Revisiting the Scene of Saturday’s Beachwood Drive Accident, and Encountering Another

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.

Crushed on Beachwood Drive/Courtesy Christine Kent

Crushed on Beachwood Drive/Courtesy Christine Kent


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.
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The Aftermath of Saturday's Manure Truck Accident on N. Beachwood Drive/Photos by Hope Anderson Productions

The Aftermath of Saturday’s Manure Truck Accident on N. Beachwood Drive/Photos by Hope Anderson Productions


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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:
This afternoon's Beachwood Drive accident, only two blocks south/All photos Hope Anderson Productions

This afternoon’s Beachwood Drive accident, only two blocks south/All photos Hope Anderson Productions


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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.

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.

Postscript: There was a brush fire in Griffith Park during the early morning hours of April 16th–probably a side effect of someone smoking during the lunar eclipse. http://hollywood.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/firefighters-battle-flames-in-hollywood-hills

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?

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/

Winter Rains–and Peace–Descend on Hollywoodland

December 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Clouds Obscure the Hollywood Sign, 4pm 12/2/12/Hope Anderson Productions

Clouds Obscure the Hollywood Sign, 4pm 12/2/12/Hope Anderson Productions

Four days of intermittent rain have brought clouds and mist to Beachwood Canyon, which in turn have completely shrouded the Hollywood Sign. In the above photo, the Sign should stand to the right of the turreted house, as it does in any number of photos on this blog. But it’s not there–and if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never guess its location.

Given the arid local climate, the Sign’s disappearance is a rare occurrence, and I can remember only a handful of days during my seven years here when I couldn’t see it from my house. Ironically, on the first of them I was trying to show the Sign to Kelly Brand, the actress I cast as Peg Entwistle in my short film “Peg Entwistle’s Last Walk.” Although we were probably only 100 feet below the Sign at one point, we couldn’t see it at all.

But today the Sign’s invisibility was a gift. Normally Sundays bring nonstop tourist traffic up Beachwood Drive, and a Grand Prix-like roar that doesn’t stop until sundown. But all day long, traffic was light; with nothing to see, no one came.

Deliver Us From Lollygagging: The Glacial Pace of Tourist Traffic on Beachwood Drive

August 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Beachwood Drive at Glen Alder, with Speed Limit Posted/8-19-12/Hope Anderson Productions

An exponential rise in visitors to the Hollywood Sign has brought not only picture-taking throngs in the middle of traffic but the daily phenomenon of cars traveling well below the posted speed limit on Beachwood Drive. On the mile-long stretch between Franklin Avenue and the Hollywoodland Gates, the posted speed limit is 30. Yet the average tourist–status verified by out-of-state plates, rental car stickers and a penchant for running stop signs and not using turn signals–takes it upon himself to drive at a leisurely 20 mph, the better to take in the view.

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.

Setting Our House on Fire: Hollywood Sign Tourists and Their Cigarettes

July 22, 2012 § 5 Comments

Around 6pm on Monday, July 9th, fire trucks roared up Beachwood Drive, setting off a chorus of howls among the Canyon’s coyotes (as well as a certain rescue dog who, I discovered, can howl while she walks). The LAFD was responding to a brush fire that started when a tourist tossed a cigarette into the dry brush at the Lookout on Canyon Lake Drive. This careless action–made in spite of No Smoking signs at site–threatened hundreds of homes, which is why 75 firefighters were deployed to extinguish it. Here’s an LAFD photo of the aftermath:

LAFD Squashes Hollywood Brush Fire

As someone who not only lives in the Canyon but spends time at Lake Hollywood Park, just below the lookout, I wasn’t surprised by the fire. I often see people, both tourists and Angelenos, smoking there, and they all do it with impunity. In the past couple of years, I’ve started telling smokers about the fire danger and asking them to put their cigarettes out; usually they do it without complaint. The only person who has refused, ironically, is an acquaintance of mine, who clearly felt I was overreacting because it wasn’t particularly hot or dry that day. Like most people, he didn’t think he could cause an accidental fire. One local woman takes cell phone photos of non-compliant smokers; when they ask why, she says so if there’s a fire I can show it to the police. I wish I could be so brave.

This might be a good time to remember the Hollywood Hills fire of May 12, 1961, which started at the northern edge of Beachwood Canyon and caused enormous devastation before it was extinguished the next day. An LAFD report by Inspector Otto Firgens reads:

Due to the heavy brush, high winds, low humidity and rugged terrain the fire developed into major proportions within 15 minutes of the original alarm. A Major Emergency was declared at 7:59 pm….The fire continued to burn out of control toward Mt. Lee and the Griffith Park Observatory to the east. It was spreading and had already developed a 4 or 5 mile perimeter. It raced up one canyon and down the other, driven by winds which at times reached 67 miles per hour.

In the end, 17 houses in Beachwood Canyon were either damaged or destroyed by the fire. Among the total losses was the home of Laura and Aldous Huxley. Because they left with only what they could carry, they lost not only most of their possessions but all of Aldous’s papers and manuscripts. The only manuscript Huxley saved was his book in progress, Island. Also burned to the ground was the home of their friend Ginny Pfeiffer. More than 50 years later, neither house has been rebuilt, though the Huxley property was sold after Laura’s death in 2007. The foundations of Pfeiffer’s house on Deronda Drive are visible to tourists trying to reach the Hollywood Sign, but I doubt anyone notices. Here’s what the fire left behind:

Foundations of the Pfeiffer House on Deronda Drive/Hope Anderson Productions

Additional source: LAFD archives

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