Los Angeles Zoo Vision Plan

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The Zoo is introducing a new Vision Plan option—Alternative 1.5 or the California Focused Conservation Alternative—and the public comment period is now extended through September 23 at 5:00 p.m. PDT. We want to hear from you! Find out more below.

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Background

In 2016, the Los Angeles Zoo began a public process for what would become the Zoo’s Vision Plan for 2028 and Beyond to guide the transformation of our 133-acre campus into the future. 

By 2018, we had drafted the conceptual plan under the guiding principles of animal care, conservation, visitor experience, world-class destination, environmental sustainability, and operational excellence.

In mid-2021, the plan’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was developed with a public feedback process, was published by the City’s Bureau of Engineering (BOE), and transmitted by the Zoo to the Los Angeles City Council for its approval. 

Since then, the Zoo has continued to actively listen, engage, discuss, and reflect on comments that have been shared and have decided to make some changes based on those and on powerful local and global shifts. 

In 2022, our social, environmental, and geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically. We experienced the worst global pandemic, which affected the health, lives, and economy of everyone around us and the animals in our care. We experienced historic demands for racial justice. Los Angeles continues to experience extreme heat and water restrictions associated with an ongoing megadrought in the western U.S. Finally, our planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, which is intrinsically linked to climate change, the illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, and human-wildlife conflict.

Given this context, and under new leadership at the Zoo (Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Denise Verret as CEO & Zoo Director in 2019 who then hired the Zoo’s first-ever Director of Conservation, Dr. Jake Owens, who oversaw the completion of the Zoo’s historic, bold, and ambitious Conservation Strategic Plan in 2021), the Zoo has made changes! 

About Alternative 1.5

In 2022, the Zoo is sharing a new option—Alternative 1.5 or the California Focused Conservation Alternative. The Zoo would like to hear what you have to say about Alternative 1.5 and the Focused Recirculated EIR.

With your support, together, we can be an inclusive, equitable, innovative, and beloved Zoo, which will continue to meet the challenges of protecting local and global wildlife species – helping them to thrive in the face of climate change.

How to Submit Comments

There is a 45-day public review period for the Focused Recirculated EIR, which can be reviewed on the City’s Bureau of Engineering website. Initially scheduled to end on August 29, the public review period has been extended to September 23, 2022.

  • Review Period Begins: July 14, 2022 (Notice of Availability [NOA] was published in the LA Times
  • Public Review Ends: Sep. 23, 2022, at 5:00 pm
  • Point person at BOE who MUST RECEIVE the comments by the deadline: [email protected] (Subject: L.A. Zoo Vision Plan Focused Recirculated EIR)

You may also share comments directly with the L.A. City Council (Council File Number 21-0828) at: https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/

Resources

“Season of Change”: Project Alternative 1.5 Video

English

Spanish

L.A. Zoo Vision Plan & EIR FAQs

When and why did the Los Angeles Zoo create its Vision Plan?

In 2016, the Zoo initiated the Vision Plan community planning process to address much-needed improvements to the physical campus. The Vision Plan imagines a Zoo through which generations of diverse people will make a positive difference for wildlife and their habitats. Knowing that the Zoo’s strength comes from the more than 2,000 animals in our care that demonstrate the variety of our planet’s species, including many at risk of extinction, our dynamic and talented staff, and visitors who represent all of Los Angeles, the Vision Plan creates opportunities for everyone to be a part of the Zoo’s mission to inspire appreciation for wildlife and conserve the world’s biodiversity. It also lays the groundwork for bringing much-needed infrastructure upgrades to our campus which consists of mostly 1960s-era facilities. A fundamental driver of the Vision Plan is to improve animal welfare and expand our conservation impact, while also ensuring a meaningful visitor experience that will result in a lifelong love of wildlife, and the intergenerational stewardship capacity necessary to ensure species survival in the face of climate change and unprecedented biodiversity loss.

Is the Vision Plan finalized?

