$650M plan would give Los Angeles Zoo flashy transformation

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FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2016, file photo, school children arrive at Los Angeles Zoo, in Los Angeles. A controversial $650 million plan would give the Los Angeles Zoo a theme park-style transformation. The Los Angeles Times says the zoo nestled in Griffith Park would have exhibit upgrades and new attractions such as a 60-foot-deep canyon for rock climbs and a hilltop California Center in the style of a Yosemite lodge with a sweeping view of a 25,000-square-foot vineyard if the “20-year Vision Plan” is approved. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A $650 million plan would give the Los Angeles Zoo a theme park-style transformation over the next 20 years.

The city-owned zoo in the city’s Griffith Park area would get exhibit upgrades and new attractions such as a 60-foot-deep (18-meter-deep) canyon for rock climbing and a hilltop building called the California Center in the style of a Yosemite National Park lodge with a sweeping view of a 25,000-square-foot (2,323-square-meter) vineyard, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Supporters of the zoo’s “20-year Vision Plan” said building the features would increase zoo attenance by 72%, to up to 3 million visitors annually.

But the contstruction would consume 23 acres (9.3 hectares) of native woodlands, drawing opposition led by the historical preservation group Friends of Griffith Park and the California Native Plant Society.

Zoo officials were thinking about the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games as they crafted the plan, said Denise Verrett, the zoo’s director and chief executive.

“What are we going to do to attract international travelers to the zoo as a place they should not miss?” Verrett said.

The renovation would happen in seven phases starting next year and it would be funded by grants and donations raised by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, a nonprofit support group, and possibly a bond issue, the Times said.

The next step for the proposal is consideration by the Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health, Education, and Neighborhoods Committee.

The zoo relies on $11.6 million from the city’s general fund to meet its approximately $25 million fiscal budget for 2021-22.

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