Things That Matter

After A Film Crew Went Into Boyle Heights And Began Towing Cars On Labor Day, A Local Artist Confronted Them

For many in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Labor Day was to supposed to be a relaxing stress-free day. However, on Monday afternoon, local residents living next to Hollenback Park were dealing with Blank Slate Pictures, a film production company, that was towing their vehicles. The messy ordeal was something that Boyle Heights resident and artist Nico Aviña had previously seen before but never on a national holiday like Labor Day when many in the working-class community have the day off. 

The predominately Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights has become a popular area for filming movies and television shows. Yet quite often, the production crews that come into the area haven’t had good communication with local residents when it comes to things like moving their vehicles.

According to L.A. Taco, Aviña saw the situation unfold right before his eyes as he was doing yard work in front of his home. He noticed that neighbors across the street from the park began alerting each other about their vehicles being towed. Upon checking out the scene, Aviña saw a tow truck begin taking cars away and a parking enforcement officer placing tickets on cars windshields. 

That’s when Aviña took things into his own hands and began to ask members of the production crew why they were doing all of this. 

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In a series of four Instagram videos, Aviña shared his confrontation with members of the production crew asking them what business they had coming into the neighborhood and towing away residents vehicles. Since this wasn’t the first time he’s seen this happen, Aviña began questioning the motive behind crew members calling city parking and promptly towing away cars.

Aviña made sure that David Mandell heard his frustration about outsiders disregarding community members in Boyle Heights.

Credit: davidmandell / Instagram

“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,” Aviña says as Mandell, a co-founder of Blank Slate Production, argues back. 

In the series of videos, you can hear Aviña begin to get frustrated with crew members as they dodged questions about why they were towing cars and why they didn’t give notice to residents about parking restriction before the weekend. Speaking to L.A. Taco, he said that many of the families in the neighborhood were out town due to the holiday weekend and might have not seen a notice about the production crew and possible parking restrictions. 

“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 told L.A. Taco

Aviña took exception with the production crew as he asked them why there was no alternative to calling a tow truck on residents cars.

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“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? Aviña says in the video. “Where’s the alternative parking that you guys offer?”

Aviña and Peter Vogel, co-founder of Blank Slate Production, discussed the parking situation at hand. “You may park in that parking lot over there,” Vogel told Aviña. “It’s open.”

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

“No, you didn’t,” Vogel said.

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

Ironically, the film that the production company was filming is about a woman who is “forced to raise her son in her car” as they “attempt to find a way out of homelessness.” 

Credit: @elrandomhero / Twitter

Blank Slate Pictures was in Hollenbeck Park to film the upcoming movie “Like Turtles,” which according to IMDB is based on a mother who “is forced to raise her son in her car and attempt to find a way out of homelessness all while never letting her son realize the severity of their circumstances.” Some on social media found irony in the situation that a film crew doing a movie about a person living out of their car while at the same time towing away residents cars. 

Parking tickets have become a notorious problem in the neighborhood as there are limited spaces for residents to park their vehicles. With the addition of weekly street cleaning, many residents are forced to move their cars and shuffle spaces to avoid getting a ticket. Those tickets come at a steep price, according to the LA Times, retrieving a towed car can cost close to $290, this includes a $133 charge for the tow, an additional $115 to release the car and $46.56 for each following day the car is in city storage. 

For Aviña, this issue goes beyond just towing cars but is a perfect example of when outside forces come into the neighborhood and don’t bother to reach out to the community.

Credit: @avalonsensei / Twitter

Aviña brings up the issue of privilege and gentrification that has affected the working-class neighborhood for the last decade. He points to the production crew as an example of this and them not reaching out to the local community. Boyle Heights has been ground zero in LA when it comes to gentrification as many longtime residents have lost their homes and businesses due to rising rents and development. 

“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,” Aviña says in the final video to the production crew. “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.”

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