The land on which the Hollywood sign sits was once owned by Howard Hughes but was sold a few years ago to a group of Chicago investors. Last year, the land had been targeted as a potential site for luxury homes or a posh new hotel. As an alternative, the developers offered to sell the 138 acres to the city for $12.5 million, but the money had to be handed over this week. $11.5 million was donated by celebrities and studios Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, Sony, NBC Universal, and Warner Bros. Hugh Hefner (founder of Playboy Magazine) donated the remainder of the money needed to save the beloved sign. It is interesting to note that Mr. Hefner also donated money in 1978 to help rebuild the sign when it fell into disrepair.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzengger was thrilled at the outcome and said he was "proud we were able to come together and create a public-private partnership to protect this historic symbol that will continue to welcome dreamers, artists and Austrian bodybuilders for generations to come." The 138 acres of landscape will be donated to Los Angeles County and will be included in wildlife area that is home to endangered species and a beloved hiking spot because of its 360-degree view of the valley that is adjacent to the sign.
As a Californian, I too am thrilled at the outcome. Crowding the Hollywood sign with buildings would have not only marred an otherwise beautiful landscape, but would have irreparably damaged an American icon.