High Season for Tourists in Hollywoodland
July 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
This weekend’s so-called Carmaggedon has lessened the volume of traffic on Beachwood Drive, at least for now. Normally the traffic roars up Beachwood Canyon all day long, but today there have been moments, and even a minute here and there, without a car. It won’t last.
Hollywoodland’s internecine feud–between those who favor signs toward to the Hollywood Sign and those who don’t–continues unabated. Since the directional signs that mysteriously appeared in the spring (and immediately increased the volume of traffic) came down, a few neighborhood activists have taken it upon themselves to direct traffic toward the Sign–something they don’t have the right to do in non-emergency circumstances. Their ad hoc policing has provoked heated exchanges on the street that must baffle tourists, none of whom seem to think their desire to reach the Hollywood Sign is the cause.
But it is. Whether driving up Beachwood Drive at 15 mph in a 30 mph zone while videotaping the Sign, blocking all northbound traffic, or simply parking their cars or bodies in the middle of Beachwood Drive for still photos, tourists prevent residents from getting home. Passing is not only prohibited but impossible on the narrow, winding stretch below the Gates where most tourists pose for photos, so residents are stuck behind cars moving at a crawl, if at all. Honking the horn earns us the middle finger, as I was reminded last weekend, when it took all my restraint to respond in kind. The fact that this irritation occurs daily explains why so many Hollywoodlanders are in a perpetual state of frustration.
Then there’s the truly terrifying matter of tourists’ smoking, which they tend to do at the lookout on Canyon Lake Drive and in Lake Hollywood Park. Both areas are extremely prone to fire and have “No Smoking” signs that deter no one. According to the Hollywood Homeowners’ Association, Griffith Park rangers and City officials who patrol the area are loath to ticket smokers because they don’t want to discourage tourist revenues. Yet it was tourists who started the 2007 brush fire that burned from the Oakwoods Apartments on Barham up to the Hollywood Sign–a 150-acre fire that put hundreds of homes in jeopardy and required 200 firefighters to put out. True to form, the City of Los Angeles declined to charge the teenagers who were at fault, no doubt because they were from Illinois.
In spite of all this, most Hollywoodlanders aren’t hostile to tourists who aren’t breaking the law. Those who drive and park legally (or better yet, walk) and don’t smoke get my full cooperation, including directions and answers to questions on neighborhood history. As a result, I’ve met people from all over the world, all of whom were thrilled by their proximity to the Hollywood Sign. Last Thursday in Lake Hollywood Park, I struck up a conversation with a nice family from Dubai. The father asked if there was a restaurant or cafe near Lake Hollywood where he could take his sons “for the view.” When I told him no, that it was a purely residential neighborhood, I recognized the oddness of the situation from his perspective. Virtually every country in the world clutters its beauty spots with hotels and restaurants, but America is justly famous for its unspoilt vistas. Despite its houses, Hollywoodland still resembles a park more than a town, which for its residents is both a blessing and a curse.