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Burbank officials edit city’s film-permit process

Burbank City Hall
Burbank made several changes to its film-permit ordinance on Tuesday, such as increasing fees and modifying the application process.
(File Photo)

Burbank officials fine-tuned the city’s film-permitting process after a staff member forecast an increase in filming activity locally.

The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the second reading of an ordinance that amends Burbank’s regulations on film permits and is expected to streamline and standardize the process, as well as help the city recoup some of its money from processing film applications.

Simone McFarland, an assistant community development director for the city, said during a council meeting on Sept. 24 that the number of film permits being pulled has been on the rise.

For the past few years, the city has issued roughly 1,600 permits annually, with about 500 of those being student film permits.

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Burbank issued 1,616 permits last year, which is up from the 439 permits issued in 2011.

McFarland said film production around the city is expected to increase along with demand for content from production companies such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

Besides making it easier for production companies and students to pull permits for their projects, McFarland said the changes to the city’s film-permit ordinance are designed to create a better balance between the film industry and residents.

Prior to the changes, those who applied for a film permit had to get 100% approval from the surrounding businesses and homeowners where they plan to work when filming outside of the city’s permitted filming hours, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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McFarland said some productions have been held up because one or a few people opposed the filming while the rest of the neighborhood signed off on it.

Under the new process, applicants will use film surveys to poll the surrounding neighborhood within a 300-foot radius of where the filming will take place to find out any concerns about the production.

McFarland said the surveys, which require majority approval, will allow city staff to review the concerns residents and business owners have, and, if they are deemed reasonable, the film crew will have to mitigate the concerns or the permit will be denied.

Additionally, production companies will now be able to hire a third-party traffic-control company if Burbank police or other local law enforcement agencies cannot be present.

The amendment to the film-permitting process also includes a change to the city’s fee schedule.

Burbank formerly charged $150 for one-day permits and $350 for seven-day permits, which were the lowest rates charged by an agency in the region.

To remain competitive and recover some of its administrative costs, the city will increase rates to $398 for one- or two-day permits and $707 for permits lasting three to seven days.

City officials also decided to begin charging film students a fee when pulling permits to film.

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Fees for film students were previously waived, but now Burbank will charge $25 for a one-day permit and $100 for a seven-day permit.

McFarland said the student fee was discussed with officials at the Los Angeles Film School, who agreed with the new policy.

She added having film students pay for their permits will teach them how to go through the process of pulling applications.

The fees will continue to be waived for K-12 students, McFarland said.

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