Zoned Out

A local ruling may have broad implications.


The problems that Beverly Hills 90210 grapples with usually revolve around adolescent angst and teenage trauma. Last fall, however, the Fox network television show had to wrestle with the somewhat more adult world of zoning laws. A recent Southern California court decision denied 90210 a permit to film on location because the site was zoned for noncommercial activity.

The show's producers, Aaron Spelling Productions, hoped to continue using a private home in Hermosa Beach, a beachfront community just south of Los Angeles, as a setting. The show had previously filmed at the location three times, and the new season's plot had several characters moving into a large, three-story house next to the beach.

Spelling Productions applied for and received a one-day filming permit from Hermosa Beach's City Council, but neighbors, upset at the disturbances they felt the activity would cause, went to court to block the filming before it began. A local newspaper, The Beach Reporter, quoted one resident as saying, "No matter how considerate these people are, there is basic disruption and commotion."

"Effectively, the ruling will prevent filming [in Hermosa Beach]," says Hermosa Beach City Manager Mary Rooney. According to Rooney, the city may appeal the decision.

While the college-age characters of the popular show might shrug off the court ruling as a minor "bummer," state and local officials interested in sustaining ties with California's third largest industry are taking the matter more seriously. The major concern is that the rationale of the decision could possibly affect on-site filming throughout California.

"To have something like this spread statewide would be disastrous for the film industry," says Bob Berkus, a motion picture production analyst for the state's Film Commission. "The potential for a chilling effect is great."