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Views of the iconic Hollywood sign may get protection

hollywood_sign.gi.top.jpgThe land around the Hollywood sign will remain undeveloped.By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The iconic letters spelling out Hollywood on the hills overlooking Tinseltown will keep their pride of place thanks to the housing bust.

A 138-acre plot behind and to the west of the Hollywood sign were slated for development. But on Tuesday the Trust for Public Lands said it was able to preempt the sale of the land to someone wanting to build luxe mansions.

Two years ago, the plot was put on the market for $22 million but didn't sell. There was a lot of interest, however, and the Trust wondered if it could raise the funds needed to save the land -- and the view of the Hollywood sign.

In the wake of plunging real estate prices, the Trust said it was able to acquire an option to purchase the property for nearly half the original asking price.

"The Hollywood Sign is one of America's iconic views and that view would be ruined forever if estates are built behind it," said Sam Hodder, the state director for the Trust.

The land being purchased is on Cahuenga Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, and was once owned by Howard Hughes. In the 1930s he wanted to build a home there for his then-object of affection, movie star Ginger Rogers. That relationship soured, but Hughes kept the land and it remained in his estate until selling in 2002 for $1.675 million.

The top of the peak commands a view over practically all Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. The Trust intends to buy the land and give the deed to the city so it can combine the property with nearby massive Griffith Park.

"Cahuenga Peak supports a remarkably intact ecosystem of native chaparral plants and animals seemingly unaffected by ecological isolation," said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "The property provides an unparallel natural experience in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains."

The transaction is not yet a done deal, however. The Trust has until April 14, when its option on the land expires, to raise a total of $12.5 million needed to complete the purchase.

As of Monday, $7.3 million had been raised, leaving $5.2 million still needed. On Thursday, the group intends to change the Hollywood sign to read "Save the Peak" in order to generate publicity.

With its Hollywood connection, some celebrities have gotten involved in the effort: Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus; Sideways' Virginia Madsen; Tippi Hedren, Mad Men John Slattery and many others are lending support.  To top of page

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