The Vision Plan is not yet done and that is why your input is so important. The Los Angeles City Council must consider and approve the Vision Plan and certify its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance document in order for it to be done. Once that happens, implementation of the Vision Plan will take many years and the timing depends upon the availability of funding.

How will the Vision Plan’s implementation be funded?

Once an alternative is approved by the Los Angeles City Council, the Zoo will pursue a variety of funding to build the project in phases over many years. Public and private funding will be sought, such as through state and federal grants, as well as via philanthropic donations. 

Is the Los Angeles Zoo trying to compete with Disneyland and Universal Studios?

No. Theme parks, such as Disneyland and Universal Studios, provide a valued entertainment experience for Angelenos; the L.A. Zoo’s mission is fundamentally different. The L.A. Zoo strives to provide its guests with a one-of-a-kind immersive experience focused on understanding global wildlife and translating an in-person experience into empathy and action that works to 1) conserve the health and welfare of species in their natural habitats, and 2) end the threats to them – such as the illegal wildlife trade that thrives in our backyard via the ports and LAX.

Are the proposed Zoo infrastructure improvements aimed at attracting tourists during the 2028 Olympics?

No. The improvements envisioned in the Zoo’s Vision Plan are first and foremost to improve the welfare of the animals in our care and extend for many years. The Vision Plan also strives to enhance the impactful experience the Zoo provides for all of our guests, who are primarily Angelenos, and our neighboring communities across the County’s nearly 10 million residents. A large international event, such as the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be held in Los Angeles, merely offers an opportunity to magnify the Zoo’s work toward promoting the conservation of global wildlife and natural habitats while also underscoring the urgency of work needed in our own backyard – which the “California” proposed area and its focus on threatened and endangered species, such as the California grizzly and California condor, Southern mountain yellow-legged frog, and Baja peninsular pronghorn, would accomplish. The L.A. Zoo’s mission has always been to conserve wildlife, connect people with nature, and serve our diverse community, and it will not change because of the Olympics; the Vision Plan process began well before any determination was made about the 2028 Games.

What’s new in 2022?

The Zoo is asking for the public to consider and provide feedback on a new project alternative – Alternative 1.5, known as the California Focused Conservation Alternative. The Zoo is doing this by working with the City’s Bureau of Engineering to release a Focused Recirculated EIR that documents the changes – this is happening for 45 days, starting on July 14th and ending at 5:00 pm on Aug. 29th with a virtual public meeting at 6:00 pm on Aug. 15th.

What are some differences between Alternative 1.5 and the proposed Project?

Under Project Alternative 1.5 – the California Focused Conservation Alternative, vineyard-type plantings will no longer be placed at the ADA-accessible ramp. That area will now include native California plant species. Alternative 1.5 also removes the aerial tram from the project. The rock-climbing wall does remain, however. The rock-climbing wall gives guests the immersive experience of what our talented California condor team does in the wild when conducting perilous nest checks. This gives our visitors a taste of what it takes to protect and save this species from extinction. It’s important to note that the Condor Corridor is a multi-functional exhibit design that both boasts a learning and engagement opportunity as well as providing guests with an ADA-accessible path to the top of “California.” Alternative 1.5 also includes the removal of the proposed 2,200-space parking structure, implementation of the Peak Visitor Management Program, and creation of design and landscape guidelines.

How will the Vision Plan actually help animal welfare?

The Vision Plan will not only increase the space dedicated to animals by 173% within the Zoo’s existing footprint but will also result in state-of-the-art upgrades to those habitats and their background care facilities, including those that support enrichment and veterinary services. It will move away from the current small round-house style toward larger, and in some cases, multi-species habitats.

Is the Zoo’s Vision Plan at odds with its 2021 Conservation Strategic Plan?

Absolutely not. One of the greatest assets the Zoo has as a conservation organization is the ability to engage broad, diverse groups of people in large numbers. Some conservation organizations spend millions of dollars on mailers and social media outreach each year. We accomplish this by opening our gates for people to see and appreciate the diversity of animals here in our care. Our staff and volunteers directly engage hundreds of thousands of people each year in experiences developed by our experts to facilitate important and lasting connections with nature. As the human population continues to grow globally, and our collective negative impact on the world expands, we have to do whatever we can to connect people and wildlife under safe conditions and help develop empathy for the loss of biodiversity and the global crises we’re all facing due to climate change, the sixth mass extinction, and social inequities. This is a core part of the Zoo’s mission, and given the extreme and grave nature of our reality, it is absolutely essential that we reach more people, not fewer.

