"S.F. Step[s] Closer to Deal With Disney,
Supervisors Negotiate For Safety, More Money"

by Jason B. Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 March 1999

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors gave Walt Disney Pictures tentative permission yesterday to use the board's historic chambers to film scenes for an upcoming movie starring Robin Williams.

By a 7-to-2 vote the board passed a series of resolutions authorizing city officials to negotiate a deal with the studio to use the chambers in scenes for the movie "Bicentennial Man."

Supervisors had postponed voting on the issue last week because of concern that Disney was not providing enough safeguards for the ornate chambers.

But several supervisors agreed to support yesterday's deal with the understanding that the board would soon vote on a set of guidelines for "Bicentennial Man" and future filmmakers.

Supervisor Michael Yaki, who was originally against the filming, drafted the guidelines and called them "extremely strict."

Board president Tom Ammiano, who along with Supervisor Leland Yee voted against the deal, said the move sets a bad precedent.

"Tax money just recently restored this to its full glory," Ammiano said. "I don't know that this activity properly reflects the history and the worth of the chamber."

Supporters of the deal warned that if the city turned Disney down, Hollywood would think twice in the future about coming to the city to make movies.

But Ammiano and others said the city should not sell its soul to woo the movie industry.

"When you invite somebody into your house, that doesn't always mean you invite them into every room," Ammiano said.

Public opinion at the meeting was almost evenly divided, with some speakers warning that letting a film crew into the chambers would rob the room of its magic.

"This room is very special. Why can't it remain special?" Richmond District resident Michael Levin told supervisors before the vote.

Disney originally was to have paid $5,000 a day to use the City Hall chambers for four days this spring. Under the new guidelines, it would have to pay $10,000 for the first day it used the chambers, then $20,000 for each subsequent day.

Disney location manager Rory Enke said the guidelines put forward by the board seemed reasonable.

"Anything cautionary I believe is a good thing," Enke said. "It is not my attempt to throw a party in the room."

©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

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