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.
July 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
This weekend’s so-called Carmaggedon has lessened the volume of traffic on Beachwood Drive, at least for now. Normally the traffic roars up Beachwood Canyon all day long, but today there have been moments, and even a minute here and there, without a car. It won’t last.
Hollywoodland’s internecine feud–between those who favor signs toward to the Hollywood Sign and those who don’t–continues unabated. Since the directional signs that mysteriously appeared in the spring (and immediately increased the volume of traffic) came down, a few neighborhood activists have taken it upon themselves to direct traffic toward the Sign–something they don’t have the right to do in non-emergency circumstances. Their ad hoc policing has provoked heated exchanges on the street that must baffle tourists, none of whom seem to think their desire to reach the Hollywood Sign is the cause.
But it is. Whether driving up Beachwood Drive at 15 mph in a 30 mph zone while videotaping the Sign, blocking all northbound traffic, or simply parking their cars or bodies in the middle of Beachwood Drive for still photos, tourists prevent residents from getting home. Passing is not only prohibited but impossible on the narrow, winding stretch below the Gates where most tourists pose for photos, so residents are stuck behind cars moving at a crawl, if at all. Honking the horn earns us the middle finger, as I was reminded last weekend, when it took all my restraint to respond in kind. The fact that this irritation occurs daily explains why so many Hollywoodlanders are in a perpetual state of frustration.
Then there’s the truly terrifying matter of tourists’ smoking, which they tend to do at the lookout on Canyon Lake Drive and in Lake Hollywood Park. Both areas are extremely prone to fire and have “No Smoking” signs that deter no one. According to the Hollywood Homeowners’ Association, Griffith Park rangers and City officials who patrol the area are loath to ticket smokers because they don’t want to discourage tourist revenues. Yet it was tourists who started the 2007 brush fire that burned from the Oakwoods Apartments on Barham up to the Hollywood Sign–a 150-acre fire that put hundreds of homes in jeopardy and required 200 firefighters to put out. True to form, the City of Los Angeles declined to charge the teenagers who were at fault, no doubt because they were from Illinois.
In spite of all this, most Hollywoodlanders aren’t hostile to tourists who aren’t breaking the law. Those who drive and park legally (or better yet, walk) and don’t smoke get my full cooperation, including directions and answers to questions on neighborhood history. As a result, I’ve met people from all over the world, all of whom were thrilled by their proximity to the Hollywood Sign. Last Thursday in Lake Hollywood Park, I struck up a conversation with a nice family from Dubai. The father asked if there was a restaurant or cafe near Lake Hollywood where he could take his sons “for the view.” When I told him no, that it was a purely residential neighborhood, I recognized the oddness of the situation from his perspective. Virtually every country in the world clutters its beauty spots with hotels and restaurants, but America is justly famous for its unspoilt vistas. Despite its houses, Hollywoodland still resembles a park more than a town, which for its residents is both a blessing and a curse.
March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
From late 2006 until early 2009, I conducted interviews and shot footage for “Under the Hollywood Sign,” my documentary on the history and culture of Beachwood Canyon. Some of that footage showed the Hollywood Sign, whose history I traced from its beginnings as a billboard in 1923 to its rebuilding in 1978 and beyond. I also filmed, with the permission of the Hollywood Sign Trust, at the Sign itself. During the 2 1/2 years I worked on this project, I worried that my neighbors would object to the attention my work might bring to the area. But no one ever did–until last Tuesday night’s meeting of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association.
As the meeting ended, a woman approached me and said, “Hope, I’ve heard your video encourages people to climb to the Sign.” “That’s absolutely untrue,” I said, explaining that while I had documented people climbing to the Sign, I was a bystander who had nothing to do with their decision. (On one occasion, I showed up at a legal spot to shoot b-roll and was amazed to see three people at the base of the Sign, and a couple on their way up.) But what I was thinking was, if I had made a documentary about Afghanistan, would she accuse me of promoting warfare? And shouldn’t she have watched it before insinuating this?
I might have pointed out that “Under the Hollywood Sign,” which to date has not been broadcast, has been seen mostly by people who live in the neighborhood, and that it clearly states that climbing to the Sign is illegal. While additional viewers have seen my YouTube channel, my clips show up alongside many other people’s videos of the Hollywood Sign, including some that promote climbing to it.
Nevertheless, it’s true that in the 5 years I’ve lived in Hollywoodland, tourist traffic has increased noticeably. My opinion–shared by many–is that the ubiquity of GPS and the recent advent of small, open tour vans are the main causes. Previously, tourists without cars would take the Starlines trolley bus as far as Beachwood Village. Now they can take a van up the residential streets near the Sign where they stop for pictures–and create gridlock.
On Saturday, I recounted the incident to Jim Hollander, a Beachwood resident and journalist. He said, “”That happens to reporters all the time. They write about someone or something small and unknown, and then suddenly it’s a big deal, and people feel as though they have been put at a loss. These people must think documentaries are the devil’s work!” Coincidentally, that very day the Times ran an article about the problems of tourist traffic. Because it focuses on Beachwood Canyon, I’m hoping the Times will share in the blame. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0305-tourbus-noise-20110305,0,6673141.story
March 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
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.
February 28, 2011 § 1 Comment
I was across town most of the day, yet Hollywoodland was never far from mind. A couple of email bulletins regarding tomorrow night’s meeting about the “Hollywood Sign Scenic View” signs revealed strange goings-on and factionalism within the HHA. Apparently the HHA website was hacked and misleading information posted about the meeting and the signs.
For Hollywoodland residents planning to attend, the meeting is still on for 7pm on Tuesday March 1st, at the Beachwood Coffee Shop. Bring photos, letters and other documentation–and your dues, if you haven’t paid them.
February 26, 2011 § 4 Comments
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.