New Netflix series to star at least one downtown Vallejo building

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

An iconic Virginia Street building is about to play the coffee shop in a new Netflix series that will prominently feature the downtown Vallejo structure, its owner said.

Local business and building owner Buck Kamphausen said a contract is already signed and arrangement details are being worked out with Paramount Pictures for the use of City Lights — the Virginia Street building that once housed the city’s power company.

“They’ll be here seven months,” he said. “If they’re successful, and they probably will be, they’ll probably shoot a second year, here.”

Company officials have rented a house “in Santa Rosa or someplace,” which will be the backdrop for other parts of the series, Kamphausen said.

“They’ll be shooting two or three days a week,” he said. “Probably in the next few days they’ll be getting city permits.”

“Thirteen Reasons Why,” produced in part by Disney star Selena Gomez, tells the story of a young woman’s suicide.

Based on a young-adult novel by Jay Asher, the series features 13 cassette tapes handed out to the people the young woman holds responsible for driving her to kill herself.

The producers issued a casting call for people of all ages and ethnicities to play background characters like high school students, parents and coffee shop patrons.

Ken Ingersoll, owner of Gracie’s Family BBQ on Virginia Street, said that while this new development may create some temporary inconvenience, on balance, it’s good news for the city.

“They called looking for a place to film downtown, and the only place that came to mind was City Lights,” he said. “This won’t make or break the city, but it brings more (positive) attention. Look at the Bernie Sanders rally. It’s the total thing that makes it who we are. A lot of things are happening. They happen slowly and they just sort of grow up around you.”

Ten years ago, no one would have believed it possible that the Times-Herald would be downtown, Ingersoll said. “The waterfront has come alive,” he said. “ Virginia street has become THE place in the whole city, not just downtown.”

Ingersoll said he sees two sides to this story.

“Would we be OK if they never showed up? Yes,” he said of the Netflix production company. “Would there be inconveniences because the studio will be down here? I’m sure there will be. And I’m sure there will be people who will focus on the negative.”

The City Lights building — which Kampausen said is now being called the Paramount Building — may not be the only Vallejo backdrop the series producers will use.

“We’re working on relocating a karate studio at 340 Georgia St. next to the Higgins Building, which used to be a movie theater and still has a concession stand,” Kamphausen said. “The series is set in contemporary times about teenagers who work in a movie theater.”

Kamphausen said he’s been spending a lot of time “dealing with location people, set designers and other film industry types, to the detriment of many of his other duties.

“They’ll be starting construction in the next few days,” he said. “They’re also looking for places for camp — likely on Mare Island — and they’ll probably use something at the (Vallejo Naval and Historical) museum. We’ll be providing a parking lot, but I’m not sure how we’ll work that out yet.”

The production will bring to town “a fair size crew,” Kamphausen said.

“This is a major deal, and it’s happening so fast,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. They’ll be renting hotels, since there are no rental units available. They’ll be eating here in town. It will make a good image in town. And I’m trying to build a relationship with these people so they come back and film something else.”

The company’s scouts told Kamphausen that they liked downtown Vallejo’s old town look.

“They’re paying a fair price,” he said. “They’re a big company with money. It should be economically a good situation. I’m really happy with them, they’re a great group of people to deal with. They really know what they’re doing. It’s going to be fun.”