Theft of historic ‘Hollywoodland’ signs is finally under investigation

Six weeks after two historic plaques were stolen from the entrance to one of Hollywood’s most famous neighborhoods, Los Angeles police are launching an investigation.

The delay was because no one had yet filed a formal crime report about the missing bronze “Hollywoodland Est. 1923" markers, which were pried from the stone gateway to the historic residential area beneath the Hollywood sign.

Residents say they attempted to file a theft report on April 16 after they noticed the plaques’ disappearance but were not allowed to because the markers are considered Los Angeles city property.


No one from the city filed a report, either.

“We’re approaching week seven and we’ve yet to get a response from the city,” said Christine O’Brien, a neighborhood leader. “We’re being stonewalled.”

Concerned that the thief might attempt to sell the plaques as scrap metal, O’Brien contacted Los Angeles-area salvage yards, and other residents have scoured EBay in case they are offered for sale. Along with the Hollywoodland name, the plaques also bear the date of the area’s original subdivision.

Police in Hollywood said they were aware of the theft but that no crime report had been filed. A detective who asked not to be identified said the LAPD was unable to initiate a report on its own.

Aides to Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the Hollywood area, voiced surprise that the plaque theft had gone unreported. “The case is getting cold,” one admitted.

Finally, late last week, City Council Field Deputy Sharon Shapiro contacted police and was advised that a senior lead officer for the Hollywood area would file a report on behalf the city. She said that the city’s Office of Historic Resources will be asked to calculate the value of the missing 18- inch by 24-inch commemorative fixtures.

Ken Bernstein, that office’s manager, estimated that the cost of replacing the markers — which stood on a stone gateway designated a city historic-cultural monument in 1963 — will be about $500 each.

But “that doesn’t account for the community value of the signs,” Bernstein said.

Although some of those living in the shadow of the Hollywood sign have speculated that the plaques were taken as souvenirs, others suggested that they were taken for their scrap value.

Hollywood historian Greg Williams, one of those who tried to file a crime report in April, said he fears the signs have already been melted down.

“My best guess is it was taken for salvage,” he said. “Tourists don’t usually go out with crowbars.”