After a years-long battle, the Hollyridge trailhead at the end of Beachwood Drive, a key access point to the Hollywood Sign, was closed Tuesday by a judge's order. The move shifts the terrain of a larger, ongoing conflict in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood between residents, hikers, tourists and city officials over visitor access to the landmark.
"It's a good day," says Sarajane Schwartz, head of Homeowners on Beachwood Drive United, which has pushed for the closure, arguing that the city never went through the proper procedure to allow for public access to the trail. "We said all along that [the Hollyridge trailhead] wasn't a proper public entrance in the first place."
Still, her group is unsatisfied, and is planning to pursue litigation against other access points they feel are similarly flawed. "We want to get them all closed," she says. "We want full Environmental Impact Reports." Schwartz contends that the volume of vehicles and individuals create safety hazards, including for emergency vehicles through the narrow canyon streets. "It's dangerous," she says.
A related effort, under the banner the Committee to Save the Holywoodland Specific Plan and spearheaded in part by Crosby Doe, the owner of a prominent eponymous Los Angeles luxury real estate agency, has been pressuring local Councilman David Ryu to address mitigation measures for traffic as well as additional impacts at the other sites. These include a popular viewing perch at the edge of the Lake Hollywood dog park, which residents believe was improperly improved into a semi-official tourist site by former Councilman Tom LaBonge's office with discretionary funds, as well as additional access points off Deronda Drive and Barham Boulevard.
Residents of affluent, industry-saturated Beachwood Canyon have been at loggerheads with outsiders over the past half-decade as technology - particularly GPS - has transformed the once-quiet, tucked-away redoubt into a hive of selfie-taking pilgrims. The visitors are intent on communing with one of the region's most iconic sights (first erected in 1923) at a daily volume and at a physically close range previously unseen.
"We're finding that the only way to get the city to listen is through the court system," says Tony Fisch, another Beachwood Canyon neighborhood activist long involved in the access issue, who believes the Hollyridge trailhead closing will only increase the load on the other approaches to the sign. "It's whack-a-mole right now."
Gerry Hans, vice president of Friends of Griffith Park, which by contrast has advocated for a more open attitude to the sign, was disappointed by the judge's decision and the city's quick acquiescence. "We feel that the city needs to stand up for the right of public access and it didn't," he says. "That sets a terrible precedent." He adds that while his group is sensitive to the neighbors' concerns - "We've supported all of their mitigation measures" - a total rollback of access isn't acceptable. "Of course there are impacts to residential areas in a situation like this one. The fact is that we all need to share those burdens."