What is the Sixth Mass Extinction?

This is the current mass extinction of species happening in our lifetime. This event, which is seeing the annihilation of biodiversity at an alarming rate, is due to the result of human activity on the planet.

Is the L.A. Zoo expanding into Griffith Park?

No. The Zoo’s Vision Plan does not expand into Griffith Park. The proposed changes would happen within the our133-acre footprint and on the existing roadways that encircle our existing parking lot. Within the Zoo, the development would occur in currently unused/undeveloped areas. Within Griffith Park, road improvements are proposed to improve traffic circulation and safety.

Does the Zoo plan to blast the land inside the Zoo?

The Zoo does not plan to blast land in the Zoo or Griffith Park. This land-moving technique is no longer commonplace and has not been used in Los Angeles for a long time. The land in the Zoo’s “California” Area would have to be moved to create an ADA-accessible path as well as facilitate the sweeping and vast new animal exhibits that will encompass that hillside. This update increases the welfare of and care for our animals, provides our guests with the most accessible experience, and will also provide a safe way to keep vehicle traffic and pedestrians separated.

Will the Zoo destroy native habitat in Project Alternative 1.5?

Under Project Alternative 1.5, the Zoo will be restoring the undeveloped California-native habitat on the “Africa” hillside, which will serve as a living laboratory focused on conservation, engagement, and equity. Some California-native habitats located on the “California” Area’s hillside will be impacted, but the post-construction result will include more California-native vegetation than exists there now.

Would the Zoo be removing protected vegetation as part of the Vision Plan?

Under the proposed Project, many trees listed in the City’s Protected Tree Ordinance had the potential to be removed and replaced, subject to final design, and consistent with mitigation measures for biological resources. Under Project Alternative 1.5, the Zoo would expand the native vegetation in the “California” Area in its design and use the undeveloped land in the “Africa” Area as a living laboratory focused on native habitat conservation, learning and engagement, and equity.

How has the Environmentally Superior Alternative changed between the Final EIR, released in June 2021, and the Focused Recirculated EIR, released in July 2022?

When the Vision Plan’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was finalized in 2021, Project Alternative 1, the Reduced Impact Alternative, was considered the Environmentally Superior Alternative. Angelenos voiced their concerns about the Vision Plan during the public comment process, and the Zoo took a step back to meaningfully listen and move forward with intentionality toward our mission. Given the feedback we received from the public and changing world circumstances due largely to the pandemic and climate change, the Zoo created Project Alternative 1.5, the California Focused Conservation Alternative. Alternative 1.5 increases the amount of native vegetation in the Zoo. The removal of the proposed parking structure in the Far North Parking Lot will decrease the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) into Griffith Park, which decreases the number of carbon emissions into our atmosphere. The Peak Visitor Management Program will limit attendance at the Zoo and therefore reduce the associated impacts. Removal of the aerial tram also reduces construction impacts. These changes make Alternative 1.5 the Environmentally Superior Alternative.

How can I find out more?

To find out more about the Zoo’s vision planning process, visit: www.lazoo.org/visionplan. To read the Focused Recirculated EIR and get details about the public meeting, visit: https://eng.lacity.org/about-us/divisions/environmental-management/projects/los-angeles-zoo-vision-plan.

How can I share my comments?

Email comments to [email protected] (Subject: Zoo Vision Plan Focused Recirculated EIR) by 5:00 pm on September 23, 2022. You can also mail comments to Norman at: 

Norman Mundy, Environmental Supervisor II
Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Management Group
1149 S. Broadway, Suite 600, Mail Stop 939
Los Angeles, CA 90015

You may also share comments directly with the L.A. City Council (Council File Number 21-0828) at: https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/