"Supervisors Warm to Disney's Overtures,
Agree to Talks for Planned Movie Shoot at City Hall"

by Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Examiner, 9 March 1999

The magic of Walt Disney Pictures appears to be working as San Francisco officials, once reluctant to turn the historic legislative chamber in City Hall into a temporary movie set, are now moving toward embracing the project.

The Board of Supervisors, on a 7-2 vote Monday, directed the clerk of the board to enter into contract negotiations with Disney for use of the elaborate room for a scene in the upcoming Robin Williams film "Bicentennial Man."

The move does not mean the movie company has official permission to film in the chamber; the board is scheduled to vote on that step in two weeks, once terms of the contract are hashed out.

Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Leland Yee, who oppose commercial filming in the meeting room, voted against the plan to kick-start negotiations with Disney.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Michael Yaki introduced legislation Monday to establish guidelines for filming in the chamber. Among the proposed requirements: restricting the removal of the room's furnishings; requiring the presence of an architectural preservationist when the movie is being made; limiting the number of filming days in the chamber to 14 a year; and making the movie-maker post a bond large enough to cover the cost of possible damage. The proposal would also ban pyrotechnics, food, drink, animals, smoking and fogging devices from the chamber.

"These guidelines will ensure that the architectural and historic significance of the chamber is protected and maintained by any company (that) chooses to use it for filming purposes," Yaki said.

The board is set to vote on the proposed guidelines next week.

City Architect Tony Irons, who initially voiced reservations about allowing the Manchurian-oak lined chamber to be used for movie-making, now says he's comfortable that the room's integrity will be maintained.

He said the guidelines, which he helped draft, "are very thorough."

"They've taken into account every conceivable danger to the room as a result of filming in the room to the best of our ability," Irons said.

Filming of "Bicentennial Man," a futuristic movie in which Williams plays a robot with humanlike feelings, is set to start March 15. Disney wants to use the legislative chamber for five days or so in April or June. Under Yaki's plan, The City would charge Disney — or any movie-maker that wants to rent the chamber in the future — $10,000 for the first day of activity and $20,000 for each additional day.

©1999 San Francisco Examiner

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