For a decade now, Mayor John Mirisch, now in his third term as mayor, has been thick in local politics. Originally elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2009, a hallmark of Mirisch’s tenure has been his commitment to maintaining the city’s small town feel.
At this past Thursday’s “State of the City” address in the Greystone Mansion’s formal gardens, Mirisch, who grew up in Beverly Hills, was unabashedly proud of the city and his role on the council. From busting out the ukulele at the Centennial singalong during his first term as mayor in 2014 to his push to revitalize the Southeast part of the city to helping create the Historic Preservation Commission seven years ago to his recent emphasis on strengthening arts and culture in the city, Mirisch is clearly passionate about the city and his role in it.
“In an increasingly impersonal, faceless and cold world, it is our sense of place, the feeling of home and the ideal of community and how we are all connected that makes life bearable and that gives it meaning,” Mirisch told the 350 people in attendance at last week’s State of the City event. “Community is what all of us should always be focused on.”
Presented by the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, this year in partnership with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Beverly Hills and Kennedy Wilson, the annual event is always a festive opportunity for residents and members of the business community to get to know Beverly Hills commissioners, city employees and elected officials. In addition to Mirisch’s formal address, this year’s event also honored the city’s first responders.
Among a plethora of accomplishments during his 180-day tenure as mayor, Mirisch highlighted the tobacco ban; honoring residents with the Legacy Resident and Kindness Recognition awards at City Council for “those who go above and beyond with acts of love, kindness and loving kindness;” last week’s sing-along at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; the recent summer BOLD activities; navigating work by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the Purple Line, including the recent closing of North Canon at Wilshire to vehicular traffic; the in-progress Complete Streets project which the council is slated to discuss in a few months; and the creation of additional affordable housing in Beverly Hills.
A significant portion of Mirisch’s speech dealt with creating more housing in the city. After taking aim at Sacramento, Mirisch expanded on the city’s plan to develop additional senior supportive affordable housing and create a robust inclusionary housing program with linkage fees.
“We need housing solutions that are dynamic, livable and sustainable, that celebrate urban humanism, our ability to make choices for ourselves and our belief that ‘one-size-fits-all’ doesn’t work well in America,” he said.
With just under two-thirds of Beverly Hills residents living in multifamily dwellings, the true complexion of Beverly Hills is clearly not defined by wealthy elites living in multimillion dollar single family homes. But the perception of complete affluence within the 90210 zip code still persists. Perceptions not withstanding, all residents in Beverly Hills truly do have access to the enviable police and fire departments that continue to make the city so desirable.
Rising housing costs have made the city’s new Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Rent Stabilization Commission critical to the continued health of the city. And while the commission has yet to have its first meeting, the ramifications of the new ordinance, which was passed by City Council earlier this year, are being felt acutely by property owners and tentants.
“We continue to put a great deal of thought and discussion into our new rent stabilization program,” Mirisch said. “We recognize this has been a lengthy process and sincerely appreciate the cooperation of all who have participated.”
While still not a reality, the Complete Streets project is expected to help make the city more healthy by encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk or bicycle. Two years in the making, largely thanks to the efforts of the Health and Safety Commission, the council is expected to weigh in on the project in the coming months. In addition to demarcating more bike lanes, the project also incorporates the possibility of autonomous vehicles.
“You’ll be hearing more in the coming year about ways we plan to ensure our streets are user-friendly for all modes of transportation,” Mirisch promised. “We continue to look to develop a Municipal Autonomous Shuttle System, not only to provide solutions for the new Beverly Hills subway stations, but also to encourage residents to leave their cars at home. Our goal is to develop a data-driven system that will provide on-demand, point-to-point mobility within Beverly Hills and to work towards a system of public transportation that people actually use because they want to, not because they have to.”
Now midway through the process of implementing a citywide ban on smoking and vaping – in addition to outlawing sales of all tobacco products the city continues to pioneer when it comes to engendering a healthy environment. During Mirisch’s speech, he reminded those in attendance of the city’s milestone and sought to inspire them to do more.
“We’ve made history together by becoming the first city in America to pass a ban on the sale of all tobacco products,” he said. “Now that we’ve taken action, we call on other cities to follow suit and do something about the 480,000 tobacco related deaths in America each year.”
In addition to sharing with attendees about how the city is moving forward on renovating La Cienega Park (the proposed first phase development will create two swimming pools as part of the $125 million renovation), Mirisch also noted that thanks to the city’s help, the Beverly Hills High School oil well will be plugged by next summer. Mirisch also highlighted the city’s recent effort to improve local government and ensure transparency with the launch of the Trust and Innovation Portal (TIP), which can be used to confidentially report suspected cases of improper activity, in addition to being used to help foster innovation.
To round out his speech, Mirisch invited everyone to participate in the ongoing work of the city’s Sunshine Task Force, which is slated to next meet on Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
“I firmly believe that community is an extension of family and home,” he said. “And it is precisely because local government is a reflection of community, that when done right, it is the absolute best form of democracy.”