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Preservation campaigners cover Hollywood sign

February 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Hollywood sign is going to look a little bit different. Environmentalists are draping banners over the world-famous Hollywood sign, urging the public to "Save the Peak.""The purpose of wrapping the sign so that it will really say 'Save the Peak,' is to raise public awareness about the opportunity the residents of the City of L.A. have to save the backdrop on this iconic landscape," said Will Rogers, from Trust for Public Land. "This would be wonderful land for conservation, even without the sign. But having the sign there obviously does something extra for this site."

Environmental activists are promoting a campaign to raise $5.5 million to help buy the land around the landmark to prevent it from becoming the site of a residential development.

The sign itself is owned by the city of Los Angeles, but the 138-acre property around it belongs to a group of Chicago-based investors who acquired rights to build four luxury mansions along the ridgeline.

The developers have an option to sell five huge lots for big homes or to sell it to the Trust for Public Land and make it a park.

For over 85 years, the land has traded hands at bargain basement prices. Now, the cost is set at $12.5 million.

The Trust for Public Land has raised $7 million so far, but they are $5.5 million short, and they have only two more months to raise it.

"I think situation is really that the speculators that bought it figure they've got the city over a hump, so they are asking for a lot of money," said Steve Grant, a Hollywood resident. "Who knows if they are going to get it all."

The sign has often been a target for pranksters, but this time, the city is supporting the alteration. City officials want the land preserved, along with many residents.

"I think it is a great idea. It should be all natural and kept as it is," said Olga Rothenbecker, an Echo Park resident.

"It is the face of Los Angeles and you would not want to lose that," said Maria Elena Flores, a Harbor City resident. "To have houses around it would completely destroy it."

If the group fails to raise the money before April 14, the property will go back for sale on the open market.