The Hollyweed Sign and Its Predecessor

January 3, 2017 § 1 Comment

The Hollywood Sign on January 1, 2017/Courtesy LA Times

The Hollywood Sign on January 1, 2017/Courtesy LA Times

Because I was out of town on New Year’s Day, I missed seeing the Hollywood Sign transformed to read “Hollyweed.” Nevertheless, I heard about it from neighbors as soon as I woke up, and shortly afterwards from every imaginable news outlet . While I was surprised that the prankster got away with it, the prank itself wasn’t new, as I knew from making my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign.”* On New Year’s Day, 1976, less than two years before the completion of the current Sign, a prankster named Daniel Finegood did exactly the same thing to the orignal Hollywood Sign. Here’s a photo:

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

At the time of the first prank, the Sign was a crumbling, unguarded relic that anyone willing to climb to could access. Today, the rebuilt Sign is fenced, alarmed and off-limits to visitors without official permits. (Disclosure: I have filmed there twice, both times with permission.) Because the Sign stands below a militarized emergency communications center, trespassers are subject to arrest–or so the City claims. That whoever who transformed the Sign was able to escape notice, let alone arrest, is proof that the Sign’s alarm system failed or went unheeded. One wonders whether terrorists have taken note.

The Hollyweed incident capped off a particularly frenetic holiday week, when thousands of tourists walking in the street (itself a crime) on the sidewalk-less part of Beachwood Drive endangered themselves and trapped residents in and out of their homes. Beyond the gridlock, there’s everything that comes with uncontrolled crowds: trash, public urination, defecation and sex, trespassing, illegal parking, drinking and drug use. The Hollyweed prank was the last straw–and also the event that exposed the lies and double-dealing of Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman David Ryu, who have long promised to enforce the law in Hollywoodland. They haven’t and they don’t, and now it’s indisputable.

*”Under the Hollywood Sign” is available on DVD and as a digital download from http://www.hopeandersonproductions.com

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

Waiting For Rain In a Bone-Dry Canyon

August 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

The "Wood," 8pm Friday, August 22, 2014/Hope Anderson Productions

The “Wood,” 8pm Friday, August 22, 2014/Hope Anderson Productions

August in Southern California is a very dry month, the prelude to an even hotter, drier September. Those of us who live in canyons live in dread of fires, which can start from a single match or cigarette–hence the NO SMOKING signs that tourists somehow ignore. In the fourth year of a great drought–the worst on record in California–we are waiting for the winter rains.

On Friday night, I looked north and to my surprise saw an unusual amount of cloud cover at the Hollywood Sign. It seemed to be a harbinger of better days to come, so I got my camera and took this photo.

Apricots in Beachwood Canyon, Past and Present

June 10, 2014 § 2 Comments

Some of Today's Harvest/Hope Anderson Productions

Some of Today’s Harvest/Hope Anderson Productions

As soon as I moved into my house in Hollywoodland in 2005, I started planting fruit trees. Over the years, I’ve planted Meyer lemons, a Bearss lime, a Valencia orange, two peaches (one of which died a sudden fungal death, and a recently planted O’Henry), a Green Gage plum and a Royal Blenheim apricot. Most of my trees have struggled in the rocky, arid soil, but the apricot–now in its fourth year–has produced superb fruit in exponential quantities. The photo above represents less than a third of the 2014 harvest, all of it picked today.

A look at Beachwood Canyon’s history proves my apricot tree is no anomaly. Before 1911, Beachwood Drive ended at what is now Graciosa Street. Beyond the paved road lay orchards that grew apricots. And beyond the apricot orchards was a single ranch, the future Hollywoodland.

Calamity Canyon: This Week’s Round-Up of Hollywoodland Misadventures

May 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fire Hydrant on Mulholland Highway 5/26/14/Courtesy Elias M. Saade

Fire Hydrant on Mulholland Highway 5/26/14/Courtesy Elias M. Saade

As I was driving along Franklin today around 3pm, three fire trucks roared past and up Beachwood Canyon, sirens blaring. Once on Beachwood Drive, I pulled over twice more to let emergency vehicles pass. Meanwhile, helicopters arrived and circled the Hollywood Sign. What was happening? Apparently two women climbing illegally to the Sign got stuck in a ravine under the letter D and needed rescue. (Note to potential climbers: Not only is climbing to the Sign illegal, but it’s much harder than it looks.)

Before anyone writes, “You knew the Sign was there when you moved here!,” or in the case of LA Curbed, “NIMBY,” let me say that before GPS became standard on cell phones, such emergencies rarely occurred. Moreover, this is the third incident in the same area during the past five days. And it’s only May 30th.

Here’s a recap:

1. Sunday, May 25th, 10:30pm: A woman walking her dog in the dark along the high wall at the dead-end of Mulholland Highway falls off, breaking her arm. She is rescued by the LAFD after a lengthy spate of sirens and helicopters. The dog is OK.

2. Monday, May 26th, 6:30pm: A car–apparently belonging to the owner of one of the tour bus companies–hits the fire hydrant near the same end of Mulholland Highway, sending a plume of water down Ledgewood. Fire trucks are called to stop the flooding. (This has happened several times before, yet no barrier has been erected to protect the hydrant.)

3. Friday, May 30th, 3pm: See above.

To those planning to visit Beachwood Canyon, those signs that say “no smoking” and “no trespassing” are there for good reason: your safety. And it’s really best to stay away from that hydrant.

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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2014-05-19 19.34.24
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.

This Morning Near the Hollyridge Trailhead, A Truckload of Spilled Manure

May 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

Overturned Rig Carrying Manure from Sunset Ranch, 5/17/14/Courtesy T.J.Escott

Overturned Rig Carrying Manure from Sunset Ranch, 5/17/14/Courtesy T.J.Escott


Photo Courtesy T.J. Escott

Photo Courtesy T.J. Escott


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.

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