Warner Bros. Plans To Take Over LA's Skies (With A Hollywood Sign Sky Tram)

Hollywood Skyway concept art
Concept art of the Hollywood Skyway, a proposal by Warner Bros. to take visitors from their Burbank lot up to the Hollywood Sign. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

From the proposed Dodger Stadium gondola to an exploration of flying Ubers, the battle is on to dominate Los Angeles' skies (there's also a play for the underground — see: hyperloop, Boring Company).

The latest entrant in the quest to create our future transportation options: Warner Bros.

The idea from the company behind Harry Potter movies and Bugs Bunny: They want to build an aerial tram, dubbed "the Hollywood Skyway," according to a statement from the company. It would go from their Burbank headquarters up to the Hollywood sign.

WB's concept art shows people of all ages riding the tram, looking with wonder at... the back side of the hill, as they head up toward the sign. The ride would be around a mile long and take about five minutes, according to a Warner Bros. spokesperson.

Their pitch: Warner Bros. says they'll pay for the whole thing at no cost to the taxpayer. They presented the plan yesterday to L.A.'s Rec & Parks department and the Bureau of Engineering.

The likely cost would be around $100 million, according to a source. They would pay for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the sky tram, Warner Bros. said.

Warners says their skyway would reduce street congestion, improve safety, and ease frustrations felt by the sign's neighbors.

Sweetening the deal, Warner Bros. is offering revenue sharing with the city to help pay for programming and other efforts in Griffith Park. So they're opening their wallets as they try to get visitors to open theirs, given that this would add to to the studio tour and other visitor opportunities already in place at the Warner Bros. lot.

How Would The Proposal Affect The Environment?

One potential pitfall could be environmental concerns — particularly given the wildlife the park plays home to — but they've attempted to allay those. They say that the tram will be "eco-friendly."

"Given our close proximity to the north side of the Hollywood sign, we believe we offer a solution that has the least impact on the environment — protecting and preserving Griffith Park — and the surrounding residential neighborhoods," Warner Bros. said in their statement.

"A new surge of visitors a gondola would deliver creates even more risks and pressures on already-stressed habitat and wildlife," preservation group Friends of Griffith Park said in a statement. The group "also wants to underscore that the Skyway proposal does not solve the issue of local public access to Griffith Park, including areas adjacent to the Hollywood Sign."

They pointed out that the proposal doesn't answer how to provide public access for hikers and other local residents. The group says it wants to maintain the existing red access to the park while protecting sensitive wilderness areas.

"[Friends of Griffith Park] recognizes that many tourists merely want to get a good photo of the Hollywood Sign," the group said in its statement, "and remains committed to solutions which are in balance with the immeasurable value that a rich wilderness area with free public access brings to citizens of Los Angeles."

More Of The Potential Benefits

They have competition from other who've proposed their own solutions to get people to the Hollywood Sign in a better way, but they assert that they believe the city's feasibility study will point to the Warners solution as the best one.

Warner Bros. says that services like Uber and Waze have increased congestion in the area, noting the impact those problems have on the park and the neighborhood around the Hollywood Sign. They also instilled some urgency, noting that tourism continues to grow with the L.A. tourism board expecting 50 million visitors by 2020, with the 2028 Olympics making things even worse. It's one small step to keep L.A. traffic from becoming an Olympic event.

They're also pitching it as an education tool, with the tram telling visitors about Griffith Park's environmental importance along with the history of the sign at a proposed education center to be built at the top of the Skyway.

What's Next?

So how will you get there? The company has property on Forest Lawn Drive, which it says will offer a transit hub linking to shuttles, biking, carpooling, and buses.

Warner Bros. says the plan is still in its early stages. They promise a "listening tour" of city departments, neighborhood residents, and environmental groups as they start the design process.

If it happens, when could we expect to see the tram high overhead? Even under ideal circumstances, it would take five years from whenever they get a green light, according to a Warner Bros. spokesperson. That includes an automatic three or so years for the environmental impact report and other parts of the official process, followed by what the company estimates will be two years to build the sky tram — and that's barring any further unforeseen delays.

Stay tuned to see if they can beat Jetsons flying cars to market with their proposed tram.

A report previously commissioned by City Council District 4 pointed to a sky tram as a potential solution to problems around the Hollywood sign. Warner Bros. cited it in their statement. You can read the full report below:


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