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Showing posts with label Permits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Permits. Show all posts

March 22, 2016

Cost of a film permit in Altadena. Is it cheap?

Ever wonder what a filming permit cost in Altadena? I began to wonder when, with a little help, I came across this filming permit for a 2-day film shoot that took place about a year ago.

What do these charges mean?

What are "road use fees," "permit rider fees" and "road encroachment fees" anyway? They are nearly as mysterious as those bizarre charges on our phone bills. (Can anyone out there explain the "Broadcast TV Surcharge" or the "Regulatory Video Cost Recovery Charge?") And what about the FilmLA's tried-and-true $650 "permit application fee?" How's that fit into the bargain? Is that an upper on the the tidy sum of $1,658? Did this company have fork over $2,300 in permit fees? Regrettably, I don't know.
Side note: Pity the poor Location Manager or production person who must fill out the film permit application. It is a job that could only bring joy to your inner bureaucrat. If by some remote chance you are lucky enough to have never seen one, here's your chance. Just click on this link to the FilmLA filming permit application.
No doubt due to some personality defect, I wanted to know what all those charges meant. Last week I contacted our FilmLA contact, Arturo Pina and our LACO supervisor representative asking for information about these fees. Arturo responded that he didn't know but that the FilmLA operations manager who was "expert in these things" will get back to me." (A familiar refrain) I also asked a Location Manager. He didn't know. For the moment, these charges remain a mystery.

Meanwhile, I got curious about how our unincorporated LA County filming fees might compare to fees in other jurisdictions in LA County. Surely it must be cheaper in Altadena... Right?

Being a belt and suspenders type, I spent 20 rigorous minutes of web surfing and discovered some permit fee rates for a few nearby local governments; governments who run their own film permitting operations.

The following table is a highly unofficial summary of some filming permit fees in our general area.
Note: if you happen to be someone who can't read blurry microscopic type, you can get a bigger view by mousing over the document frame and clicking on the box with the arrow in the upper right-hand corner.

Off-the-cuff comparison of film permit fees in the selected communities
  • FilmLA/Altadena and Pasadena have the most expensive filming permits. La Canada has the cheapest. Santa Clarita and Burbank seem pretty cheap too.
  • The FilmLA Monitor is an extra charge. It's hard to tell, but La Canada, Arcadia, and Burbank don't offer Monitors.
    Note that several Altadena neighborhoods have Special Filming Conditions that require a Monitor
  • FilmLA/Altadena and Santa Clarita have the most expensive notification fees
  • FilmLA/Altadena and Pasadena have the most expensive rider fees
  • The county fees appears to be consistent across jurisdictions, but FilmLA/Altadena lists more of them
  • Police rates are consistent across all jurisdictions. However the CHP get the bigger check.
  • Only Pasadena and Santa Clarita charge for street parking
  • Closing a street is, by comparison, affordable in Altadena and Santa Clarity. It gets expensive in Pasadena.
So is it really cheaper here in Altadena? One thing's for sure, it's not the cheapest. Film companies must like our community for other reasons. Go figure?!

However, since daily shooting costs remain roughly constant no matter where you shoot as are the variable costs are filming and travel, then maybe film permitting costs are more of an annoyance than a driving factor. I don't mean to cavalier other people's money, but would $2,000 be a major determinant in the decision to shoot your $100 - 500K+ TV episode in Altadena instead of Santa Clarita? That's a topic for another day.

March 10, 2016

Somewhat nerdy explanation of how the Altadena Filming Permit Map was created

I've received several questions about how the Altadena Permit Map was created. This post will explain how it came about and how it was done.

There's a lot of filming on our block. Some neighbors have said it's overused. I wondered, "Are they right? How much filming actually goes on here? Can overuse be quantified?"

According to the LA County ordinance about filming permits, FilmLA is supposed to “develop records, reports, and statistical data, including but not limited to … types, and number of permits, … and area filming schedules." Since these would be public records, I thought, "why not ask for the data."

In early July 2015, I requested the data for 91001 zip code from Arturo Pina of FilmLA. Without hesitation, Arturo promised to deliver the data, but that it would take a few weeks.

Weeks turned to months. I pestered Arturo with nearly a dozen requests for the data. Finally, at the end of October, I received a spreadsheet. The data on that spreadsheet was woefully incomplete. It included just 100 permits for the three years span from July 2012 to July 2015. Several known permits were missing and that number was suspiciously low since it would imply there was but 1 shoot in Altadena every 3 weeks. When the missing data was called to his attention, Arturo was apologetic. He explained that the FilmLA IT department was not very capable and they had difficulty producing data for the 91001 area code. However, he said, they were continuing to work on it.

