Adding to a long list of cinematic disasters that have taken place on local stretches of Wilshire Blvd. (see “Miracle Mile,” “Volcano,” and “Land of the Lost,” among others) a fictional sinkhole will cause a hard closure of Wilshire Blvd. between Fairfax Ave. and Hauser Blvd. this coming weekend, and a “soft” closure from Hauser to La Brea Ave., via the filming of a new TV pilot, “La Brea.”
But while the sinkhole is fictional, there will undoubtedly be some very real difficulties for local businesses as a result of the big shoot. Wilshire Blvd. will be fully closed between Hauser Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. Monday, and the section between La Brea and Hauser will contain signs discouraging through traffic and warning westbound motorists of the upcoming closure at Hauser. Some side streets will also have parking restrictions during the closure times, and Curson Ave. will be closed on Sunday between Wilshire and Sixth Street.
According to Kari Garcia, Neighborhood Watch Coordinator for the Miracle Mile Residential Association, most of the Wilshire Blvd. businesses were notified of the two-day weekend street closure just three weeks in advance, by a flier dropped at their storefronts. And businesses adjacent to Wilshire, which will also be greatly affected, did not receive any official notice at all of what – at that point – was going to be a full two-day closure of the full stretch of Wilshire from La Brea to Fairfax.
When word finally did reach everyone, Garcia said, the reaction was not positive, especially since the merchants in this area are already strugging with things like subway construction, crime and a recent graffiti spree along Wilshire Blvd. As MMRA President Jim O’Sullivan put it in an editorial CityWatch on February 27, “The small business owners we have talked to are in shock. They can’t easily afford to lose an entire weekend’s receipts; they keep asking us how can that happen?”
At that point, City Council Member David Ryu got involved and, according to a story in the Beverly Press, brokered a compromise in which Wilshire would be fully closed only between Fairfax and Hauser, with a “soft closure” instead from Hauser to La Brea, leaving those blocks open to some weekend traffic and business access.
But Garcia told the Buzz today that the compromise came with some disadvantages for the businesses in the soft-closure section – while NBC had originally offered the “courtesy” of some financial compensation to merchants along the full stretch from La Brea to Fairfax, it rescinded that offer for Wilshire Blvd. businesses between La Brea and Hauser once the switch to a soft closure was made on that section of the street. According to CD4 spokesperson Mark Pampanin, negotiations to restore an offer of compensation to those businesses are in the works, but so far, nothing has been finalized. “Councilmember Ryu absolutely believes affected businesses deserve compensation from the production company,” Pampanin told the Buzz, “and our office has made this known to FilmLA.”
Since word of the closures first broke, however, Garcia – who’s recently been very tuned in to local businesses as part of an effort to create a new Miracle Mile Business Watch – realized that while the film shoot was closing the street, the sidewalks would still be open all the way from La Brea to Fairfax, providing a unique opportunity for pedestrians to visit and explore Wilshire and adjacent businesses without all the usual cars and buses.
So she decided to turn street closure lemons into pedestrian lemonade, and organized a special “Eat, Shop, Walk & Enjoy Miracle Mile” promotion for this weekend. It invites neighbors to come and enjoy the car-free day in the hard closure area, and the now somewhat-reduced-traffic day in the soft closure area…and also lets people know, in a positive way, that the businesses in both areas will still be open this weekend, and especially appreciative of patrons’ business.
Garcia says big film shoots like this present a “delicate balance” for the city – we want and need to keep production business in Los Angeles, but “respect needs to be paid to those businesses” that suffer disruptions from street closures and parking reductions. The key to making it all work, she says, is the same principle that underlies her local crime watch efforts: organization. In fact, Garcia said the first thing she realized when the street closure news broke was that there was no way to contact all of the area merchants at once, which is something that is also needed for the new Business Watch. So finding contact information was her starting point for both efforts.
“Neighborhoods will not do well or survive…if they’re not well organized. The same goes for business districts,” Garcia said.
And the same principles apply for both crime watches and film shoots. “A lot of good can come from this…but let’s do this in an orderly manner,” she said. And a good first step would be to “Eat, Shop, Walk & Enjoy Miracle Mile” this weekend.
[This story was updated after publication to add the information from CD4 spokeperson Mark Pampanin.]