Residents and celebrities alike were concerned when the land behind the Hollywood sign went up for sale for 22 million dollars in 2008. Possible plans for the land included building 4 mega mansions, each to be sold for 40 million dollars once built. These homes would sit directly above the Hollywood sign and some say would destroy the view and landscape.
On Monday it was announced that the last of the money was raised through a donation from Hugh Hefner, of $900,000 and then a matching donation from Tiffany and Co Foundation and Aileen Getty of a further $500,000, to help the City purchase the property to keep it out of the hands of real estate developers. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Trust of Public land led by Will Rogers have been raising money with the help of donations from Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, the studios, and with fundraisers held by the locals. Finally on Monday Hugh Hefner’s donation brought the grand total to 12.5 million dollars, the agreed amount the owners would sell the property to the City for. This is not the first time Hugh Hefner has come to the rescue of the sign, back in the late 70′s he played a major role in fundraising for the rebuilding of the then dilapidated sign.
The land in question approximately 138 acres was once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes who purchased the property in the 1940′s to build a castle for his then fiance Ginger Rogers. However their romance was not to end in marriage and Miss Rogers was not fond of the idea of living so far up in the hills isolated from everywhere. Despite the fact that Hughes battled with the city and won, allowing him to put in a private road and utilities onto the property, the home was never built. However it did stay a part of his estate until 2002 when it was sold to a Chicago based investment company for 1.7 million dollars. Once the sale is complete the land will now become part of Griffith Park which is already the largest municipal park in the United States.
Of course the irony here is that the sign was originally placed as an advertisement for a real estate development called Hollywoodland in the 1920′s. The developers, General M. H. Sherman (founder of West Hollywood), Harry Chandler (Publisher of the LA Times) and developer Sidney H. Woodruff, planned a Mediterranean Riviera in the Hollywood Hills, situated between Griffith Park and Lake Hollywood. The successful development was described in the LA Times as “one of the most attractive residential sections of the City of Los Angeles”. And now the Hollywood sign, the adopted emblem of the movie industry has become the icon that has saved the landscape from the clutches of further real estate developement the very idea the sign first served.