On Tuesday more than 100 people filled the community room at Hollywood City Hall, a location that provides views outside its door of the landmark that was the crux of the meeting: the Hollywood Sign.
“It’s an iconic symbol and everyone wants to try to get to that symbol, but with GPS it’s elevated,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents a portion of Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills. “The elevation of activity in the hillside area has been a problem.”
LaBonge and City Council President Eric Garcetti, who sent representatives from his office, called Tuesday’s community meeting to discuss the impact of tourism on people who live near the Hollywood Sign.
LaBonge said he hopes to work with the neighborhood groups to find a consensus as well as meet with tour operators and involve the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Hollywood Sign Trust. He suggested the possibility of assigning a city worker to observe the Lake Hollywood area on Saturdays.
Residents voiced their concerns about the influx of tourists wishing to view the Hollywood Sign up close.
A concern echoed by several residents during the meeting was fire safety and the presence of cigarette butts left behind by tourists at prime viewing sites.
“This is a safety issue for residents and tourists,” said Sarajane Schwartz, president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association. “That’s why everyone is so emotional. We attract people 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We are totally defenseless.”
Her association wants the city to establish an “official viewing site away from Hollywoodland,” she said.
During the often heated meeting, some residents complained that signs in the area pointing people to viewing sites have increased traffic.
Fran Reichenbach, president of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association, agreed.
“I want to say the brushfire in Hollywoodland is a real, valid fear,” Reichenbach said. “Public safety is an issue. I agree the sites should be located outside of our neighborhood. Where we part ways is since the GPS genie is out of the bottle, we must continue to deal with tourists.”
Eda Hallinan, who has lived on Beachwood Drive for more than 55 years, was among a few neighbors who said not all tourists should be viewed as bad.
“There is a constant stream of tourists,” she said. “In 35 years, there’s been only one bad altercation with a tourist that was rude. Tourists are going to continue to come.”
Some people wanted to know whether tourists are cited for smoking in the area, which is illegal. LAPD Senior Lead Officer Maggie Dillard, who is based in Hollywood, said she has given tickets for smoking and doled out warnings, but many tourists ignore them.
“Tourists don’t care about citations because they will go back to their countries,” she said.
She also warned residents not to get into altercations with tour bus drivers.
Melrose Larry Green, who works for Hollywood E-Tours, said he represented an industry that is often unfairly viewed by residents. He said neighbors complain about the buses and some drivers flipping them off when they confront them.
“The tour business has hardworking people who don’t have a lot of money, and we’re just trying to make a living,” Green said. “As a representative of the tourist industry, there are some rotten apples in every industry.”