L.A. Bike Army vs. Hollywood: Green Bicycle Lanes Downtown Too Ugly for Film Shoots
Originally posted at 9:30 a.m.
Every good L.A. citywatcher knows: What cyclists want in this city, they get.
And props to them for the dedication. Our avid bike army has proven that by rushing City Hall en (loud, angry) masse and not leaving until elected officials have accepted your every demand, you can mold them into personal putty -- even in times of budget crisis. (Intimidating spandex uniforms don't hurt. Nor does a politically vogue "green" angle.)
Hence the neon bike lanes now striping Spring Spring downtown:
They're part of an ambitious new City Hall plan to turn L.A. into a thick, safe grid of bicycle route. (Though it's mostly just that -- a plan, to make said army back off a tad. In reality, the LA Weekly has estimated that L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's promised 1,684 miles of new lanes won't be completed for at least another three decades or so.)
Hilariously, the city already wasted $15,000 on a premature coat of green paint along Spring Street that washed off in the rain. And now there's another problem with the lanes, reports the Los Angeles Times:
That mile and a half of Spring Street turns out to be the most filmed stretch of street in town. Or rather, it was until about last November, when the green lane spoiled the shots that made Spring the perfect stand-in for Anytown, USA. It was the perfect street for car commercials, the perfect backdrop of stolid bank buildings, the perfect mix of marble columns and Art Deco spandrels, the perfect modern or 1920s downtown -- until the wide green stripe appeared.
Now a lot of the filming has moved one block over to Main Street, according to Paul Audley, president of Film L.A. Inc., the organization that coordinates city and county film permits for the entertainment industry ... . So, guess where the Department of Transportation was about to add the next green bike lane?
Well, that explains the fake "L.A. City Hall" sign outside the Beverly Hills City Hall for a recent Tom Cruise shoot! As if downtown L.A.'s trashy sidewalks and potholes weren't enough to deter a filmmaker, now our iridescent buttcrack is showing, big time.
For years, Film L.A. has been complaining of little support from local leaders. Tax incentives outside our entertainment capital have prompted moviemakers to opt for cheaper sets in nowhere towns across the U.S. (And thanks to a new condom ban in L.A., pornmakers are likely to do the same.)
Though film and business advocates haven't yet mastered the bike army's swaying power at City Hall, the commercial industry was able to squeeze a few tax incentives out of the City Council in 2011.
But this could be a steeper battle, seeing as teacher's pet is on the other end of the tug-o-war.
Update, 4:10 p.m.: Interesting! Paul Audley of Film L.A. says that although the green coloring is a problem, the space that the bike lanes take up (in an already dense downtown) is the real obstacle here.
"Because they took out a traffic lane, there are difficulties putting filming vehicles on the street," says Audley.
He estimates that in 2012, about 10 percent of filmmakers who would have otherwise shot in downtown L.A. have stayed away because of the lanes. Add Occupy L.A.'s lawn damage, and it's been a rough few months for the industry. (Another interesting shift on that front: Audley says the proposed "desert-scaping" of City Hall lawn will "impact the kinds of films that shoot there. It will no longer play a neutral park.")
Film L.A. first learned of the Department of Transportation's plan for a bicycle-friendly Spring Street when officials asked the org to "move any film crews" that were in the way, according to Audley.
Now, he says his group is deep in negotiations with the mayor (and bicycle advocates) in anticipation of more bike lanes being constructed on surrounding streets -- particularly "upper Main, [which] is a heavily filmed area."
This is starting to sound vaguely like the fur-ban debate in West Hollywood. One side argues for maximum commerce in a crap economy, the other for doing the right thing for humanity/Mother Earth. So who'll come out of this urban battle alive? Stay tuned for updates.