Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
Yes, “Let’s Buy a Mountain” is a NIMBYist campaign. But it has a point.
A certain kind of NIMBY resides in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon: wealthy, white, and heavily attached to the Legacy of Joni Mitchell. As anyone who lives there will tell you, the iconic musician shaped her star in the woodsy bohemia of the neighborhood during the 1960s and ‘70s.
Over the years, residents have fought hard to preserve the era’s vibe, combating would-be developers of the canyon’s chaparral slopes. Now, more than ever, they’re trying to hold onto the feeling—well, they’re seriously clinging to 17 acres of it. Laurel Canyon-ites now want to buy a hill to save it from developers, and they want help from other Angelenos.
The L.A. Times reports:
"Please help us buy this mountain," Jamie Hall, president of the Laurel Canyon Assn., pleaded to an array of television cameras Wednesday atop the hills. "It's not as crazy as you think."
The Laurel Canyon Assn., Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife and their allies kicked off their efforts with a news conference at a show-stopping crest of the rugged property.
Their campaign, dubbed "Let's Buy a Mountain," was the brainchild of Hall, a land-use attorney and local resident who said he was sick of battling new development after it was already in the works.
“Let’s Buy a Mountain” calls on the whole city to chip in to purchase the land from its current owner, who’s given the group a year and a half to come up with a $1.7 million payment.
Yes, L.A. is experiencing one of the worst housing shortages in the country. Yes, this is hippie-NIMBYism, the likes of which some say have made San Francisco totally unaffordable.
There is some legitimacy here, however: Once purchased, the parcel of land will be turned over to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the agency that oversees much of the range that runs through Los Angeles. The MRCA would preserve the Laurel Canyon land as open space and as a wildlife corridor, which representatives say it would be thrilled to do.
“It is a key piece of property, in terms of its position in the corridor,” Dash Stolarz, the MRCA’s public affairs officer, tells CityLab. “The reason we have mountain lions running through urban L.A. is because of citizens, and agencies like ours, that have put their foot down and said, ‘We’re going to preserve this.’”
In an ideal world, Stolarz admits it would be public, rather than private, funds coming to the rescue of vital habitat: “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of that money.”
But among Laurel Canyon’s nostalgic, wealthy residents, there sure is. In video, here are (some of) the reasons why they want to buy a mountain—set, of course, to a Joni Mitchell classic.