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an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization



Description: Canyonback Trail


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Website Operator: Tom Freeman


Letters Opposing
Mulholland Bridge
Realignment Project





Description: Mulholland Drive-The Road to the Studio


Mulholland Drive: The Road To The Studio (David Hockney, 1980)

Canyon Back

Brentwood Residents

Santa Monica
Mountains Conservancy

Federation of Hillside &
Canyon Associations

Bel Air Skycrest Property
Owners Association

Upper Mandeville Canyon Property Owners Association



February 24, 2011 – Metro Drops Plan To Realign Mulholland Bridge.  Metro has announced that it has abandoned its proposal to realign Mulholland.  Metro has done the right thing by returning to the original, EIR-approved bridge.  The realignment would have created a permanent detour, dividing Mulholland into two, non-continuous roads, forever degrading the scenic and recreational amenities of Mulholland Drive, in exchange for dubious short-term traffic benefits.  Click here for Daily News Story.


February 22, 2011 -- The Mulholland Design Review Board Stands Behind The Mulholland Specific Plan


          The Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan.  Members of the general public, environmentalists and local government officials fought for decades to protect the scenic treasure that is Mulholland Drive – the great scenic road along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, which was conceived in 1913 and built in 1922.  The tireless efforts of these advocates culminated in the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan, which was enacted almost 20 years ago.  The Scenic Plan begins with the recognition that Mulholland Drive “makes available to all people spectacular mountain, ocean and city views, and scenic and recreational opportunities from the Hollywood Freeway to the westerly Los Angeles City-County boundary line.” By passing the Specific Plan, the City expressly recognized that Mulholland’s “amenities and resources are valuable to the city as a whole, and should be protected and enhanced by means of land use and design controls tailored to the physical character of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway and Santa Monica Mountains.”


          The Proposed Mulholland Realignment.  That historic legacy is now being threatened by a proposal that violates virtually every rule, policy, and guideline in the Specific Plan.


The project would disrupt Mulholland’s continuous alignment.  The proposed Mulholland Bridge Realignment Project would degrade the aesthetic and recreational quality of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway by disrupting the continuous ridgeline alignment of Mulholland Drive.  Metro’s plan calls for the east end of the Mulholland Bridge to connect with Skirball Center Drive instead of Mulholland Drive, at the site of an engineered “T” intersection that would require a left-turn for eventual reentry onto Mulholland. This realignment would also be dangerous, especially for cyclists, who would have to maneuver through a signalized intersection, traversing six lanes of traffic just to get to Skirball Center Drive before reaching the continuation of Mulholland Drive, which would greatly increase the safety risks.  This detour off continuous Mulholland violates the Specific Plan goal of preserving Mulholland Drive as a continuous, “low-intensity, low-volume, slow-speed, parkway-type setting.”


The project would degrade the scenic views.  The project would likewise degrade the scenic quality of Mulholland Drive along the Bridge by relocating the east end of the Bridge approximately 200-400 feet to the south, changing the angle of the bridge vis-à-vis the I-405, reducing the angle of incline, and lowering the height of the bridge.  This would significantly impair the panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley and outlying mountains. The existing scenic view would be replaced with a straight-on eastbound view of massive concrete retaining walls and from all other sides by a close-up view of traffic on the 405 passing underneath a shortened bridge.


The Design Review Board.  Metro, however, cannot unilaterally realign Mulholland.  The City of Los Angeles must approve this proposal.  The first step was a public hearing on February 17, 2011, before the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Design Review Board, an advisory agency whose recommendations are not binding on the City.


          The Board Supports The Specific Plan Protections.  The Board, however, was not persuaded, nor was it intimidated by those who implied that the project was a fait accompli.  Members of the Board emphasized that its obligation in applying the Mulholland Specific Plan is to protect a much broader constituency than just the local institutions and those who commute through the area.  The Board’s mandate is to protect the public resources of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway for the recreational and aesthetic enjoyment of all members of the public, including those who drive, cycle, jog and hike along the scenic spine of the Santa Monica Mountains.


