The Community Room at the was packed Tuesday night for latest Altadena Coalition of Neighborhood Associations (ACONA) meeting. The crowd was drawn to the informative bi-monthly meeting because the agenda contained two very popular topics in Altadena: frequent film productions in the unincorporated community and liquor stores, a subject that Altadenans have been debating for decades.
Elliot Gold, one of the co-founders of ACONA, started the meeting by projecting predetermined questions onto a screen for the present officials to answer. The audience also had many questions for the film industry professionals, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officials, and LA County Regional Planning officials who were present at the meeting.
Geoffrey Smith, the Director of Community Relations of Film LA, which is a company that works with production crews, addressed many aspects of filming in Altadena, including how to get your house inspected by a scout or location manager for possible use in a shoot, insurance should your house be damaged during a shoot, whether or not you have to move out, and most importantly the notification process to your neighbors.
“Look, there’s simply nothing subtle about filming,” said Smith. “If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want a single scratch in your house or you’re uncomfortable with 50 people running around during prep days and shoot days, then you probably don’t want your house used in a film shoot.”
That being said, however, Smith added that he has almost always found Altadena to be very mellow and accepting of film crews. And production companies love to shoot in Altadena because of that partnership, as well as the wealth of beautiful and unique homes that populate the town.
As for letting your neighbors know ahead of time that a film crew will be at your house for a certain number of days, Smith said that while it’s the location manager’s job to let residents and business owners within 300 feet of the shoot know what to expect, it’s also common courtesy for you as the homeowner to do some outreach to neighbors yourself.
“Whether a shoot lasts for a day or two weeks, your neighbors are bearing the brunt of the noise, traffic, parking, and other related issues as well,” said Smith. “But it can also be financially pleasing, both for you and your neighbors.”
Depending on the kind of production, homeowners can receive up to $5,000 a day in tax-free compensation. And depending on the production’s budget, the neighbors may receive compensation as well. Beyond that, the second guest speaker, Russ Fega, has set up a nonprofit organization called the Altadena Community Chest, which gathers donations from production companies that want to contribute to local charities such as the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, the Altadena Library, and many other organizations.
Fega, an Altadena resident who represents this town as well as Pasadena and South Pasadena with a company he created called Home Shoot Home, also reaches out to other location managers who work in Altadena in an effort to create more awareness about the Community Chest. He said even if they haven’t heard of the program before, they are almost always more than willing to contribute because they want to give back to the community that has given so much to them. That doesn’t mean there are no complaints about film productions in Altadena, by any means.
“There’s no doubt that filming is intrusive,” Smith added. “But it’s a huge economic engine for the county and for Altadena in many ways, so we don’t want it to go away.”
As Gold transitioned into the second item on the agenda, liquor stores, he played devil’s advocate for a moment and reminded the crowd that these stores are also very profitable, but that some donate money back into the community as well. Two officials from the state agency ABC and two from the county’s Regional Planning Department took the stage to describe what they do and answer questions from Gold’s prepared list and those from the audience.
Anthony Posada, Enforcement Supervising Investigator with ABC, explained the lengthy process for handling complaints about wholesale and liquor retail stores and bars.
“First off, is it hard to get a liquor license? Yes it is,” said Posada. “But if you oppose a potential license, you can attend an administrative hearing, and one violation can lead all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
He added that every complaint is investigated and requested that any complaint be very specific in order to help with the investigation. Since the agency has so few sworn investigators, it grants funds to local law enforcement agencies. The LA County Sheriff’s Department received a grant that began Jan. 1 and ends June 30, 2012. A total of eight stations, including Altadena’s, partner with ABC to conduct undercover operations in establishments that sell liquor, according to ABC Investigator Nicole Gomez.
Right now there are 16 off-site liquor establishments in Altadena, but Posada said he can’t speak about problems occurring at any one liquor store that might jeopardize an investigation, in response to one audience member inquiring about what she called a “problem liquor store,” . That store has seen nearby and this audience member mentioned there are other related problems such as loitering and blight at the location on the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa.
However Posada said that anyone can visit ABC’s website and look up information on every licensed store in the state. Another factor that makes it difficult to address suspected violations, according to the county’s Supervising Regional Planner, Alex Garcia, is that if a store received a license before 1992 it is not subject to Conditional Use Permit requirements. They’ve been essentially grandfathered in, making it very hard to enforce because there are much fewer conditions that those stores are subject to.
Gold announced that an online survey will be emailed to everyone who has attended the six ACONA meetings and put their email address on the sign-in sheet to get an idea of what issues should be addressed at the next meeting, which will be held either Oct. 4 or 25.