The philanthropists — who contributed $35 million toward the construction of the High Line in New York — first floated the idea to L.A. city officials approximately three years ago. The idea went nowhere at the time, but has recently gotten renewed attention. The project is being spearheaded by von Furstenberg’s son, Alexander, an investor who serves as a director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The project would carry tourists from the parking lot of the L.A. Zoo up to Mount Lee, where it would afford a close-up view of the Hollywood sign. In the early discussions, Alexander von Furstenberg has emphasized the parallel to New York’s High Line project, even referring to the gondola as the “Sky Line.”
In order to become a reality, the project would have to win approval from David Ryu, the councilman who represents Hollywood. Ryu’s office has had discussions with representatives for Alexander von Furstenberg, and encouraged them to gain support from neighborhood groups around Griffith Park. The project would also have to undergo an environmental impact report, a costly and time-consuming endeavor.
Ryu’s office has been studying how to alleviate traffic in the Hollywood Hills, where streets are often choked with tourists in search of the perfect selfie spot. The gondola has been included in a range of options recently presented to an advisory committee — though the identity of the funder has been a well-kept secret.
“There’s nothing definitive at this point. It’s just an idea,” said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who added that the Chamber supports the idea. “If you had a gondola coupled with a visitor center, we think something like that would truly work to get people out of the neighborhoods.”
In May, Mayor Eric Garcetti mentioned the idea in an interview on KABC-TV. Garcetti did not identify a funding source for the project.
Diller has been trying for years to build Pier 55, a $250 million floating park on the West Side of Manhattan. The project has generated substantial controversy, and Diller recently announced plans to revive the concept after it appeared all but dead.
The billionaire mogul has similarly conceived of the gondola project as a philanthropic gift to the city. However, it may well face serious obstacles, such as neighborhood complaints and concerns about impacts to Griffith Park. Ryu, who was elected in 2015, is acutely sensitive to neighborhood objections to new development.
In an email, Alexander von Furstenberg declined to comment on the project.
“I wish I had more info to share with you but I don’t at this time,” he wrote.
Diller’s representatives also declined to comment.