In the latest escalation of Los Angeles’s Hollywood Sign wars, Warner Brothers has announced something of a truce: a plan to build a $100 million gondola system that would connect the entertainment company’s studio backlot in Burbank, California with the iconic sign. The plan was announced via The Los Angeles Times earlier this week and comes as Los Angeles works to assuage concerns of the wealthy homeowners who live near and around access points to the sign. Those homeowners complain that increased public desire to visit and see the landmark has created gridlock and unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods as tourists peer out from their cars and stop in the middle of the street to take photos of and selfies with the sign. Though world famous as an iconic symbol of L.A., the Hollywood sign has never functioned as a traditional monument that people can freely visit. Instead, intrepid hikers and explorers must traverse a series of canyon trails, including the Beachwood Canyon access point, which the city closed in 2017, to get close to the sign. The super-adventurous have long illicitly hiked to the site of the sign itself, where the 40-foot-tall letters are simply and unceremoniously affixed to the hillside with poured concrete footings. But in recent years, as athleisure activities and Instagram have taken off, interest in visiting and seeing the sign has blossomed, presenting headaches for neighbors and questions of safety for visitors alike. After a recent trail closure, local city councilperson David Ryu commissioned a study aimed at finding ways to increase public access to the sign without impacting neighborhood residents. The wide-ranging recommendations included punitive measures like planting new trees and shrubbery to obscure views of the sign from the circuitous Mulholland Drive as well as visionary fixes, like potentially building a gondola system and visitors center along south-facing slopes of the Hollywood Hills. The most outlandish recommendation called for erecting a replica sign on the opposing side of the mountain that faces the San Fernando Valley. Warner Brothers’ plan represents a strange hybrid of the latter approaches. The company has large studio and production facilities in the San Fernando Valley that are a tourist draw in their own right. The proposed plan—an architect or design team has not been announced—would essentially expand those facilities to include access to the Hollywood sign by spanning over nearby Griffith Park and other adjoining hillsides. The scheme is in the very early phases of planning and study and will require many agency and local approvals, but the studio has offered to pay for the gondola, so at least funding is secured. Chris Baumgart, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust said via email, “The Warner Brothers proposal is just one of many solutions that added together will help ease the burden of over-tourism faced by the neighborhoods.” Baumgart added, “There is no one solution to the complexities of this issue. The scope of the Warner Brother’s project will have a long road of vetting with community groups and local governments involved. The Environmental Impact Report for construction in an open space is just one of the challenges that will have to be navigated if this intriguing idea is to come to fruition.” The gondola proposal comes weeks after Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, LLC announced its own plan to construct a gondola system that would take passengers from the Los Angeles Union Station to Dodger Stadium. That $150 million proposal is also under development, has support from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and is projecting a 2022 opening date. A timeline for the Hollywood Sign gondola has not been announced.
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A newly-released report aimed at finding ways to increase public access to Los Angeles’s Hollywood sign without impacting surrounding residential neighborhoods has made a few surprising recommendations, including the potential of erecting a duplicate sign on the opposite slope of the Hollywood Hills favoring the San Fernando Valley. The report, released earlier this week, was drafted by consultants Dixon Resources Unlimited at the behest of Los Angeles City Council District 4, amid complaints from local residents who would like to see public access to the site restricted. Homeowners in the areas surrounding the sign have complained of higher rates of traffic over recent years, as the sign’s popularity has boomed in the fitness-crazed Instagram age. The sign itself is not formally recognized as a public space, but many people access the grounds via a network of public hiking trails throughout Griffith Park. The sign—visible from across the region and perhaps best seen in sequence, coming in and out of view from twisty Mulholland Drive—is widely photographed from within surrounding neighborhoods, creating traffic and endangering pedestrians. In 2017, the city closed the popular Beachwood Canyon trailhead that leads to the sign, due to neighborhood outcry. Although vehicular access has been maintained to the trailhead, hikers and sign watchers traveling on foot are now instructed to use alternative entrances to the park. Still, however, demand to reach the site is ever-increasing and the City is searching for potential solutions that benefit both sides. The report recommends 29 potential fixes. Many of the proposed solutions involve instituting common sense improvements like additional wayfinding and pedestrian-friendly designs. Other potential solutions, like increasing parking fines and blocking views of the sign from residential streets using new plantings, are directly aimed at making it more difficult to see or access the sign at all. Several suggestions, however, stand out as more highly visible initiatives that would represent substantial investments in public infrastructure while also re-tooling the Hollywood sign’s significance in the city’s urban imaginary as a physical place rather than simply something to observe from afar. Among the larger-scale potential solutions in the report, perhaps most radical is the notion of creating a second Hollywood sign along the northern slope of the Hollywood Hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley. The duplicate sign, the report contends, could “spread out the impact of photo-seekers to both sides of the park.” The report also suggests the potential of adding more than one replica, as well as several ideas for creating a visitor center, viewing platform, transportation terminal, and even a network of gondolas to reach the sign. For now, the recommendations will be taken under consideration; a timeline for the final selection of actionable concepts and their implementation has not been released.
When it comes to a famous landmark, to what extent does locale add to its majesty? An inventive design competition posted to Australian virtual design studio DesignCrowd explored this question with a challenge to designers to reposition the world’s most hyped monuments in all-new locations using high-resolution images. Designers were tasked with making the extrication of the Big Ben look believable, inserting in its place the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, or the Great Wall of China. The first-place accolade went to a Photoshop-aholic who had supplanted Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral in place of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Snagging second place was a seamless overlay of the Roman Colosseum where the Sydney Opera House had once stood. Meanwhile, another designer made the Sydney Opera House seem a natural addition to the Thames riverfront overlooked by the London Eye. Another creative effort saw the Hollywood sign superimposed on the hills along which the Great Wall of China undulates. The design brief, posted to the crowdsourced graphic design bidding site, received 92 designs from 25 designers.