Bear in mind that FilmLA is no shoestring operation. Their 2014 annual revenues were nearly $11M. The FilmLA president earns over $300K (with benefits). They have nearly 100 employees. You would figure that an data-dependent organization that size would have competent database expertise. Apparently not. (Which would seemingly be a concern to LA County auditors.)

More months pass...

A couple weeks ago, when I was building this website, I went to the Altadena Town Council Site, to find the link that now appears on the contact page. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the Altadena census tract map and there, appearing as a 'related' map, was the very map I'd been requesting from FilmLA. Random luck!

Through a process I'll explain below, I extracted the data from that FilmLA map. There were over 1,400 permits listed for 21012-15. A much more credible number than 100. The new data seemed complete. I verified the data by checking a dozen known entries. This new data seem reliable. Afterall, there could only be one source. Only FilmLA has that data.

I build the current map using both the October data and this new data.

I sent this new map to Arturo who confirmed it was FilmLA data. (Note: the FilmLA map has now been removed from public access. Apparently that map was made public in error, otherwise it would surely still be available.)

Building the new map
You can extract the data for any google map as a .kml file. You need only click on the 3-dot menu in legend and select "download KML."

A KML file is an XML file that describes map decorations like boundaries, names, locations, etc. Both Google Maps or Google Earth understand KML. (In fact it's become something of an industry standard.) And since it's an XML file, the KML can be understood and loaded into Excel. There are also a numerous websites that offer tools for converting addresses to lat/lon data (i.e. Latitude/Longitude.) No special tools are required.

Once I had the KML file I was able to determine the data included 1435 entries. Each entry included a location name, a lat/lon position, and the name of the project. The data did not include dates or the permit ID. (It worth noting that the October data included dates, permit ID, type of shoot, product company and production title)

My goal was to create a map that identified the number of permits and the permitted projects for each location and place them on google map. However, the data is messy. FilmLA uses different names for the same location. For example "2000 Acme Drive" and "2000 Acme Dr." would show up as two separate locations. Consequently, a pivot table query would result multiple entries for one location and an inaccurate picture of how many shoots occurred in a single location. In addition, about 100 entries lacked lat/lon data. Finally, Excel doesn't provide a convenient mechanism for consolidating a list of project names after the the location variants had been consolidated.

I solved the consolidation issue by using the lat/lon value instead of the location name. This was not perfect because it relied on FilmLA's consistent usage of a lat/lon tool. The result was decent. Consolidating by name resulted in about 441 unique locations; consolidating by lat/long resulted in 387 unique locations. My first step was to fill in the missing lat/lon data (an annoying 2-hour process). I then did the consolidation calculation in a programing language called R which made it easy to collect all the project names for each unique location into a single text entry. While I was at it, I included a few calculations like location ranking (#1 has the most permits) and percentage of the entire sample at a single location. (#1 was responsible for 12% of the 1,400+ permits.) I wrote out the results from R to a .csv file (comma-separated-values) which could be directly loaded into Google Maps.

Once in Google Maps, I was used their features to add heat map" like icons to make map easier to interpret. A nice feature of Google Maps is that when you click on an icon, you will see the 'name', 'number permits issued' and 'project names' for that location. In addition, if you click on the icon in the legend, you'll see all the locations that correspond to that icon. For example, if you click on the caret (^) next to each legend category, you'll see a list of project associated with each icon.

What's on the Map

In addition to the icons that represent each permitted filming location in Altadena, the map include the following:

I obtained the Altadena boundary data from the County planning website. I obtained the 91001 boundary information for the US Government Census site. I used Google earth to build boundary polygons for both the "Special Filming Condition neighborhoods and the filming areas. The Google Earth polygons and some meta data associated with each polygon was exported to a KML file and loaded into Google Maps.

What are the filming areas? In some cases FilmLA issues a permit that covers an area like "Lake from Altadena Drive to New York Drive." The October data set was almost entirely made of these filming areas. (Here's a link to document with a more detailed description of the "film areas")

Final note
The data from the FilmLA map may have bugs. I've requested more information about how the map was produced. I've also requested an update with additional meta data. No word so far except for reassurances from Arturo that "they are working on it."

If anyone would like more detail, please ask using the comment area below to ask.

Update:April 25, 2016
We have received a reply from FilmLA's VP for Integrated Communications, Philip Sokoloski. He has determined that FilmLA does not have the resources to filming permit data based on zip codes. Mr. Sokoloski has said they will "seek direction" from the supervisor's office to determine "what information FilmL.A. should assemble regarding on‐location filming."  Meanwhile they are "unable to accommodate [my] request..."

Update: January 3, 2017
In 2016, FilmLA did not no follow-up on the promise to 'seek direction.'  It appears that FilmLA did not act in good faith and does not intend to make filming permit data available.