          The Board-imposed conditions.  The Board then unanimously passed a motion to recommend approval of the proposed realignment, but only if Metro returns with a revised proposal that includes (1) the presentation of a new plan for a continuous roadway, without the engineered “T” intersection; (2) the preparation of new architectural design plans for an extraordinary bridge in keeping with Mulholland’s municipal designation as a scenic parkway; (3) the presentation of a written document explaining how Metro will resolve the concerns raised in letters by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Canyon Back Alliance and Brentwood Residents Coalition, and the Bel Air Skycrest Property Owners’ Association (the residential community closest to the project to the west), explaining how the project’s significant impacts will be mitigated; and (4) the submission of all plans required under the Specific Plan, including elements such as irrigation, grading, landscaping, and retaining walls.


Canyon Back Supports The Board’s Determination.  The Board’s motion establishes a set of reasonable guidelines that comply with the Specific Plan and respect the integrity of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway.  Metro now has the opportunity to make this project work for everyone -- without simply sacrificing the Mulholland public resource to the traffic engineers.


February 17, 2011Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, expressing “substantial concern” that the CalTrans/Metro proposal to realign Mulholland and widen Skirball Center Drive would cause significant adverse environmental impacts, asks for further environmental review: “These impacts are a result of the design-build team’s view of this project as solely an engineering challenge, rather than realizing that the realignment, and resulting discontinuity, of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway has a significant impact on cultural, aesthetic, and biological resources.  Precisely because these impacts are outside the team’s expertise, additional study is warranted as well as the opportunity for other agencies and members of the public to weigh in with possible mitigation measures.”


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February 16, 2011CalTrans turns CEQA on its head by contending that its 2008 environmental review of the proposed reconstruction of Mulholland Bridge – without relocating the bridge off the existing Mulholland Drive alignment – somehow allows it to now move the bridge off the historic Mulholland Drive alignment, because, according to CalTrans, the adverse impacts of the newly-proposed realignment were not identified as potentially adverse impacts of the 2008 reconstruction.  In doing so, CalTrans remains oblivious to the fact that the proposed Mulholland realignment would degrade the Mulholland Scenic Parkway forever.


February 16, 2011CalTrans/Metro Plan To Degrade Mulholland Scenic Parkway & Core Trail

Metro and CalTrans are trying to ram through the system a project to realign the Mulholland Bridge and widen Skirball Center Drive. In this letter, Canyon Back Alliance and Brentwood Residents Coalition strongly oppose the project as a gross violation of CEQA, which disregards virtually every policy and goal of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan.


February 15, 2011Bel Air Skycrest Property Owners’ Assoc., the closest residential community to the west of the Mulholland Bridge, objects to the Mulholland Bridge Realignment as an effort to transform scenic, historic Mulholland Drive from a “low-speed, low-intensity drive” into a major “feeder street” for the institutions on Mulholland and a major cut-through to the 405 freeway, in violation of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan’s policies, objectives and guidelines.


 February 11, 2011Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations opposes Mulholland Bridge Realignment because CalTrans/Metro has failed to consider the potential degradation of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway, a treasure of the Santa Monica Mountains, asks for a full EIR.



The Riordan Trail


The Mount St. Mary’s Trail is now being realigned and has been renamed the “Nancy & Dick Riordan Trail.”  The trail will be completed in, approximately, November 2008.  Until then, the Trail will be closed to the public due to construction hazards.  The Riordan Trail, however, has already been officially dedicated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and half of the new trail has been constructed.


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Trail Dedication Ceremony


Canyon Back Alliance Celebrates Dedication Of New Public Trail 

On April 19, 2007, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy formally dedicated a beautiful new trail in the Santa Monica Mountains – the Nancy & Dick Riordan Trail.  This new trail begins behind Mount St. Mary’s College in Brentwood, north of Bundy Ave., and connects with Canyonback Trail (also known as “Kenter Trail”), south of the Mountaingate development.


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One of many ocean views from the Riordan Trail


The Riordan Trail replaces the old Mount St. Mary’s Fire Road Trail.  The Mount St. Mary’s Trail had been enjoyed by the public for a broad array of recreational uses for more than 50 years.  But the trail’s natural beauty had been significantly degraded by private development in the Mountaingate area beginning in the 1980s and continuing since then.  By August 2005, the trail had been completely closed to the public by a developer.


