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City Acts to Limit Activities of Film Crews, Raise Prices

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hollywood make-believe may be a welcome sight to this city’s well-to-do residents, as long as it’s on their television screens or showing down at the neighborhood multiplex.

But the real-life clatter and traffic snafus that often accompany film shoots have some people seeing red in this city, especially in the posh North Ranch neighborhood.

Hoping to ease growing concerns about noisy film crews taking over quiet neighborhoods--and ensure that Thousand Oaks can continue making money from commercials, sitcoms and movies shot within city limits--the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a commercial filming ordinance.

The ordinance, a measure most Southern California cities enacted long ago, requires a film permit in any location in Thousand Oaks and increases the going rate to shoot in the city. It also restricts filming to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., limits parking on residential streets and requires crews to stay away from neighborhoods as much as possible.

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The council voted unanimously for the ordinance after adding provisions to bar filming on holidays and Sundays.

“I don’t think the neighbors should be taken advantage of to benefit very few,” said Tom Boone, a property owner.

“We haven’t had a commercial film ordinance on the books, and most cities do,” said Stacy Minasian, a senior management analyst with the city manager’s office. “This will establish some parameters for fees and schedules. It’s something that has been in the works for a long time.”

Thousand Oaks officials sent the ordinance for review to all city homeowner groups, every resident who complained about a film shoot and all production companies that worked in Thousand Oaks within the past year.

Cathy Schutz of the Westlake North Homeowners’ Assn. in North Ranch said the ordinance should take care of most concerns, particularly because it limits shoots at a single location to six days a year. However, firms may be exempted if they get approval from every resident in the area.

“We’re happy the city is addressing the problem,” Schutz said before the meeting. “The frequency has been the biggest problem. Time and time again, the streets are clogged and the movie people are there all day long.”

Because it borders Los Angeles County, Thousand Oaks has long been a popular site for Hollywood film crews. Legendary television shows such as “Gunsmoke” and “The Six Million Dollar Man” were often shot in the city, and more recently, so were parts of the movies “Jerry Maguire” and “Eraser,” according to city officials. Film requests increased after the construction of the Civic Arts Plaza in 1994.

For example, an episode of the popular twentysomething soap opera “Party of Five” was recently shot at the Civic Arts Plaza’s Charles E. Probst Center for the Performing Arts. Scenes for the upcoming movie “Drop Dead,” featuring Dyan Cannon and Mariel Hemingway, were shot in the Civic Arts Plaza’s Forum Theatre. Seeing a potential cash cow, city officials plan to send studio location managers a brochure of the $64-million City Hall and performing-arts complex.

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But to accommodate outdoor shoots while protecting neighbors from traffic and noise, city officials had to get their house in order.

Thousand Oaks only had bare-bones regulations governing film shoots and required no filming permits of any kind on private property if production crews were not planning to disturb residences or interfere with public streets and sidewalks. The city has issued 26 film permits to shoot on public property so far this year, but city officials believe more than twice that many production crews have shot scenes on private property, judging from the number of preliminary calls film representatives have made to the city.

That policy was leading to a small but increasing number of letters and phone calls from peeved residents, who argued that Thousand Oaks should be doing much more to protect its citizens from unwelcome visitors.

Many of the complaints were coming from the ritzy North Ranch neighborhood, which is being used more and more because of its large, opulent homes, according to Roy Myers, the city transportation analyst who handled the majority of film permits. The job will now be overseen by city code-enforcement officers.

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“Some of the complaints are, ‘I didn’t mind it once, but the second time it bothered me, and the third time I blew up,’ ” Myers said. “Predominantly, the complaints are about the pure number of people coming into a neighborhood.”

Moreover, the city had not updated its filming fees in more than a decade, so it was charging production crews just $80 a day--not nearly as much as other Southern California cities. Under the new ordinance, film permits will cost $200 per day for private property in residential and commercial zones and $300 per day for city property.

City officials also proposed raising film location fees at the Civic Arts Plaza from $3,600 to $5,000 in the Probst Center and from $800 to $2,500 in the Forum Theatre. Council members unanimously approved the increases.


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