Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced a $900,000 donation from Hugh Hefner of Playboy Enterprises closed the gap on their Save the Peak campaign to buy 138 acres of pristine hillside beside the famed HOLLYWOOD sign from developers. At a press conference just below the peak, they announced that the parcel would be preserved and annexed to Griffith Park.
"This is a great day for all of us. I have climbed Mt. Hollywood every morning for over 30 years and look forward to hiking Cahuenga Peak with anyone who wants to join me," Councilmember LaBonge said. "This would not have happened without the Trust for Public Land, the Hollywood Sign Trust and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Very special thanks to a man who, like me, loves nature, loves people and provided great strength to bring us to this point, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."
Gov. Schwarzengger, an early supporter of the protection effort, said, “Of all the iconic landmarks in the world, the Hollywood Sign is truly one of the most recognizable symbols of the California dream and land of opportunity. It called to me when I left Austria and made my way to the U.S., with a few dollars in my pocket and the dream of becoming an actor. I am 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.”
Added TPL President Will Rogers: “Today, we have the Hollywood ending we hoped for and now this land will be forever protected by adding it to Griffith Park. We want to thank all the donors who so generously helped us, but we owe a particular thanks to Hugh Hefner, who stepped forward at the end to close the final gap.”
Councilmember LaBonge had set aside $4.3 million in public park funding over the past eight years to purchase the hillside property called Cahuenga Peak. In 2008, developers put the land on the market for $22 million and advertised it as a great location for luxury housing. Last year, the Councilmember partnered with TPL, which made an agreement with the owners to buy the land for $12.5 million to expand Griffith Park. The effort has attracted donations from Hollywood stars, inspired an outpouring of support from the local community and drawn media attention from around the world.
Chris Baumgart, Chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust, said, “The Sign you see today exists because Hugh Hefner raised the money in 1978 to re-build it. Now, 32 years later, the Sign’s no. 1 fan has come forward again with the closing gift to ‘Save the Peak’ and thus the view of Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign. It is a view that is recognized around the world as the icon of the entertainment industry and the postcard of the Southern California lifestyle. The Hollywood Sign Trust and admirers from around the world thank Tom LaBonge for believing and not giving up and Hugh Hefner for carrying our efforts across the finish line.”
The fundraising campaign was launched over President’s Day weekend when the Hollywood sign was covered temporarily with the message Save the Peak. The two earliest and largest donors to this effort were Los Angeles philanthropist Aileen Getty and the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
“I thank Hugh Hefner and Aileen Getty for their critical contributions, along with everyone whose generous spirit moved them to join the campaign to save one of America’s most famous urban spaces,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co. “The threat to its existence underscores the need for partnerships like ours with TPL who can work together to protect our cultural assets for future generations.”
Ms. Getty, a long-time Hollywood resident, said, "I'm proud to have supported TPL's efforts in conserving this magical place. With all of the needs facing our urban communities today, this successful effort reminds us that we also need beauty, green spaces, trails and parkland to prepare our communities for a healthy, more livable future."
Joseph T. Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said, "The protection of this land is something which will provide an enormous benefit to people in Los Angeles, both now and for generations to come. And it wouldn't have happened without Gov. Schwarzengger's leadership, and with help from TPL. This project has shown a welcome spotlight on the need to protect open lands in Los Angeles."
Hollywood leaders donated $3.2 million, including major donations from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CBS Corporation, The Entertainment Industry Foundation, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, the Lucasfilm Foundation, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Steven Spielberg, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Time Warner Inc., and The Walt Disney Company Foundation. Other Hollywood contributors include Creative Artists Agency, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Norman Lear.
In addition to headline-grabbing larger donations, community activists also sold baked goods, held a rally and sponsored a concert at a Sunset Strip nightclub to raise money for this grassroots campaign that attracted international support. Many area neighborhood groups also donated, including the Argyle Civic Association, the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association, the Cahuenga Pass Property Owners Association, the Hollywood Dell Civic Association, the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, the Hollywood Knolls Community Club, the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council, the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association, the Lake Hollywood Homeowners Association, the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Mt. Olympus Property Owners Association, the Oaks Homeowners Association, the Spaulding Square Neighborhood Association, the St. Andrews Square Neighborhood Association and the Whitley Heights Civic Association.