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May 10, 2016

A better approach


You have a fancy new sports car. You take it out on the road. Drives like a dream. You step on it. The other cars appear to move in slow motion. The road becomes a slalom and you weave in and out gracefully. Then you hear it. The siren. The flashing blue lights in the review view. You over pull over, grab your wallet and roll down your window.

"May I see your license please," says the officer. You produce your license. He examines it.

"Is something wrong officer?"

"You were speeding, weaving in and out. Driving recklessly. That can cause an accident," he says.

"No worries," you reply with relief. "I have a high-performance car and it's perfectly safe."

"If you say so," says the officer. He hands back your license. "In the future do consider driving slower with a bit more courtesy to the other drivers."

"Thanks officer," you say. "I'll keep that in mind."

Life is good.

Or imagine this...

It's Fall. Property taxes are due. They want a big chunk of change. Didn't you pay taxes just last year? What you really need is a breather. Ten mellow days in Ensenada should do it. You skip the taxes and take the trip.

It's Spring. A letter arrives from the LA County Tax Collector. They want you to call. After a 20 minutes of the soothing tones of Pachelbel, a representative picks up.

"How may I help you today?"

"I'm calling about a letter," you say.

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience," says the representative. "We send a tax notice to every property owner in the County." You recite your Assessor Information Number. There's a lengthy silence. "Sorry for the wait. Our computers are slow, " he says. The moments pass. "OK," he says, "I see here that you did not pay the taxes for the last year."

"Yes. That's right. We decided to go on vacation instead of paying our taxes," you say.

"I understand," says the representative. "In the future, I hope you'll bear us in mind. The County's critical services like the Sheriff Department and the Fire Department depend on your taxes."

"Next year I'll keep that in mind," you say.

"We appreciate that," replies the representative.

Life is good.

Paul Audley, President FilmLA
Link to NBC4 video report (04:00 - 04:17)
Link to the NBC4 full story with map (zoom out)
Preposterous? That's what I thought until I saw a recent report of NBC4 that included an interview with Paul Audley, President of FilmLA.

The NBC4 report covered concerns that some residents of Encino are having about frequent filming and parking problems that frequent filming create. This despite language in the LA City zoning plan which states "property in all zones may be used for infrequent filming."

Here's a snipet from the NBC4 report:

NBC4 Reporter: "Exactly what does infrequent mean...none of us seem to know."

Mr. Audley: "Infrequent means different things in different parts of the city. We don't wait until it's a crisis. We try to intervene earlier and ask the homeowner who's doing the filming to take longer breaks between or to cease filming for a period of time to allow the neighborhood to rest."
I find this reassuring. So what if only Mr. Audley knows what "infrequent" means, clearly he does. And it's gratifying to know that crises have been avoided by simply asking the hosting homeowner if it's OK to cease filming. After all, that places the film permitting authority right where it belongs — in the home where the filming will occur. Someone should tell the folks in in Encino. They could probably use some reassurance.

Do you see the underlying brilliance to this approach? What if FilmLA's approach to enforcement of "infrequent filming" became the model for all County services. We could simply rely on ourselves and our fellow citizens to adhere and enforce our government's regulations. No longer will there be a need for all those expensive enforcement services. Do we really need people handing out speeding tickets and collecting taxes? And, who needs a filming permit service? Heck, we'll just take a break and cease filming when we need to.

Life would be good.

What if all county services were run like FilmLA?

1 comment:

  1. I received the following comment on NextDoor. It seemed worthy of a cross-post.

    "It would be nice if people could be more conscious of infringement on others where there are also benefits for civil services monetarily. (or to private individuals.) In Pasadena, at least, property owners benefit from the filming, and there is a petition process that is supposed to be used to obtain sufficient approval within neighborhoods. -- I will say that I frequent a particular church nearby where it seems there is CONSTANT filming. I find this particularly ironic. Like every time I want to make a stop on my way home. So, yes, from what I take from the link, I think there's a conscious and responsibility and even "right" for people to assert when it infringes on their enjoyment or use of facilities."

    Here's a few factoids related to the comment:

    * Pasadena has its own filming coordination office. FilmLA does not issue filming permits for Pasadena.

    * Occasionally, FilmLA will require a survey of neighbors before a filming permit is issued. (Here's a link to the survey: It's not documented, but it appears that the survey is conducted by the filming companies. The first phrase of the FilmLA neighborhood survey reads: "This survey is not a request for approval of filming activities." (i.e. no neighborhood consent is required.) The guideline for this survey suggests that it be distributed to residents within "300 feet of filming activities and/or within 200 feet of equipment parking." Completed surveys are turned in to FilmLA for their evaluation. FilmLA does not report the results of these surveys.

    * Pasadena requires that signatures be obtained from neighbors "affected by filming or parking in front of their property." However, consent of the neighbors is not required unless the filming runs past 7p. After 7p, 51% consent is required for neighbors within 300 ft. After 10p, before 7a, 90% is requred. On Saturday and Sunday, 75% is required.

    * In addition to the neighborhood survey, FilmLA also has online survey. The purpose of the survey is to collect data about FilmLA's ability to resolve complaints. (i.e they only want survey data from neighbors who have already called in a concern -- don't do the survey if you haven't called.) If you saw the NBC4 complaint map for LA City, that data on that map is derived from this online survey. (see

    * Pasadena permit fees are the highest in the area. Altadena permit fees are 2nd highest. (see

    * FilmLA is "self-funded" with permit fees. (see i.e. Altadena permit fees pay for FilmLA and not county services.

    * Pasadena has a filming frequency rule: filming at a single site is restricted to six days per quarter for a maximum of 24 days per year in a residential area.

    * The area near the churches near the corner of Woodbury and Lake is one of the most frequently filmed areas in Altadena. You can get a general idea of filming frequency in Altadena by checking the Altadena Filming Permit Map (