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.”

Update, April 13, 2017: The Beachwood Drive gate is now closed to pedestrian access

Another Sighting of the Beachwood Drive Bobcat

December 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

Bobcat on 2200 block of Beachwood Drive, Dec. 18 /Courtesy Virginia Parry

Bobcat on 2200 block of Beachwood Drive, Dec. 18 /Courtesy Virginia Parry

Thanks to Virginia Parry for this wonderful closeup of a bobcat–probably the same one that was photographed a half-mile north in my recent post https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/wild-things-of-hollywoodland/ Keep an eye peeled, Beachwooders!

A Post-Thanksgiving Walk in Hollywoodland

November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Hollywood Sign from Westshire Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

The Hollywood Sign from Westshire Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

When my plane from San Francisco was descending over LAX on Monday, I made sure to look for the Hollywood Sign. It was easy to spot: a white line of letters on a distant mountainside, unobstructed by buildings or trees. Perhaps that’s why people who visit Los Angeles are surprised that the Sign is located in a residential neighborhood, and that houses and trees crowd the area below it. Since I live only a mile away from the Sign and a mile below it, I mostly glimpse it between tree branches, houses and telephone wires. Like the moon on a cloudy night, the Sign shifts in and out of view, surprising me with its appearances.

Today it rained, a welcome change from the drought that has plagued California during the past several years. At times it was sunny, and late this morning it managed to be sunny and rainy at the same time. Around 4:30pm, I went for a walk and took this photo of the Sign partially obscured by trees. A short time later, walking down Beachwood Drive, I looked up at the beautiful sky–blue, amber and dotted with clouds.

The Sky Above Beachwood Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

The Sky Above Beachwood Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

Next time: My painting for the Walpole Bay Hotel

Wild Things of Hollywoodland

November 12, 2013 § 4 Comments

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O'Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O’Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

When I describe the wildlife in Los Angeles to people who haven’t lived here, I get comments like, “Oh, we have mountain lions in New York,” only to learn the mountain lion sightings took place forty miles north of Manhattan. There’s no comparison between that and, say, a coyote running alongside your car on Sunset Boulevard, which is what happened to me about nine years ago in Echo Park.

Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.

But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/humans-and-wildlife-in-beachwood-canyon-an-update/

The Glow-in-the-Dark Hollywood Sign

August 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

The Hollywood Sign and Clouds/Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Two friends have alerted me to the mysterious illumination of the Hollywood Sign during the past couple of nights. Not that I noticed–once I’m home, I tend not to stare out the window at it. The fact that this “lighting” of the Sign–which in no way resembles the full-on light show of December 31, 1999–has aroused such enthusiasm should give pause to those who think it could be illuminated (sporadically or not) without inciting massive traffic jams into Beachwood Canyon. Here’s an article about it:

http://laist.com/2013/08/23/mystery_why_was_the_hollywood_sign_lit_up.php

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Hollywood Sign is often visible at night because its white paint reflects ambient light and moonlight. The recent paint job only increases the phenomenon, and those who live near the Sign report the nightly influx of noisy groups of partiers. Adding insult to injury, these visitors leave their bottles, cans, condoms and cigarette butts for residents to clean up.

The fact that people are smoking in a high-risk fire zone is disturbing, as a single spark can (and has) set the neighborhood ablaze. As for the bottles, cans and condoms, the least these revelers could do is to taken their trash with them. Another word about the condoms: not only is it illegal to have sex in public, but Hollywoodland’s wild animal patrol–raccoons and skunks, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions–should give anyone pause.

Tom LaBonge: Everyone’s City Councilman (Except Beachwooders’)

August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

Last night’s public meeting on Beachwood Canyon’s tourism crisis was notable in many ways. It was packed–so much so that I couldn’t find parking anywhere in the vicinity of Fountain Avenue and arrived too late to be put on the speakers’ roster. It was contentious, not only between the citizenry and Councilman LaBonge, but among various neighborhood groups with divergent interests–i.e., Friends of Griffith Park, which doesn’t want the closure of certain Park roads, versus the Hollywoodland Homeowners’ Association, which does. And it was horrifying, because it made clear that it’s only a matter of time before the unchecked flow of tourist traffic into Beachwood Canyon will have deadly consequences.

