First the Hollywood sign was switched up to read “Hollyweed.” Now some joker has gone and replaced hipsterdome's beloved Sunset Junction sign in Silver Lake with a sign commanding Intelligentsia customers and other visitors to “SAVE SILVERLAKE” and “VOTE YES ON MEAURE S.”
Controversially, “Silverlake” appears to be missing a space between “Silver” and “Lake,” in direct violation of a 2004 edict by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council.
Of course, this is not the work of a prankster. The sign belongs to Christine and Gareth Kantner, who own Cafe Stella and the entire terracotta-hued compound comprising Intelligentsia, the Cheese Store of Silverlake (sic) and Dean Leather Accessories.
For years, the Kantners have been fighting a proposed development across the street from their property — so it's not surprising that they're supporting Measure S, an anti-development ballot initiative (though it may not have an impact on that particular development). Junction Gateway, as the development is known, would take shape as a multistory, mixed-use building on the other side of Sanborn.
Initially, Junction Gateway was supposed to be made up of apartment units with retail on the ground floor. Last summer, there was some indication that the project might be changed to a boutique hotel.
Christine Kantner did not immediately respond to our request for a comment about the overhaul of the sign — and when the original might be making a comeback. When asked in August about her opposition to Junction Gateway, Kantner told us: “If the hotel was three stories with no balconies and mindful of the residents, then there'd be no problem. … Right now, we have a cruise ship parking at Sunset Junction.”
A creatively apocalyptic illustration, distributed by Christine Kantner last year, depicted the Sunset Junction sign being demolished by a front loader, promising “cultural annihilation” should the Junction Gateway project be approved.
Around that same time, she declared her support for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, now known as Measure S. Set for the March 7 citywide ballot, the measure aims to curb large-scale development by forcing the city to update and adhere to its general and community plans, which govern what types of buildings are allowed to be built where. The measure would place a two-year moratorium on all exemptions to the General Plan and would limit the types of exemptions in the future.
According to a spokesman for the Junction Gateway project, the proposed building would not be affected by Measure S, because developers are not seeking a zoning change or General Plan amendment.
Luke Klipp lives in Los Feliz, a short walk from the sign. He's a vocal opponent of Measure S, which he and others believe will exacerbate L.A.'s housing crisis, and says he found the sight disheartening.
“That sign is associated with the entirety of the neighborhood,” Klipp says. “It's a landmark. Anytime you see a story on Silver Lake, or a series of pictures of Silver Lake, you’re going to see the Sunset Junction sign. It’s iconic.”
Not everyone seems to mind.
“If the Kantners own the sign, I guess they can do what they want with it,” says Jerome Courshon, a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (though he's speaking here as a private citizen and not a representative of the council). “It's free speech.”
He did, however, note, “'Silver Lake' should be two words.”
Courshon says he supports Measure S: “Silver Lake has been descended upon by developers who have been systemically buying up properties to demolish them and build multimillion-dollar homes.”
Measure S is being spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit. According to campaign disclosure forms, AHF has spent more than $2.2 million campaigning for its anti-development measure. Much of the money appears to be going to billboards, which are now ubiquitous in the city.
AHF has long been a fan of the billboard, which it has used to promote condom use and STD testing. Most used a tongue-in-cheek, risqué sense of humor that some LGBT activists found offensive. One suggested dating websites such as Tinder and Grindr were breeding grounds for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Another asked, in Bernie Sanders' campaign font, “Feel the Burn?”
Now, all of AHF's billboards appear to have been converted to humorless, uniform “Yes on S” signs. According to Measure S opponents, there are more than 100 of these signs across Los Angeles – far more than for any political campaign in recent memory.
The Sunset Junction sign, meanwhile, is a different creature. Unlike campaign billboards, it does not state who paid for the sign.