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September 5, 2018

Altadena Filming Committee raises concerns about County CEO inputs to new filming ordinance

LA County is in the process of revising its filming ordinance. The revision was requested by the Board of Supervisors in in May 2017.

According to the County's Film Liaison, Gary Smith, "The goal of the revisions is to clarify language as it relates to enforcement of permit conditions, criteria used to approve permits, and other areas of the Code that will strengthen the County’s role in facilitating responsible filming." This could be the first major revision to the principal filming ordinance1 in nearly 30 years.

The revisions to the County code could be of special interest to Altadeneans since District 5 is the busiest filming district in the County and Altadena is the busiest filming township in District 5. (see First look: permit data for unincorporated communities in LA County)

The Town Council has recently posted correspondence between the Filming Committee and the LA County CEO about the new ordinance. In that exchange, the Committee raised issues about a letter signed by Jim Jones, the CEO's Chief Operation Officer. The Committee was concerned that this letter from the CEO might mislead the County officials who are drafting the new ordinance.

The Committee's response called out the following areas of concern:
  • The CEO's letter stated that law enforcement was required for any filming in Altadena. The committee was concerned that the authors of the new ordinance might misunderstand the CEO and conclude that the presence of a law officer was a sufficient to enforce permit conditions.

  • The CEO's letter listed criteria used for evaluating and enforcing a filming permit. Those evaluation criteria included considerations of duration, proximity, frequency and "any other criteria relevant." The Committee noted that the criteria and methods used for permit approval and enforcement were not documented and subject to being inconsistent and unfair. Consequently, the committee was concerned that these listed criteria might be mistakenly perceived to be sufficient to address known permit violations.

  • The CEO's letter stated that Community filming surveys are required when filming is requested beyond normal hours. 2 The Committee noted that Community members have raised numerous complaints that the surveys are perfunctory and unresponsive. The committee was concerned that these surveys may be mistakenly perceived as effective methods for assessing the concerns of nearby residents and businesses.
The Committee's letter concluded with a request to meet with the CEO for the purpose of drafting a follow-on memo that would prevent possible misunderstandings from influencing the draft of the new ordinance.

Gary Smith, the County's Film Liaison, responded to the Filming Committee. He pointed out that the CEO inputs were only intended to clarify current procedures. They were not recommendations. He went on to say that FilmL.A. responds to complaints in a "timely and constructive manner." He also clarified that law enforcement is not required for all filming and that Community surveys are always required when normal hours are exceeded or "the filming conditions might have detrimental impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods."

The entire correspondence between the CEO and the Altadena Filming Committee is available at

A final note of special interest: According to Mr. Smith, the draft revision of the filming ordinance will be ready fpr public comment early next month. There are supposed to be public meetings. Perhaps there will be a meeting in Altadena.

Stay tuned.

1 Chapter 2.118 - Filming Permit Coordination Office, Ord. 90-0093 § 3, 1990.)
2 Board policy 3.125 states the hours are 7a-10p.

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