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Showing posts with label Altadena Filming Committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Altadena Filming Committee. Show all posts

November 11, 2018

Altadena Filming Committee submits report on filming permit accountability

The Altadena Filming Committee has prepared a report addressing accountability in Los Angeles County’s filming permit approval and enforcement processes. The report was prepared in response to the issue raised most often to the Committee: the lack of accountability by County departments.

The report is the result of an 18-month committee effort reviewing the County’s official documents and interviewing the County officials and contractors responsible for filming permits. The report identifies gaps between the required duties and current practice. It concludes with findings intended to explain how accountability problems arise from those gaps and provides a set of recommendations intended to address them.

The Committee report lists the following findings:
  • The agency responsible for approving filming permit applications and assessing filming impact lacks enforcement authority and the agency with enforcement authority does not assess nor mitigate any disruptive impacts of filming.

  • The authority to regulate filming frequency is vested in a County ordinance, but no County department appears to take responsibility for enforcing the ordinance.

  • The Terms and Conditions of a filming permit provide County officials with limited options for enforcement of filming permit conditions. The choices are suspend, revoke, cancel, or amend the permit. Given the draconian nature of each option, these options are seldom applied.

  • None of the County departments was able to provide written documentation of its filming permit approval and enforcement policies. The information about permits comes from informal verbal responses that are often inconsistent.

Based on the Committee’s findings, the Committee made the following recommendations:
  • Unify the permit application evaluation and approval process into a single office.

  • Provide additional enforcement mechanisms that can be reasonably applied to enforce of filming permit conditions.

  • Require that the Permit Authority specify an on-set County representative who has been delegated the authority to enforce permit conditions.

  • Institute a program of documenting the County’s permit approval and enforcement policies.

The Filming Committee's report may be timely. According to the County's Film Liaison, Gary Smith, the County is preparing a revision to the County's filming-related ordinances. The Town Council has sent the report to Supervisor Barger with an appeal to help improve accountability on the part of the County departments.

The letter to Supervisor Barger and the Committee report are available on the Altadena Town Council Website

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.

February 26, 2018

Altadena Filming Committee posts a filming FAQ

The Altadena Town Council's Filming Committee has posted a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) document about filming in Altadena.

The FAQ provides Altadena Council members, neighbors and businesses a reference for how LA County runs its filming permit policies and processes. The FAQ also provides advice for those who may have concerns about a filming in their area.

The Altadena filming FAQ is the first document of its kind in the LA County. Until now there has not been a publicly available document that details how LA County manages and enforces filming permits.

Click here to accesses the FAQ.

The FAQ was prepared with information gathered from a year-long series of meetings with Los Angeles County officials. According to Anne Chomyn, Filming Committee Chair, the committee is continuing its work. "We will be updating the FAQ periodically as more information about location filming comes in."

The FAQ includes information on the following topics:
  • Who approves permits?
  • Are there any limits on filming?
  • What are permitted conditions and how are they enforced?
  • Who has access to the filming permit?
  • Are there Special Filming Conditions for Altadena?
  • Who gets notified about a film shoot?
  • What's the role of onsite law enforcement?
There's also a contact list for County officials who play a role in the film permitting and enforcement process.

It is recommended that anyone with questions should check the website for the latest version of the document.

August 4, 2017

CEO responds to Filming Committee Report: Effective remedy? Bland reassurance?

Back in the old school days, we would explain away any inexplicable coincidence with a standard refrain:
24 hours in a day. 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.
(The last phrase was always recited in unison.)
If you happen to be interested in the County's management of filming, consider this intriguing coincidence:
On May 2nd the County Supervisors instructed LA County Counsel "to review... and provide recommended ammendments to the County Code, as, to ensure...enforcement authority to address violations of the film permitting process..."

By pure chance, on June 20th, the Altadena Filming Committee submitted its End of Year Report. The report included recommendations that addressed issues and concerns about filming raised by Altadenans.
Here was an a rare opportunity for the Town Council to influence the formulation of new County Codes — after all, we are just forty thousand in a County of ten million. On June 21st, the Council voted to send the Filming Committee's report to Supervisor Barger. Barger then forwarded that report to the County CEO with the request that they review the report and provide their own inputs.