Residents who spoke recounted the ways in which life in Beachwood Canyon has gotten more difficult and dangerous since the ubiquity of GPS. With 1,000 cars per day ascending the narrow streets around the Hollywood Sign, there have been auto accidents, threats against residents by tourists and tour bus drivers, emergency services delayed because of traffic jams, and round-the-clock intoxication, lewd behavior and vandalism throughout the Canyon.

When I moved to Hollywoodland in 2005, I went to Lake Hollywood Park with my dog almost daily; we also hiked the trails once or twice a week. As time passed, our daily drive up to the Park became increasingly terrifying, as tourists refused to give right-of-way while driving downhill on Ledgewood, a street of blind curves. It’s unusual to have to slam on the brakes while ascending a steep hill to avoid being hit head-on, but that’s what I had to do countless times. My dog–a 95-pounder–was flung from the backseat onto the floor more times than I care to remember. Tourists cursed me when I told them, “Up has the right of way,” and refused to back up as required by law. I’ve stopped foreign tourists–from India and Brazil–after seeing them running every stop sign on Beachwood Drive–apparently knowledge of the word stop isn’t required to rent a car. Tourists smoke with impunity in a dry, fire-prone habitat, often within feet of the Smokey the Bear signs that Councilman LaBonge so proudly installed last year.

I no longer go to Lake Hollywood Park or the trails: since my dog died last year, the danger of getting up there–either by car or on foot–has outweighed the pleasures of those destinations. It’s a shame, because the Park and trails were major reasons for my moving here in the first place. But times have changed: like many Beachwooders, I feel the neighborhood has been given over to tourists, and that we residents no longer matter.

Councilman Labonge said as much last night. In response to a neighbor of mine who said, “The word on the street is that you care more about the tourists than the residents,” he angrily responded, “Not true. Not true–I care about everyone.” Any other politician would have said, “I care deeply about my constituents,” but not him. Still, I give Tom LaBonge credit for speaking the truth: when he says he cares about everyone, he means everyone in the world. Except of course those of us who live here, and whose taxes pay his salary.

Related articles:
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tom-labonges-plan-for-hollywoodland-an-update/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/tom-labonges-tourist-trade/

Tom LaBonge’s Tourist Trade

August 11, 2013 § 6 Comments

Councilman Tom LaBonge at the Hollywood Sign/tomlabonge.com

Councilman Tom LaBonge at the Hollywood Sign/tomlabonge.com

Beachwood Canyon falls within Los Angeles’s Fourth Council District, which since 2001 has been represented by Tom LaBonge. [Disclosure: I interviewed Councilman LaBonge for my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign,” in 2006, and have met him several times since.] For those of us who live here, particularly in Hollywoodland, his tenure has been an infuriating series of battles, as LaBonge long ago decided his true constituency is not us but every tourist who thinks Hey, let’s drive up to the Hollywood Sign and take pictures! Never mind that the Canyon’s streets are narrow, winding and residential: Tom LaBonge wants everyone in the world to come up here, even to the point of directing them personally.

A few years ago, after weekends of gridlock on the Canyon’s northwestern streets left residents unable to leave or return to their houses, LaBonge responded by clearing a hillside above Lake Hollywood Park so that tourists could take pictures near the Sign. Eliminating some of the brush was probably a good idea, but cars and buses came in ever-increasing numbers, creating havoc on Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake Drive. It wasn’t long before a wildfire broke out from a cigarette flicked into the chaparral by a tourist. But it’s all good according Tom LaBonge, who once wanted to build a lookout tower in Beachwood Village for tourists. Never mind that he proposed putting the tower in the parking lot of the Beachwood Market, which happens to be private property, or that very few tourists want to walk, let alone climb steps, for a look at the Hollywood Sign. For Tom LaBonge, it’s about the tourists all the time; we residents can go hang. (I often wonder where he thinks his salary comes from.)

