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Beachwood Canyon residents explain how the Hollywood Sign is ruining their lives

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Videos from the Millennial Project show the NIMBY side of the battle over access to the sign

Back in May, the Youtubers known as the Millennial Project tried to access the Hollywood sign, documenting the many ways residents of Beachwood Canyon have attempted to restrict access to the sign and prevent visitors from grabbing that perfect selfie. In addition to establishing a preferential parking zone and helping to convince mapping software companies like Garmin and Google to deliberately misdirect users away from the sign, angry neighbors have also put up a number of signs and roadblocks meant to scare off outsiders.

Now, host Andrew Davis is sitting down with some of the area’s most vocal activists and letting them share their side of the story. In the first of the videos, he interviews Sarjane Schwartz, a 40-year resident of Beachwood Canyon who wants the access point to the Hollyridge Trail at the end of Beachwood Drive permanently closed off to the public.

Schwartz reminisces fondly about the good old days when the amount of foot and vehicle traffic in the area was at a minimum and it was possible for residents and visitors to be friends. Now, however, Schwartz says that the number of people trying to access the sign "has become unsafe." They are smoking cigarettes, slowing down emergency vehicles, and—according to Schwartz—defecating into pots in her driveway.

Christine O’Brien, another longtime resident who maintains a website on the history of the area, agrees with Schwartz. "I've never seen such uncivilized behavior in a civilized society," she tells Davis, apparently referring to the behavior of tourists and hikers. "You go to undeveloped countries, you expect that. But in a developed country?"

Tony Fisch, a PR strategist who has been leading efforts to block access to the sign, seems to blame one man for all of the community’s problems: former city councilmember Tom LaBonge.

Fisch explains to Davis that in 2011 LaBonge deviously instructed workers to create a viewing spot for the sign along Mulholland Highway without going through the necessary approval process. He also claims that the dastardly LaBonge aided and abetted sign-seekers by holding public events and issuing press releases "inviting people to come up, to take pictures, and to hike the Hollywood sign."

Both Fisch and Schwartz tell Davis they campaigned long and hard for David Ryu, who went on to win LaBonge’s former seat after the councilmember termed out in 2015. They each seem shocked and disappointed by Ryu’s failure to keep visitors away from their streets. According to Fisch, the newly elected councilmember is no longer returning his texts.

So what’s the solution to all these sign problems? Well, O’Brien has one answer. "Maybe they need to consider moving the sign," she tells Davis. O’Brien proposes that the city could even rent it out to Universal Studios. She also suggests officials might consider relocating individual letters.

"Take the letter H," she says, "Put it somewhere ... give them this letter. Let them touch it and feel it. Educate them on it. Educate them on the sensitivity of the area. Get it away from this area."