Last year, a group of homeowners who live in the Hollywood Hills had directions to the Hollywood Sign changed on Google Maps to keep tourists away from their streets. All the tourists, that is, except for the ones who rent their properties on Airbnb. They want those tourists to know exactly where the Hollywood Sign is.
When I last checked in with the great disappearing/reappearing Hollywood Sign, residents had succeeded in tweaking the official cartography of Google, Apple and Garmin, sending tourists to Griffith Observatory, one mountain over, to view the sign, instead of giving accurate directions to the sign itself. Certain residents had even asked me to take down a blog post giving the actual location of the sign.
Now, a local neighbourhood association has gone a step further — filing a lawsuit against the city with the goal to close all public access to the sign, including local hiking trails that lead up to the sign through a public park. At the heart of the lawsuit is a claim by the neighbours that the city has done too much to encourage tourism in the area by proclaiming that it's the best possible place to see the Hollywood Sign. In particular, they point to the actions of a former councilmember who they say promoted tourist viewing areas which they call "illegal magnets".
But there's one problem with this argument: Most of the best views of the Hollywood Sign and even the exact locations of those views have been promoted by the homeowners themselves — through their many Airbnb listings.
As a video posted yesterday shows, nearly every Airbnb property in North Beachwood Canyon, the area around the Hollywood Sign, is sure to include not only its close proximity to the sign but also the exact full-frontal view that one would get by standing in that very spot.
Requesting directions to the Hollywood Sign in Google Maps might send you to the wrong location, but using Airbnb's images alone it's actually not that hard to locate and navigate to any of these spots, which apparently have the very best views of all.
For each listing, several images of the remarkable views of the sign are included, or even used as the avatar for the host:
Some even named their properties for the Hollywood Sign itself:
In the detailed descriptions, the Hollywood Sign is listed as the reason to stay in these properties:
You can see the double standard here. When it comes to regular tourists or even citizens of Los Angeles who want to see one of the city's most famous landmarks up close, the residents would like them to go somewhere far away to find the "best view" of the sign. But when it comes to taking money from those tourists — who pay up to $US1200/night to stay in their homes — they will heavily promote their location as "the single best view of the Hollywood Sign."
Not that I blame the homeowners for flaunting what they have got — of course they want to make money on their properties. But it's especially clear that the fault should not be placed upon the city for turning the area into tourist attraction. It would appear that these homeowners and their exceptional marketing skills are doing a great job creating plenty of interest in their famous neighbourhood and its most famous asset.