In a word: There’s a mostly hidden sliver of the Hollywood Heights neighborhood that drips with dew and is thick with trees, vines, and cottages. It’s ideal for those who enjoy peaceful wandering.
More words: Visiting the the High Tower section of the Hollywood Heights neighborhood feels like being transported to another country. Palms, sycamores, and bougainvillea burst from around every corner. The air is cool. There are no cars.
If an Italian village suddenly spring up in a rain forest, this is might be what it would look like.
It’s hard to believe, then, that it sits a mere 15 minute walk from Hollywood and Highland — possibly the most touristy place in all of L.A. outside of Disneyland.
Located in the larger Hollywood Hills area, the neighborhood is most famous as the setting of Marlow’s home in The Long Goodbye. But it isn’t just a movie set; it’s actually made up of a series of narrow paths and stairs that link a few apartments, a bunch of cottages, and several architecturally significant homes. There are no cars because there are no streets, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, cars park below and residents reach their hillside homes via a private elevator.
Visitors can ascend via a public stairway that begins on the east side of High Tower Drive:
The stairs lead to paths that are marked with street signs, but which feel more European than Californian. And without any traffic, the whole area has a hushed air. When I was there recently, the sound of footsteps and conversations among neighbors was often louder than the distant whoosh of a freeway.
The High Tower area has no shops, restaurants, or other destinations to bring in non-residents. That means no crowds. It also makes it ideal for wandering, pondering the romantic urban design, and experiencing perhaps the least stereotypically Los Angeles place in Los Angeles.
Further Reading: The High Tower area is featured in Secret Stairs, a collection of L.A. walking tours. KCET also ran a post on a walking tour in the neighborhood. In addition, L.A. Weekly ran a story on what it’s like to live in High Tower Court, the building made famous in The Long Goodbye.
— Jim Dalrymple II