- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The world-famous Hollywood sign that has been used by TV and movie directors in more scene-setting shots than a film student could ever count was first erected in 1923 to promote real estate in the fledgling capital of celluloid.

Eighty-five years later, some fear the sign and the hillside on which it sits are threatened by a real estate deal.

An investment group that owns 138 sage-covered acres above and to the left of the 45-foot-high, steel-and-concrete letter “H” put the land up for sale last month for $22 million.

Some Los Angeles residents are afraid that mansions will be built there, spoiling the sign’s uncluttered, postcard-perfect backdrop. They worry, too, that the land will no longer be accessible to the hikers, sightseers and romantics who often climb the hill for solitude and a panoramic view of the Los Angeles basin.

Residents led by a city council member are fighting to preserve the parcel, known as Cahuenga Peak.

“That is our Eiffel Tower,” council member Tom LaBonge said.

“There is the Hollywood sign. There is the open space. And that’s all there is. This is ours, and it should remain ours,” he said.

Most people here assumed the property had long ago fallen into the public domain. That is, until Fox River Financial Resources, the Chicago investors who quietly purchased the peak from Mr. Hughes’ estate for $1.7 million in 2002, put the parcel on the market recently.

Based on the bargain-basement price paid by the investors, it appears the Hughes estate’s trustees were not aware of what it was worth or were too busy managing the billionaire’s vast holdings to care, said Ernie Carswell, a real estate agent handling the property.

Mr. Carswell said the parcel is farther away from the Hollywood sign than many people realize, and that at a distance, a mansion would be a mere “speck” on the mountain.

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