A Revolutionary Solution for Homelessness in Beverly Hills

Franklin Canyon Park, in the storied borough of Beverly Hills, has been used as a popular filming location for decades. Exterior shots for The Andy Griffith ShowTwin Peaks, On Golden Pond, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Happened One Night — all were photographed here.

These days, about 25 movies are filmed in Franklin Canyon annually. Producers pay the City a handsome fee in return for the right to occupy the public space with dozens of cast and crew (and catering, and lighting equipment, and port-a-potties, and everything else necessary to service a round-the-clock movie production). If there’s any “impact” on local residents and civilian park visitors, the people in charge have decided it’s not in any way a problem, especially when balanced against all the free money flowing into their Beverly Hills treasury.

photo: Jon Harper

Over the past month, hikers at Franklin Canyon have observed a new development in the location game. An unnamed major movie production, one that’s scheduled to use the Park for nearly six months total, according to the motorcycle cops doing security, has been given permission to build (and landscape) at least half-a-dozen houses and cabins on wild areas that once were dirt patches. They’re quaint and simple, the kind of structures you might see at an upscale summer camp, or an eco-tourist resort. During the day, while the park is open to the public, technicians work on the sets, getting them ready for that evening’s shoot. When the park closes to the public at sundown, the movie production takes over Franklin Canyon, working throughout the night until the morning, when the cycle repeats.

According to the cops, when the 6-month movie production ends, all the beautiful cabins and planted trees will be completely removed, leaving the spaces bare and unoccupied.

At least that was the original plan.

photo: Jon Harper

Not long ago, it occurred to the kind and compassionate Beverly Hills City Council, the august body looking out for the best interests of all living creatures in their prosperous village, that maybe there was a better ongoing use for these handsome houses than “nothing.” Sure, serving as a facade for a movie scene is a worthy and noble purpose; but, wouldn’t actually housing someone be worthy and noble, too? Instead of going to great expense to construct and demolish the rustic cabins, wouldn’t it be wiser to treat the capital improvement as an investment? Wouldn’t it be better to capture an additional dividend?

So the Beverly Hills City Council has decided that when filming ends the cabins should be used as simple but effective housing — shelters — for people without a home, people who normally sleep on Beverly Hills bus benches or sidewalks.

Predictably, certain members of the public are incensed at the idea of allowing homeless people to have a roof over their head in a public park. But the fair-minded politicians on the Beverly Hills City Council explain the situation like this: If it’s all right to let these structures be in the park 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, for six months, attended to by an army of nearly 100, then surely it’s all right to have, say, a dozen formerly homeless people stay there, too. 

This is a cheering and inspiring development. None of us wants to be a member of a society — or a resident of a City — where it’s OK to build housing in a public park for a movie but not for a human being in need.

We applaud Beverly Hills for thinking imaginatively, for finding innovative solutions to the housing crisis. For once, it seems like someone’s got their priorities straight.

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