Why We Freak Out When You Smoke in Beachwood Canyon

April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

No Smoking Sign at Lake Hollywood Park

No Smoking Sign at Lake Hollywood Park

Last night a neighbor of mine went up to the vista above Lake Hollywood to look at the lunar eclipse. So did a number of people from outside the Canyon, some of whom were smoking despite the signs forbidding it. (The photo above is from 2011; since then, Councilman Tom LaBonge’s office has installed even larger signs, including one featuring Smokey the Bear, to little result.) Although all but one of the smokers put out their cigarettes after my neighbor asked them to, one pointedly refused.

Yet one cigarette is all it takes to start a fire in the dry brush. A couple of years ago, a fire caused by a tourist’s flicked cigarette burned an acre at the vista in minutes before firefighters arrived. I wrote about it here:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/setting-our-house-on-fire-hollywood-sign-tourists-and-their-cigarettes/

This year California’s long drought was declared the worst in its recorded history. With below average rainfall for eleven of the past fifteen years, including almost no rain last year and the year before, conditions are now so dry that any spark could threaten every home in Beachwood Canyon. That’s why we have No Smoking signs, and why we get so upset when smokers ignore them.

At Yesterday’s City Hall Meeting, A Reprieve for Beachwood Drive Residents

April 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

About thirty Hollywoodland residents, including many residents of Beachwood Drive, attended yesterday’s Transportation Committee meeting at City Hall. Some of us were able to speak about the City’s proposal to end daytime parking on the east side of Beachwood Drive. Among the consequences of the proposed ban–none of which the Committee seemed to have anticipated–are the following:

1. Every car traveling on Beachwood Drive would have to make a U-turn in order to park on the (legal) west side, since the street is a dead-end accessible only from the south.

2. People whose houses are on the east side would have to cross busy Beachwood Drive in order to get home, a particularly risky exercise for the street’s elderly and disabled residents.

3. Many of the vehicles seeking parking along Beachwood Drive are service vehicles, including large trucks and moving vans. Their U-turns would halt traffic in both directions, increasing congestion.

4. A dearth of parking on Beachwood Drive would create more congestion on Hollywoodland’s already overcrowded side streets.

The Committee granted a 30-day stay for further study and new proposals. Stay tuned for further details.

The City’s Latest Assault on Hollywoodland: A Plan to Eliminate Half Our Street Parking

April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

An Alternative Sign/Courtesy Eugene Gordon

An Alternative Sign/Courtesy Eugene Gordon

When I’m driving on Beachwood Drive, impeded by stopped tour vans and tourists posing for photos in the middle of the street, I sometimes wonder if Hollywoodland’s many visitors ever think about their impact on those of us who live here. I doubt it: if they did, matters wouldn’t have escalated into the crisis we now find ourselves mired in. A thousand visitors’ cars per day have caused gridlock, trapped us our houses and prevented us from getting home. There have been hostile arguments, car accidents and untended medical emergencies. And at the end of the day, we residents are left to clean up the detritus of our neighborhood’s wild, toll-free tourism: cigarettes and matches in a wildfire area; beer cans and liquor bottles, bottles of urine, bags of excrement and used condoms.

In any other place, a City Council Representative would represent his constituents’ interests, not those of tourists. Unfortunately, our representative is Tom LaBonge, whose determination to be Mr. Hollywood has pitted him against the very people who pay his salary–us. His latest salvo, harebrained even by the standards of his record, is to eliminate street parking on the east side of Beachwood Drive in Hollywoodland during the day, the better to accommodate throngs of tourists who hike to the Hollywood Sign.

Never mind that 100% of polled residents oppose the plan. LaBonge is determined to restrict the mile-long stretch between Beachwood Village and the northern end of Beachwood Drive, making it illegal to park outside our houses from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week. No word on where all the residents’ cars will go, to say nothing of moving trucks and service vehicles. I happen to live on the east side of Beachwood Drive and although I park in my one-car garage, I have friends, family and repair people who need a place to park when they visit. Where are they supposed to go when the west side of the street will be filled with residents’ cars? I guess we’ll find out; there’s a meeting on the matter at City Hall this Wednesday. For those wishing to attend, the details are:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2014
2:00 PM
ROOM 1010 CITY HALL
200 N SPRING STREET

Correction: Originally the article stated that parking on Beachwood would be restricted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I regret that I was misinformed and have made the necessary corrections.

