Today’s Hollywood Reporter Article on Hollywoodland

January 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

For months I’ve been on a self-imposed moratorium on writing about Hollywoodland’s ever-growing tourist problems, and for good reason. In addition to getting emails from people outside the neighborhood who were hellbent on seeing the Sign lit up at night despite ample evidence that it would cause mayhem, I was also hearing from neighbors who said you don’t speak for us, regardless of what I wrote.

Of course I don’t speak for them; I never said I did. My intent in starting Under the Hollywood Sign was to promote my writing and documentaries and to write about what interested me–namely film–and I was happy to return to it.

Although I plan to keep my vow, today I’m making an exception for the Hollywood Reporter’s article. Senior writer Gary Baum has done a masterful job in exploring the Hollywoodland’s predicament as an accidental, out-of-control tourist destination, presenting its history and present-day circumstances in a thoughtful and balanced way. As one of the many residents he interviewed, I can attest to his thoroughness and hard work. Here’s the link: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/war-hollywood-sign-pits-wealthy-761385

The City’s Latest Assault on Hollywoodland: A Plan to Eliminate Half Our Street Parking

April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

An Alternative Sign/Courtesy Eugene Gordon

An Alternative Sign/Courtesy Eugene Gordon

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
2:00 PM
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.

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.

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