Plan Afoot to Wall in Fox’s Westside Studio Complex
By AMANDA BRONSTAD
Responding to concerns that its Westside studio campus presents an inviting terror target, Fox Entertainment Group Inc. plans to spend more than $1 million to upgrade security.
Among the steps being considered are tearing down the chain link fence that surrounds its 50-acre studio, bounded by Pico and Olympic boulevards and Avenue of the Stars, and replacing it with a less penetrable fence within the next few months.
“With some people, security was in vogue after Sept. 11 and out of sight later,” said Dale Goldsmith, a partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman Machtinger & Kinsella LLP and land use attorney working with Fox on its security measures. “We’re seeing a long-term commitment at Fox to ensure the safety of their employees and visitors. Just because we’re a few months removed from the terrorist attacks doesn’t mean the threats are gone.”
The studio has not yet filed an application with the city for approval of the contemplated changes.
The measures reflect how Fox’s more open, campus-like lot may be more vulnerable to security threats than its counterparts. Fox executives declined to comment, saying they don’t discuss security measures.
“Fox maybe has more of an open feel than the contained campuses like Warner or Disney,” Goldsmith said. “Maybe it’s because it’s located near Century City, and there aren’t as many on-site amenities. Or maybe because there are a number of Fox employees in the (Fox Plaza) office building and there’s a continual flow of people off the campus.”
As a result, Fox plans to build a fence around the lot that could cost the company more than $1 million, said Bevan Clark, president and chief executive of Cumming, Ga.-based SecureUSA Inc., the company retained to design and install the new fence and bollards.
Bollards are heavy cylinder-shaped barriers that shoot up from the ground essentially an upgraded version of the “tiger teeth” prominently used at the entrances and exits of parking garage floors throughout Los Angeles.
While Clark couldn’t say how much Fox’s new fence will cost, since it depends on architectural designs and exact length, he estimated the project to be at about the same scale as a similar 4,000-foot-long fence underway at a high-security military facility that recently retained SecureUSA.
“Fences like that usually (address) a couple of concerns,” he said. “One is pedestrian, or whether individuals can get over the fence. The second is that it becomes a soft spot for vehicle entry. If you’re on a main road and you get a vehicle moving on the road loaded with explosives that can drive right through the fence, that’s a soft spot.”
Goldsmith said Fox already has trimmed trees around the lot and will likely start with fencing along the lot entrances on Pico Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars.
Most of the studios initially were talking about adding the “tiger teeth” where they didn’t already have them, Clark said, but in the past few weeks they upped their security measures to install bollards instead.
“Some already had those tiger teeth and parking arms,” he said. “That level of security is so minimal that if you’ve got any serious threat, it wouldn’t stop anything. How do you stop someone going 50 miles per hour with a 20,000-pound vehicle? That education process has helped the studios realize this is a serious issue, and they need to be looking at it as something significant.”
Clark said he also is working with Universal Studios and Warner Bros. about adding bollards to their main entrances.
A basic installation of bollards on a two-way entrance and exit can run $100,000, Clark said. Architectural design work can run the price up. And the studios require more architectural design work than the amount typically done for bollards, which are known to be ugly metal fixtures at high-security military and federal facilities, he said.
After all, it is the movie business.
“Some of the facilities have got certain aesthetics where they at first say, ‘Do we have to just put these systems in with them looking unattractive?'” he said. “In many cases, the equipment is very aggressive-looking, and they don’t like the look.”
Many companies are changing their security measures because of threat assessments begun after Sept. 11, said Neil Martau, vice president of Pasadena-based Inter-Con Security Systems Inc., which provides security for the Academy Awards.
“You’ll see new specifications with higher standards and more rationalized and integrated security programs initiated at higher levels,” Martau said. “People are changing their budgets. They are spending money and doing what it takes to make the employees or visitors secure, regardless of business.”