On July 5th, The County CEO sent a response to the Town Council. AltadenaFilming has obtained a copy of that letter thanks to the generous cooperation of the County's Film Liaison.*

In a nutshell, the CEO's letter said that the County will "take into consideration the Altadena Town Council Filming Committee's recommendations" and then provided "additional input" to be used in the amendment process.

Here is that 'input' excerpted directly from the CEO's letter:
  • The following is considered when evaluating a permit:
    1. Location, duration and frequency of filming at the hosting property, including historical use
    2. Location, duration and frequency of activity near the requested location, including parking areas
    3. Proximity of concurrent filming activities and other activities such as street maintenance
    4. Production company size, number of filming days requested and proposed activities, including parking
    5. Any other criteria that may be relevant to the specific situation
  • Generally, the CHP or the Sheriff are required for any filming in the Altadena area for safety and/or filming related activity, including parking.
  • FiImLA currently maintains notes regarding specific community issues, concerns or complaints related to such issues as generator placement and parking restrictions at specific locations.
  • FiImLA has a review process in place for frequently used properties. Properties of concern a re currently flagged in FiImLA's On-Line Permitting System (OPS) and requests to film at these locations require additional review and discussion with a FiImLA Operations Manager (OM). The OM will direct the FiImLA Coordinator to contact affected stakeholders to discuss the filming request, and determine next steps in addressing concerns or potential issues.
  • The County requires that a Community Filming Survey be done for film permit requests that film more than five consecutive days in a row or outside of the normal filming hours. The radius to be surveyed is established by FiImLA based on the location, filming activity, and parking requirements. It is the responsibility of the Production Company to conduct the survey and return the responses back to FiImLA with enough time for FiImLA to evaluate the survey package and make permit adjustments as necessary. FiImLA can arrange review of Community Film Surveys at their office.
  • Riders are issued for minor changes to a film permit. Riders are not used to authorize late night or all-night shoots.
The list corresponds to the current practices often described in public meetings by FilmLA and other County representatives. If taken at face value, these practices might just be sufficient to remedy all the issues raised in the Filming Committee's End of Year Report. If that were true, why bother amending the County Code?

But, are these current practices really effective?

Last year NBC4 reported that, in 2015, FilmLA received nearly 3,000 complaints about filming. And, at the Altadena Town Hall on Filming this past Spring, over a hundred community members turned out to raise concerns.

If current practices were effective, why so many issues and concerns?

The CEO's list may provide a clue. The items on the list are heavy on discretion and light of the specifics that determine permit content and approval. For example: They use different criteria, like filming frequency to evaluate a permit application, but how are those criteria used? How frequent is too frequent? Is the evaluation arbitrary? They say that a law officer is generally required on a shoot? What are the grounds for an exception? In those exceptional cases, who ensures filming conditions are met? They point out that community surveys are required, but does the methodology warrant a reliable result? They say they maintain notes about community issues, but what end do they serve? If these notes are part of the decision process, who ensures these notes are accurate?

Without constraining specifics, the film permitting process is open ended, and the CEO's 'additional input' amounts to little more that a recital of bland reassurances — essentially an appeal to trust the status quo.

How could we tell? Is the current practice, as described in the CEO's list, effective practice or bland reassurance? More importantly, how could a conscientious staff attorney in the County Counsel's office tell?

Getting a few facts would go a long way towards getting things right. If AltadenaFilming found itself in the difficult position of formulating fair-minded amendments to the County Code, here's a few things we would want to know about the "additional input":
  • Are the specifics described in governing documents? If not, why not?
  • Are these requirements on the permitting process or are just informal guidance?
  • If these are requirements, how does the County currently ensure all the listed activities are performed?
  • How does the County currently determine if current practice is effective?
  • How does the County currently determine if issues like those documented in the End of Year Report are the result of insufficient enforcement tools?
There's a point to those questions: You cannot enforce a rule if you don't know what it is. You cannot improve a rule unless unless you know its intent. And, you cannot know if a rule meets its intended purpose unless you assess its effectiveness.

No telling what pressures might be pressing of the County Counsel. Perhaps they will have the independence to examine the underlying film permitting process as part of their effort to amend the County code. If they do, we hope they make those discoveries publicly available — it would be a significant first step towards making the film permitting process more transparent.