Canyon Back Alliance, with the assistance of its many supporters, fought this public-trail closure in court and before municipal planners.  As Canyon Back Alliance was preparing for a major hearing that we expected would restore public access to the Mount St. Mary’s Trail – by opening access to the public streets that had been built and gated on the trail’s path in Mountaingate – Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Office intervened.


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Tom Freeman and Wendy-Sue Rosen (Canyon Back Alliance), Eric Edmunds (Save Our Mnts., Inc.), Frans Bigelow (Castle & Cooke) and Paul Edelman (Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy)


Rosendahl, who had publicly supported our efforts, had previously asked Norman Kulla, his District Director and Special Counsel, to try and mediate a resolution.  But the slow-moving mediation process, which appeared unlikely to resolve the dispute, gained unexpected momentum when former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan entered the process.


Mayor Riordan and his wife, child-advocate Nancy Daly Riordan, had been hiking along the Mount St. Mary’s Trail in April 2006 when they came upon a locked gate and fence – topped with concertina wire.  Just a few weeks earlier, the LA Times described the legal dispute and photographed Canyon Back Alliance’s lawyers at the same gate.


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Robert Garcia, The City Project [], and Tom Freeman, Bird Marella, at the Gate, 2006


While the concertina-wire topped fence might have stopped other, less hardy trekkers, it did not stop the Riordans, who proceeded to hike down the ravine then back up the steep mountain, around the fence.  They were shocked that a developer had been allowed to gate-off public access to a public trail they had enjoyed for many years.  The next day Mayor Riordan contacted Robert Garcia, formerly of the Center for Law in the Public Interest, now Executive Director and Counsel for “The City Project” [], Tom Freeman of Canyon Back Alliance and the Bird Marella law firm, and Councilman Bill Rosendahl to find out how he could help restore public access.


Councilman Rosendahl asked Riordan to work with Norman Kulla in his attempt to mediate the dispute.  Mayor Riordan’s goal was to create a new trail running outside the gated communities, as Canyon Back Alliance, Save Our Mountains, Inc., and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy suggested.  Riordan brought together geologists, engineers, developer Castle & Cooke, Canyon Back Alliance, Save Our Mountains, Inc., and the Conservancy to hammer out a solution.  It was not easy – but it worked.  Out of this effort was born the new trail.


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Nancy Riordan’s triumphant return to the open Gate, with Councilman Rosendahl and Wendy-Sue Rosen


On April 19, 2007, almost exactly one year after the Riordans first encountered the locked gate, they were honored at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy dedication ceremony for the new trail.  Paying tribute to the Riordans were Los Angeles City Council Members Bill Rosendahl and Eric Garcetti, Liz Cheadle, Chair of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Laura Plotkin, State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s District Director, and others.


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Nancy Daly Riordan and Mayor Richard Riordan at the Trail Dedication


The Riordan Trail will not only restore the historic link between Mount St. Mary’s College and Canyonback Trail – it will create a trail route that far surpasses the old trail in unspoiled, natural beauty.  While the old trail passed through a public street within the condo-lined streets of the Stoney Hill residential enclave in Mountaingate, the new trail rides the upper rim of the mountains, providing remarkable panoramic views of the City and Ocean, before descending into pristine Bundy Canyon – providing the first and only public access to this lush area.  The trail will pass through approximately 300 acres of newly-dedicated Open Space property.



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The Trail winds through Bundy Canyon


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Eric Edmunds tests the new trail


The trail is being designed and built by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, with the assistance of Canyon Back Alliance Board Member Desmond McDonald.  They have already completed approximately 1.6 miles of the trail, which is expected to run about 2.6 miles.  The trail cannot be completed, however, until further work is done by the developer, Castle & Cooke, which is likely to take another 18 months.  Until then, the trail will be inaccessible due to the presence of construction hazards.


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Canyon Back Alliance Board Members Desmond McDonald and Wendy-Sue Rosen



March 5, 2007:  Canyon Back Alliance co-founder and Board Member Wendy-Sue Rosen was named “Woman of the Year” for the 42nd Assembly District by State Assemblyman Mike Feuer.  Woman of the Year Press Release.


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Assemblyman Mike Feuer names

Wendy-Sue Rosen “Woman of the Year.”


