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Zev, homeowner bark as Public Works balks

The battle on Tower Grove is growing hotter as the Los Angeles Board of Public Works has again postponed a decision on whether to allow filming at an opulent mansion that has been at the center of a small political firestorm.

“So far the city has cost me $ 25,000 to $ 30,000 in location fees,” said Mark Slotkin, who owns the house at 1400 Tower Grove, up the road from the Beverly Hills Hotel. “I now plan on filing a lawsuit against the city as soon as the film permit issue is resolved.”

Slotkin’s chief opponent, L.A. City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, countered that the city attorney and the city’s building department are looking into filing charges against Slotkin for illegal commercial use of the house.

“We now have evidence that Mr. Slotkin is renting his house out as a social hall,” Yaroslavsky said. “He’s denied it, but his word is worthless. A former employee called us after reading the first stories about this problem and sent us a copy listing some two dozen events that he rented his house out for last year. That is illegal and we have a problem with that.”

Slotkin, who maintains his innocence, said Yaroslavsky’s problems with his use of his house have nothing to do with issuing film permits at the site.

“What I do with my house for freedom of assembly is my business,” Slotkin said. “Whatever he (Yaroslavsky) is alleging that I’m doing has nothing to do with holding my film permits hostage, but that’s what he’s doing.”

The fight heated up earlier this month (Daily Variety, March 10) when the city revoked a film permit that had been issued for the TV show “Burke’s Law,” a location shoot for which Slotkin would have been paid $ 10,000. Since that time, Slotkin contends that he’s lost other filming business because of the brouhaha.

The city’s film permit office, sitting in the midst of the fight, has recommended that there be no restrictions placed on filming at the house. If there are to be filming restrictions, the recommendation is for 12 permits (and up to 24 days of filming) per year.

In 1993, film crews used the house for a total of nine days.

The city’s Board of Public Works, meanwhile, postponed a decision on Friday pending safety reports done on the area by police and fire officials.

“Our problem with Mr. Slot-kin is not about us looking to stop filming in that area,” Yaroslavsky said. “We promote filming in this city and all we’re asking is that Mr. Slotkin be a decent neighbor. But he’s thumbed his nose at the neighbors and there have been several instances where there are 300 to 500 people at the house, with their cars blocking this small, winding road. If a fire truck or paramedics were not able to get up the road because Mr. Slotkin has the road blocked, then the city could be liable.”

As part of reinstating film permits at the house, the city is looking for a commitment from Slotkin to keep film crews parked on his own property and for notification anytime he holds parties with more than 50 people.

Slotkin said he had agreed to limit parking to his property during filming but is vehement that any parties at his house are not related to issuance of film permits. He contends that his civil rights are being damaged by the city’s using film permits as leverage in this fight.

Yaroslavsky contends that the issue is easily resolvable. Slotkin “can have parties at his house as long as he doesn’t charge for them,” he said. “And as long as he gives us a little heads-up when he’s going to have a party so we can be prepared.”

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