A Makeover for a Beloved Tourist Destination

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Ask most anyone around the world to imagine Hollywood, or even Los Angeles, and they’ll probably think first of the Hollywood sign. Next might come sights along Hollywood Boulevard: the iconic stars of the Walk of Fame; the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s) at night, lit by spotlights painting the dark sky above; classic movie stars slinking into the Musso & Frank Grill for an ice-cold martini.

That’s why tourists often make Hollywood Boulevard one of their first stops in Los Angeles. With about 38 million visitors a year, the area known as the Hollywood Entertainment District is one of the region’s most visited destinations, outpacing even Disneyland, visited by about 16.8 million people in 2022.

When they arrive, though, the reality may not match the fantasy.

As Angelenos will loudly attest whenever they head toward Hollywood Boulevard for a concert or a centrally located happy hour, traffic there is often at a standstill, and people in the midst of mental health or substance-use episodes wander down the crowded sidewalks. Restaurants catering to tourists blast music, and costumed sales workers hawk discount souvenirs or bus tours, resulting in a cacophony. And about 30 percent of the commercial space in the entertainment district is vacant — a 40-year problem, according to Kathleen Rawson, the president and chief executive of the Hollywood Partnership, the nonprofit that manages the area’s business improvement district.

“Hollywood has had a stigma for quite some time,” Rawson said.

But city officials hope that a plan aimed at making Hollywood Boulevard more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists could help turn that around — ideally before Los Angeles hosts the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics.

The plan — named “Access to Hollywood,” because, one assumes, the allusion was right there — would use $8 million in public money to expand sidewalks and add bus lanes, protected bike lanes and designated turning lanes to a 3.6 mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard extending from West Hollywood to Los Feliz. Pedestrian safety is a key goal: Right now, the thoroughfare is among the 6 percent of city streets in Los Angeles that account for 70 percent of the city’s deaths and severe injuries to walkers. Outdoor dining spaces along the boulevard will also be expanded.

“We know when people come here and they stay here and they shop here, they’re going to spend their money here,” said Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez, who is spearheading the project and whose district encompasses most of the area. “They are going to make businesses more vibrant and make this truly the street that it should be: a world-class destination.”

Hollywood boosters, including Rawson and Soto-Martinez, hope that the transportation improvements will be the beginning of a broader revitalization of Hollywood Boulevard that could involve shutting the street to traffic more regularly, creating a pedestrian-friendly public space.

Rawson said other small improvements could make a big difference in encouraging visitors to spend time in the area. For example, she said, she hopes to raise money to pay for power-washing the Walk of Fame daily, rather than just twice a week. The boulevard has relatively few street trees; last year, the group planted 75. In the future, she said, she could envision more events on the street geared to both tourists and residents, like an outdoor World Cup watch party.

“We are dealing with the raw material here in this neighborhood that is prime for a little love and care,” she said. “The streetscape improvement plan is an amazing start to that.”

Steve Nissen, the chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which founded the Walk of Fame, said Hollywood Boulevard, like so many entertainment districts around the country, had cycled through highs and lows. While he acknowledged that recent years had been tough, he added, “We are now on a great upswing.”

He noted that Netflix, which already had an enormous office and studio footprint in Hollywood, recently spent $70 million to restore the century-old Egyptian Theater on the boulevard — the site of Hollywood’s first movie premiere event, in 1922.

The St. Francis Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, built in 1926, was once the heart of Hollywood. The photographer Penny Wolin’s book “Guest Register” captures the spirit of the hotel through pictures of its residents.

Wolin took the photos nearly 50 years ago, when she was 21 and stayed at the hotel for three weeks, NPR reports. She wanted to learn more about the kinds of people who were living in a hotel that had once been famous for its movie-star glamour. She describes the St. Francis as “an existential place.”

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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