In another example of local residents versus the paparazzi in Los Angeles, popular MTV show “The Hills” is the latest combatant to get drawn into the war.
“The Hills,” currently filming in a residential Hollywood neighborhood where lead character Lauren Conrad has bought a house, has local residents upset by the ensuing cacophonous parade of paparazzi and onlookers resulting from the production’s presence.
Neighborhood sources tell AccessHollywood.com that MTV has turned the residence into a commercial sound stage for the purpose of filming the show. The house is located in a R-1 single-family residential zone.
The sources also say residents feel that the ancillary activities from the production present a serious threat to public safety, create a public nuisance, cause disturbing problems and interfere with their rights as homeowners.
An MTV spokesperson tells AccessHollywood.com that, “MTV is in accordance with all required production permits, and is working with the city of Los Angeles to assist it with neighborhood concerns that have been raised.”
According to public records on the Multiple Listing Service, Lauren Conrad Living Trust purchased the house for $2,360,000 million dollars on February 1, 2008. The production has been filming in the location for most of the ensuing months. The seven-room (three-bedroom, 1-bathroom permitted) two-story house was built in 1922 — its prior price in 1999 was only $710,000.
“The Hills” is one of the most popular shows on the cable channel. The show’s mid-third season premiere in March 2008 attracted 4.8 million viewers, the series biggest audience for a single episode. The show follows the lives of five young women: Lauren Conrad, Lo Bosworth, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port and Heidi Montag, as they negotiate the early stages of their careers and social lives in Los Angeles. Lauren and Lo live in the main house on the property in question, and Audrina lives in the back guesthouse. The girls moved into the house towards the end of the show’s third season, which finished airing in May 2008. Season four is set to premiere this August, according to MTV.com.
A rep for Lauren Conrad tells AccessHollywood.com that Lauren is as upset as her neighbors are over the situation taking place on her block. The rep says that MTV has followed all protocol and that Lauren herself has hired private security for outside of her home.
An undated letter provided to AccessHollywood.com by a resident who requested anonymity, which was sent from the Executive Producers of “The Hills” to the neighborhood residents just a few days before shooting began (but over two months after Conrad purchased the house), states, “As a documentary crew, we do not have any equipment trucks, and require no special parking. Our crew is not allowed to park on the streets, and is shuttled to the house in minivans. Our equipment all fits in one van, which we will also not leave on the street. Once we are shooting, our presence will be minimal – we strive to be as invisible as possible.”
AccessHollywood.com’s sources claim that, contrary to this letter, equipment trucks, crews and other vehicles associated with the production are left on the street on a regular basis, making parking for the other residents difficult and creating congestion.
The sources say residents have complained that Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge and Lo Bosworth are only at the house when the cameras are rolling or when there is a paparazzi photo opportunity outside to document them coming and going. They claim the young women do not live permanently at the residence. However, they claim the lights are left on in the home around the clock.
AccessHollywood.com sent reporters to the house at approximately 6:30 PM on Thursday, June 19, where from the street, what appeared to be bright production lights could be seen permanently affixed on the ceiling inside the home. The lights were on. They also appeared lit on Friday, June 20, at around 9 PM, and Saturday, June 21, at around 3:30 PM.
Also attracted to the neighborhood? – An, according to AccessHollywood.com’s sources, unruly group of paparazzi.
As the paparazzi have become increasingly more aggressive, according to our sources, they are vandalizing personal property and threatening residents. The paparazzi are allegedly fighting with each other over “territory” and who has the right to be there.
On June 15, around 7:00 PM, while a town car waited outside of Lauren Conrad’s home for the girls, one of our sources witnessed a fight break out. A 15-year-old neighborhood resident attempted to break up the fight, only to have one paparazzo pull a knife and start taking swipes at another paparazzo. A “Hills” security person allegedly yelled out, “I called the police, they are coming!” No police ever arrived.
AccessHollywood.com checked with LAPD’s Hollywood division who say that no such call was registered. A rep for MTV says allegations of such an incident are untrue.
AccessHollywood.com’s sources claim that dozens of complaints have been made to MTV, the Executive Producers of “The Hills,” City Councilmember Tom LaBonge’s office, the City Attorneys Office, Film L.A. Inc., and the LAPD Hollywood division, resulting in limited changes to the amount of activity taking place on the block.
Councilmember LaBonge’s office acknowledges that there has indeed been a problem in the neighborhood, towards which their office has taken significant action.
LaBonge’s office claims that the disruptions do not stem from MTV’s filming, but rather from the paparazzi presence and street-side activity.
They confirmed that they heard about a knife-pulling incident, which allegedly occurred on June 15, during meetings with the neighborhood residents, and that they have spoken with the residents about how to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
LaBonge’s office says they have had 10 meetings with the complaining group of residents over the previous four months.
