Tom LaBonge: Everyone’s City Councilman (Except Beachwooders’)
August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
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.
Lake Hollywood Park, 4:30pm
February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
After the Windstorm: 24 Powerless Hours in Beachwood Canyon
December 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
The lights went out in Hollywoodland around 1:15am on Thursday morning, hardly a surprise given the 100 mph winds that roared through the Canyon all evening. Power outages occur a couple of times a year here, usually because of windstorms, and generally last a few hours. But this one was different: there was no electricity when we got up in the morning, and none during the day and evening that followed.
It wasn’t just Beachwood that was affected: some 300,000 households in a wide geographic area–including Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Los Feliz–lost power for an extended period of time. Some areas, such as Sierra Madre and Altadena, were without power for 48 hours or longer.
Having worked late the night before, I didn’t feel pressed to seek out a Wifi connection outside the Canyon. Instead, I decided to see how long I could be productive without electricity–and found enough to keep me busy until 2pm. By that time, I needed to escape the oppressive silence that had descended on my office, and took my dog hiking. On the way up the Canyon, I expected to be impeded by downed trees and other damage from the storm, but there was nothing more dramatic than some branches by the road and an uprooted tree at Lake Hollywood Park. Nevertheless, for the first time I can remember, there were no tourists at the Lake Hollywood lookout and the picture-taking area for the Hollywood Sign.
The Lake’s surface was like hammered silver in the afternoon sun.
At the head of the trail, a big pepper tree had shed thousands of pink berries that crunched satisfyingly underfoot.
Further along, a downed tree blocked the way.
A toyon (California holly) was full of red berries, just in time for Christmas.
Afterwards, I swung by Beachwood Village, where the Market was closed due the power outage.
Around the corner, the Village Coffee Shop, which had closed its doors the previous day (the space will be reincarnated as the Beachwood Cafe in March), displayed Christmas decorations in its window.
Shortly afterwards, outside my house, I ran into a neighbor who passed on the news that we might be without power for another 2-3 days. I called DWP and listened to a recorded message that stated that power would be restored by 3:30pm, but by then it was after 4, and I found no reason to be optimistic about the coming night. I arranged my flashlights and candles before going to the gym to work out and shower, and arrived home in pitch darkness.
Without electricity, night in the Canyon was hushed and premodern. The only illumination came from the radio tower and ranger station above the Hollywood Sign. Undisturbed by lights, the coyote that normally hunts on my hillside in the small hours started chasing tree rats at 6:30. My routine was no less altered: normally, I stay up late, reading, writing and watching TV. Last night, I cooked by candlelight and washed the dishes (with water boiled on the stove) before 9pm. I tried to read. Then it was flashlights out at ten.
The lights came on almost 24 hours to the minute after they had gone off. I woke up immediately and went downstairs to start the dishwasher. Later, I remembered to take the milk from the freezer and return it to the refrigerator. Sleep was impossible: suddenly everything hummed with electricity, and the previous day and night receded like an odd but compelling dream.
Further Evidence of Illiteracy in Beachwood Canyon: Lake Hollywood Park
August 17, 2011 § 3 Comments
Dear City of Los Angeles:
This tag has been up for about three months and seems to have become a permanent fixture in the Park. What happened to your campaign to eradicate graffiti? Was it that show at MOCA that led you to give up? Is this one tolerated because of the sentiment–or because the tagger is obviously female?
If cost is the problem, just paint over the apostrophe. Please.
Blame the Documentarian: The Hollywood Sign, Tourism and Me
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
HHA to Tourists: Drive On Up to the Hollywood Sign!
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.
Save the Peak Rally to be held Saturday, April 10th, at Lake Hollywood Park
April 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
With 4 days left until the April 14th deadline, the rally supports the Trust for Public Land’s drive to Save the Peak. The Park is located on the 3200 block of Canyon Lake Drive. See you there!
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