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Beverly Hills on a Budget--in Altadena


ALTADENA — A 10-room, Spanish-style home on East Altadena Drive is doubling as a Beverly Hills residence on a new Fox TV series that airs locally on Channel 11, but some neighbors are not thrilled by their proximity to the ritzy stand-in.

Altadena Town Councilman Duane Merrill said Nov. 20 that he has investigated complaints about the filming of "Beverly Hills 90210," and believes that the production creates a nuisance and a traffic hazard.

In October, a neighbor, George Macer, was prevented from crossing the street in his wheelchair during shooting, and his wife sent the Town Council a written protest co-signed by five neighbors.

Despite the film company's written assurances to residents that no traffic would be diverted, Merrill said he was forced to take a detour on Nov. 10. He also objected to late-night lighting and to motorist visibility problems caused by the company's large parked trucks.

The residence belongs to Jack Stanton, 40, a building inspector, who said he gets paid $1,000 a day for exterior filming, and $450 a day for using the interior. Stanton said he is delighted with the unusual use of his home. "The people are nice," he said, "and it's entertainment for me in the evening."

Officials of Lava Films, which is producing the TV series, said they have filmed about six times on the street since late August.

Marvin Bernstein, location manager of the production company, said the employee responsible for the Macer incident was fired. Bernstein said the company has bent over backward to accommodate neighbors, and said he has profusely apologized and sent flowers to everyone he heard had complaints.

He said the company also has added an additional traffic control officer, bringing its patrol staff to three.

Residents say they appreciate the film company's efforts, but still feel that East Altadena Drive is too busy a thoroughfare for filming.

Paul Waigner, one of the show's producers, said the house was chosen because the "neighborhood looks like Beverly Hills, and the county is much easier to do business with than the city." Altadena is an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County.

Stanton's home is not the only location that pretends to be in Beverly Hills in the series. The exterior of Torrance High School, with its distinctive blue-and-yellow fountain, is used to depict West Beverly Hills High, a main setting in the show.

The incident in Altadena in which Macer was prevented from crossing the street prompted his wife to also complain to County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. His senior field deputy, Ollie Blanning, forwarded the letter to Bruce Marshall, executive vice president and director of the Los Angeles County Film Office, which grants filming permits in the county. The office is a division of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, a nonprofit organization that works with the county to foster economic growth.

"We investigated and found that it was a combination of the film company being overzealous in closing off the street and of Sheriff's Department deputies who didn't enforce the permit," Marshall said. "The permit did not include closing off the street to redirect walking."

On Nov. 8, Marshall sent a written reply to the Macers in which he apologized and offered assistance in case of future problems.

Another neighbor, Robert Bertholf, 62, said he objects to traffic problems, early-morning shooting, night lighting and noise. "I think it's highly unfair that a county can give a license to private enterprise at the expense of the quiet, safety and convenience of the neighbors," he said. "The situation is against everything I live in Altadena for, and it creates a dangerous traffic problem."

But Marshall said representatives of his office have visited the filming location several times and came away with a different impression.

"Frankly, we don't see what the neighbors are complaining about, " he said.

However, after Merrill raised questions about the filming at last Tuesday's Town Council meeting, Sheriff's Deputy Ron Spelic said he would look into the situation.

"Beverly Hills 90210," which debuted Oct. 18 on Fox KTTV Channel 11, is about the Walsh family, which moved from Minnesota to Beverly Hills.

Now some neighbors would like to see the Walsh family make a second move--out of Altadena.

Producers say they hope that's not necessary. But, as location manager Bernstein put it, "No one lives in a house forever."

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