A Post-Thanksgiving Walk in Hollywoodland

November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Hollywood Sign from Westshire Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

The Hollywood Sign from Westshire Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

When my plane from San Francisco was descending over LAX on Monday, I made sure to look for the Hollywood Sign. It was easy to spot: a white line of letters on a distant mountainside, unobstructed by buildings or trees. Perhaps that’s why people who visit Los Angeles are surprised that the Sign is located in a residential neighborhood, and that houses and trees crowd the area below it. Since I live only a mile away from the Sign and a mile below it, I mostly glimpse it between tree branches, houses and telephone wires. Like the moon on a cloudy night, the Sign shifts in and out of view, surprising me with its appearances.

Today it rained, a welcome change from the drought that has plagued California during the past several years. At times it was sunny, and late this morning it managed to be sunny and rainy at the same time. Around 4:30pm, I went for a walk and took this photo of the Sign partially obscured by trees. A short time later, walking down Beachwood Drive, I looked up at the beautiful sky–blue, amber and dotted with clouds.

The Sky Above Beachwood Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

The Sky Above Beachwood Drive 11/29/13/Hope Anderson Productions

Next time: My painting for the Walpole Bay Hotel

Wild Things of Hollywoodland

November 12, 2013 § 4 Comments

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O'Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O’Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

When I describe the wildlife in Los Angeles to people who haven’t lived here, I get comments like, “Oh, we have mountain lions in New York,” only to learn the mountain lion sightings took place forty miles north of Manhattan. There’s no comparison between that and, say, a coyote running alongside your car on Sunset Boulevard, which is what happened to me about nine years ago in Echo Park.

Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.

But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/humans-and-wildlife-in-beachwood-canyon-an-update/

As Hollywoodland Turns 90, Its Gates Get New Plaques

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Before (with a photo of Hollywoodland under construction)/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

Before (with a photo of Hollywoodland under construction)/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

And after. Among the attendees were (from left): State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, LAFD Battalion Chief Joe Castro, Councilman Tom LaBonge, HHA President Alex Chavez.

And after. Among the attendees were (from left): State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, LAFD Battalion Chief Joe Castro, Councilman Tom LaBonge, HHA President Alex Chavez.

As readers of this blog might remember, a couple of years ago vandals stole the pair of bronze plaques marking the Hollywoodland gates. Yesterday, their replacements–generously donated by Time Warner–were unveiled in a festive ceremony that brought together various officials and neighbors. Our ubiquitous City Councilman, Tom LaBonge, quipped, Hollywoodland is a special neighborhood–so special that you don’t even like your City Councilman. Titters ensued.

Now, onward to our centennial!

The west gate

The west gate

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/bronze-plaques-stolen-off-the-hollywoodland-gates/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/the-hollywoodland-gates-still-minus-two-plaques/

David Cronenberg on Lighting the Hollywood Sign

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Hollywood Sign on August 20/Photo by Tyler Shields

The Hollywood Sign on August 20/Photo by Tyler Shields

The Eiffel Tower 10/10/11/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

Not the Hollywood Sign 10/10/11/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

Yes, he did it–and with permits. Here’s a link.

http://laist.com/2013/09/05/cronenberg_admits_he_lit_hollywood_sign.php

The most interesting thing about the article is not that Cronenberg was able to shine big bright lights on the Hollywood Sign, but that he comments, “I was frankly just surprised to learn the sign wasn’t lit in the first place. If it were Paris, it would be lit at night!”

If it WERE Paris, Hollywoodland would be an enormous, flat public park with no houses in it. And the Hollywood Sign would be called the Eiffel Tower. But it’s not, and it’s not. I would have thought this was obvious.

Related posts:
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/the-mysterious-lighting-of-the-hollywood-sign-the-plot-thickens/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/the-glow-in-the-dark-hollywood-sign/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-hollywood-sign-and-the-eiffel-tower-monuments-to-modernity-with-differences/

Hollywoodland’s Beachwood Drive Traffic Issues: An Update

August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday’s City Council Transportation Committee meeting yielded two positive results from the perspective of Hollywoodland residents. The deeply unpopular plan to run tourist vans to the dead end of Beachwood Drive was tabled, while a motion for the Department of Transportation to “consider the feasibility of immediately establishing an emergency Temporary Preferential Parking District” on upper Beachwood Drive (north of Ledgewood) was approved. The expectation is that residents north of Ledgewood will be allowed parking passes, easing the competition for a limited number of spaces.

