May 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
After I posted about Saturday’s manure truck accident, my neighbor Christine Kent wrote, “what your photo doesn’t show is that if someone was in that car they would be seriously injured or dead…the driver side is completely crushed.” From her photo, it’s easy to see what would have happened if the parked vehicle hadn’t been empty.
She also suggested I go up to see the marks left behind from the car’s dragging, so late this afternoon I walked up and took these pictures. Not only did I find long drag marks but actual gouges from the impact of the overturned rig.
Walking north on Beachwood Drive is always a bit scary. The sidewalk ends soon after the intersection of Beachwood and Westshire, leaving no alternative to walking in the street. This is what throngs of hikers do, almost always several abreast, but even single file isn’t safe on such a narrow street. After I took my pictures, I walked south along the west side of the street, hugging the edge of the road as cars whizzed by. I was glad to get home uneventfully. Half an hour later I heard a loud bang, followed by sirens. I went out to find this scene:
Apparently only the driver of one of the cars was hurt, something of a miracle at a time when dog walkers and bicyclists are always on the street. If the Hollyridge Trailhead weren’t temporarily closed, there probably would have been a group of tourists walking where the accident took place. There’s no doubt there will be future accidents on Beachwood Drive–the road will always be narrow and winding, with too much vehicular traffic. But if the City reopens the Hollyridge Trailhead as planned, the next accident might have much graver consequences.
May 17, 2014 § 4 Comments
This morning a rig carrying a load of manure from Sunset Ranch overturned on North Beachwood Drive; fortunately, no one was buried by it. But on a normal Saturday, this might have been the outcome, as the street is always crowded with pedestrians headed toward the Hollyridge Trail.
The only reason pedestrians weren’t out in force today is that the Trail is closed due to the construction of a fence and gate. When completed, the gate will keep out cars (except for those going to the Ranch), but not pedestrians, despite the fact that they walk up in large groups, several abreast, on a street that lacks sidewalks, blocking cars and emergency vehicles.
In the interest of public safety, Hollywoodland residents have united in petitioning the City to close the Hollyridge Trailhead permanently, and the LAPD, LADOT and LAFD have concurred. Nevertheless, Rec and Parks Interim General Manager Mike Schull has ignored all recommendations and plans to reopen pedestrian access the Hollyridge Trail via Beachwood Drive as soon as the gate is completed. Councilman Tom LaBonge, after promising a 180-day closure of the trailhead for further study, has reneged on his promise and now agrees with Schull.
For those who believe the Hollyridge Trail has always open to hikers and their vehicles, a bit of history. The land where the Hollyridge Trail is located was originally part of the Hollywoodland Tract–private land. In 1944, Hollywoodland’s developers deeded the parcel, which includes the Hollywood Sign, to the City of Los Angeles, which annexed it to Griffith Park. Access to the parcel was supposed to be via Canyon Drive, not Beachwood Drive. The Hollyridge Trailhead and unpaved parking lot are a much more recent development, having been put in illegally by the City a dozen years ago.
Although Hollywood residents like to hike the Trail as much as visitors do, we are willing to forgo our own access in the interest of safety–not only our own but that of visitors, whose treatment for injuries and heat stroke has been needlessly delayed by the gridlock on Beachwood Drive. Another pressing concern is the increased fire risk brought into the Canyon by thousands of visitors a day, many of whom smoke with impunity. As we face the driest summer in Los Angeles’ history, the chances of Hollywoodland going up in flames increase with each new day. On a gridlocked street with no alternate access, all it would take is a single spark.
Update, April 13, 2017: The Beachwood Drive gate is now closed to pedestrian access
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.
April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
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
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.
December 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
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!
November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
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.
Next time: My painting for the Walpole Bay Hotel
August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
Yesterday’s City Council Transportation Committee meeting yielded two positive results from the perspective of Hollywoodland residents. The deeply unpopular plan to run tourist vans to the dead end of Beachwood Drive was tabled, while a motion for the Department of Transportation to “consider the feasibility of immediately establishing an emergency Temporary Preferential Parking District” on upper Beachwood Drive (north of Ledgewood) was approved. The expectation is that residents north of Ledgewood will be allowed parking passes, easing the competition for a limited number of spaces.
