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WESTSIDE WATCH

It's Actually Culver City's Evil Twin, Burbank

August 22, 1993

Heart of Screen Land: The entertainment industry has long been part of Culver City. Such film classics as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz" were filmed there, as well as legendary TV series like "The Twilight Zone."

Although the MGM lot was subdivided and sold as residential real estate years ago, the city remains home to Sony Pictures Studios and its subsidiary, Columbia Pictures.

But the city has never gotten the national or international attention of, say, Hollywood or Malibu or even Burbank, the butt of three decades' worth of jokes from Johnny Carson.

But that could be changing soon. The city will have a sitcom of its own later this season--"Andrea," a mid-season replacement series on CBS.

It stars stand-up comedian Andrea Walker as a divorced mother of 12- and 7-year-old sons who lives in Culver City and sells real estate there. In real life, Walker is a divorced mother of 12- and 7-year-old sons who used to live in Culver City and sold real estate there. (Where do they get the ideas for these series, anyway?)

Ironically, despite the large number of production facilities in Culver City, "Andrea" will be filmed in, yes, Beautiful Downtown Burbank, because it is a Warner Bros. show.

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And speaking of Sony . . . Throughout their three-year effort to win permission to expand on their Culver City lot, Sony officials played the good-neighbor theme to the hilt. In a speech before the City Council in June, for example, Sony Vice President Kenneth Williams employed the word community no less than 15 times.

Even Councilman James D. Boulgarides, who ended up voting against the expansion last month (the project was nonetheless approved), found the C-word irresistible.

"I want to see Sony be successful as it can be and a credit to the community," he said.

But that was three weeks ago--before most people had ever heard of Heidi Fleiss.

Since then, rumors have circulated that top officials at Sony's Columbia Pictures subsidiary diverted film development money to pay for prostitutes.

Columbia has denied the rumors, but the result has been scandal-hungry reporters from around the world descending on the Sony lot.

Has the publicity besmirched the community?

"Heidi Fleiss doesn't live in Culver City, so it's no reflection on the people of Culver City," Boulgarides huffed.

Of Sony, he speculated, "I'm sure there are a lot of highly ethical and principled people in that organization."

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Another Lemmon?A group of Mar Vista homeowners worried about overdevelopment has invoked the name of actor Jack Lemmon to rally support for their cause.

Lemmon, need we recall, attracted national attention when he successfully contested a 46,000-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion proposed on his street by London real estate mogul Robert Manoukian.

The Mar Vista project is smaller--way smaller. Contractor Michael Pietraszkiewicz, who is building the house at 12113 Marine St. for his own use, says it will measure 4,600 square feet, just one-tenth of what Manoukian wanted to build.

Nevertheless, the Mar Vista neighbors say that's still out of character with their community.

The house, they said, blocks views and violates zoning codes because a so-called basement-- built into a hillside--looks suspiciously like the first floor of a three-story home. Pietraszkiewicz's building permit allows only two above-ground floors and no habitable basement.

"We are facing much the same situation that Jack Lemmon and the neighbors in Beverly Hills faced in July," neighbor Bev Hoskinson wrote in a press release.

Pietraszkiewicz contends that his basement is really a basement--and that he is improving the neighborhood.

"If everyone went ahead and built homes like this, L.A. would be a great place," he said.

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Off the hook: How does state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles) spell relief?

Just ask the folks at Fox Studios in Century City, who pulled the plug, at least until next year, on the much-criticized special legislation they had sought to protect a planned $200-million studio expansion from future lawsuits.

Rosenthal, who has a solid record on environmental issues, angered environmentalists in co-authoring the measure, which Senate colleague Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) labeled the "sleaziest special-interest maneuver of the year."

Besides taking away people's ability to mount legal challenges, the bill would have automatically exempted the project from further scrutiny under state environmental law.

With Rosenthal's help, the bill was slipped through the Government Operations Committee last month before opponents knew about it. A Sierra Club lobbyist, who learned about it at the last minute, was the only person to testify against the measure.

Opponents jumped on the senator's case, accusing him of doing the studio's bidding, and he relented--sort of.

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