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Officials Stumped by Signs to Trump Course

September 07, 2006|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The mystery surrounding illegal freeway signs promoting developer Donald Trump's new Rancho Palos Verdes golf course deepened Wednesday as authorities continued searching for new signs -- and for the phantom work crew that has installed them across a 25-mile swath of Los Angeles.

Puzzled motorists first noticed the official-looking but phony signs pointing the way to the Trump National Golf Club a week ago. So far, California Department of Transportation maintenance workers have removed four of them along two freeways.

But others have reportedly popped up near freeway onramps to confound commuters and transportation engineers alike.

Most resemble the standard green freeway directional signs used by Caltrans throughout the state. But at least one mimics the brown directional signs used in public parks.

The source of the signs, meantime, remains unknown.

Some motorists wondered whether the signs might be the handiwork of contestants on Trump's television show, "The Apprentice." But Mike van der Goes, general manager of Trump National's Rancho Palos Verdes club, said Trump has denied any involvement.

"We have no idea who put them up," van der Goes said Wednesday. "I spoke with Mr. Trump and he knows nothing about them."

Leaders of a group of guerrilla artists that some had speculated might have been behind the signs also denied responsibility. That group, which calls itself Heavy Trash, caused a stir six years ago by erecting mock MTA signs on the Westside announcing the future route of a fictitious subway it dubbed "the Aqua Line."

In an unsigned e-mail, the group said it advocates "urban solutions like housing, schools, public transportation, parks and pedestrian-friendly commercial development."

"We would never support something as wasteful as a new golf course within the Los Angeles Basin."

Commuters have seen the rogue signs along the Harbor Freeway -- near Sepulveda Boulevard, at Gaffey Street, and in the vicinity of Pacific Coast Highway -- as well as next to the 405 Freeway's Sunset Boulevard ramps.

Caltrans has removed the two 405 Freeway signs as well as two from the Harbor Freeway, spokeswoman Judy Gish said Wednesday.

"If more signs are brought to our attention we will remove them immediately," she said.

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