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The Real Estate of Hollywood(land)

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Photo by manmadepants via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

The relationship between real estate and the Hollywood Sign is as old as, well, the sign itself. Built in 1923 as a promotional billboard to attract buyers to make their homes in the hills of the burgeoning Hollywood community, the sign that once read "HOLLYWOODLAND" has become one of the most iconic landmarks in LA. Now real estate and the sign have a new possibility: 138 acres of land once owned by Howard Hughes that sits west of the "H" in the sign is up for sale for a cool $22 million.

The area, known as Cahuenga Peak, is " zoned for five luxury homes" explains today's LA Times. The land was purchased in 1940 by Hughes "with plans to build a love nest for actress Ginger Rogers" who wasn't too keen on his notion, fearing he might tuck her too tightly into her prospective hilltop palace. The land remained a part of Hughes' estate until 2002, when "Fox River Financial Resources acquired the mountaintop [...] for $1.675 million."

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But city officials, like Councilman Tom LaBonge, are not happy with the land going on the market, nor its exorbitant price tag.

LaBonge and others had hoped the City could get a hold of the land, and ideally develop it as an extension of Griffith Park. Others, including area residents, "say building homes on Cahuenga Peak would mar hillside vistas and scar a pristine hilltop." LaBonge asserts, that the hillside "should not be cluttered," and that "[the land is] good for the psyche of Los Angeles." City leaders have been working on raising funds to buy the land, and have so far gathered approximately $5 million, but, considering the asking price as announced today, that's nowhere near enough for the current property owners' liking. It's also, apparently, more than three times more than the recently estimated value of the land, since "two months ago, a city-commissioned appraisal calculated that the mountaintop was worth about $6 million."

The appeal of Cahuenga Peak and its stunning vistas goes back to Hughes himself. The tycoon won a lawsuit in 1949 against the city to get an easement on the property, and was granted a desirable "100-foot-wide access to the site from the end of Wonder View Drive."

It's a great view if you're a homeowner with a manse on the hill, but many fear what goes up there near the sign will ruin the view from below--the view that for the past several decades has been the sign's calling card.

Ernie Carswell, who is one of the listing agents with Teles Properties of Beverly Hills wants to assure everyone that the houses will predominantly be above and behind the sign, and will not obstruct it. Five homes seems like a small development, but the land is rather expansive, and each of the plots are "large enough for a single- family home and a guesthouse," according to a report on Bloomberg.com.

That's five homes, and guest houses, that could be "seen from a broad area south of the Hollywood Hills, including the nearby Hollywood Freeway," explains the Times.

Prospective landowners of the Cahuenga Peak tracts would have to get building plans approved by the city, and would need to install utility lines--a potentially daunting set of tasks.

So while realtors wait in anticipation of inking million-dollar deals, others wait with heavy hearts. Leron Gubler, who is president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is one of the latter: "I think it goes without saying that it would be a mistake to build homes there [...] It would be very unfortunate."

Do you want five homes to spoil the view?