After Big Boost in State Incentives, L.A. Shifts Attention to Resolving Production Hassles

With a hefty boost in the state’s film and TV incentives signed and sealed, Los Angeles city council members on Tuesday took a number of steps to resolving permitting and bureaucratic issues to try to make filming in city limits a bit smoother.

The tax credit program, which is more than tripling in size, is expected to bring an increase in production to Los Angeles. But attempts to streamline rules and regulations have been met with some opposition and friction from residents near popular shooting locations.

“We want to make sure that people make the decision to shoot here in the city and not go to outlying areas,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the ad hoc committee on film and TV jobs. “That being said, what comes with that will be greater impacts on some of our neighborhoods, especially popular residential neighborhoods that see a lot of filming now because of their look. That is an issue now we are going to have to manage, but I think we have to strike that balance even now.”

On Tuesday, the ad hoc committee, which also includes Councilmen Curren Price and Mitch O’Farrell, voted in favor of drawing up an ordinance that would extend a waiver of certain fees for shooting on many city-owned locations. The fee waiver, which was put in place in 2010, expired on June 30. The council members are proposing that it be made retroactive and extend through 2019. About $1.8 million in fees have been waived since it was put in place.

Officials from several city agencies told the committee that they are taking steps to try to make it easier for filmmakers. The Department of Recreation and Parks is hiring additional film monitors in an effort to reduce delays in scheduling or approving location shoots. The Department of Water and Power is reopening the Hollywood reservoir to filming, after being off limits because of security concerns, although permitting to that site and other locations will be on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Transportation is looking ways to be more flexible in how it issues parking restriction signs.

O’Farrell, meanwhile, proposed that city departments gather a comprehensive list of city-owned properties that could be used by filmmakers for location shoots and base camps, and that information be shared with FilmLA, which issues city and county shooting permits.

Another concern has been over the disruption of film sets, including demands by residents near a location for payment or they will try to block a shoot. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, they responded to 197 calls for service at film locations in 2013, and 16 were for reports of “interference” of a production. That compares to 69 calls in 2010, and three reports of “interference.” An LAPD official attributed part of the uptick to an effort to educate producers of their option of calling the department when problems arise.

And as much as city council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti have been trying to market the city as more film friendly, some neighborhoods are not as bullish over the prospect of extended hours for shooting. The Downtown Neighborhood Council recently announced its opposition to a proposal to extend filming hours in the heart of the city, a popular filming location.

“Downtown is such a popular area for location shoots,” Krekorian said. “It has a wealth of great locations, historic buildings and traditionally it was an area that never got neighbor complaints because there weren’t any neighbors. It wasn’t a residential area. Well, downtown has dramatically changed over the last 15 or so years. Now you have a significant residential population there. So that tension between the neighborhood and the industry has greatly intensified.

“We have to look closely at meeting the needs of those who live there, but we also can’t be so restrictive that we are going to lose production jobs because of unnecessary constraints,” he added.

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