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Hollywood Sign Goes Under Cover

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Hollywood Sign Goes Under Cover

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Hollywood Sign Goes Under Cover

Hollywood Sign Goes Under Cover

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For the first time in anyone's memory, the iconic Hollywood sign is being covered as part of an effort to save the surrounding hills from development. The sign, which is four stories tall and visible throughout much of Los Angeles, will be draped with a huge banner reading, "Save The Peak." It refers to an adjacent piece of land once owned by Howard Hughes that's been slated as a site for luxury homes. The land owner is willing to sell the property to preservationists who need to raise several million dollars to close the deal. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Well, it is Valentines weekend. Look, nothing quite says Hollywood like that famous sign in the Hollywood Hills - except this week, that sign says something else. Its temporarily covered with a giant banner, part of an effort to save L.A.s most familiar scenery from developers.

NPRs Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

(Soundbite of helicopters)

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: High above the city, as news helicopters hover to document it, workers are covering the Hollywood sign.

Mr. TOM LOVANCH: Good afternoon, everybody, welcome to one of the greatest spots in the whole wide world, one of the greatest signs in the whole wide world: the Hollywood sign.

BATES: City councilman Tom Lovanch(ph) has hauled a ton of media up this mountainside. They are here to see what might be lost if a group of luxury homes are built nearby. Lovanch says the four-story-high sign is shorthand for L.A.

Mr. LOVANCH: In our great country of ours, you can think of the Statue of Liberty, you can think of the Golden Gate Bridge, and you can think of the Hollywood sign as an iconic spot.

BATES: And Lovanch is right. Say Paris, and you think Eiffel Tower.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. EDITH PIAF (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

BATES: London is Big Ben.

(Soundbite of music)

BATES: And the word India conjures up visions of

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign language)

BATES: Yup, the Taj Mahal.

Thats what the Hollywood sign is here, and thats why the City of Los Angeles has joined with the Trust For Public Land. Theyve covered that sign with a new one, Save the Peak. Its part of an effort to buy the land from developers and keep it pristine. Will Rogers, president of the trust, says back when the real estate market was hot, the 138 acres would have been too expensive.

Mr. WILL ROGERS (President, Trust For Public Land): But at this point in time, we at the Trust For Public Land have been able to strike a deal with the land owner for about $12.5 million.

BATES: Rogers has commitments for about 7 million of that, and the clock is running out. The deadline is April 14th.

Mr. ROGER: We expect to see large donations and small donations as well.

BATES: The sign is a tourist magnet. The deck of the Kodak Theatre was positioned so visitors would have a perfect view of the sign as they take pictures.

About 10 miles away, Eleanor Jones(ph) and Estheme Davis(ph) are speedwalking on a track that has a good view of the sign when the weather is clear. Davis says that unobstructed view is a daily touchstone.

Ms. ESTHEME DAVIS: When I go down La Brea, you could just see Hollywood all the time. And I have been in the area for 44 years, and I would just hate to see it go.

BATES: Taking deep breath as she walks, Jones says just knowing the sign will remain as it has been is important.

Ms. ELEANOR JONES: Its just a familiar sight. And theres so many things that we have no control over, and so many things that just upset us. I mean, this is something thats comforting, thats familiar. It helps a lot.

BATES: To save that view, sign lovers will need to take the other Will Rogers advice soon. Buy land, they ain't making it anymore.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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