August 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
Today I received an email from the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association about Wednesday’s meeting with Councilman Tom LaBonge. [Disclosure: I served on the HHA Board in 2011, quitting after two months.] The HHA’s long history with LaBonge has been marked by acrimony, but today’s email seems quite chummy:
The councilman has tried to help us by funding weekend traffic checkpoints and installing Smokey the Bear signs. Now he proposes, among other things, a dash [sic] bus that would take hikers from the village all the way to the top of Beachwood. He also proposes painting the curb on one side of Beachwood (above Ledgewood) red to alleviate traffic congestion.
Why do hikers need to be transported to the top of Beachwood? Because some residents object to large groups of young people (generally European or Asian, I’ve noticed–Americans are more likely to drive) traipsing up the narrow part of Beachwood Drive, where sidewalks are intermittent. Presumably these hikers will arrive in Beachwood Village by bus; otherwise, where would they leave their cars? As for the No Parking zone, it apparently is to begin north of Ledgewood instead of at the Village, two blocks south. Presumably all those people who park their cars on Beachwood north of Ledgewood will have to park further south, despite the fact that there aren’t enough spaces to accommodate them.
Meanwhile, I RSVP’d for the meeting and asked to speak. According to Daniel Halden of Tom LaBonge’s office, the agenda hasn’t been set. But they know I’m coming.
August 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
While this might not sound like a serious problem, it is huge for those of us who live in the Canyon and have schedules to keep. Once we get stuck behind crawling tourist traffic, we are trapped for a mile. Drivers are completely unable to pass north of Graciosa, where Beachwood Drive is a narrow, two-lane ribbon. South of Graciosa, where the road is considerably wider, passing is possible but fraught with hazard. Sudden stops and swerves are common tourist driving tactics, as is road rage: How dare you pass us! seems to be the general attitude, as if no one should have anything better to do than chug up and down Beachwood Drive at 2/3 the legal speed. (I’m neglecting the fact that some tourists go even slower than 20 mph. 15 mph is common.)
The mile-long stretch between Franklin Avenue and the Gates has no stop lights and only two stop signs. At the posted speed of 30 mph, it took me 1 1/2 minutes to drive it at 6:45pm today. Yet it often takes five times as long, an inexcusable length of time for such a short distance. Getting stuck behind tourist traffic on Beachwood Drive is getting more common–and more frustrating–every day.
If you’re reading this and contemplating a visit to the Hollywood Sign, please drive at the posted speed. If you need to take a photo, please pull over, signalling first, and let the driver behind you pass. I’m thanking you in advance, not just for myself but for everyone concerned.
August 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
When I heard sirens coming up Beachwood Drive this afternoon, I wondered if another fire had started near the Hollywood Sign. As it turns out, a busload of New Jersey teenagers–who for some reason were “dropped off” by their leader–had started hiking toward the Sign carrying little or no water, and probably no hats. When several collapsed from heat exposure, emergency vehicles were called to the scene. I’d love to know how much this wrong-headed experiment cost us taxpayers, and whether the supervisor of these kids can be prosecuted for endangering their safety.
Every time I think of heatstroke, I remember the September 2010 death of the film editor Sally Menke in Bronson Canyon. She collapsed while hiking with her dog in 113 degree heat; her body was found hours later, in a ravine below the trail to the Hollywood Sign. Being cinematically inclined, I also think of the wedding scene in “Out of Africa,” where Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) first encounters Felicity (Suzanna Hamilton), a Kenya-born tomboy modeled after the aviator Beryl Markham:
Felicity: I do like your dress. Not much of a hat, though.
Karen: It’s meant to be stunning.
Felicity: We die of heatstroke here.
We die of heatstroke here, too. As it happens, the climate of East Africa is very much like that of Southern California, with similarly strong sunlight. But while people in Africa are aware of the dangers of heat and know how to protect themselves, most Americans are woefully unprepared. No one should hike in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, or go without a hat and adequate water supply even in lower temperatures. With another month or more of hot weather to go, it’s up to all of us to use our heads.