The Hollywood sign, whose facelift we've been tracking in recent weeks, has been fully restored. After nine-weeks of priming and painting, the nine shiny white letters are once again the talk of Tinseltown. Thanks to Sherwin Williams and the Hollywood Sign Trust, who funded the facelift, the 45-foot-tall letters gracing LA’s Mount Lee are all set for its upcoming 90th anniversary celebration next year. And if you missed it in person, check out the time lapse video documenting this milestone below.
Like any star of the silver screen, a facial peel is in order every now and then. For the famous Hollywood Sign perched atop Mount Lee overlooking Los Angeles, it's been 35 years since its last facelift, but the 89 year-old historical landmark will soon look as young as ever. Last week, the restoration project passed the halfway mark, with the H-O-L-L-Y letters newly primed, primped, and painted. The effort started on October 2 and will be completed by year’s end. The remaining corrugated steel letters will be sanded and given a fresh coat of glossy white paint. When all is said and done, approximately 110 gallons of primer and 275 gallons of paint will have been used. And for sign aficionados who want to duplicate the color, it’s Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior Paint in high reflective white. The Hollywood Sign Trust together with Sherwin-Williams is funding the project. The sign was originally built as a real estate billboard in 1923, scrapped and rebuilt in 1978 and today continues to be an international landmark.
Ocean Cities. It's been a year since Americans watched oil spew from the gusher in the gulf. Only limited regulatory reforms saw the light of day. Timothy Beatley thinks it was a missed opportunity. In Design Observer, the University of Virginia professor argues that the key to the ocean's future lies on land, with cities. Changes on land can have an enormous impact at sea, and Beatley thinks that cities have to the tools to make it happen. Gimme Shelter. The Board of Standards and Appeals shot down arguments from the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition to halt the Bowery Residents Committee from moving a new homeless shelter on to West 25th Street, reports Chelsea Now. With new digs good to go, the charity has already set their sites on Brooklyn where they plan to open a 200-bed shelter in Greenpoint. Gimme Signage. Since 1923 small signs guided tourists trough the lush curved roads of Beachwood Canyon to the Hollywood sign. The iconic vista was considered a boon to local real estate. But with property values firmly established, the WSJ reports that many owners don't want the hoi polli blocking their view and took the signs down, leaving the hapless tourists wandering the canyon. West Loop Tower. The Chicago Sun-Times says that the 48-story tower proposed to sit next to the Crowne Plaza at the corner of Madison and Halsted may soon become a reality. After a sluggish start, plans are moving forward to make it the tallest building in Greektown, writes Curbed Chicago.
The Trust For Public Land today announced that it successfully wrapped up its down to the wire save of Hollywood's Cahuenga Peak, the 138-acre swath of land behind the Hollywood Sign that had once been slated for development (one of many pleas included red letters over the sign reading "Save The Peak"). The final donor: none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who chipped in $900,000 to complete the $12.5 million needed to finalize the purchase. The Trust had missed its original April 14 deadline, but were granted an extension until April 30. Hefner, who had helped raise money back in the 70s to rebuild the sign, back when he was dating a whole other set of playmates, was joined by other LA stars, philanthropists, and companies. These included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, CAA, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Company, CBS, NBC, Sony Pictures, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many others. Really a historic Hollywood collaboration.
So the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign was nearly turned into the backyard for a bunch of mansions, but fortunately the recession intervened—one of a surprising number of upsides to the downside, it seems. But that doesn't mean those big white letters aren't seeming a little tired, and so a Dutch designer has come up with a rather clever new use that Curbed tipped us off to: turn the sign into a giant hotel. As Christian Bay-Jorgensen explained it to the Daily News, "The ultimate goal would be to preserve an internationally recognized landmark while helping the city generate badly needed funding." If that weren't bad enough, our pal Alissa Walker points us to Jeffrey Inaba's plan to uproot the individual letters, loaning them out to areas of town in need of cache. The design provocateur explains after the jump, plus images of both, uh, projects.
Unplanned Surplus The Hollywood sign has exceeded its purpose. As a marketing tool for real estate development, it has generated value incommensurate with its own material worth. As a tourist destination, it is more popular than most buildings in LA. In lieu of a singular skyline, the sign is a default backdrop for televised New Year’s countdowns and late night comedy shows. The Hollywood sign has assumed an iconic role in the city far beyond its original ambition. Its value is an unplanned surplus.
Unplanned Surplus The Hollywood sign has exceeded its purpose. As a marketing tool for real estate development, it has generated value incommensurate with its own material worth. As a tourist destination, it is more popular than most buildings in LA. In lieu of a singular skyline, the sign is a default backdrop for televised New Year’s countdowns and late night comedy shows. The Hollywood sign has assumed an iconic role in the city far beyond its original ambition. Its value is an unplanned surplus.Think you've got a better idea?
It all seems so hush-hush, which is surprising in Hollywood, but the Hollywood Sign has apparently been in trouble for some time. Chicago-based Fox River Financial Resources has been trying to sell large parcels on the hill just next to its "H" for luxury homes. The company bought the land from the estate of Howard Hughes in 2002. Luckily the Trust For Public Land has secured an option to buy the 138-acres on Cahuenga Peak for about $12 million, hoping to maintain views of and around the sign, and to preserve local recreation and habitats. The Trust has already raised about $6 million from sources like the Tiffany & Co Foundation and from Hollywood celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Virginia Madsen, and Aisha Tyler. Now all that's left is for the group to raise another $6 million more by April 14 to complete the deal. To donate, go here.