March 2, 2016

Altadena Film Permit Map updated

The Altadena film permit map has been updated.

The map update fixes the following problems in the old map:
  • The count of locations in the old map did not account for different spellings of an address. For example, a "123 Lake Drive" and "123 Lake Dr." previously appeared as different locations. The updated map is uses location data (latitude/longitude) so each location icon is unique. As a result, the duplicates were eliminated and the number of locations was reduced nearly 20%
  • The list of productions is now available with each map icon. Click on the icon and you'll see what was shot there.

Any comments or suggestions about the updated map are welcome!

April 30, 2016 update

Bad news/Good news from FilmLA. We received a note from FilmLA's VP of Integrated Communications. They do not have the IT resources to generate a dataset on filming in Altadena. However, they will seek out direction from our Supervisors and LA County planning to determine what the kind of data they should provide about on-location shooting. This new effort on the part of FilmLA seems very encouraging and we appreciate their willingness to check with the County.

July 29, 2018 update

We have created a new filming map based on LA County film permit data.  Here's the link:

February 15, 2016

Altadena Permit Map (2012-15)

Since last summer I've been requesting film permit data from FilmLA. As luck would have it, I stumbled across an online map with the data I've been requesting. (I wasn't even looking!) I don't know who produced it or where it came from, but after a bit of checking, it seems very credible. 

Using data from this map, I created a new map.  This new map shows the filming permits that have been issued to Altadena locations from 2012 to 2015.  Here's a link to this new map: 

A few statistics from the 2012-2015 permit data:
Note:  It appears that permit data south of New York Drive is missing.
  • Total permits listed: 1435 
  • Permits were issued to 441 unique locations (note the actual number is closer to 400 because FilmLA does not use consistent names.)  
  • On average, 478 permits are issued on Altadena each year or about 10 permits per week. 
  • 35% of the permits were issued to 3%  of locations (13 locations were issued 508 permits)
  • 96% of all permits were issued to locations who received less than 4 permits/year
  • 163 permits were issued to Altadena Cemetery 
  • 54 permits were issued to the old Woodbury house 
  • 51 permits were issued to St Elizabeth Church 
Here's a link to a document that summarizes all permits/location: 

Here's a link to document that lists of all productions by name: 

If you have Google Earth, you can get a better view. Here's a .kmz file: 

Any comments, suggestions or corrections are welcome!

Want to see the original map?  CLICK HERE.  Don't be surprised if the link gets busted.  The data may have been posted by mistake.

November 28, 2015

Comparison of Altadena filming regulations to neighboring communities

Interested in how Altadena regulations for filming frequency compares to neighboring communities? I got curious and started checking on line and put together a document that summarizes what I found. 

If you're interested, here's a link:

November 11, 2015

Comparison of Special Filming Conditions in Altadena Neighborhoods

Do you live on a block where the LA County has issued Special Filming Conditions? Interested in knowing which blocks have Special Filming Conditions and what those conditions are? 

I got curious and put together a table that shows all that information. If this sort of thing tickles your fancy, you'll find this interesting. 

Here's a link:

September 30, 2015

Special Conditions in Altadena

You might not be familiar with the county approved Special Filming Conditions for our community. In fact, several of the Altadena neighborhoods enjoy special filming conditions. They are listed below.

According to FilmLA, "Special Filming Conditions for filming in many of the most popularly-filmed neighborhoods in Los Angeles."
Click here for the FilmLA Webpage for Special Conditions.

These Special Filming Conditions may be included in the terms and conditions of permits issued for filming in these areas, and in that case are in addition to the standard terms and conditions applicable to filming permits generally.

While Special Filming Conditions may be included as terms on permits for filming, "they are not intended to, and do not, establish criteria or standards for determining whether or not a particular permit (or permits) will be issued for any area....The decision to issue a particular permit is vested in the discretion of the appropriate City or County department or their designees (including FilmL.A., Inc.), to be exercised consistent with public health, safety and general welfare, and applicable land-use ordinances."

Altadena areas with special conditions

Note: click the link to download a Special Filming Conditions document
Altadena Meadows
Altadena Town & Country Club
Chaney Trail/Alzada Drive
Homewood Drive
Mendocino Lane
Rubio Street

A few stats about Special Filming Conditions:

Total number of streets in LA county with special conditions: 39 streets
Total number of streets in Altadena with special conditions: 4
Total number of areas in LA county with special conditions: 46
Total number of areas in Altadena with special conditions: 2

Population LA county: 10M
Population Altaenda: 10K or .1% LA county

Altadena's porportion of LA County special conditions: 6%
No other LA County community has an equal per capital density special conditions