Hollywood Hills

Residents Decry Runyon Canyon's New Basketball Court

"It's a hiking trail, not a sporting recreation facility," said the president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council

Residents in a hillside community overlooking Hollywood are fighting a planned basketball court near the popular Runyon Canyon hiking trail that they say encroaches on the canyon's natural habitat with logos and commercialization.

Hollywood Hills residents are threatening a lawsuit to stop construction of the basketball court, which will be located at the site of a former tennis court up one of the paths at the popular hiking destination.

"It's a hiking trail, not a sporting recreation facility," said Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council. The council unanimously voted against the basketball court during a community meeting last Monday.

The proposal calls for resurfacing of a concrete tennis court and installing a new 10-foot fence to replace chain-link, a water fountain and basketball equipment. These upgrades are taking place while Runyon Canyon is temporarily closed through July 31 for pipeline and road upgrades.

Pink Dolphin Clothing, a company that sells street apparel in its Los Angeles and San Francisco flagship stores, will foot the $250,000 bill for the project. In return, co-owners Neima Khalia and Cena Berhaghi will get a plaque of recognition and their logo emblazoned on the center of the court as part of the city Department of Recreation and Parks' Sponsorship Recognition Policy, officials said.

"The failing retaining wall, rusted fencing ... were huge liabilities for park users and the city. I just wanted to help," said Khalia. "Our logo was meant to be a symbol of community and service, not some overzealous branding opportunity."

Khalia and the court's designers are considering alternative ways to recognize his company's contribution to Runyon, he said.

The renovations have pitted residents against their neighbors and against Friends of Runyon Canyon, a nonprofit group established to help preserve the area. 

Don Andres, FORC vice president and treasurer, said the group has worked with city officials through the planning process and posted 6,000 notices around the neighborhood notifying residents about the project last year.

That's why the community's overwhelmingly negative response during a meeting on April 4 came as a "tremendous surprise," said Andres.

Private funding is the "only way this park is going to survive," he said.

Mann said homeowners living next to the park's entrance were never consulted.

"FORC has already proven that they can't be trusted and are completely out of touch with what the community wants for Runyon," said a post on the Runyon Canyon Defenders Facebook page.

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