With the County's approval, Columbia
Pictures built this shack on the bluff overlooking Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
for their feature film, "Memoirs of a Geisha." CGF stepped in
to help ensure that environmental impacts were minimized, that funds for
bluff restoration were sufficient and that the permitting process be improved."
Filming above Marine Reserve helps improve process
The new year brought a short-lived but heated controversy to Moss Beach, when San Mateo County granted a permit to Columbia Pictures to construct a shack on the very edge of a sensitive bluff above Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
For several days in January, crews working on the feature film "Memoirs of a Geisha" and their associated trucks, equipment, lighting, cast members and even a few oxen milled about the area, distressing neighbors and reserve lovers who had not been notified of the project.
Committee for Green Foothills became involved to mitigate impacts to sensitive coastal resources, prevent potential bluff erosion, and ensure complete restoration following the project. Our greater concern is that the County approved this project without notice to affected neighbors and the interested public.
Columbia's $18,000 permit fee to the County, along with their $28,000 donation to the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Foundation, helped persuade park staff to approve the filming permit, even though the Park and Recreation Commission and the Board of Supervisors had not been consulted and were not even aware of the request to film at Fitzgerald.
In addition to the outcry from neighbors, the California Coastal Commission reprimanded the County for waiving a Coastal Development Permit for the filming.
In a meeting with CGF, County Park officials, Supervisor Rich Gordon and a few of the many concerned local residents, Columbia Pictures increased the escrow account for restoration and monitoring of the site from $25,000 to a total of $37,000. This should ensure that adequate funds are available to restore the bluff.
Importantly, CGF also successfully urged the County to update their permitting process to include ample public input and review, and to develop clear guidelines for future commercial events. Supervisor Rich Gordon has made it clear that decisions such as these should come before officials on the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.
We'll continue to work with San Mateo County officials to ensure that the process is open and provides good protections for our public resources.