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Video: Hollywood Sign Neighbors Explain Why They Want Tourists Gone
The people who live up near the Hollywood Sign are often called NIMBYs for their fierce fight to block tourists from using public roads to access a public park. They've tried to convince Google Map and other navigation software to direct tourists elsewhere. They actively campaigned for a councilmember they thought would cater to their interests. But how often do you actually get to sit and listen to them explain, in their own words, why this is such a big deal? (Unless you go to a lot of community meetings or read their websites, that is.) Three activists each did separate interview with the Andrew Davis of the Millennial Project, who previously made a video on how hard it is for people to hike to the sign. The interviews are interesting, at the very least, evoking both a sense of empathy and a sense of, "Wow, you really think the Hollywood sign should be moved?" Let's begin.
Sarjane Schwartz has lived in Beachwood Canyon for 40 years, and she is one of locals who wants access cut to the Hollyridge Trail—that's how you get to the Hollywood sign—cut off to the public, according to Curbed LA.
In the beginning, Schwartz said she used to enjoy when people would come to see the sign. They would be from all over the world, and have pleasant chats, then go their separate ways. This would happen perhaps twice a week. In recent times, however, she says the sheer volume of people coming into her neighborhood has become unsafe. "Now there are 60, 70 people an hour," she said. "It's just untenable." She blames this on the commercialization and promotion of the sign, as well as the internet.
Tony Fisch, a 16-year resident of the Lake Hollywood neighborhood, doesn't like the Scenic Vista viewing area created by Councilman Tom LaBonge. Both he and Schwartz blame LaBonge for promoting the sign, and both campaigned for David Ryu to get the seat LaBonge vacated when he retired. Now, they're both expressing disappointment about Ryu's lack of action when it comes to shutting down various access points, and Fisch says he feels ignored by Ryu (Ryu is not texting him back apparently). Both address fire as a concern, saying that the narrow, winding roads are hard for fire crews to navigate, especially with all the traffic and tourists. Some of the roadways don't have sidewalks, meaning tourists are in the streets. Schwartz said she is frequently asking tourists to put out their cigarettes, and that some of them are hostile towards her. She also mentioned a lack of infrastructure, saying tourists knock on her door and ask to use the bathroom or worse, just go wherever.
Christine O'Brien, who has lived in the area for decades, says she prefers to take the historical perspective. In the 1923, 'Hollywoodland' was a high-end real estate development, and that's also what the sign, built as an advertisement for the development, read. In the '40s, the Sherman Company, who built the development, decided to donate the portion of land containing the sign to Griffith Park. The sign lost the 'land' part in 1949, as city officials wanted it to refer to the area, not so much the housing development. So, what she's saying is that this area was never meant to be a popular tourist attraction. She writes about the history of the area and her views on it here.
As far as solutions go, one big one for the trio is changing the access point to another area that has infrastructure, such as Bronson Canyon.
"We're not restricting anybody from using the park, we're just saying go through a proper entrance," O'Brien said, likening this issue to the way the filmmakers entered her home via a front door, not a window. One of her solutions, however, includes closing all unofficial openings, then moving the sign—perhaps renting it to Universal Studios or Warner Brothers.
"They could build a mock-up of the sign, take the letter H—which is a 50 foot tall letter—put it somewhere. Give them this letter, let them touch it and feel it, educate them on it, educate them about the sensitivity of the area. Get it away from this area," she said.