December 29, 2006:  The City of Los Angeles has formally requested that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy name the scenic trail that will be constructed to connect the MSM Trail to the Canyonback Trail as the “Nancy and Dick Riordan Trail.  The City has requested that the trail be so designated in recognition of Mayor Riordan’s efforts to settle the dispute and “the lifelong efforts of Nancy and Dick Riordan to public service and improving community life.”  Canyon Back Alliance enthusiastically supports this request.


October 13, 2006:  Canyonback and MSM Trail Easements Recorded – forever protecting public access to these historic trails. 


The realignment of Canyonback Trail is depicted in Exhibits B and D to the Canyonback Trail Easement in relation to single-family residences to be constructed on Lot Nos. 23-29.  Note that Lot No. 31, depicted (in part)on Exhibit B, is subject to the simultaneously-recorded Open Space Easement.


The Mt. St. Mary’s Trail will be connected to Canyonback Trail via a natural, scenic trail that is being constructed to avoid existing and future development along Stoney Hill Road, which is the original alignment of the MSM Trail.  The new trail alignment is depicted as “Scenic Trail Alignment” on Exhibits B and D to the MSM Trail Easement.  Note here too that Lot Nos. 31 and 32, through which the new trail will pass, is subject to the Open Space Easement.


The Open Space Easement will forever protect the natural scenic beauty of the Canyonback and MSM trails.  Lot Nos. 30-32, depicted on Exhibit B to the Open Space Easement, surround the trails and cannot be developed in the future.


September 2006: Brentwood News feature article “Mountain Trail Dispute Resolved,” by Billy Goulston, describing settlement preserving open public access on Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary’s trails.


Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary’s Trails Saved!


On August 2, 2006, the  City of Los Angeles approved the Mountaingate Development Project – as modified by the settlement reached last month. 


The City approved the revised plans, which will forever protect public access on the public trails. 


(1) The Mt. St. Mary’s Trail will survive – and it will be better than before because it will completely bypass the Stoney Hill residential enclave, passing through a natural canyon environment instead; and


(2) The Canyonback Trail will be wholly outside the planned residential enclave, hewing to the western-most alignment along Canyonback Ridge, with scenic views of the unspoiled hillsides.


Canyon Back Alliance is greatly indebted to the Brentwood Hills Homeowners Association and the Upper Mandeville Canyon Property Owners Association for bearing the out-of-pocket costs necessary to fight this battle. 


July 27, 2006 -- Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary’s Trails To Be Saved!:

Canyon Back Alliance is pleased to announce that the City of Los Angeles' Planning and Land Use Management Committee unanimously (3-0) approved the Mountaingate Development Project, as modified by the agreement to provide unobstructed public recreational use of the Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary's trails.  Councilman Bill Rosendahl made a special appearance at the PLUM Hearing to support this remarkable resolution.   


Canyon Back Alliance, the Center for  Law in the Public Interest, the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association, and trail supporters spoke in favor of the revised plan and praised  those who made this resolution possible, especially Councilman Rosendahl  and his Deputy Norman Kulla, former Mayor Richard Riordan, Joe Edmiston and Paul Edelman of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, developer Castle & Cooke, and the Stoney Hill community in Mountaingate . The City Council is expected to provide final project approval next week.   


And thank you for your support. 

From the Los Angeles Times 


Developers and Hikers Settle Access Dispute

By Jessica Garrison, Times Staff Writer

July 26, 2006 -- A long fight over multimillion-dollar homes blocking access to hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains was resolved with a compromise Tuesday.


Under a deal approved by the Los Angeles City Council's planning committee, developer Castle & Cooke has agreed to build a trail around its new Stoney Hill neighborhood, according to city officials.

In exchange, several organizations, including the Center for the Law in the Public Interest and a hikers' group, will drop the lawsuit they filed seeking access to the trail.

Resolving a related fight, the developer also agreed to move another trail outside another development planned for the area.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who helped to negotiate the deal along with former Mayor Richard Riordan, called it "a major moment." He said the fight had been going on for seven years.

As homes went up in the mountains, homeowners objected to long-standing but unofficial trails on privately held land and sometimes blocked access.

Robert Garcia, a lawyer with the Center for the Law in the Public Interest, released a letter in support of the plan.

The Canyon Back Alliance, another party in the lawsuit, issued an e-mail saying that the deal went "far beyond our expectations."

