With just 35,000 residents in Beverly Hills, the chance for one person to make an impact on the city is extraordinary. Residents who want to get involved in local governance have a meaningful opportunity to do so by joining one of 12 city commissions that help shape and influence the policies which govern Beverly Hills.
Currently, the city is actively recruiting applicants for upcoming vacancies on the following six commissions: Arts and Culture, Cultural Heritage, Health and Safety, Human Relations, Public Works, and Traffic and Parking.
“I would recommend this for anyone who takes pride in our city or wants to have an impact on local government. It’s a unique opportunity to put your imprint on one of the greatest cities in the world,” said Health and Safety Commission Chair Gary Ross, who will complete his six-year term on the commission at the end of the year.
Like many commissioners, Ross went through the city’s Team Beverly Hills program. The program, which almost always has a wait list according to City Clerk Huma Ahmed, is designed to create an environment that engenders leadership, participation and responsibility by the city’s citizenry. Not only do participants get a flavor for each of the commissions through this intensive “City Hall 101” program, they also get to observe the inner workings of the city in addition to deeply understanding the myriad issues, opportunities and challenges facing the city.
Joining a commission “is the next level,” according to Ahmed, who emphasized that commissions offer residents a deeper way to engage with the community. “[Commissions] are advisory groups helping shape the city’s future.”
For Ross, whose commission was instrumental in the recent tobacco ban, being part of the process to help Beverly Hills become measurably healthier was incomparable and powerful.
“We’ve gone very far, almost farther than any other city, to limit and ban the purchase of tobacco and smoking and vaping in our city,” he said. “It was transformative. It was us being a leader and an example to others to really be a healthy city and to promote health over some important but narrow business interests.”
The 2019 citywide ban on the sale of tobacco (currently midway through a two-year implementation process), followed the 2018 ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and 2017’s ban on smoking in multifamily dwellings. From sifting through hundreds of letters from residents, businesses, medical people, clergy, movie stars even, in addition to holding multiple open forums, the commission worked diligently to fairly balance concerns by local businesses with health concerns, he said.
While the amount of time commissioners must devote varies both according to the specific commission as well as whether there is a particularly hot topic that the commission must contend with, most commissioners spend at least several hours a week in support of their commission’s efforts, although there are those who only spend a few hours one week a month around the time the commission meets. With the exception of a few commissions, the majority meet once a month.
For Traffic and Parking Chair Jay Solnit, now midway through his six-year commitment to the commission, interacting with the public and trying to come up with solutions is “fascinating.”
“What surprised me is how efficient the city really works,” said Solnit, who went through Team Beverly Hills together with his wife, Lanna, before being inspired to join a commission. “We actually accomplish things every single month.”
For the past two years, Solnit’s commission has been actively working on the Complete Streets plan, which recommends infrastructure, programs and polices to make the streets of Beverly Hills better for everyone.
“The plan is done. We’re just refining it now and will send it to council in a few months,” he said, noting that the plan reflects significant input from community members as wells as data studies. “I’m hoping that we get people out of cars and into secondary transportation, definitely bicycles. And I’m hopping that we get more bike lanes in the city.”
The Traffic and Parking Commission, which is one of the ones that residents are invited to apply to join now, is right now at the center of trying to mitigate the negative impacts to businesses associated with the street closure at Wilshire and Canon in the wake of the Purple Line expansion project.
The initial term of office for all commissions is for two years, but commissioners may be reappointed to a second term of four years at the discretion of City Council.
Application forms for the commissions, along with a description of the duties of a commissioner and filing details are available for pickup in the City Clerk’s Office, Room 290, 455 N. Rexford Dr. or online at www.beverlyhills.org/applyforacommission. Prospective applicants can also call 310-285-2400 to receive an application and information by mail or by email. The deadline for filing applications for these six commissions is Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Note, applicants can only apply to one vacancy per application cycle.
“The work that happens on our commissions is critical to our decision making on the council,” said Mayor John Mirisch during his recent “State of the City” address. “It’s volunteerism at work and such volunteerism is an important part of creating Community with a capital ‘C.’