Residents of Angelino Heights plan to protest Friday’s shoot for ”Fast X“ given the ongoing crush of copycat street racers who’ve invaded the area
For more than two decades, the “Fast and Furious” film franchise has unleashed legions of devoted and diehard fans from around the world to L.A.’s historic Angelino Heights, just west of the city’s center.
The neighborhood is the home to Bob’s Market — depicted in the franchise as Toretto’s Market & Deli, an establishment owned by Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto — as well as the Victorian house on East Kensington Road that Dom and his crew call home. But the locations have also inspired years of illegal street takeovers, spinouts and other dangerous car stunts performed by reckless motorists.
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Now, as Universal Pictures prepares to return to the neighborhood on Friday to film parts of the 10th franchise installment “Fast X,” community members are planning protests to signal their anger and dismay to both city officials and the studio.
“On any given night, especially on the weekends, cars come to Bob’s Market to do burnouts, do screeching tires, burning rubber, which has caused a lot of problems as you can imagine with the community,” said Damian Kevitt, executive director and founder of Streets Are For Everyone, which is helping to produce and coordinate Friday’s protest at Marion Park, a block away from Bob’s Market on Bellevue Avenue.
“There are people that come as tourists and that’s great, but it’s a residential community being woken up at 1 in the morning night after night due to screeching tires (and that) does not help the mental health and well being of community members, let alone the property values,” added Kevitt, who lost a leg after he was struck and injured by a hit-and-run motorist as he was cycling in Griffith Park in 2013.
From the sprawling San Fernando Valley to Compton to Long Beach, illegal sideshows, stunts and street racing have long plagued streets and intersections throughout Los Angeles County, with police and sheriff’s officials periodically creating task forces to tackle the problem. The rise of social media has further fueled street racing takeovers.
Citywide, fatal traffic collisions increased 13% so far this year compared to the same period last year, according to online Los Angeles Police Department data. LAPD’s Central Bureau, which includes Angelino Heights, has seen an increase of 23% in fatal collisions so far this year.
One Angelino Heights resident, who asked not to be identified by name for professional reasons, said the neighborhood has endured “years and years of (fans) street racing, spinning, and drifting” every week. “There are street takeovers, and spinouts and then they rip up the street doing 70 miles an hour on residential streets on Kensington and then across to Bellevue,” she said, adding that “it’s depressing and scary for everyone that lives in this neighborhood.” (Another local resident captured video, below, of a motorist performing spinouts in front of Bob’s Market in broad daylight.)
Planaria Price, a resident of five decades who has restored a number of homes in Angelino Heights with her husband, is not totally opposed to Hollywood production in the neighborhood. She and her neighbors have benefited financially from a variety of productions over the years — from the home used in the TV series “Charmed” and a house used in Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video on the street where she lives which she said drew “sweet and respectful tourists.” And industry-related companies have donated to local community organizations at the couple’s request.
But when “Fast and Furious” started filming around Bob’s Market and East Kensington years ago, “it brought a whole different group of fans and it started all (the street stunts),” she said. “This ‘Fast and Furious’ (franchise) has become a total nightmare. It’s changed the total feeling of the neighborhood.”
Price said one of her tenants was even threatened with a gun after he verbally confronted a fan doing street stunts several years ago.
Like many residents, Price and her husband, Murray Burns, are urging Universal to act more responsibly. Price suggested building replicas of the market and Toretto’s Victorian home — while her husband said there should be more onscreen messaging about the dangers of street racing. “What they could do or should do is something in their presentation of this story is to make sure that viewers know how wrong this kind of driving is – so that’s the point – not that they shouldn’t film,” Burns said.
Reps for Universal Pictures and Councilmn Gil Cedillo, whose district includes Angelino Heights, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Universal is currently scheduled to shoot scenes for “Fast X” on Friday outside that Victorian house on Kensington, with a permit from FilmLA promising “simulated emergency services activity, aerial photography, wetting down of street and atmospheric smoke.”
“Fast and Furious” star Sung Kang said Thursday by phone that since 2011’s “Fast Five,” the franchise has filmed mostly outside Los Angeles — mainly in London. A duplicate of the Victorian house on Kensington was even built in London, which allowed the crew to be more respectful of the Angelino Heights neighborhood. Friday’s shooting there is largely to get exterior shots of the Toretto home and the neighborhood, Kang said.
Residents say that the city’s past efforts to curb street-racing — installing plastic street posts known as bollards across from Bob’s Market several years ago to discourage street stunts — have proved insufficient. According to Price, motorists just moved their stunts to other nearby intersections.
Kevitt has teamed up with Lili Trujillo-Puckett of Street Racing Kills to ask that the city “re-engineer” roads in Angelino Heights and install physical barriers, such as speed humps and meridians, to prevent drivers from racing and drifting. They’re also asking city and state officials to adopt “a zero tolerance policy” toward street racing, takeovers and sideshows. That would include allowing automated speed cameras on known street-racing corridors, stiffer penalties and license revocations of repeat offenders for at least a year, according to a written statement.
The group is also asking Universal to “take responsibility for the glorification of illegal street racing, street takeovers and sideshows” by including a disclaimer or short video at the start and end of all “Fast and Furious” movies showing the dangers of doing such stunts. They also want the conglomerate to actively work with state lawmakers on new legislation to deter street-racing and invest in education and advocacy.
Kang, who directed a PSA earlier this summer to combat illegal street racing and stunts, urged fans not to try to emulate the franchise’s fantastical stunts, which are performed by trained professionals (and boosted by CGI). “You are driving with a loaded gun essentially,” Kang told TheWrap, pointing to the 2013 death of series star Paul Walker as a warning for how things can go wrong. “We’ve lost a friend due to a motor accident. To me, is that worth it? Is that worth looking cool? (Then) all the power to you, because you won’t be here tomorrow.”
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