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Walk of Fame fix won't be easy stroll

July 17, 2008|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

It took a year's study and installation of a "test strip" on Hollywood's busiest corner to figure out how best to stabilize the buckling bronze stars and pink-and-black terrazzo that line Hollywood's aging Walk of Fame.

Now, officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are trying to determine just how to pay for the estimated $4.1-million repair job.

MTA officials said Wednesday that their agency will take the lead in lining up funding from Los Angeles, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the Hollywood Historic Trust as well as other entities -- including itself.

The transit agency will set up a Walk of Fame Restoration Committee, which will be asked to also seek financing from corporations, local businesses and individual contributors, according to a report delivered to members of an MTA planning committee.

The report noted that "the current condition of the sidewalks has become unsightly and potentially dangerous to the many thousands of pedestrians who frequent the area."

The Walk of Fame section on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive was listed as a top priority for repairs. That sidewalk, in front of a Metro Red Line terminal entrance and the Kodak Theatre and Grauman's Chinese Theatre, is heavily used by subway riders and tourists.

The corner of Hollywood and Highland is where sidewalk buckling forced officials to rip out a 60-foot stretch of terrazzo walkway on the eve of the 2007 Academy Awards for their $80,000 test strip. In all, 132 terrazzo squares -- 16 containing bronze stars honoring celebrities -- were dug out.

The old 3-inch-thick sidewalk was replaced with a concrete base up to 8 inches thick.

At the same time, the nonprofit Hollywood Trust upped the price of new stars by more than 40% -- to $25,000 per celebrity -- to pay for future Walk of Fame maintenance.

To many, including the late honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, it was clear at the time what was causing the buckling: the Metro Red Line subway.

"The MTA has been stalling me for years," said Grant, who died earlier this year. "We think there's earth movement with the subway under there."

Hollywood activists have suggested that a subterranean stream running through the area may have caused "voids" in grouting when the MTA was building the subway beneath the boulevard.

A 1994 Times investigation revealed that grouting was not included along the subway's boulevard stretch, as a money-saving construction measure. Later, when the boulevard sank 9 inches, grout was ordered pumped in. But equipment failure interfered with that project, the investigation discovered.

The MTA has long blamed solar energy for the Walk of Fame damage. Wednesday's report again cited "the inadequacy of the original Walk's terrazzo design and its inability to resist thermal expansion caused by prolonged exposure to the sun."

Transit officials' role in the proposed repairs was requested in April by MTA board member Zev Yaroslavsky, who last year acknowledged, "We have a problem . . . you could break an ankle walking there."

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bob.pool@latimes.com

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