Wednesday, August 15th 2018

Save the Peak: An Effort to Protect the Hollywood Sign

There is a certain allure to the Hollywood sign.  Looming over Los Angeles in the center of what many Angelinos think is Griffith Park, it is a monument to one of the States’ greatest and most illustrious industry: moviemaking.

From: LAist's 'therealquarrygirl' on Flickr

The 138-acre parcel of land to the west of the sign was purchased in the 1940s by Howard Hughes as a gift for his fiancée, Ginger Rogers, with plans to build an estate on the Peak.  The plans fell apart, together with the relationship.  But, Hughes, and later his estate held on to the land until 2002 when a Chicago real estate investment group purchased the land and secured rights to build luxury estates on the Peak.   When the parcel was offered for sale in 2008 for $22 million, the Trust for Public Land got involved.

Having secured an option  to purchase the parcel by April and conserve its natural attributes, the TPL launched a campaign to Save The Peak, and unlike Ke$ha’s prank, actually managed to win the support of the public to raise funds.  If the TPL meets its fundraising commitment and exercises its option to purchase the prime parcel of real estate, it will turn it over to the Los Angeles Park Service so that it is conserved in perpetuity as a part of Griffith Park.

The TPL’s mission is important.  It is but one of  numerous land trusts across the country  that embrace the opportunity to preserve natural resources from land loss for future generations.  And, just as there are numerous land trusts, there are numerous methods of attaining the conservation goal and the benefits that inure to the donors.

The Land Trust Alliance explains:

The most traditional tool for conserving private land, a ‚Äúconservation easement‚ÄĚ (also known as a conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.

But, there are other methods available as well:

  • Resale of land once a conservation easement is in effect
  • Outright donation of land for conservation where ownership rights transfer to a land trust or other suitable owner, such as a government agency. Then, the full market value of the donated land is tax deductible as a charitable gift under the US Tax Code.
  • Bargain sale where a land owner sells land intended for conservation to a land trust at less than fair market value.¬† Benefits include: cash transfer to the owner, elimination of some capital gains taxes, charitable income tax deduction based on the value of the land between the bargain sale price and the assessed fair market value.
  • Donation with a Lifetime Income:¬† the donation results in the donor receiving charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts.¬† This is not the preferred method unless the landowner owns property which is highly appreciated.

If you are concerned about the unmitigated loss of open space in your own community, contact a local land trust or an attorney to learn more. The United States is losing land at an alarming rate, with more than 2 million acres of land lost every year to inappropriate development, according to a 2005 USDA/NRCS Natural Resources Inventory.  Because once land is lost or a habitat fragmented, it may take decades if not centuries for the land to recover, conservation easements protect vulnerable and essential habitats.  But to ensure expectations are properly managed and that all rights and responsibilities are properly explained, conservation easement transactions can become complex and can involve multiple tax issues. Nevertheless, they offer greater flexibility to property owners and conservationists in achieving conservation goals, and as a result, remain an essential tool in ensuring our natural environments prosper.

Posted by Krystyna on March 1, 2010 at 10:51am.

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