Conservationists Struggle to Save View of Hollywood Sign

Conservationists in Los Angeles are struggling to save the iconic, postcard-perfect image of the Hollywood sign.

The current owners of the area surrounding the landmark are looking to build mansions on the land, putting the view of the sign in jeopardy. This means the sign, originally constructed as a billboard for a housing project 87 years ago, is now threatened by a contemporary housing project.

"It would be horrible if that view was molested," Tom LaBonge, a Los Angeles city councilman and member of The Trust for Public Land, told USA Today on February 17th. "This is our iconic symbol."

Those trying to save the view of the 45-foot-tall letters have until April 14th to raise $12.5 million to purchase the tract of land that runs adjacent to the landmark and extends behind the "H" in the sign.

In an effort to raise awareness, last week the group draped the massive white sign with a temporary new message-"Save the Peak"-for five days. Paige Rausser, the project manager for the preservation group, announced that $1 million in donations have already been received since the campaign was kicked off last week.

"The Hollywood Sign is one of America's most famous views and if big homes are built behind it, the view would be forever ruined. The public understands that and they are responding strongly and quickly," Will Rogers, president of the The Trust for Public Land said on the groups website.

LaBonge updated the total to $8 million on Tuesday, citing that half of the money came from public funds dedicated for park lands. The group plans for the money to be used to buy 138 acres behind, and to the left of the sign, expanding the eastward lying Griffith Park.

The sign was originally constructed in 1923 by Harry Chandler, a former Los Angeles Times publisher, to promote a housing project named Hollywoodland-the "land" was later dropped.

Famous aviator Howard Hughes bought the land surrounding the sign in 1940 with the intent of building an estate for his love, actress Ginger Rogers. Hughes' relationship with Rogers eventually fizzled, but the land continued to remain part of Hughes estate more than two decades after his death. The land was finally put on the market in 2002, and was purchased by a Chicago investment group. In 2008, the owner put the land up for sale for $22 million.

Thanks to the economic downturn, the Trust for Public Land's mission was made easier. The group was allowed to secure a one-year option to purchase the land for nearly half of the original asking price.

The group feels secure that they will raise the money in time, thanks to the outpouring of support they have already received, and positive discussions with members of Los Angeles' entertainment community.

"It's going to happen," LaBonge told USA Today. "I think we're going to get there."

Donations can be made by going to The Trust for Public Land's donation website.
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