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Not In My Backyard: Hollywood Sign's Neighbors Fed Up With Tourists


If you've ever been to Los Angeles, no doubt you've sent a selfie with a Hollywood sign in the background. If that is you, you're not alone. The iconic sign is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. Over the last few years, social media and GPS have only multiplied the number of visitors. Now, homeowners in the area say that's wreaking havoc in their neighborhood. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Marcus Suffert(ph) is visiting L.A. from Germany. I found him walking up towards the Hollywood sign on a sunny L.A. afternoon.

MARCUS SUFFERT: Sir, could you take a picture, a group picture of us?

SANDERS: Suffert came with a few friends. They parked their minivan in front of someone's house. Is it as big as you thought it would be?

SUFFERT: No. Actually, it's smaller.


SANDERS: People like Suffert and his friends are driving residents in this area crazy. They say their neighborhoods, Beachwood Canyon and Hollywoodland, are flooded with tourists at all times of day. There are also over 40 tour companies taking buses and vans through the streets. Heather Hamsa(ph) lives just about as close to the Hollywood sign as you can get.

HEATHER HAMSA: You might have, like, 10 cars just fully parked along this whole curb. And there are clearly posted signs that say no parking.

SANDERS: Hamsa says all the traffic can be dangerous, blocking emergency vehicles.

HAMSA: We had a van catch on fire right here. Oh, we had another guy once back over the fire hydrant, flooding that went all the way down Ledgewood.

SANDERS: And Hamsa says that some people come up there for more than just the sightseeing.

HAMSA: People smoking here, people drinking here, having sex in their cars, throwing condoms on the floor. Oh, yeah. It's disgusting.

FRAN REICHENBACH: We want some permit parking.

SANDERS: Fran Reichenbach is president of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association.

REICHENBACH: We need parking and traffic enforcement to be on site at all the major hot zones as well as police patrol.

SANDERS: Reichenbach says homeowners here knew what they were getting into when they decided to live so close to a major tourist attraction. But she says visits have exploded in the last few years.

REICHENBACH: Now, you've got people using Twitter and websites that cover where to get the best shot of the Hollywood sign. This stuff goes viral.

SANDERS: The L.A. city councilman for the neighborhood says he's working to fix the problem. But Tom LaBonge says that residents have to understand that the Hollywood sign is there for everybody. LaBonge says having a tourist destination next to a neighborhood is just typical L.A. The city wasn't built with a master plan.

TOM LABONGE: How did we know 90 years ago this sign would still be there? Back then, you know, development was super king, and you tried to build everywhere.

SANDERS: So far, this city has tried checkpoints and weighing tour buses. Now, some residents have put up their own signs saying things like tourist-free zone. None of it's really working. Suffert, that German tourist, says he gets why residents are upset. But he says tourists like him will keep on doing what they're doing.

SUFFERT: Actually, I'm here for one day, and I want to see all the highlights. And the Hollywood sign is one of the highlights, and there's no other option for me like parking in front of the houses.

SANDERS: The irony of the Hollywood sign is that it was actually built to advertise the Hollywoodland neighborhood. It seems to have worked too well. Sam Sanders, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam worked at Vermont Public Radio from October 1978 to September 2017 in various capacities – almost always involving audio engineering. He excels at sound engineering for live performances.