His latest idea for Hollywoodland is jaw-dropping, even by past standards. LaBonge has proposed an immediate elimination of 50% of the parking on Beachwood Drive north of Beachwood Village, meaning that one side of the Canyon’s only thoroughfare would be permanently off-limits to parked cars. The reason for this is obvious: LaBonge, a lame duck, wants cement his tourism-centric legacy by granting even greater access to sightseeing buses and vans (all of which exceed weight limits, not that this is ever enforced). The implications of this plan are devastating, not only to those residents who have nowhere else to park but to those of us who have garages. Apparently LaBonge thinks no one will ever need parking spaces for visiting friends, family or workmen, and that upper Beachwood Drive is his for the taking.

There’s a hearing about the proposal scheduled for Wednesday, August 14th at 7pm at 6501 Fountain Avenue. I’ll be there, and I hope other Beachwooders–particularly those who live on Beachwood Drive–will attend as well.

Related articles:

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

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/beachwoods-scofflaw-tourists-just-get-us-to-the-hollywood-sign-residents-be-damned/

Beachwood’s Animal Kingdom

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

During the past week, I’ve discovered both coyote and racoon footprints on the sheet that covers my outdoor chaise longue, proof that both have been inside my fenced yard. Though I frequently see coyotes outside my house, I had never seen a racoon until Monday evening, when this one passed by my back door.

A Visiting Racoon 6/3/13/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

It got in by scaling down the branches that cover the steep hillside behind my back fence. Here it is in retreat:
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I ended the week with a much tamer animal encounter, though it was just as unexpected. This afternoon three horses were hitched up outside the Beachwood Cafe, calmly waiting for their owners to finish their lunch. They had come through Griffith Park and were in Beachwood for the first time, but they seemed very much at home here.
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Humans and Wildlife in Beachwood Canyon: An Update

January 30, 2013 § 6 Comments

A Coyote at Dusk in Hollywoodland/Hope Anderson Productions

A Coyote at Dusk in Hollywoodland/Hope Anderson Productions

One of the problems of living in a virtual nature preserve is the us-against-them mentality of some of the inhabitants–and I’m not talking about coyotes. Rather, it’s the human residents of Beachwood who regard themselves as combatants, either against wildlife or each other.

In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been accused of being anti-wildlife–by a neighbor whose illegal feeding of birds (to say nothing of raccoons and coyotes) brought a dawn patrol of crows to my roof each morning–and now anti-dog. Someone who calls herself Doggie mama takes issue with a post I wrote about a coyote jumping my fence and clearing the property of tree rats. https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon/ She is further enraged by my quoting someone who called small pets lost to coyotes “nature’s nachos.”

Nature’s nachos? You guys realize that your convenient rat hunting solution up the hill means dog hunting season down the hill as soon as the rat population decreases? They come down every winter, but this year is worse than ever… a pack is hunting at 8pm tonight, and we’ve seen them around 11pm for the past two months… not safe for walking two 10-lb puppies at 8p and 11p… But thanks for calling my beloved pups a snack for these creatures that seem to be saving you a few bucks in exterminator expenses.

Despite the implications, my “convenient rat-hunting solution” was not instigated by me, nor did I start or condone the hunting of dogs by coyotes. And even if the coyotes of Beachwood Canyon somehow have learned to read, I can’t imagine their regarding this blog as an inducement to go after little dogs. Beyond these problems of logic are two larger questions: why do people who object to the presence of predatory wildlife–not only coyotes but hawks, owls and other raptors–choose to live in their habitat? And why do they walk their small dogs at night, usually on expandable leashes that allow the dogs to move ahead of them, seemingly untethered?

There’s no reason not to have a dog in Beachwood: I moved here with a beloved 95-pounder that throughout her life ruled over the neighborhood coyotes, all of which were tiny by comparison, and terrified of her. Even so, I rarely walked my dog after dusk in order to minimize the chance of meeting a coyote. In contrast, Doggie mama asserts her right to walk her ten-pound dogs at night. In a canyon where coyotes live, this is nothing short of a provocation, and provocations have their consequences.

Speaking of coyotes, I keep seeing the one photographed above. It resembles a mangy little sheep and looks nothing like any other coyote I’ve ever seen. Theories?

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