To a certain enterprising visitor to Los Angeles, the cluster of narrow winding streets above the Cahuenga Pass are the charming gateway to the city’s single most recognisable landmark, the Hollywood sign.
To residents, however, the tourists who drive up those streets, park haphazardly, dump litter, smoke and take pictures at all hours have become the enemy. Locals believe it is time for these invaders to be taught some manners.
Recently, signs have sprung up reading: “Tourists Go Away”. Some of the more zealous Angelenos have snapped photographs of illegally parked cars and posted videos on YouTube showing the disruption.
The residents say the number of tourists has become intolerable now that satnav systems can lead people to places where they never drove before. They also blame the internet – specifically a site launched by unknown “traitors” in the neighbourhood, which gives away secrets about how to get as close as possible to the sign either on foot or by car.
“You are about to learn what all the locals do not want you to know,” the site teases. “We believe it is time to open this area to everyone.”
On Tuesday, residents’ associations around the sign decided enough was enough and descended on a community meeting to appeal to their city council member, the fire department and other officials.
Some locals called for fees for non-resident vehicles, while others demanded that satnav companies omit the neighbourhood from their systems. Some residents turned up at the meeting to vent about the “idiots” who stop on stretches of road marked “no stopping”, or clamber over safety barriers to pose dangerously for photographs.
“I just need some quality of life with my wife,” said Steve Lehrman, who lives near the top of the hill.
The sign was originally erected to promote a property development called Hollywoodland – the last four letters of the sign were later removed – and the area was an estate agent’s dream.
Becoming a symbol of Los Angeles and the entertainment industry was just a happy accident. The 45ft (14-metre) high letters have gone through several phases of deterioration and restoration, including campaigns spearheaded by the heavy metal rocker Alice Cooper and the Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner.
Councillor Tom LaBonge was sympathetic to residents’ concerns about cigarette smoking starting a brushfire, and suggested that police and fire officials should issue tickets for littering and smoking.
But he and the fire officials present said the Hollywood sign neighbourhood was no more jammed with traffic than other parts of the hillside communities that stretch from Hollywood to the Pacific Ocean.
The local fire chief Joe Castro said he had worked to protect the hills for 33 years and had never had trouble reaching any flashpoint because of excess traffic or illegally parked tourists.
That observation infuriated many residents. “What’s more important to the city, Tom?” Lehrman asked. “Homeowners or tourists?”