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Take Dim View of Lighting Plan : Critics Say Hollywood Sign Should Stay Dark

January 25, 1987|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Fed up with illegal parking, all-night partying and amateur mountain climbers, residents who live near the Hollywood sign are fighting a proposal to have it lighted at night.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for maintaining the sign, has asked City Councilmen Michael Woo and John Ferraro to get the landmark lighted.

The sign, in Griffith Park east of the Hollywood Reservoir, has become a "boon to the Hollywood community," according to chamber President Bill Welsh.

But the Hollywoodland Improvement Assn. opposes the lighting, saying that past improvements to the sign have disturbed the peace and quiet of a neighborhood that once was home to film stars such as Humphrey Bogart and Bela Lugosi.

"We have enough problems with the sign already," said Nicolle Moizel, president of the association. "Car traffic has increased dramatically in our neighborhood, climbers risk life and limb to climb up the mountain to get to the sign, and there is noisy partying by young people parked at the base of the hill."

Ferraro told the association last Sunday that he is opposed to lighting the sign unless those problems can be eliminated.

Woo said Thursday that he has not yet made a decision on lighting. He is scheduled to discuss it with Welsh on Monday.

"I want to see if there is a foolproof plan to put a fence around the sign to discourage people from driving through the neighborhood," Woo said. "What I will not favor is a plan to simply light the sign without eliminating disruptive activity around the residences."

Welsh said he will not continue to advocate lighting the sign if homeowners strongly oppose it. He said the illumination would have been provided by a lighting firm without cost to the city or the Chamber of Commerce.

Past efforts to seal off the sign from vandals and sightseers have failed.

The Los Angeles City Parks and Recreation Department last fall erected a 100-foot chain-link fence alongside Mulholland Highway to close off a heavily used path. But sign-seekers merely went around the fence, said Carl Knoll, a nearby resident.

The department then put up signs warning motorists that their cars would be towed away. The signs were uprooted and thrown into a vacant lot.

Knoll, who has lived below the Hollywood sign since 1951, said there has been no peace in the neighborhood since the sign was refurbished for the 1984 Olympics. There is all-night partying on Mulholland, he said.

"There are only so many times you can call police," Knoll said. "They have higher priorities. The ironic thing is we were glad when they fixed up the sign because it was an eyesore before. What we did not realize was that the sign would be a curiosity to people who wanted to view it up close."

Knoll said one of the biggest problems is that "most of the drivers seeking to get to the sign do not know how to drive in the hills" on narrow, winding roads. "Obviously, that makes us nervous" about accidents, he said.

The sign consists of 55-foot-high letters of corrugated metal, supported by steel beams. It originally said "Hollywoodland," the name of the housing development built there in the 1920s.

Jay Beswick, who led volunteers in removing graffiti from the sign last year, said the only way to keep graffiti off is to extend the fence completely around the sign.

"That is the only way to discourage the spray-painters," he said.

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