LA locals say Fast & Furious movies turn streets into racing hot spots
Los Angeles, California - Fans flock to parts of Los Angeles where films about street racing are made. Copycat drivers tear through the city, imitating the stunts they see on the big screen, creating a deadly problem. Residents want filmmakers to do more to mitigate their traffic nightmare.
Nearly every night, drivers speed down the street outside Rene Favela's home in Angelino Heights.
"People drive through at 2:00 in the morning, 2:00 in the afternoon," said Favela, who moved into the neighborhood just north of downtown Los Angeles 17 years ago with his wife, Bella.
Now with a child, the couple have grown concerned about the dangerous street races and stunts outside their front door – turmoil that neighbors say has been stirred up by the Fast & Furious movie franchise, whose fans flock to the Angelino Heights streets that star Vin Diesel's character calls home.
Favela understands that street racing in LA predates the franchise, whose first installment was released in 2001, but he can't help but feel the films are contributing to the problem.
"You don't want to say it encourages the street racing, but you know, it doesn't help," Favela said outside his home on Bellevue Avenue, where the asphalt is marked with black tire marks.
LA residents protest filming of Fast X
On Friday, protesters in Angelino Heights rallied against the filming of Fast X, the 10th installment in the franchise, which residents say glamorizes street racing and illegal takeovers, fueling a dangerous trend not just in Angelino Heights but anywhere the films have resonated with young drivers.
As TV news cameras documented the protest, fans gathered near the film set's security checkpoints and crews spread out over the neighborhood, erecting large screens next to Victorian homes.
Just down the street is Bob's Market, prominently featured as the liquor store owned by the family of Diesel's Dominic Toretto and now a destination for street racers to take selfies.
"There's a lot of traffic here with fast cars a lot of young people, taking all the parking and taking pictures," Juanita Chaidez said outside the market Friday morning.
Chaidez (56) grew up in Angelino Heights and said the street takeovers have worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even if she doesn't see the drivers doing doughnuts in the street, she said, she can see the smoke rising as drivers burn their tire treads and brake pads. Sometimes they stop for a picture and then drive down the street at 60 to 70 mph, Chaidez said.
Other meetups have turned into full-blown takeovers down the street, where drivers block the intersection late at night as they burn rubber.
LA residents push the city and Universal Pictures to do more
Angelino Heights is no stranger to film shoots. AMC's Mad Men, Michael Jackson's Thriller music video, and Roman Polanski's Chinatown were all filmed in the neighborhood, but none has stirred backlash like Fast & Furious.
Residents say the films' distributor, Universal Pictures, and the city of Los Angeles have done little to deter the copycat drivers who race through their neighborhood. Traffic bollards have been installed at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and East Kensington Road, along with several stop signs, but neighbors are pushing for more.
They want the streets to be redesigned to discourage street racing and the film's producers to make a public service announcement to discourage amateurs from speeding down residential streets.
"Please film where it's appropriate to film, take care of the community around you and be a partner," resident Tad Yenawine said at Friday's protest.
NBCUniversal and Mayor Eric Garcetti's office did not respond to requests for comment about the protest and residents' demands to redesign streets.
As protesters marched around an intersection, organizer Damian Kevitt of the nonprofit Streets Are for Everyone shouted into a bullhorn, "Street racing kills."
A spectator across the street yelled back, "No, they don't."
Filming in Angelino Heights was planned for several days but the protesters said the problem will linger long after the sets are broken down.
"This wouldn't be happening as a tourist destination if it was not iconized in the films," Kevitt said. "This spreads outside of the neighborhood. It goes just about everywhere."
Lori Argumedo said her niece Bethany Holguin was killed in a May 2019 traffic collision. The driver blew through a stop sign while racing another vehicle and crashed into the car in which Holguin was a passenger, Argumedo said. She died at the scene.
"I had to identify my niece's body on Mother's Day. I had to tell her 6-year-old daughter that her mommy is never coming home," Argumedo said down the street from Friday's film shoot. "This is the reality of street racing. People's lives are lost. I did her makeup for her funeral instead of her wedding."
Cover photo: Patrick T. FALLON / AFP