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Treat the Hollywood Sign like the tourist attraction it is

Treat the Hollywood Sign like the tourist attraction it is
Hikers take a selfie with the Hollywood sign from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook in Los Angeles on May 15, 2016. (Los Angeles Times)

In an attempt to deter selfie-seeking tourists from clogging the residential streets beneath the Hollywood sign, Los Angeles has tried restricting parking, issuing traffic tickets, closing gates, installing blinking "No Access" electric signs and even removing the destination from GPS mapping systems.

The restrictions have made it harder for locals to access popular trails, but the tourists keep coming. It's foolish to think the city can stop people from trying to reach the sign, or get close enough to snap their photo of it. It's time for L.A. to start treating the Hollywood sign as the major tourist attraction that it is.

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That means providing safe, convenient ways for people to get there, and a new study commissioned by Councilman David Ryu suggests several creative new ways to do that.

The most intriguing possibility is an aerial tram that would whoosh visitors to a viewing platform in the hills, where people could better admire the sign's giant steel letters, learn about its history or hike deeper into the park. The tram could become part of a larger circulation system in Griffith Park that would make it easier to visit without a car. The tram would depart from the base of the mountain at a transit hub, which would provide parking and connections to public transit, ride-share services and tour buses.

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In the past, similar proposals for a gondola or aerial tram have been derided as carnival rides or the crass commercialization of Griffith Park's natural beauty. But the tourists are already here. Wouldn't it be better to funnel visitors to a small, developed area within the park than to leave them roaming hillside streets for the best sign view?

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who floated the idea of a gondola last year, and other city leaders have committed to giving people more mobility choices so they can drive less. But when it comes to Griffith Park — one of the jewels of L.A. — it's difficult to get around without a car. There are few convenient and safe alternatives for getting into the park or to the trails leading up to the Hollywood sign. The creation of a transit hub and aerial tram, along with the development of an electric shuttle service and more bus connections, could solve that problem.

Sure, a tram could be expensive and complicated, and it would probably draw heavy flak from neighbors and environmentalists. But, as Councilman Ryu says, Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign are already being loved to death. The solution isn't to close off public access, but to make it easy for people to love the park and take their selfies responsibly.

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