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What Happens If You Get Towed Because of Filming Restrictions in Your Neighborhood? Boyle Heights Artist Confronts Production Company About It on Labor Day

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]n Monday afternoon at Hollenbeck Park, Boyle Heights resident Nico Aviña noticed production company Blank Slate Pictures towing local residents’ cars. This wasn’t the first time Aviña had seen this happen but he was more upset by the fact that the crew was towing cars on Labor Day in a working-class neighborhood.

Aviña was working in his front yard when he first noticed one of his neighbors running to another neighbor to tell them they were towing cars. He walked over to where he saw a tow truck take two cars, along with parking enforcement officer ticketing multiple cars. He went over to talk to the production company and asked them why they were towing cars. 

Aviña said this is something the community deals with all the time. Frustrated with the situation and the crew member’s approach, he began recording. Aviña posted four Instagram videos, over the course of which he has a conversation with the crew. In total, the videos have over 12,000 views. In the first video, Aviña said, “So this is what happens when people from outside of the community come into our community. They use the city against the community, towing cars.”

A crew member responded, “I don’t want to tow anybody’s car.”

Aviña said, “You just did. You were laughing about it.”

“No, we weren’t,” the crew member said.

Aviña said he was also made more upset by the arrogance of the crew. “I’ve seen other productions work with folks,” he told the Taco. He mentioned David Mandell, one of the co-founders of Blank Slate Pictures, who is pictured in the series of Instagram videos wearing multicolored pants. “As I walked by him, he was bragging that he parked his car where he had a van towed,” Aviña said. “There is a connection with unpaid city fines, debt and homelessness. Aside from the rising cost of living here due to the effects of gentrification.”

Blank Slate Pictures was in Hollenbeck Park to film “Like Turtles,” an upcoming film about a woman in debt who experiences homelessness and has to live out of her car

Aviña told the production crew in the video he posted, “This is a working-class community. On Labor Day, you’re towing cars. Are you for reals? Did you guys think about that? Did you guys think about this is a working-class community and you guys are towing cars on our day off and we have nowhere to park? Where’s the alternative parking that you guys offer?”


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Part 2

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“You may park in that parking lot over there,” co-founder of Blank Slate Productions Peter Vogel said. “It’s open.”

“No. You just said that right now, but you know it’s closed. I just told you it was closed,” Aviña said

“No, you didn’t,” Vogel said.

“You’re going to act like that? Are you going to act like that?” Aviña said.

In the third video, Aviña says, “You’re coming into a community and instead of reaching out to the community, you’re towing cars on Labor Day weekend. […] You could’ve easily knocked on the doors instead of calling the city and said, ‘Whose cars are those?’”

In a conversation with L.A. Taco, Aviña also pointed out that families often leave town for the long weekend and might not have known about parking restrictions that came as a result of filming. “In the video, you hear one claim the signs went up Friday. Kids didn’t go to school on Friday. So if people took a four-day trip how were they going to see the signs?” Aviña said.

This is the second time Aviña has confronted outsiders of the community trying to capitalize on the neighborhood. The first time being in June when a Youtuber dressed as a Mexican caricature was filming in front of his shop, Espacio 1939. 

L.A. Taco reached out to Blank Slate Pictures yesterday for comment but has not heard back. 

According to an LA Times article on how towing cars can be financially ruinous, retrieving a towed car can cost upwards of $290, with a $133 charge for the tow, $115 to release the vehicle, and $46.56 for each day the car is in storage. But towing fees can vary depending on a wide range of factors, including where the car is towed from, who is calling in the request to tow, and how much time passes in between when the car is towed and when fees are paid to retrieve the car. It is not at all uncommon for towing costs to reach $500. This cost also does not include potential transportation fees to the impound garage, or potential time is taken off work to do so.


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In addition to these towing fees, drivers may also be required to pay additional parking ticket fees. For drivers who may not realize their car has been towed right away, especially over the course of a long weekend, or who are unable to afford paying towing fees immediately, the per-day storage fee could make towing fees even more expensive. And with rent often being due the first day of the month, many individuals and families may not be equipped to immediately shell out the extra $300 or more for a towed car. 

According to the LADOT website, “The Parking Violation Bureau does not grant payment extensions. A payment must be received within 21 days of the date the citation was issued, or 14 days from the date of the first overdue notice. Otherwise, late fees will be added, which often double the citation fine. Additional collections fees will be added if the citation remains unpaid after the initial late penalty is assessed.


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Part. 4

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Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights is just one of several production hotspots in local neighborhoods. Others include Mariachi Plaza and the Evergreen Cemetery, both in Boyle Heights, as well as Figueroa Street along Avenue 56 and Avenue 57 in Highland Park. 

Aviña also spoke to the production crew about the idea of using the city and its officials against the community of color, pointing out that the crew called the city officials. In the second video, one crew member pointed out the street signs, asking Aviña, “What does the sign say?”

“It doesn’t matter what the sign says,” Aviña said. “Because you didn’t do the outreach.”

In communal, tight-knit neighborhoods, identifying an improperly parked car could require just a few knocks on doors and a few minutes. Doing so is generally considered common courtesy, as it takes into consideration people’s varied financial and working situations and demonstrates respect for a community and its individuals’ time and money. In the third video, Avina said, “You could’ve easily knocked on the doors instead of picking up the phone and calling the city. You could’ve said, ‘Whose cars are these? We need the parking lot and we paid for it.’ You walked around the park, not door-to-door.”

In the fourth video, Aviña said, “You see what I’m talking about, the privilege? You could’ve easily knocked on doors, man. You could’ve easily warned the community. Instead, a working-class neighborhood that is barely affording the effects of gentrification that pays the rent. […] A working-class community that can’t afford the rent because of the exploitation, because of what’s going on with gentrification. And instead of knocking on their doors, what do you do? You get their cars towed away. So now they got another fine. Now they got a parking ticket, plus get their cars out. You know I’m making sense. You know it’s the truth. It’s our reality. We live this shit every day. You’re not the only ones that come and film here. We gotta deal with this daily.”

L.A. Taco has reached out to Peter Vogel and several members of the team supporting City Councilmember Jose Huizar for comment. We will update this story accordingly if we hear back.

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