* The County's Film Liasion manages the FilmLA contract. Among other duties, they are responsible for conducting annual performance reviews of FilmLA. The Office of the County Film Liaison has recently been moved from the County's CEO office of Office of Unincorporated Area Services to the Office of Economic Development Affordable Housing Division.

June 26, 2017

Altadena Filming Committee releases End of Year Report

The Altadena Filming Committee completed its End of Year Report. Following the release of the report, the Town Council approved a motion to send it to County Supervisor Barger.

The report is now available on the Altadena Town Council website.  Click here to view or download.

The report includes a summary of the committee's accomplishments, a listing of the undocumented policies and procedures that govern the approval and enforcement of filming permits, a summary of the inputs received from the community, an analysis of root causes for filming-related issues and set of recommendations for addressing these same issues.

In summary, the committee reported there is general community support for location filming in Altadena. However, film shoots have become problematic when "permit conditions are violated [or] when neighbors are not respected." Both a lack of accountability and a lack of transparency were highlighted as root causes. The recommendations in the report were formulated to address these issues, "so as to improve the experience of location filming for the neighbors of location hosts and to maintain a film-friendly environment."

It's worth remembering that, on May 2nd, the County Supervisors requested that LA County Counsel develop "recommended amendments to the County Code, as necessary, to ensure that County departments have the necessary enforcement authority to address violations of film permitting..."

It might just be the Altadena Filming Committee's End of Year Report arrived in time to provide inputs into LA County Counsel's recommended improvements to the County code.

May 13, 2017

Altadena Film Committee posts notes from the Town Meeting

Did you attend the Altadena Town Meeting on Filming?
Are you interested in seeing how the Film Committee documented the proceedings?

If so...  There's a couple bits of good news.
  • You officially have too much time on your hands.
  • The Filming Committee has posted meeting notes which are detailed enough to consume a respectable portion of your spare time.
The Committee's meeting notes are now on the Town Website.  Here'a link.

March 13, 2017

Altadena Filming Committee met with Local Film Production Professionals

The Altadena Filming Committee has recently released meeting notes from a session they held with a group of local film production professionals. The meeting notes are available on the Altadena Town Council web site.

The meeting was held it this past December. It is one in a series of consultative meetings the Committee is holding to get a better understanding of how the County manages the film permitting process as well as capture the questions and concerns that Altadeneans have about filming in the community.

The Committee posed the following questions to our local production pros:
  • In your view, what makes Altadena an attractive location for film shoots? In a related
    question: why is Altadena considered “film-friendly?”
  • What, if anything, might you suggest that would make Altadena a more popular filming location?
  • What, if anything, might you suggest to production companies to that might encourage neighbors to welcome a film shoot?
  • What, if anything, might you suggest, that would encourage film companies to patronize local businesses?
  • How might the film industry avoid overuse of some locations?
  • What, if anything, might you suggest to a community member who hosts film shoots?
  • If there happens to be a legitimate problem like a violation of a permit condition, what actions would you suggest for a concerned community member?
  • What are the most common problems caused by uncooperative neighbors? What remedies have you used in these cases?

The responses of our local film professionas, as captured in the minutes, were quite candid.

They explained why Altadena is a great place to work. They discussed a strong desire to make filming a positive experience. There was a genuine desire to be responsive to neighbor concerns in order to leave a welcoming neighborhood for the next shoot. They discussed the benefits and drawbacks for distributing payments as a means of obtaining neighborhood support. They expressed frustration at the negative impressions created by a crew that violates permit conditions like parking on area streets instead of at a base camp. The expressed concerns about the negative effects of overuse. They expressed frustration with the services provided by on-site law officers and pointed out how LA County enforcement compared unfavorably with LA City enforcement. They also offered constructive suggestions for addressing the concerns felt by some Altadeneans .

On balance the views expressed by our local film pros were balanced and expressed a strong desire for creating a positive and fair filming environment in our community. Click here to see the full meeting notes.

March 3, 2017

Altadena Town Hall: Filming in Altadena

The Altadena Filming Committee convened a Town Hall Meeting this past week at the Altadena Community Center. Over hundred Altadeneans turned out to ask questions and express concerns to expert panel about filming in the community.

