April 9, 2002, By Sharon Bernstein, L.A. Times

Never mind the millions of dollars in tax revenue that might be lost if Hollywood secedes from Los Angeles.

What's really got officials hopping is the future of the Hollywood sign.

Planners for the state commission analyzing the secession plan recommended Monday that if Hollywood breaks away from Los Angeles, the new city should take possession of the famous sign. But Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area and has for many years been an advocate of Griffith Park, where the sign is located, swears that the sign will never leave Los Angeles.

"He will do anything in his power to keep it in Los Angeles," LaBonge spokeswoman Jane Galbraith said.

Proponents of an independent Hollywood drew the boundaries of their proposed city to include the sign. But La Bonge and the City Council asked the Local Agency Formation Commission to move the lines to keep the sign in Los Angeles.

LaBonge argued that under the terms of Col. Griffith J. Griffith's grant of land, the property could be used only for a Los Angeles city park.

But acting on a tip from a longtime resident who lives near the sign, secession boosters pulled the paperwork and found that the sign does not sit on Griffith's land.

Rather, the giant sign, its letters 50 feet high and 30 feet wide, was sold to the city in 1944 by M.H. Sherman Co., which built homes in the Hollywood Hills. The sign, which advertised Hollywood- land Realty Co., originally had the letters "l-a-n-d." But they fell off.

The advertising billboard evolved into a symbol of the movie industry, and finally of Los Angeles itself.

LAFCO Executive Officer Larry Calemine will take the staff recommendation to the commission for action Wednesday, along with other boundary disputes.

In one, Universal Studios, whose property is mostly on unincorporated Los Angeles County land, asked that its holdings in the city of Los Angeles not be divided if the San Fernando Valley secedes. LAFCO planners have recommended that the Universal property be included in a new Valley city.

LaBonge, though, has not yet given up on the Hollywood sign. On Monday, he asked City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to investigate the property history.

copyright 2002

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