L.A. City Council to consider measure to privatize zoo management
The Los Angeles City Council on Friday will take up a proposal to possibly turn over management of the Los Angeles Zoo to a private operator.
The measure calls for the city to begin soliciting proposals from prospective operators. It also asks city analysts to explore an alternative to privatization to see whether there are changes that can be made that would save money while keeping the zoo under city control.
Los Angeles officials started looking at the possibility of privatizing the zoo two years ago, in the midst of the recession, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked staff to reevaluate the city’s core services.
The zoo and botanical gardens, which the city opened 45 years ago, have faced budget cuts and staff reductions in recent years, and Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana has warned that the zoo could face more cutbacks in the future, and even possible closure, unless a private operator steps in. Santana says privatizing management of the zoo would save nearly $20 million over the next five years.
Opponents of the plan include the union that represents zoo workers, as well as some animal welfare activists. They worry that a zoo not managed by the city might be less transparent when it comes to animal welfare.
The zoo proposal is part of a larger effort by budget officials to turn over some city functions to private companies and nonprofits. They are also considering proposals to privatize the Los Angeles Convention Center, several arts facilities and an animal shelter.
On Friday, the council will also consider a proposal to turn over management of a Northeast Animal Care Center to a nonprofit, Best Friends Animal Society.
Under the proposal, Best Friends Animal Society would take over operations at the Mission Hills shelter. Currently, no animals are housed at the shelter, due to staffing cutbacks.
-- Kate Linthicum
Photo: Zoo patrons view a pair of Masai giraffes at the Los Angeles Zoo. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times