The Signs Come Down, But Problems Remain

March 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Please Don't Smoke Around Here/Hope Anderson Productions

Tuesday night’s meeting of the Hollywood Homeowners Association began with the reading of a motion stating that the “Hollywood Sign Scenic View” signs would be taken down; as of tonight, all but one have been removed. Because of that decision, the discourse that followed was civil, with most speakers agreeing that directing tourist traffic from one area of Hollywoodland to another has done nothing to solve the problems caused by too many cars on the narrow, winding streets below the Hollywood Sign. 

Beyond the fact that residents of those streets repeatedly have been trapped by total gridlock, tourist traffic has blocked emergency vehicles from the upper Canyon. This includes the service road leading to the ranger station above the Sign–the only means of getting fire trucks to a large swath of Griffith Park. If gridlock were to continue, those living on the affected streets would be on their own in the case of a medical emergency or fire, an untenable situation.

What lies ahead for Hollywoodland residents is more study of the traffic problem and hard choices about its abatement. Meanwhile, there’s summer to think about, with its perfect storm of high season tourism and fire hazard. The fact that many tourists think nothing of smoking in the vicinity of the Hollywood Sign, a clear violation of posted signs in an area of dry chaparral, only adds to the danger.

HHA to Tourists: Drive On Up to the Hollywood Sign!

February 26, 2011 § 4 Comments

This Way to Gridlock/Hope Anderson Productions

Just when Hollywoodland residents thought congestion couldn’t get any worse, signs like the one pictured above appeared, as if by magic, to gin up tourist traffic to the Hollywood Sign. This turn of events came as a complete surprise to everyone I know, so it wasn’t until a flier appeared in my mailbox that I learned who was responsible: the Hollywood Homeowners Association. As one of the HHA’s dues-paying members–until now, that is–I would have expected some sort of written notice, and perhaps the opportunity to cast a vote, before the signs were made. But no: the HHA made the decision unilaterally, without notifying anyone who failed to attend a certain meeting, let alone the many Hollywoodland residents who would be affected. The issue went completely unpublicized, even on the HHA’s website.

Apparently the HHA’s aim was to redirect traffic from the dead-end on Durand Drive, where residents were trapped by gridlocked cars on weekends. The result has been a significant increase  of illegally parked cars on both Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake Drive, not only on weekends but every day of the week. While GPS directed a certain amount of traffic to those streets before the signs went up, I never saw more than two cars at a time stopped illegally on the ridge above Lake Hollywood Park, as opposed to the four plus on any given day since. When recently I had to pass five parked cars in a row, I narrowly missed being hit head-on by an oncoming car on a blind curve–surely not the result intended by the HHA.

Then there’s the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake, where cars not only park illegally but double-park, reducing access to a single harrowing lane on a steep hill. What used to be a challenging route has become a death trap, yet the park rangers who patrol the area are interested only in issuing warnings to the owners of off-leash dogs in Lake Hollywood Park. As long as they’re driving cars, scofflaws get a free pass in Hollywoodland.

Today as I walked my dog on Beachwood Drive, I discovered the result of another unilateral decision: the sign pictured above has been covered by a black plastic trash bag. Score: HHA 1, Beleaguered Homeowners 1.

Why the Hollywood Sign Isn’t Lit (and Never Will Be)

November 3, 2010 § 62 Comments

The Hollywoodland Sign at Night, circa 1925/Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

One of the perennial questions  about the Hollywood Sign is why it isn’t lit at night. The answer is that the Sign overlooks a residential neighborhood whose access narrows from a two-lane road to a steep, winding single lane as one nears the Sign. If the Hollywood Sign became a nighttime beacon, traffic in the Canyon would quickly reach gridlock.

That’s precisely what happened on New Year’s Eve of 1999, when the Hollywood Sign was rigged for a Millennial light and fireworks show. People came up Beachwood Drive by the thousands, effectively trapping everyone in the Canyon and preventing emergency vehicles from entering. It had a lasting effect on residents, some of whom still shudder at the memory.

In the Sign’s original incarnation as a billboard, it was lit, the better to impress prospective property owners. It flashed in segments, first Holly, then wood, then land, before lighting up completely. A searchlight below it lit up for emphasis, like an exclamation point. Hollywoodland! It must have been wonderful–and to Albert Kothe, the man whose job it was to change the lightbulbs, a grim reminder of his day job. More on Kothe, a true Hollywoodland character, in a future post.

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