Alissa Walker, a seasoned writer who has covered the Hollywood Sign issue since it first began, explains how residents have worked to shut off access to the sign and how she has organized Angelenos to help improve Hollywood Sign access.
Alissa is currently Curbed’s Urbanism editor. Before Curbed, she wrote for Gizmodo. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, LA Weekly, and many other publications. Alissa maintains a blog called “A Walker in LA”, where she has posted extensively about the Hollywood Sign. She also founded deLaB, an organization dedicated to celebrating creativity and design on the east side of LA.
A Walker in LA: http://www.awalkerinla.com/
Shot by Jack Meyer
Produced and edited by Andrew Murphy Davis
Interview begins: 2:55
Alissa explains that the roots of the sign issue lie in technology and a culture change surrounding urban life in Los Angeles.
“LA is becoming more of a public city…Now everybody is trying to get out and be on foot and explore their city a little bit more. And technology has actually enabled that—thanks to our smart phones, and GPS, and apps, and Instagram. So now people, if they see an awesome picture of the Hollywood Sign, they want to go right exactly where it was taken.” 3:33
Alissa validates the concerns of residents who live below the sign, but says these concerns do not justify limiting pedestrian access to the sign.
“I am definitely sympathetic, but I also think that these are public trails in a public park—one of the largest urban parks in the country—and there is no reason why there shouldn’t be complete access for anyone at anytime to walk and get up there.” 5:00
Alissa says that the problem in the neighborhoods below the sign is too many cars and a lack of wayfinding signage to help visitors safely get to the sign. 5:20
[Note: Since filming, Griffith Park has installed limited wayfinding signage. Also, while Google maps offers walking directions to the sign, cell phone service is not available in much of Griffith Park and Beachwood Canyon.]
Alissa says that, over the years, Beachwood Canyon residents have tried to cut off access by illegally barricaded streets, putting up fake and misleading signage, and trying to close access to public hiking trails that lead to the Hollywood Sign. 6:09
“This is a public park, and access should be…improved.” 7:30
Alissa talks about organizing to solve the Hollywood Sign issue through “deLaB”, a non-profit she co-founded in 2013. The issue is important, Alissa says, because it’s “about guaranteeing pedestrian access to some of our most valuable landmarks and historical locations”. 8:42
Alissa also says that the city needs to do a better job informing visitors about how to see the sign, especially when it comes to dealing with automobile congestion created by tourists in the neighborhoods below the sign.
“You’d think the city would really step up and ensure this is something that could be fixed… but several groups have purposefully suppressed information about where to go to see the Hollywood Sign, where you can go to take those awesome pictures, the fact that you can walk to a lot of these areas...So I think that the relationship of the city with the Hollywood Sign has to change…” (10:00)
For solutions, Alissa says she would personally like to see the city create a National Parks style, “hop-on-hop-off” shuttle system offering easy, “car-free” access to the sign. She would also like to see more facilities and amenities—like bathrooms and water fountains--built on the west side of Griffith Park for visitors. To deal with tourism issues in neighborhoods below the sign, she is open to heavy parking restrictions that deter car traffic without closing public streets. 11:08
Alissa talks about the deLaB event she organized to help find solutions to the sign issue. 13:45
Alissa talks about her experience covering the Hollywood Sign issue, recalling how she was contacted by residents who wanted her to take down a blog post she wrote about how to see the Hollywood Sign. 15:00
Alissa talks about how the Hollywood Sign issue relates to larger questions about public space and inequality in Los Angeles. She says the Hollywood Sign issue is similar to the debate over the future of the LA River and the controversy over beach access in coastal communities like Malibu. 18:10
“It’s something that’s going to keep happening in a lot of places, especially LA where there’s powerful people who are trying to use parts of the city as their own backyards—which isn’t fair.” 20:08