The panel included a location manager and an experienced filming host as well as spokespersons from LA County services including FilmLA, LA County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol and the Department of the Public works. The meeting was also attended by representatives from Supervisor Barger's office.

The Altadena Filming Committee Chairwoman, Anne Chomyn, convened the meeting. Each panelist then made a brief presentation describing their role in on-location film shoots. The panel presentations were followed by audience questions and an open-floor discussion. Some attendees expressed supportive views about the benefits of filming. Others raised concerns, some very challenging, about a number of topics including permit enforcement, parking, traffic control and overuse. The panelists did their best to field these questions and concerns. On occasion the panel's answers did not satisfy some in the audience and the exchange of ideas became heated. As a result, the better part of the meeting was devoted to concerns. It's likely that a number of views supportive of filming were not expressed.

On balance the meeting was constructive.  Several panelist made it clear that they had a better idea of concerns that Altadeneans have about filming in the community. The also encouraged anyone with a question or issue to contact them. The method for providing that contact information was not discussed.

At the close of the meeting Chairwoman Chomyn, said the Altadena Filming Committee had obtained new information and that the committee will be discussing next steps.

You can reach the Altadena Filming Committee at

February 18, 2017

Altadena Filming Town Hall meeting: February 28th

Do you have any suggestions, opinions, questions, or concerns about filming in Altadena? Here’s a chance to talk to the people who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and listen to your suggestions.

The Altadena Filming Committee will be holding a TOWN HALL on Location Filming at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28, at the Altadena Community Center. The panel will include representatives from FilmLA, the Department of Public Works, the Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol. Also on the panel will be a Location Manager and a Location Host. There will be short talks and a Question and Answer period. Light refreshments will be served at 6:45 p.m.

All Altadenans are invited!

December 26, 2016

LA County Department of Public clarifies parking and traffic policy for filming permits

This past September, the Altadena Filming Committee met with representatives from the LA County Department of Public Works (DPW).   During that meeting, DPW representatives described the Department's policies used for setting the conditions for the filming permits issued by FilmLA.  They also discussed efforts to improve enforcement of permitted filming conditions.

Meeting minutes from that meeting have now been published to the Altadena Town Council Website. Click here to view the minutes .

Here's a few highlights from that meeting:
  • DPW is developing a standard set traffic management conditions for filming permits in Altadena and the rest of the LA County.
  • DPW uses the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as the basis for it traffic and parking policies.
  • DPW is aware of special traffic concerns on busy thoroughfares like New York Drive and Altadena Drive.  DPW is looking to establish policies that will alleviate future problems.
  • DPW is initiating a policy of routinely posting 'no parking signs' on both sides of a neighborhood street for permits issues in Altadena.
  • DPW is actively concerned about enforcement of permit conditions. DPW inspectors are visiting filming sites to ensure compliance with permitted filming condition. DPW is also working closely with the Altadena Sheriff.
  • DPW is very concerned and actively interest in filming permit enforcement. DPW now provides a direct contact number to a senior DPW manager who will address permit enforcement issues.
On a related note: The filming committee has started compiling a list of filming resources for Altadeneans looking for information about filming. The list is also available on the Town Council website. Here's a link.

August 31, 2016

FilmLA clarifies parking policy for the Altadena Filming Committee

The Altadena Filming Committee has recently received a few questions from the community about film crew parking in Altadena. The committee chair has reached out to Jennifer Morelos of FilmL.A., Inc. for clarification. Here's what the Committee learned.

Question: If film trucks take up the parking on one side of the street, can crew and cast parking take up the other side?

FilmL.A., Inc.: Production companies are allowed to request posting (i.e. no parking signs) only for working production vehicles. For example a grip truck or a picture car. The approved parking will be documented on the permit.

We do not allow cast and crew cars to be parked on area streets. The film permits for your area include the following condition: “No cast or crew parking on area streets”. Consequently, production companies must either park their crew cars and personal cars in an off-site parking lot, or inside the property that is hosting the shoot.
AF: While the permit condition “No cast or crew parking on area streets” does appear on the filming permit, it does not typcially appear on the FilmLA doorhanger notification. However, the actual filming permit with all filming conditions is available to the public on request at the location.

