Getting a Permit to Close a Lane Isn’t That Hard for Film Crews

Photo: Carlos Morales

Two weeks ago, while researching a story on LAPD “bike lane stings” for Streetsblog, Carlos Morales came upon a television film crew blocking a bike lane.  When Streetsblog posted pictures and commentary, some readers were angry at the crew for “Ringer” and others were annoyed that Streetsblog was wasteing time writing about something that “real Angelenos” have learned to accept.

But as more details came out, the story got worse.  In the comments section, LAPD Sgt. David Krumer noted that the film crew did not have a permit and that the LAPD talked to Film L.A. about the need to get proper permits.  The crew told Morales that LADOT told them they don’t give out permits to close bike lanes which is a) untrue and b) an admission of guilt.  Last I checked, if I fail to get a permit to do what I want to do, that doesn’t give me permission to do whatever it is I wanted the permit for.  Quite the opposite in fact.

How hard is it to get a permit to shut down a travel lane, bike or car?  LADOT makes it sound pretty easy.  Spokesman Bruce Gillman writes, “When filming occurs, as with any special event or construction project, and a lane closure (bike or automobile) needs to occur to accommodate the special event, construction project, maintenance, or filming activity; DOT staff will work with the company on a proper lane closure procedure to be sure bicyclists and motorists are aware that the bicycle and/or travel lane is temporarily closed properly with signage, etc.  This is not really anything new.  The City has been closing lanes (bike and car) for years to accommodate special needs on the roadways. This should only occur when the closure is necessary at the immediate location to facilitate the immediate film activity, not to close the bike lane just to provide parking for the cast and crew.”

In fact, the LADOT even has a manual posted to their website detailing what needs to be done for a lane closure to occur.  As long as you’re not planning to close a travel lane in rush hour, it doesn’t seem to be that hard.  If a crew requires a one-way one lane closure as pictured above and it’s not scheduled for rush hour, a simple request to the Bureau of Public Works will get them what they need.  If the permit is more complicated, than the LADOT will need to be involved.

But let’s give the crew from Ringer and the LADOT some credit.  Perhaps there was a miscommunication.  Despite the desires of Film L.A., the city does not give out permits to close a travel lane for the parking of film crew vehicles unless the shoot is so large that adjacent parking lots cannot accommodate the crew’s vehicles.  This holds true for regular through travel lanes or green buffered bike lanes.  If you look at the picture above, the reason for the bike lane closure is not crew parking, but the equipment needed for whatever shot it was they were trying to film.

But let’s not give them too much credit.  Even once the crew was informed of their error by Krumer and Morales, they still badly botched what measures are needed to create a safe travel condition for cyclists using the lanes.  The couple of pathetic cones and a waiving person are a nice try, but don’t conform with what the city’s law requires.  Advance notification of the closure, i.e. at a traffic signal before the closure, barricades and signage for a re-route is appropriate for a closure.  A couple of cones that are actually less visible than the objects blocking the lane placed within feet of the object creating the closure is not appropriate.

Lastly, every person using Los Angeles’ streets has a right to see permits when a street is being blocked and the right to challenge a crew that either doesn’t have a permit or has a permit that doesn’t cover the activity they are undertaking.  At the moment, according to Krumer, LAPD is not ticketing crews unless they are repeat offenders, preferring to educate them as to the law for a first offense.  So if you see a crew blocking a travel lane and it doesn’t appear they have made the necessary steps to create a safe environment for road users, take a second to ask to see the paper work, and let us know what happens next.