Iconic Hollywood sign threatened by private development

February 16th, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by admin  

Los Angeles, Feb 16 (DPA) The world-famous Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles is under threat from property developers, prompting an angry reaction from residents and officials in the city. Chicago-based investment firm Fox River Land Co. is hoping to sell the 56-hectare hilltop parcel adjacent to the giant white letters for $22 million.

That’s almost four times as much as the $6 million the city valued the land at and represents a remarkable increase on the $1.7 million the company paid the estate of legendary magnate Howard Hughes in 2002.

Hughes had planned to build a palatial home there for his mistress, dancer and actress Ginger Rogers.

Fox River says there is high interest in the property, which is zoned for a single mega-mansion or five smaller houses. But city council member Tom LaBonge vowed Friday to do everything in his power to foil the plan, which he said would spoil the last undeveloped ridge in the city.

“When you take virgin land it can never be virgin again,” he told DPA. “That peak should remain unmolested.”

LaBonge appears to have strong support among his constituents in the city’s 4th District, which encompasses Hollywood and its famous sign.

“It’s the one symbol we have that’s known the world over,” said accountant Vivienne Lifsher. “We’d be crazy to let someone destroy it.”

Local businesses are also up in arms.

“I think it goes without saying that it would be a mistake to build homes there,” said Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “It would be very unfortunate.”

The epic sign created in 1923 as an advertisement for the doomed housing development Hollywoodland, is designated as a historic monument, but the steep 600-meter ridge next to it is not. That would allow houses to be built above and to the left of the sign.

Officially called Cahuenga Peak, the land offers unrivalled views of the city and its environs and has been zoned for residential building since 1940 when Hughes bought the property with plans to build a palatial home for Rogers - the long-time dancing partner of Fred Astaire in numerous films from the 1930s.

As such there might not be a lot that can be done to stop a sale, LaBonge’s spokeswoman Kane Galbraith conceded.

“We will do whatever we can to prevent it within the legal limits of the city,” she said. “But property rights are very strong here.”

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