Vehicular Access to the Hollyridge Trailhead Ends Tuesday, March 25th

March 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

In response to the tourist gridlock at the end of Beachwood Drive, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks will begin construction tomorrow on a wrought iron gate at the northern end of Beachwood Drive, where Griffith Park begins. When the project is completed in 6-8 weeks, pedestrians will have access to the Hollyridge Trail between sunrise and sunset. However, no vehicles will be allowed past the gate, with the exception of Rec and Parks vehicles and those of visitors to Sunset Ranch.

For those who wonder why this measure is necessary, here’s a link to a video shot by Tjardus Greidanus a block above Beachwood Village one Saturday:

https://vimeo.com/83534213

“Barbara:” A New CD Recalls Beachwood Canyon’s 1960s Music Scene

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

BARBARA  - MOCK CUV copy
As musical canyons go, Beachwood has never been as famous as Laurel, whose reputation was burnished by Joni Mitchell (see “Ladies of the Canyon”). Nevertheless, Beachwood Canyon had its share of 60s and 70s musicians, including The Doors, J.D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt, as I found out while doing research for my documentary Under the Hollywood Sign.

Though I already knew that The Doors had taken their name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception , it was his widow Laura Huxley’s assistant, Stephanie Horsley, who verified that the band also lived in Beachwood Canyon. Horsley lived on Hollyridge Drive in the late 1960s, in a house overlooking the one The Doors were renting. In her interview, she recalled window-rattling jam sessions, after which the band members and their girlfriends would sleep out on the roof.

Another of my interviewees was the musician and producer Alan Brackett, whose band The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was active from 1966 to 1970. The PBC made three albums, contributed songs to movies such as “Run Angel Run” and had a Billboard hit, “It’s a Happening Thing.” Now Alan has announced a new CD featuring (and named for) the band’s late, great vocalist Barbara “Sandi” Robison. “Barbara,” which includes five previously unreleased songs, is available for sale at https://www.createspace.com/2050813

For more information and tracks, visit http://www.peanutbutterconspiracy.com

After the Storms: Oscar Sunday in Hollywood

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Looking North from the Hollywood Farmer's Market This Morning/Hope Anderson Productions

Looking North from the Hollywood Farmer’s Market This Morning/Hope Anderson Productions

Two back-to-back storms have brought more rain to Los Angeles in the past three days than has fallen in the past year–in some areas, twice as much. In Beachwood Canyon at least two trees have fallen, and one of them caused a power failure for some residents last night. There has been some flooding and a lot of mud, but today the Canyon looks green and fresh. From the Farmer’s Market this morning the Hollywood Sign was invisible, shrouded in mist and clouds.

Grey weather and intermittant showers have reduced the Canyon’s tourist traffic dramatically, since most people want their photos of the Hollywood Sign against a blue background. But while walking around the neighborhood a little while ago, I met a visitor from Antwerp who was undeterred by the less-than-ideal conditions. It was his only day to see the Sign, and I was glad to direct him to a good–and no doubt uncrowded–spot for picture-taking.

Silver Lake Reservoir: How An Unused Body of Water Could Become an Urban Oasis

February 17, 2014 § 1 Comment

Silver Lake Reservoir/Courtesy LA Times

Silver Lake Reservoir/Courtesy LA Times


It was with great interest that I read this article on proposed plans for Silver Lake Reservoir, which will soon be decommissioned as LA’s water supply is moved underground. There are proposals for a swimming area, a beach and an esplanade, any of which would be a boon for park-starved Angelenos.

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-silver-lake-reservoir-20140215,0,7579276.story?fb_action_ids=10202745736035154&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=s%3DshowShareBarUI%3Ap%3Dfacebook-like&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582#axzz2tdSEHs33

New recreational facilities would make Silver Lake Reservoir a welcome destination for tourists as well. Perhaps the redesigned Reservoir would grow popular enough to siphon some of the Beachwood’s tourist traffic to an area that is far more accessible than Beachwood Canyon. I can dream, can’t I?

Moby’s Essay on New York, Los Angeles and the Freedom to Fail

February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

The year before last, I wrote a couple of pieces about New York and Los Angeles and their shifting fortunes as artistic capitals:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/apples-and-oranges-the-pointlessness-of-comparing-los-angeles-to-new-york-and-the-comparison-that-fits/

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/no-more-la-la-land-part-i-changing-references-to-los-angeles-in-the-new-york-times/

Today I read an essay by Moby that beautifully describes the mutability and wildness of Los Angeles as well as its artistic ferment. About his reasons for moving here from New York, he writes:

There’s a sense that New Yorkers never fail, but if they do, they’re exorcised from memory, kind of like Trotsky in early pictures of the Soviet Communist Politburo. In New York you can be easily overwhelmed by how much success everyone else seems to be having, whereas in L.A., everybody publicly fails at some point—even the most successful people. A writer’s screenplay may be turned into a major movie, but there’s a good chance her next five screenplays won’t even get picked up. An actor may star in acclaimed films for two years, then go a decade without work. A musician who has sold well might put out a complete failure of a record—then bounce back with the next one. Experimentation and a grudging familiarity with occasional failure are part of L.A.’s ethos.

