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Solar-Powered Sign? : Power Firm Proposes to Light Up Hollywood

February 25, 1988|ROSANNE KEYNAN | Times Staff Writer

The landmark Hollywood sign--originally illuminated by 4,000 20-watt bulbs as a real-estate promotional gimmick in the 1920s--may again shine at night if the City of Los Angeles accepts an offer from Arco Solar Inc. to light the monument permanently as a demonstration of solar-powered electricity.

Arco Solar, a Camarillo-based subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield Co., submitted the offer in a 23-page draft proposal to Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which is authorized by the city's Recreation and Parks Department to raise funds to restore and maintain the sign.

The sign was designated a Cultural Historic Monument in 1973 and comes under the department's jurisdiction because it sits atop Mt. Lee in what is now Griffith Park. Before being donated to the city, the land on which the 50-foot-tall letters stand was part of Hollywoodland, the once-fashionable housing subdivision that the sign was built to publicize.

The proposal calls for year-round lighting of the sign from dusk through midnight, with single floodlights bathing each letter in a soft glow.

Options for Security

The proposal suggests options for providing security around the sign--which over the years has attracted college pranksters and vandals--and in the nearby hillside neighborhood. These options include a solar-generated surveillance system, fencing, warning signs and signs directing tourists to "official picture points."

The proposal lists two bonuses of sorts for the city. The solar energy source for the floodlights could be connected to the city's communications center on Mt. Lee, to provide an emergency power supply for its transmitter. The center handles all city communications, including police and fire dispatches. Its emergency backup now consists of a diesel generator and 24 hours' worth of fuel at the site.

Besides emergency power, free use of the solar facility for research purposes is offered to the Department of Water and Power.

The draft proposal contains five pages of text and several pages of drawings, charts and reproductions from magazines and catalogues. The proposal does not include a budget, nor does it discuss the environmental impact that lighting would have on the nearby hillside neighborhood or on Griffith Park. It does not specify what portions of the project would be paid for by Arco Solar, or what the firm would receive in exchange for its participation.

In a telephone interview, Jerry M. Reznick, Arco Solar marketing communications director, stressed that the document was "very preliminary" and "just a draft of an outline" intended to elicit "input from the homeowners in the neighborhood and the police."

'Too Premature'

When asked what elements mentioned in the proposal would be paid for by Arco Solar and which would have to be funded elsewhere, he said, "I don't know if there's a clear line."

He said Arco Solar would pay for "the photovoltaic power and lighting system" and that the lighting was to be part of "an overall proposal by the chamber" for the sign and its environs.

Reznick said it is "too premature to discuss (the proposal) in too public a forum," and that Atlantic Richfield Co. "was aware of it," but that "as of right now, there is no specific cooperation on the part of the parent corporation."

He said that, in exchange for providing the solar-powered lighting system, Arco Solar and Atlantic Richfield would have the right to "publicize our participation," but that advertising and publicity rights had "not specifically" been delineated.

Neither Reznick nor Welsh would make the proposal available to The Times, even though copies had been given out--together with a two-page endorsement from the chamber--at a presentation Reznick made last week to the Hollywood Sign Advisory Committee, an unofficial body appointed by the Recreation and Parks Department board of commissioners. The committee includes representatives of homeowners groups, the police and fire departments, two councilmen's staff members and a parks commissioner. The Times obtained a copy from a committee member.

Welsh said in an interview that the chamber would later make available its own three-page proposal that is being prepared for distribution to members of the Hollywoodland and Lake Hollywood Estates homeowners associations. According to the chamber's executive vice president, Edward N. Lewis, that proposal will address the security concerns of the neighborhood adjacent to the sign.

After the homeowners have received the proposal, the associations will meet and recommend action to the advisory committee, which, in turn, will meet and make its own recommendation to the parks commissioners, who will vote on the proposal.

No dates have been set for the meetings, but Richard Ginevan, the city's chief parks supervisor, said that he expected the advisory committee to convene in four to six weeks.

Council Approval

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