking in its backwardness.



With attendance continuing to increase, the park’s answer for handling this growing ingress is a solution that only doubles down of the problem: adding more parking.

Part of the project would be to reconfigure Crystal Springs Drive to the south to add 500 spaces, but the biggest elephant in the room (sorry) is the 2,000 space parking lot near the entry.

If you need some context for what a structure of that size is, you can turn to the behemoth behind the Arclight in Hollywood which holds as many cars.



This is an image of that parking lot overlaid onto the LA Zoo which might be smaller or larger than the projected structure, but the point is it’ll be significant.

What that master plan is trying to accomplish is to more than double the present day allotment of parking space which already causes a large amount of congestion during peak hours.

Having been a former zoo pass owner who intimately learned weekend traffic patterns and layer on top the type of parking garage that could take 15 minutes just to exit, it’s evident what a larger problem this will create.

In fact, the master plan’s EIR checks the most significant boxes for the impact it would have for traffic:


Of course, when there’s congestion, there’s also the looming pollution problem which fairs just as poorly also included in this study.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions are expected to increase considerably and there’s no real plan to deal with the source.

Another red flag that isn’t mentioned to this plan is cost.

Building a parking garage can conservatively cost $15k per spot (Donald Shoup puts that number way above that), meaning when you have a 2,000 space structure, you’re looking easily at $30 million just for construction.

Do the math how much a 2,000 space parking structure would cost


That also doesn’t factor in all the work needed to be done to reconfigure Crystal Springs Road as well.

One thing to mention is that the Zoo isn’t under the same jurisdiction as Griffith Park, but it can certainly learn from its neighbors.

About a year and a half ago, the Park inserted $4 an hour parking fees near the Observatory to discourage driving and help fund DASH service all the way up from the Vermont / Sunset Metro Station (questions of managements of those funds are another issue).

The bus service has been very popular and could even use tighter headways to keep up with peak demand.

At the same time, drivers continue to pay the parking fees because now they’ve recently doubled!

The question is why hasn’t a better bus system been explored?

I’ve even seen firsthand how this has worked as a viable solution.


This looks important…


During the teacher’s strike, I decided to take advantage on a Friday of the LA Zoo offering free entry for students in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

When I got there with my daughter, I was shocked to see how long of a line there was to get in.

In my time as a member, I had never seen anything close to a backup this long to get in which I was being told by all the people turning back was at least an hour.


The funny part was that despite never seeing crowds this big, the parking lot had tons of space, something you don’t see during the weekends.

As we threw up our hands and got back to drive towards the merry-go-round, the mystery of the invisible cars was solved.

You see, another perk students were getting that day was free rides on Metro.


This was the line to get in on January 18


Now guess if I’ve ever seen the bus stops that crowded either?

Just like on the observatory, you give people access, they’ll take it.

If you cater just towards cars, you’re just expanding the problem you were hoping to solve.

The LA Zoo can definitely benefit from alternative transportation to handle this increased demand.

Part of the problem of accessing this area by bike is the number of closures along the LA River Path.


The La Kretz Bridge (under construction)


The connection south has been closed for about a year while the La Kretz Bridge is being built to connect with Atwater Village, while the new entrance to Riverside on the north has been strangely locked down while it looks good to go.

That’s not to mention the other new bridges to come in the Elysian Valley and the expansion of the path into Downtown and the Valley.

Why the Zoo is pursuing this solution, I cannot say, as there are a lot of other question marks in the EIR as well, such as the funicular and

What you can do during this EIR process is to speak up and email by Monday, March 1tth at 4:00 PM.

These plans get set in motion over years and people are recently learning about the problems that come from car centric design.It’s time to start making the Park and Zoo for the next generation, not for machines.