Parking will still be free at the Los Angeles Zoo, but be prepared to shell out a couple extra dollars at the ticket counter. For the third year in a row, the price to see your favorite animals up close will increase. This year's hike is $2, bringing admission prices to $16 for adults, $11 for children and $13 for seniors.
While the new rates are still far below what's being paid at other animal parks in Southern California (San Diego Zoo charges $40 for adults) it's still an added expense in an already tough economy.
The fees adopted were a compromise between what the zoo needed in order to keep up with operating costs and what the already strained market could bear, according to Denise Tamura, the zoo director's assistant.
The Los Angeles Zoo's budget is currently $16.7 million, and the facility is expected to receive an additional $13.5 million from the nonprofit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association this year. The new admission fees will bring in an additional $1.8 million in the coming year according to the Daily Breeze.
L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon called the fee increase a "sham." He demanded to know why the city would increase ticket prices while looking for organizations to managing the zoo for the city. "I'm concerned at the same time we are asking for [a Request for Proposals] to privatize the zoo we are increasing fees, which would benefit that private contractor," Alcaron said.
Councilman Tom LaBonge argued the fee proposal was not a sham, but rather an alternative to charging for parking while still covering budget and finance. Privatization had nothing to do with the price increase. It was about a city strapped for funds.
"We need to have a partnerships in many of our areas, whether zoo, art institutions or parks because the money is not there anymore," LaBonge said.
Despite arguments, the ordinance passed and if approved by the Mayor, L.A. residents only have one month to take advantage of the current admission price before it's bumped up. Sounds like it might be time for a trip to the zoo.
Mary Beth Barker is a graduate student at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which has partnered with KCET-TV to produce this blog about policy in Los Angeles.