Question: Can production companies request and be approved for posting no parking signs on both sides of the street?

FilmL.A., Inc.: We will not approve a request for posting both sides of the street if the purpose of that request is just for parking.

However, we do allow posting on both sides for getting a specific picture or if there is a safety concern — for example, the road is narrow or winding or if there's a placement near hydrants or red curbs. But these are exceptions and require approval by the Roads Division in the LA County Department of Public Works. If parking on two sides of the street is permitted, it must be staggered so that the trucks do not directly face each other. These requests are rare.

When we do allow posting on both sides of the street, we add the following condition to the filming permit: "Equipment staging and vehicles may park on one side of the street only.”

Question: If it appears that parking conditions are not met, what would you advise?

FilmL.A., Inc.: Contact us. If there's a FilmLA Monitor on site, please call the violation to the Monitor's attention. In the unlikely event that the production does not comply with the conditions, we can ask on-site Law Officers help to ensure compliance. In the worst case, we can even withdraw the filming permit.
AF: FilmLA does not require a Monitor for every shoot. Monitors are assigned to depending on the size and scope of production and/or neighborhood sensitivity. Similarly, a law enforcement officer may or may not be assigned to a shoot. If no FilmLA monitor or on-site law enforcement officer is available, contact FilmLA directly on the 24/7 line: 213-977-8600. Alternatively you can contact our FilmLA's representative for Altadena, Arturo Pina (213-977-8642,

Note: Jennifer Morelos of FilmLA, Inc. reviewed this posting and suggested changes. Any remaining errors were introduced by your poster, Kenny Meyer.

August 5, 2016

Altadena's new Filming Committee

Altadena now has an Altadena Filming Committee.

The committee was formed last spring when Town Council Chairwoman, Diane Marcussen invited Anne Chomyn (chair), Pat Sutherlan, Janet Lee and Kenny Meyer to participate. Anne Chomyn (CT 4601), Pat Sutherlan (4611) and Jennifer Lee (CT 4612) are members of the Town Council. The committee plans to recruit members of the community on an ad hoc basis to help out on specific items.

The committee held its first meeting on June 15 at the Altadena Community Center. The meeting was attended by representatives of Supervisor Antonovich's Office, Department of Public Works, The Sheriff's Department, The California Highway Patrol and FilmLA.

Altadena Filming Committee welcomes representatives from state, county, community, and  FilmLA.
From Center Top, clockwise around the table: Daniel Harlow, Sussy Nemer, Barbara Childers, Edel Vizcarra, Jennifer Lee, Greg Graham, Officer Rich Vega, Anne Chomyn, Sgt. Earnie Amaya, Officer Michael Ulloa, Sgt. Waterman, Officer Kristi Cardoza, Jennifer Morelos, Arturo PiƱa, Patricia Sutherlen
After a round of introductions, Anne Chomyn opened the discussion by describing the committee's initial goals as follows:
  1. Work with LACO agencies to help resolve filming-related problems
  2. Work with FilmLA and Altadena neighbors to help promote fairness in frequently used areas
The main topic of the meeting was FilmLA's filming permitting process. Jennifer Morales, FilmLA's Manager of Permit Operations provided a detailed description of FilmLA's overall organization and the part each division plays in the permitting process. FilmLA's Arturo Pina (our local representative) filled in valuable fine points.

The last portion of the meeting was devoted to questions about the enforcement of permit conditions. Sgt Waterman of the Altadena Sheriff and Officer Kristi Cardoza of the CHP provided an overview of the role of the on-site officer and how he or she is selected for a specific assignment.

Anne Chomyn closed the meeting with an announcement of the plans for future meetings. The committee will convene monthly to address any issues that arise. In addition, the committee will conduct quarterly consultative meetings and public meetings. The consultative meetings will be focused on topic and will include representatives of the various county services as well as community members. The public meetings will provide an information exchange forum for the discussion and resolution of filming topics of interest to the community.

The topic of the next meeting: traffic and parking. The committee plans to meet with representatives of LACO Public Works.

As a final note, Anne Chomyn said she would invite inputs for items of interest from any member of the entire Altadena community. You can reach Anne Chomyn or any member of the Altadena Filming Committee at committee's email address:

The meeting minutes are available online at the Altadena Town Council Website