For the past year, Canyon Back Alliance, joined by hundreds of supporters, has objected to the Mountaingate development project’s adverse impact on recreational use of the Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary’s trails.  Recently, however, Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Office, through the tireless efforts of Norman Kulla, brought the once-feuding parties together in order to achieve a remarkable resolution. For the past two weeks, Canyon Back Alliance has been working with Mountaingate developer Castle & Cooke, the City of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and representatives of the Stoney Hill community in Mountaingate in a joint effort to protect public recreational use of the Canyonback and Mt. St. Mary’s trails. 


We are thrilled to announce that these efforts have succeeded far beyond our expectations.  While the specifics are still being worked out, the parties have reached agreement on the critical terms:


(1) The Mt. St. Mary’s Trail will survive – and it will be better than before because it will bypass the Stoney Hill neighborhood completely; and


(2) The Canyonback Trail will be wholly outside the planned residential enclave, hewing to the western-most alignment along Canyonback Ridge, with scenic views of the unspoiled hillsides.


Full details will be finalized by, and presented during, the July 25 PLUM Hearing.  We encourage everyone to attend this meeting to show their support.


L.A. Times  Article – May 11, 2006


Description: At Odds Over Trail


Robert Garcia right, and Tom Freeman are leading the fight to preserve access to recreational trails
in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Canyon Back Alliance Fights Back!  Canyon Back Alliance Joins Forces With Save Our Mountains, Inc. To Restore The Mt. St. Mary’s Trail.


May 8, 2006 – Canyon Back Alliance & Save Our Mountains, Inc. (“SOMI”) filed suit today against developer Castle & Cooke and others to restore public access along the historic Mt. St. Mary’s Trail, which the developer has severed from Canyonback Trail and the Big Wild network of public trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.  Canyon Back Alliance was joined by SOMI – which was founded in 1992 in a successful effort to oppose a developer’s attempt to obstruct the Westridge Trail, making possible the subsequent dedication of that trail as the Westridge-Canyon Back Wilderness Park.  Click here to see Complaint.


Mt. St. Mary’s Trail


Canyon Back Alliance Files Lawsuit Against City of LA Seeking To Restore Public Access Between Mt. St. Mary’s Trail And Canyonback & Big Wild Trails Network!


Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 23, 2006  --  Canyon Back Alliance ( filed a lawsuit yesterday against the City of Los Angeles, seeking a court order requiring the City to compel removal of the gates and fences that prevent the public from accessing Stoney Hill Road, a public street in the Mountaingate community in Brentwood.

Stoney Hill Road separates the Mt. St. Mary's Fire Road ("MSM") Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains from the "Big Wild" network of public trails, which spans 21,000 acres of protected wilderness in the Santa Monica Mountains. Since the 1940s, the MSM Trail was freely used for recreational purposes until the City "withdrew" Stoney Hill Road from public use and then allowed restrictive gates to be installed.

"Mountaingate residents, with the City's active assistance, have conferred upon themselves the right of exclusive access by gating-off Stoney Hill Road to the public -- thereby severing the historical connection between the MSM Trail and the Big Wild," said Canyon Back Alliance attorney Tom Freeman of Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg. "But Stoney Hill Road is a public street. Nobody has the right to erect gates and hire security guards to keep the public off a public street."

In court papers filed Feb. 22 with Los Angeles County Superior Court, Canyon Back Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving public access to trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, charges that Stoney Hill Road is a public street and it is therefore illegal to block public access. The Alliance maintains that Mountaingate's security guards, gates, intimidating signs, and newly-enhanced security fences make public access impossible to all but Stoney Hill residents, their invited guests and employees.

In 1994, the State Court of Appeal held that the City violated state law by allowing residents to erect gates on public streets in the Whitley Heights neighborhood because public streets must be open to all on an equal basis.

"The same clear rule applies to Stoney Hill Road in Mountaingate," Freeman said. "The City's refusal to restore public access, despite the Court of Appeal's unambiguous ruling in the Whitley Heights matter, is simply lawless. We have been trying to get the City to comply with the law for nearly a year. But now, we are looking to the courts to force Mountaingate and the City of Los Angeles to comply with state law."

Complaint filed in Canyon Back Alliance v. City of Los Angeles


Click here for more information about Stoney Hill Gate



The Mountaingate Development Dispute






The Law