Maybe I’m romanticizing failure, but when it’s shared, it can be emancipating and even create solidarity.

The full essay can be seen here:

http://creativetimereports.org/2014/02/03/moby-los-angeles-first-city-of-the-apocalypse/

How Jeep’s “I Love You California” Ad is Worsening Hollywoodland’s Already Horrendous Traffic

January 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

Frame from Jeep Cherokee's "I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube

Frame from Jeep Cherokee’s “I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube


Several months ago, Jeep Grand Cherokee started running a commercial set to California’s State Song. I wrote about it and the song’s origins in this post https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/i-love-you-california-the-song-the-era-and-the-ad/

Lately I’ve noticed that increasing numbers of visitors to Beachwood Canyon expect to be able to drive to the Hollywood Sign–not to its vicinity or to a lookout, but all the way up to it. Over the weekend it finally occurred to me that the Jeep ad, still in heavy rotation, might have something to do with this idea, so I watched it a few times.

Six seconds in, we see a Grand Cherokee ascending a hill that appears to be directly beneath the Sign; from the trajectory, it seems clear the Jeep is heading straight up to it. But it’s not, and it can’t. The hill in question is the so-called Millennium Plateau* which lies not directly under the Sign but east and far south of it. Although Jeep filmed at the Plateau, you can’t drive there: the road is closed except to police and fire vehicles, and to cars on official business. (Disclosure: I have been permitted to drive up the road to an area above the Sign for filming purposes on two occasions.) You could walk to the Plateau, but even if you’re up for a considerable hike, it’s nowhere near spitting distance to the Hollywood Sign. It’s not even the best view.

As long as we’re on the subject of tourist traffic in Hollywoodland, this weekend saw some of the worst traffic ever–and it’s only January. Saturday brought total gridlock on the streets leading to Lake Hollywood Park. On several blocks of Beachwood Drive north of the Gates, there was no street parking at all. The merchants in Beachwood Village have opposed parking restrictions near the stores on the grounds that restrictions would affect their businesses, but as far as I could see everyone who parked on my block was heading in the opposite direction, toward the Sign. Most of these sightseers were gone for hours, and the car with out-of-state plates blocking my garage sat there all day.

The influx of cars has become so severe that one elderly resident apparently died while waiting for paramedics who couldn’t get through a the traffic jam at the north end of Beachwood Drive. As a result of constant gridlock, many of our streets–including upper Beachwood Drive–will soon get permit parking. While I’m happy for those residents, my neighbors and I can forget about ever having friends or family over during daylight hours: all the spaces outside our houses will be taken up by tourists’ cars.

Those who say “You knew the Sign was there when you moved in,” should realize that this wasn’t the situation when we moved in; it dates to when GPS became ubiquitous on phones and has become a crisis only in the past two years. The tourist season is now year-round and affects us daily, and rarely in a good way. So here’s some advice for visitors: if you must come to Hollywoodland, please use public transportation to the Village and prepare to walk. Buy something more than bottled water from the Market and Cafe, especially if you expect to use the restrooms. And don’t smoke anywhere, including in your car. In a bone-dry canyon during the worst drought in memory, one spark equals catastrophe.

*The Plateau is where camera crews filmed the light show at the Hollywood Sign on New Year’s Eve of 1999. The lighted Sign drew such a stampede of cars into the Canyon that all access, including that of emergency vehicles, was completely blocked. It’s a nightmare that haunts residents to this day.

Hollyridge Trailhead To Be Closed for 180 Days

January 10, 2014 § 7 Comments

The Sign from the Hollyridge Trail/Hope Anderson Productions

The Sign from the Hollyridge Trail/Hope Anderson Productions

After much petitioning from neighborhood groups, the trailhead at the dead end of Beachwood Drive will be closed temporarily, according to the office of Councilman Tom LaBonge.

Because of the challenges surrounding access to the Hollyridge Trail, Sunset Ranch, the Mt. Lee communications center and the Hollywood Sign, I feel it is important to close the trailhead for a 180 day period. Ultimately, a determination will require the guidance and cooperation of many other City departments. The neighborhood is being overwhelmed by the influx of vehicle [sic], substandard streets, no sidewalks, and we want to insure that in the event of an emergency, that [sic] there can be access.”

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