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Downtown LA residents say film shoots are taking over

A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)
David McNew/Getty Images
A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)

At first, he thought it was a gunshot.

Andrew Sinclair, who lives downtown, was walking home Thursday with his wife Sarah when they came upon a TV shoot that was being filmed in their neighborhood. They found two crew members pinned under an industrial-sized fan that had fallen down.

The two crew members were hospitalized after the accident, and Sinclair and his wife were told to move along. But when he went to his community's Facebook page that evening, he found that other residents were already commiserating about the fan incident. While some said this is part of life living in downtown Los Angeles, others argued it was reaching a boiling point.

Sinclair believes film and TV crews have overrun his neighborhood. 

"I want to be respected in my own neighborhood," said Sinclair, a 6-year resident and business owner in downtown.

While film and TV shoots have been commonplace in downtown for decades, the area has dramatically transformed now that thousands of people call it home. In 2000, just 27,849 people lived there, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2013, the population was 52,400, and is expected to surpass 75,000 in the coming years.

"I think that's what people forget about downtown," Sinclair says. "It's finally at that point where it's a neighborhood, and people care about their neighbors."

Data from Film L.A., a local non-profit that issues film permits for the city, shows that 9703 permits were issued during the first quarter of 2016 – nearly 1000 more permits than in 2015. Film L.A. was not able to organize data by location, but President Paul Audley said filming in downtown was up.

When film and TV crews want to shoot in downtown LA, they must apply for a permit and abide by a set of conditions. Those conditions were last brokered in 2010 between various groups representing stakeholders including The Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council, Motion Picture Association of America, Film L.A. and the Central Cities Association. Those conditions include a rule that film and TV crews are allowed to shoot between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. if they are within a 100 foot radius of any residential building. Their footprint also can't exceed 300 feet of curb space. 

But several business owners in downtown told KPCC that film crews break those rules, and block access to their doors.

Linda Valentino owns a dance studio downtown. She says that, often, she loses students because they can't find places to park. Her studio opened 8 months ago, and she says she's had over 65 shoots happen outside her front door.

"It's constant. It's constant," she said. "Sometimes I can't park in my own parking lot that I pay (for), because they're full of film trucks."

Blair Besten, executive director of downtown's Historic Core Business Improvement District, told KPCC that she, along with local business owners have asked Downtown's Neighborhood Council to revise the filming conditions to better suit the rapidly developing neighborhood. Among the amendments, Besten hopes to restrict the number of times film shoots can take place at the same location in a given week.

"A lot of people call this place home now, and more residents will be coming," said Besten. "I don't think that film crews recognize that it's a 24-hour city center now."

While Besten said her group has filed formal complaints with Film L.A., the group's President Paul Audley said he hadn't received any yet. He defended the system that his group and the Central Cities Association have in place for film crews, and said it has worked for decades.

This story has been updated.