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Hollywood Sign Expected to Read 'Save the Peak' on Thursday

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There are two choices for the 138 acres of private land sitting to the left of the Hollywood Sign: develop it into a site for luxury living or leave it as open space. What happens next is up to the community, or perhaps, the world at large.

When the LAPD on Monday sent out a mysterious community e-mail alert stating that the sign would be "covered up for an international campaign [...] until further notice," a surprise meant for Thursday began to unravel. The world's most famous sign, which originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND"--and thanks to pranks, "CALTECH," "HOLLYWeeD" and other phrases throughout the years--is expected to read "Save the Peak" on Thursday.

Call it activism, if you will, to save one of the most famous pieces of open space in Los Angeles. When the Cahuenga Peak and surrounding land was sold to a Chicago-based investment firm in 2002 for a cheap $1.675 million and later put on the market for $22 million, it concerned environmentalists (preserve the open space) and preservationists (don't ruin the backdrop of the world's most famous sign) alike. Touted as "the last private, undeveloped promontory ridge in Los Angeles," the property was divvied up in five parcels and marketed to those seeking the ultimate luxury home.

At 1,821 feet, the Peak sits nearly 150-foot above Mount Lee, where the Hollywood Sign rests, and offers a 360-degree view over the city to Catalina Island and across the expansive San Fernando Valley. Hikers and even some city officials assumed the land was part of the city's 4,210-acre Griffith Park, but when it was sold, some local history spilled out.

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Billionaire Howard Hughes bought the land in 1940 with the idea to build a romantic hilltop home for his love, actress Ginger Rogers. "We'll live up here by ourselves with the world far below," he told her. The gesture, however, didn't sit too well with Rogers who feared he would lock her up and never let her see anyone. The two broke up and the land was put in Hughes' trust for 62 years until it was sold.

As the market began to crash, so did the new owner's bloated $22-million asking price. Last year, the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land entered into a one-year due diligence period with Fox River Financial Resources for a total of $12.5 million. The goal is to purchase the land and deed it over to the city's Griffith Park, but to date, only $6.3 million has been secured. By April 14th, the rest of the money is due or the property risks being sold to other buyers.

For L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes Griffith Park--he hikes atop Mount Hollywood daily--this issue is close to his heart. "It's absolutely critical that we acquire this piece of land. I've been working for 10 years on this and the moment is now." he said in a statement to LAist.

Now LaBonge, the Trust and other organizations have teamed up to ask for help. "Although donations are coming in, we have a long way to go in a very short time," an appeal reads on the Save Cahuenga Peak website. "Protection of Cahuenga Peak will prevent development from scarring one of Los Angeles' iconic views--the Hollywood Sign backed by the peak's sweeping natural landscape."

Come Thursday, it will be hard for Los Angeles and the rest of the world to not notice that appeal. "Save The Peak" will be seen loud and clear and that's what fundraisers are hoping for.

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