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Barstow City Council approves film permit process despite Porn Industry concerns

BARSTOW, California from www.desertdispatch.com – Before tentatively approving a permitting system and fees for filming within city limits, the Barstow City Council discussed how such a system would apply to adult films and what city officials could do to regulate them.

The Council voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution Monday that would require commercial filmmakers and photographers to pay a $100 flat fee and a $500 security deposit to work within city limits. Councilman Tim Saenz, whose motion to table the issue failed by a 2-3 vote, dissented. The issue will be brought back before Council for another vote in March.

Barstow Mayor Joe Gomez voted in favor of tabling the issue, recommending that a committee of elected officials and community members be formed to address filming issues within city limits. He also suggested that the committee decide when and where adult films productions would be permitted. Even though the recommended action was approved, the Council still created the committee.

Saenz introduced the issue of adult films, saying that the proposed ordinance was an “open slate” for pornography because it’s not excluded in the proposed ordinance. He suggested that the Council look into zoning adult films.

“This has been thrown together and rushed through,” he said. “It needs to be well thought out. I’d like to know what benefits this will bring.”

City Attorney Yvette Abich-Garcia said cities can regulate when and where adult films can be produced and require that nudity be screened from public view. But because adult films are protected under the First Amendment, the Council can’t ban them. The proposed permit does include screening the public from potential nudity.

According to Community and Economic Development Director Ron Rector, a filming permit was requested by the film industry so they can be clear that they can film within Barstow city limits. Laura Moraco, an administrative assistant in the city’s economic development division, said Blythe and Needles are the only other cities in the Inland Empire without filming ordinances. The proposed permit would require filmmakers to notify residents within 500 feet of the filming site and require them to carry liability insurance if filming on public property.

Norm Diaz, a Hinkley resident, said that as a location scout for the film industry he approves of the city’s proposed film permit because he likes to know what film crews can and cannot do at a production site. However, he said the Council recommending additional regulations made him nervous.

“It’s important to know what I face ahead of time,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to spend two weeks waiting for city officials to approve a script. “Let’s do this right.”

The proposed permit would not apply to the news media, people taking photos recreationally and people who conduct motion or still photography in a studio or on a stage at a business. Student films, government films and nonprofit organizations would be exempt from the $100 fee and $500 deposit.

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