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Hollywood Sign hike entrance to close temporarily, get new gate

Hollywood Sign hike entrance to close temporarily, get new gate
Tourists from Spain have their picture taken in front of the Hollywood sign. A nearby trail head will be closed for about five weeks so the city can build a new, more secure gate. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

In the hills that look up on the Hollywood sign, the whims of camera-ready tourists are often leveled against the concerns of homeowners peeved by throngs of visitors.

So when a sign went up recently announcing blocked access to the Hollyridge trail head – famous for its picture-perfect view of the nine white letters – it triggered memories of fliers that compared tourists to swarming locusts and posters that asked them to go away.

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But L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge urged tourists and hikers not to be alarmed, saying that the blocked access would only be temporary.

Staring Tuesday, the trail head will be closed for five weeks or so, as the city's Department of Recreation and Parks builds a wrought-iron gate at the top of Beachwood Drive. With input from people in the community, LaBonge said the department decided it made sense to switch out the old T-bar gate, which was often closed at night but easy to jump over, for a more secured barrier.

"There's a necessity for a gate at this location because of its overwhelming popularity," he said, adding that it makes sense to keep the area off limits at night because of safety concerns.

Tony Fisch, who lives in nearby Lake Hollywood Estates, said traffic bottlenecks in the area have gotten out of control and that he's concerned that a traffic snarl will eventually block first responders from getting to an emergency.

"It's a regular goat rodeo up here on weekends," he said. "We're feeling the brunt of it, and we really need help."

LaBonge said finding a delicate balance between pleasing homeowners and visitors – both tourists and Angelenos who don't live in the neighborhood but like to hike the trails – isn't unique to Beachwood Drive.  He said he recently got a letter from someone who lives near Runyon Canyon, asking that it be closed to hikers because they're overwhelmed by cars.

"The cup has runeth over," LaBonge said.

The councilman, who hikes in Griffith Park every day, stressed that once construction is finished, the pedestrian access will still be open between dawn and dusk.

"I welcome every tourist that comes to this city, because it's important to our economy," he said. "But we're working on the challenges."

Twitter: @marisagerber

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