Run Away, Production: LA County Doubles Filming Fees

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved on Tuesday a proposal to more than double Fire Department permit fees for film, television and commercial productions in the county.

The board made the increase contingent on the implementation of a program to spot-check production sites — a plan intended to reduce the need for fire personnel on set and cut industry costs.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman asked that permit fees be raised to cover the $1.3 million annual budget of the department’s Public Safety and Film Unit. The group has seven staffers — up from two in 2006 — and processed about 4,000 permits last year, Freeman said.

At first, Supervisor Don Knabe objected.

“This industry has been beat up; we are chasing jobs away,” he said. Knabe proposed that the department first collect fees for shoots in a number of cities that do not participate in the county’s permit process. Those fees could total as much as two-thirds of total collections, he said.

Freeman countered that even if all those fees were collected, the department would still come up about $800,000 short.

“That means that the taxpayers would continue to bear the lion’s share of the cost, or that staffing cuts in this unit would have to be made,” Freeman said.

Knabe also suggested implementation of the spot-check program. Freeman agreed to put the program in place by Jan. 1, but industry representatives said the department had been promising such a move since 2005 and never delivered.

“I want to respect any promise that has been made,” Freeman said, adding he was unaware of an earlier agreement, but that the department had been working with industry members on the details of such a program.

Several industry representatives spoke out against the fee increases.

“Now is not the time to impose fees,” said Greg Lippe, former chair of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

Citing a “tide of runaway production,” Lippe said California, which controlled 82 percent of film production in 2002, now controls only 30 percent.

About two-thirds of the state’s production takes place in Los Angeles County, Lippe said.

Once the ordinance takes effect, the base permit fee will increase from $104 to $282. Permits for productions using pyrotechnics or other special effects will increase from $125 to $288. Fees for fuel trucks will go up to $233 from only $40 today.

A new $277 fee will be charged for still production crews of 15 people or more.

The county counsel’s office was redrafting the permit ordinance to reflect the board’s unanimous agreement on making fee increases contingent on the spot-check plan. A final vote on the language of ordinance was expected by no later than next Tuesday.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

  • Peter Higgins

    It isn’t the fees, it’s the bureaucracy.

    The bureaucrats go from 2 to 7 staffers (or up 350%) since 2006, while Hollywood goes from 82% control to 30% (or down 60%) since 2002? No wonder they’re running at a loss.

    The bureaucrats clearly have less and less to do, and “justify” their existence by obstructing the process more and more to look like they’re actually “working”.

    Earth to LA Supervisors: Hollywood is leaving town. If you keep making life miserable for them, they’ll never come back. If you don’t think it will happen, may I mention “aerospace/defense”? Nobody thought that golden goose would leave town either.

    • Gunit

      Amen Peter…

  • Gunit

    stupid stupid stupid Los Angeles they rather drive business out of town and not get anything at all. The majority of all film production takes place out of state or in Canada now days. The same thing goes for business taxes, like when they drove Nissan away, they raised the taxes so Nissan skips town and now Los Angeles gets nothing instead of what they were already getting…

  • Mark Ruff

    People and businesses vote with their feet.

  • FLF

    More liberals at work- never fear the state will be in their dictatorial control after Nov 2nd. The progressive socialists of the democrat party are bound and determined to run all business out of the state! When that happens there will be nobody to collect taxes and EVERYONE will be BROKE! I can see doom, gloom, and bankruptcy from my front porch. All owned and operated by none other than the party of libs that have been trying to destroy the nation since around 1820! We in Ca Ca land are headed for liberal caused disaster of a magnitude that will shake the nation UNLESS we throw out the ones with a D after their names -but this will NOT happen anytime soon-and we all know it.

    • Not a Moron

      Hey, FLF, I think the fee hikes are stupid, counter-productive and short-sighted as well. But instead of making any real contribution with your comments here, once again you’ve demonstrated nothing more than your usual moronic scapegoating of ‘liberals’. Clearly, from the plethora of comments you’ve littered upon the CBS news sites, you take each new journalistic entry as an opportunity to pretend like you have something to say, but anyone with intelligence can see through your yawn-inducing, flaccid rhetoric. And so I propose this: Instead of posting your hateful, tea-party-ish comments on sites like this, why don’t you do everyone a favor and keep your George W. Bush-lovin’ self scanning the horizon for doom, gloom and bankruptcy while nestled into to that smelly old La-Z-Boy on your junked-up front porch? I’ll keep looking on the bright side, instead (even though Bush got us into this, and then rode off with his sacks of $$$ into the sunset). By the way, the John Birch Society is desperate for members. Why don’t you look them up? They love gullible, hate-spewing morons like you.

  • Alan Hart

    It won’t be long before the HOLLYWOOD sign will be moving to Vancouver, BC

  • Van D

    You’re all saying the film industry can’t afford
    The minor increase in fees
    They’ve been reaping millions $ profit off films
    and can afford to pay actors and stage craft primo $

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