When Karen Greenwall ventured out of her Novato house Tuesday, she noteiced a brilliant pink rosebush had appeared in her yard. Over the last few weeks she has lost a fence and seen her entire neighborhood change before her very eyes.
A house, a clubroom and police station now stand where a small backyard park used to be.
It would surprise most people, but Greenwell hardly blinked. After five weeks of living in the "Radio Flyer" film site, she's beyond surprise.
"By the time this movie is out, I probably won't want to see it," she said.
Filming for the children's fantasy movie was set to begin at 6:30 this morning and continue for two weeks or more in Greenwell's neighborhood, the Rafael Village military subdivision at Owens, Morgan and Norman drives.
The scene then will switch to Old Town on Grant Avenue, and an old white Victorian on Redwood Boulevard.
Produced by "Wall Street" star Michael Douglas for Columbia, the story portrays two young brothers in 1969 who seek relief from their abusive stepfather by pretending they can fly in their Radio Flyer red wagon.
Rafael Village residents have witnessed mailboxes, trees and shrubs sprout up alongside the streets.
The Columbia crafted neighborhood now has a fleet of tan and white squad cards, old Ramblers, sport[ing] the logo "Novato Sheriff's Department Protecting our county since 1870."
The fence lining the alley is fake, with posts barely stuck in holes, and mock television antennae linking electric wires that go nowhere have been plopped on some houses.
"I saw a man over there," Greenwell said, pointing to her side fence. "I asked, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I'm going to take your fence down.' I said, 'No you're not.'"
Greenwell discovered she had missed the neighborhood meeting, when Columbia introduced what it had in mind. The man did remove her fence, and workers installed a new one alongside a new "alleyway."
"It's just noisy. It's just been awful," said Elisa Howard, who lives down the street. "Supposedly it's like only six minutes in the movie. That's what's really maddening."
Her neighbor, Soledad Horacek said residents have to move their cars during filming and board their dogs at kennels so they won't bark during the shoots.
But the show must go on.
Columbia is paying the Navy $7,500 for the use of the property and has pledged to restore or improve all the sites it uses, said Lt. Commander Jerry Spillers, the head of housing at Hamilton Field and Rafael Village.
"We're happy with it," Spillers said. One or two families asked for payment for use of the premises, but Spillers said that was impossible because the houses belong to the federal government.
"If anybody is to receive money for that house, it's going to be the government," he said.
One Navy family was completely moved out of their home and Columbia relocated them elsewhere. They left voluntarily, Spillers said emphatically.
Plans change as quickly as they are made, with schedules and cast apparently still up in the air. Richard Donner, director of "Superman" and "Lethal Weapon" will direct "Radio Flyer."
"These movie people seem to do things at the drop of a hat. I'm not used to working like that," said Novato Police Sgt. Lyndy Bennett. He gave the filmmakers their permit on Monday.
©1990 Marin Independent Journal