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Hollywood Sign
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Cameron Venti

These are the four potential routes for a Griffith Park gondola to the Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles is studying an aerial transit system that could alleviate sightseeing traffic caused by the sign.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

We don’t remember much about 2017 anymore, but we do remember one thing: People seemed to love gondolas. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti floated the idea of building one to the Hollywood Sign. Then the next year, Warner Bros. said that it too would like to build one to the sign. That wasn’t long after Garcetti said, hey, let’s build one to Dodger Stadium, too (where Elon Musk decided he could one-up everyone and dig a tunnel).

Well, here we are a few years later with no gondola in sight yet. But one plan is starting to materialize. The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and engineering firm Stantec have released the potential routes for a gondola to the Hollywood Sign—or, rather, a viewing platform below it. As spotted by Urbanize Los Angeles, a website for the Griffith Park Aerial Transit Study has been updated with its initial findings from a feasibility report, including four possible alignments currently being studied.

If you’ve ever tried to find a parking spot in Griffith Park on a weekend or navigated crowds of clueless tourists in search of Hollywood Sign views, you can probably already guess the allure of these motorless, electric, cable-driven aerial cars: They present a means to potentially reduce car traffic and improve pedestrian access to the area. Of the plans under study, all four routes set out to accomplish that with stations that depart from the Valley side of Griffith Park.

Hollywood Sign gondola map
Courtesy L.A. City Parks

You’ll find a number of similarities between the plans for the aerial transit system, plus some specific benefits and drawbacks of each. The first three routes would be a 12 or 13-minute ride that terminates at a viewing platform just above the intersection of Deronda Drive, Mulholland Highway and Mt. Lee Drive, where you’ll currently find a dirt area with unobstructed up-close views of the sign (and behind a sometimes-locked gate that locals probably wish was always locked). Of those routes, the first two also include an intermediate station in the middle of the park that could accommodate a later expansion to the Griffith Observatory.

Route 1 departs from Travel Town and offers the easiest-to-tackle terrain but has limited parking. It could also pose the destruction of the adjacent Martinez Arena equestrian loop.

Route 2 leaves from the L.A. Zoo’s sprawling northern parking lot, but its path would require flying over the zoo, as well as installing a couple of support towers within the grounds.

Route 3 jumps to what’s essentially an overflow lot just south of the zoo and eliminates the need for an intermediate station (but thereby also eliminates the potential observatory expansion). Similar to the second route, this one poses flyover issues for the neighboring golf course.

That leaves the radically different Route 4, which would leave from Warner Bros. Studios and reach a different viewing platform just below the sign in only six minutes. But this one comes with a whole host of potential downsides, including less traffic congestion reduction in the park, higher ticket prices and visual obstruction of the Hollywood Sign from points to the south. (The findings also call out, though, that this is the least studied of the four options.)

Now that you’re up to speed, the city wants to know what you think about the plans. You can fill out a survey online or show up to a virtual open house on September 3 at 6pm over Zoom (there’s a shorter info session on August 28 at 12:30pm, as well). After that feedback period, the project still has a ways to go: A final study will then be presented to city decision-makers who’ll make the call whether or not to formally move forward with the plans. Given that, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that there’s no budget or timeline yet for the project.

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