After protests over ‘Fast & Furious,’ commercial shoot reignites concern in Angelino Heights
Weeks after protesters rallied against the filming of the newest “Fast & Furious” movie in Angelino Heights, a commercial shoot for Rockstar Energy Drink caught some locals by surprise Thursday, reigniting their concerns that on-screen stunts are drawing street takeovers and other dangerous driving to their community.
The shoot featured a sports car bearing the Rockstar logo parked in front of Bob’s Market, which was made famous as the location of a liquor store owned by the family of star Vin Diesel’s character in the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
Fans of the movies, residents say, have flocked to Angelino Heights to race down the streets, perform burnouts and doughnuts, and stop for selfies in front of Bob’s Market. On Aug. 26, filming of the franchise’s 10th installment, “Fast X,” drew a crowd of protesters, who argued that the movies glamorize street racing and illegal takeovers, fueling a dangerous trend not just in their neighborhood but anywhere the films have resonated with young drivers.
Thursday’s commercial shoot was approved for filming from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1234 Bellevue Ave., the address of Bob’s Market, according to a notice provided to The Times by FilmLA.
“This permit specifically prohibits donuts, burnouts or street racing,” said Paul Audley, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, which serves as the official film office for the city. “There has been general support in the neighborhood for filming and applications are carefully reviewed before approval by the city.”
Although the productions have not directly involved racing on city streets, Michele McKinnon said Thursday’s commercial was another example of a dangerous pattern. The “Fast & Furious” franchise in particular, she said, has drawn a racing crowd.
“It’s definitely made this residential street an iconic location to street race and take pictures in front of Bob’s Market and then do burnouts on the corner,” McKinnon said. “It happens several times a week. Every weekend it’s happening here. We’ve been calling the police for many years. They don’t show up.”
Meetings with FilmLA and with City Council members have not yielded solutions, she said.
McKinnon said the decision to approve a commercial involving a race car three weeks after residents called out such productions was in poor taste.
“We residents have been saying that they’re abusing this neighborhood,” she said.
Some neighbors have pushed for the streets to be redesigned to discourage street racing.
Claire Simonich, who lives across Bellevue from Bob’s Market, said a small, triangle-shaped park across the street could be expanded to narrow the lanes and encourage slower driving.
People in Angelino Heights protested Friday as crews arrived to film in their neighborhood for “Fast X,” the 10th installment in the movie franchise.
The city installed plastic bollards, but they have not had much of an effect, she said.
“Expand the park at least to the bollards and see if there are structural changes to the road,” said Simonich, who moved to Angelino Heights in 2018. “A road diet would cut down on this.”
Tad Yenawine, a neighborhood resident since 1997, told The Times that speed bumps installed by one of his neighbors have helped ease the situation.
He did not know of any deaths caused by street racing or takeovers in Angelino Heights but said drivers engaging in dangerous behavior have crashed into neighbors’ cars.
More restrictions should be placed on film crews shooting on location rather than a studio set, he said, adding that officials don’t give enough scrutiny or consideration to residents’ concerns when approving filming requests.
“The real issue is that the film companies get everything they want,” Yenawine said.
Audley, the FilmLA spokesperson, said the nonprofit processes applications, gets city department approvals for requests such as road closures, and forwards the applications for final approval by the Los Angeles Police Department.
There is a growing backlash in some neighborhoods, with residents demanding authorities do more to crack down on the illegal gatherings that can turn deadly in a flash.
If the LAPD signs off, FilmLA releases the permit to the production, he said.
A police spokesperson said a detective was not available Thursday to discuss residents’ concerns. Statistics on how many street takeovers, races and other instances of illegal driving have been reported to the LAPD in recent months were not available.
For McKinnon and other residents, the search for answers continues amid mounting worries.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone’s going to be killed here, and we cannot get any help,” she said.
As for Thursday’s commercial production, McKinnon said she later found out the stunt driving would be filmed at a separate location.
A representative of PepsiCo, which owns Rockstar, could not be reached for comment.
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