HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Over the weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed the construction of a gondola to transport tourists directly to the Hollywood Sign, during an interview with ABC 7 News.
The gondola would take off from or near Universal Studios and arrive at Mount Lee, taking the passengers right behind the Hollywood Sign. Though no concrete proposal exists, the idea for the gondola arose from appeals for easier access to the sign after the closure of the popular trailhead, Beachwood Drive gateway. During the interview, Garcetti mentioned that he had discussed ideas with Los Angeles City Council member David Ryu to bring people to the sign without navigating through streets to the south.
“We’ve got to figure out a better way that doesn’t just choke all of the streets with a thousand tour buses. People can’t get out of their own driveways,” Garcetti told ABC 7. “Could we come up from this part of town? Could we come up from Universal Studios? Could we even have a gondola that goes up there?”
Garcetti noted that revenue from the gondola could go toward maintaining Griffith Park, where the sign is located, and reducing traffic in the foothill neighborhoods. A shuttle currently runs seven days a week taking passengers to Griffith Park, a popular site to see the sign.
The city stopped entrance to Beachwood Drive on April 18 after Sunset Ranch Hollywood filed a lawsuit. The ranch accused the city of channeling visitors to its driveway, blocking cars from reaching its business. Hikers used the path to get to Hollyridge Trail, which goes directly to the sign.
The non-profit organization, Friends of Griffith Park joined with the great-grandson of the founder of Griffith Park to intervene in the law case to re-open access to Beachwood Drive. They petitioned Los Angeles County Superior Court to become the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
On Monday, May 1, homeowners and Griffith Park preservationists from three local organizations filed a motion in Los Angeles Superior Court to challenge Los Angeles’ April 18 decision to close the Beachwood Drive gate, which provides access to the popular Hollyridge trail to the Hollywood sign.
The suit was filed by the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust, which represents the estate of the magnate who donated the land that became Griffith Park; Friends of Griffith Park, a non-profit group that promotes the stewardship of the park; and the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Association, which represents a neighborhood affected by the closure. The groups contended that permanently closing the Beachwood Drive gate blocks entry to public land and illegally gives a private party control over government property. According to the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Assn. website, they consider the city’s decision to be unjustified and in direct contradiction to the ruling.
“A basic right of Angelenos is access to its public parks,” Clare Darden, a trustee for the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust, said in a statement. “Any access threatened by special-interest groups to Griffith Park land is a violation of Colonel Griffith’s declaration that the park be free and open to all.”
The city decided to close the trailhead and redirect hikers to canyons farther east. The closest is Bronson Canyon via Canyon Drive, which can connect hikers to the Hollyridge Trail via the Brush Canyon Trail. This rerouting adds an extra one mile, excluding distance to get to the trailhead.
A hearing on the motion to intervene will take place on June 13. Garcetti’s gondola proposal is not the first. During a 2011 community meeting, it was proposed for a gondola to the Hollywood Sign from Travel Town, but councilmember Tom Labonge put the idea to an unsuccessful vote.
Many efforts have been made to solve issues arising from tourism to the Hollywood Sign. Some concerns raised during the 2011 meeting included tourists clogging narrow streets and littering, which can cause potential fire hazards.
During the meeting, Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Castro said that Hollywoodland is in no worse a situation than other Hills neighborhoods, citing its biggest problem instead to be construction trucks.
One speaker at the meeting suggested gating the neighborhood, but Labonge said homeowners would have to purchase the streets for that to happen. Another resident indicated the city needed to start treating the sign as a tourist attraction or at least add trash cans to the area.
In a statement on Monday, May 8, spokesman George Kivork said that Garcetti is “open to exploring ideas that ease congestion and encourages creative thinking when looking at ways to give Angelenos and tourists better access to the Hollywood sign and other iconic landmarks and destinations.”