The Glow-in-the-Dark Hollywood Sign

August 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

The Hollywood Sign and Clouds/Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Two friends have alerted me to the mysterious illumination of the Hollywood Sign during the past couple of nights. Not that I noticed–once I’m home, I tend not to stare out the window at it. The fact that this “lighting” of the Sign–which in no way resembles the full-on light show of December 31, 1999–has aroused such enthusiasm should give pause to those who think it could be illuminated (sporadically or not) without inciting massive traffic jams into Beachwood Canyon. Here’s an article about it:

http://laist.com/2013/08/23/mystery_why_was_the_hollywood_sign_lit_up.php

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Hollywood Sign is often visible at night because its white paint reflects ambient light and moonlight. The recent paint job only increases the phenomenon, and those who live near the Sign report the nightly influx of noisy groups of partiers. Adding insult to injury, these visitors leave their bottles, cans, condoms and cigarette butts for residents to clean up.

The fact that people are smoking in a high-risk fire zone is disturbing, as a single spark can (and has) set the neighborhood ablaze. As for the bottles, cans and condoms, the least these revelers could do is to taken their trash with them. Another word about the condoms: not only is it illegal to have sex in public, but Hollywoodland’s wild animal patrol–raccoons and skunks, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions–should give anyone pause.

Tom LaBonge: Everyone’s City Councilman (Except Beachwooders’)

August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

Tourists on Mulholland Highway in 2011/Hope Anderson Productions

Last night’s public meeting on Beachwood Canyon’s tourism crisis was notable in many ways. It was packed–so much so that I couldn’t find parking anywhere in the vicinity of Fountain Avenue and arrived too late to be put on the speakers’ roster. It was contentious, not only between the citizenry and Councilman LaBonge, but among various neighborhood groups with divergent interests–i.e., Friends of Griffith Park, which doesn’t want the closure of certain Park roads, versus the Hollywoodland Homeowners’ Association, which does. And it was horrifying, because it made clear that it’s only a matter of time before the unchecked flow of tourist traffic into Beachwood Canyon will have deadly consequences.

Residents who spoke recounted the ways in which life in Beachwood Canyon has gotten more difficult and dangerous since the ubiquity of GPS. With 1,000 cars per day ascending the narrow streets around the Hollywood Sign, there have been auto accidents, threats against residents by tourists and tour bus drivers, emergency services delayed because of traffic jams, and round-the-clock intoxication, lewd behavior and vandalism throughout the Canyon.

When I moved to Hollywoodland in 2005, I went to Lake Hollywood Park with my dog almost daily; we also hiked the trails once or twice a week. As time passed, our daily drive up to the Park became increasingly terrifying, as tourists refused to give right-of-way while driving downhill on Ledgewood, a street of blind curves. It’s unusual to have to slam on the brakes while ascending a steep hill to avoid being hit head-on, but that’s what I had to do countless times. My dog–a 95-pounder–was flung from the backseat onto the floor more times than I care to remember. Tourists cursed me when I told them, “Up has the right of way,” and refused to back up as required by law. I’ve stopped foreign tourists–from India and Brazil–after seeing them running every stop sign on Beachwood Drive–apparently knowledge of the word stop isn’t required to rent a car. Tourists smoke with impunity in a dry, fire-prone habitat, often within feet of the Smokey the Bear signs that Councilman LaBonge so proudly installed last year.

I no longer go to Lake Hollywood Park or the trails: since my dog died last year, the danger of getting up there–either by car or on foot–has outweighed the pleasures of those destinations. It’s a shame, because the Park and trails were major reasons for my moving here in the first place. But times have changed: like many Beachwooders, I feel the neighborhood has been given over to tourists, and that we residents no longer matter.

Councilman Labonge said as much last night. In response to a neighbor of mine who said, “The word on the street is that you care more about the tourists than the residents,” he angrily responded, “Not true. Not true–I care about everyone.” Any other politician would have said, “I care deeply about my constituents,” but not him. Still, I give Tom LaBonge credit for speaking the truth: when he says he cares about everyone, he means everyone in the world. Except of course those of us who live here, and whose taxes pay his salary.

Related articles:
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tom-labonges-plan-for-hollywoodland-an-update/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/tom-labonges-tourist-trade/

Tom LaBonge’s Plan for Hollywoodland: An Update

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.

Related article:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/tom-labonges-tourist-trade/

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/

Beachwood’s Animal Kingdom

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

During the past week, I’ve discovered both coyote and racoon footprints on the sheet that covers my outdoor chaise longue, proof that both have been inside my fenced yard. Though I frequently see coyotes outside my house, I had never seen a racoon until Monday evening, when this one passed by my back door.

A Visiting Racoon 6/3/13/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

It got in by scaling down the branches that cover the steep hillside behind my back fence. Here it is in retreat:
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I ended the week with a much tamer animal encounter, though it was just as unexpected. This afternoon three horses were hitched up outside the Beachwood Cafe, calmly waiting for their owners to finish their lunch. They had come through Griffith Park and were in Beachwood for the first time, but they seemed very much at home here.
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