“We have sat down with them to determine how best to address the issue,” a press representative for the City Councilman’s office tells AccessHollywood.com. “This is more of a neighborhood issue, than a filming issue. Most of the complaints have taken place not during filming… Both the City Attorney’s office and the LAPD have devoted a lot of time to this issue, and they have determined that the issues are not related to the filming itself, but more the noise on the street that results from the production’s presence.”
Actions that LaBonge’s office says they have taken include:
- Speaking with MTV and asking them to hire a full-time security guard, which LaBonge’s office says MTV has done.
- Increasing police patrols by a senior lead officer, who is familiar with issues relating to the paparazzi.
- Increasing parking enforcement on their street – particularly with regards to the paparazzi
- Asking Starline Tours to stop using their microphone when they’re on the street, and to discontinue stopping in front of the street. Starline Tours has told LaBonge’s office that they are complying with this request, and LaBonge’s office says that they have not received complaints since their request of Starline.
LaBonge’s office says that they have recommended to the neighborhood residents that they put together a preferential parking district on their street, which they are currently considering.
LaBonge’s office adds that they received a formal legal document complaining about the neighborhood disruption, submitted by a single resident, which was sent on to the City Attorney’s office.
The LA City Attorney’s office confirmed receipt of this document and shared its contents with AccessHollywood.com. The 60-page (plus) document includes a petition with 27 names, a memorandum that lays out residents’ concerns, as well as declarations from some of the neighbors, and various attachments regarding Lauren Conrad, and “The Hills.”
The main allegations are stated in the memorandum as follows:
“In summary, we feel MTV and Residents of (house address) are responsible for the following:
-Failure to disclose to residents of (neighborhood) intent to use property as filming location;
-Failure to notify residents of ongoing and long term filming;
-Fraudulent misrepresentation of intent (see attached letter from MTV producers);
-Fraud to the application process;
-Fraudulently misrepresenting the production to Film LA and LA City Council office: therefore, Film LA and LA City Council were defrauded;
-Production is a nuisance, creating loud noise and traffic/pedestrian congestion;
-Irreparable harm to residents and potential diminished property values when residents must disclose production of television program in immediate vicinity;
-Irreparable harm to loss of quiet enjoyment and quality of life;
-Since this is not a documentary but a loosely scripted reality show, the residence is not material to the production of ‘The Hills’;
-Lack of responsiveness to resident complaints of problems due to filming and blatant attempt to mislead neighbors and cover up crime, association with paparazzi, noise, congestion and the relationship to filming.”
The LA City Attorney’s office confirms that they too have had several meetings with the residents and MTV.
“It’s an ongoing thing where we continue to work with all of the parties involved and we’re continuing to monitor the situation,” a press representative from the office of LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo tells AccessHollywood.com.
Todd Lindgren, Vice President of Communications for Film L.A. Inc. (whose office tries to minimize filming impact in local communities and mitigate disruption between film production and residents, in addition to issuing residential filming permits), concurs with LaBonge’s office that indeed close to a dozen meetings have taken place between several residents, the Councilmember’s office, and MTV’s production staff.
Lindgren says that MTV and “The Hills” production staff has been very good about keeping filming days to a minimum and shuttling the production crews in by van.
However, he further adds that there is a small group of residents who have lumped in the ancillary challenges posed by the filming of “The Hills” with the production itself.
“There is an endless stream of lookie-loo’s and passer-bys,” Lindgren says. “But they’re not a result of actual filming – not in regards to the way that permits have been coordinated for the filming. I have no doubt that (the residents’) lives are being disrupted by the surrounding activities – by the lookie-loo’s and by party after party. But, we’ve done everything we can to try to minimize disruption as a result of the actual filming.”
According to MTV’s most recent shooting permit, provided to AccessHollywood.com by Film L.A. Inc., the current permit for “The Hills” is valid from June 4, 2008 until July 4, 2008. Previous permits were granted from April 1, 2008 until May 1, 2008, and from May 2, 2008 until June 2, 2008. Information about permits previous to April 1, 2008 was not available do to a computer program switchover in their department.
Generic conditions for the permit include: “No Cast and Crew parking on areas streets. No Interference with vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Traffic Officers Required. (and, that the production) Must Maintain 5’ Clearance on Sidewalks/Walkways.”
It allows for the presence of a Cast of 8 and a Crew of 15, as well as 1 Retired/Off-Duty LAPD officer. Filming is, “not to exceed 16 days per month, and/or 4 days per week.” Filming before 7 AM and after 10 PM, “must not be visible or audible by the public.”
Lindgren says that his office is also aware of the aforementioned complaint document forwarded by a resident on to the City Attorney’s office.
This is not the first time MTV has had problems with productions shooting in residential neighborhoods. “The Real World,” which airs on MTV courtesy of Bunim / Murray Productions, faced protests from Wicker Park residents during their Chicago season in 2002, and also faced a lawsuit from a resident that lived next door to the house where they were shooting during their Key West season in 2005.