Beverly Hills City Council Addresses Key Issues

With more than seven solid hours of public deliberation on Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Beverly Hills City Council discussed a bevy of important issues, including emergency preparedness, the Housing Crisis Act and the inaugural Golden Shield Award. Below are a selection of the highlights. 

Kindness is King 

The Beverly Hills City Council awarded its “Kindness Recognition” to Rev. Rosey Grier. The multitalented Beverly Hills resident has had a fascinating career as an athlete, singer, actor, author, minister and humanitarian. 

“We are grateful to Rosey Grier for his unwavering commitment to making a difference and spreading messages of kindness and compassion,” Mayor John Mirisch said. 

Deeply committed to improving the lives of others, particularly in the inner cities, Grier co-founded American Neighborhood Enterprises and founded Giant Step, which connects at-risk youth with job training, employment and affordable housing. Together with his wife Cydnee, Grier recently launched the Rosey Grier Giant Step Foundation to support organizations that provide mentorship to disadvantaged youth who want to work in the sports industry. 

“Because of people like all of you, working together, we can make the world a better place,” Grier told the Beverly Hills community after accepting his award.

Emergency Preparedness 

The City Council weighed in on the finalized “Community Guide to Public Alert and Warning.” Created by the Office of Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery, with assistance from various City departments, the guide is intended to be a resource for the community to understand what tools the City possesses in regards to both communication as well as alert and warning and how these tools may be used in emergencies and disasters. 

“I’m exceedingly concerned…that people have no idea what to do if there’s an emergency,” Councilmember Lili Bosse said, noting that she had done a “poll” of 104 people she knew and that none of them knew where to go in the event of an emergency. 

Director of Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery Pamela Mottice Muller responded to Bosse’s concern by sharing that the best response for residents in the case of an emergency would be to stay at home until receiving further instructions. 

“If you’re at home, you need to evaluate your situation and you need to stay there,” Mottice Muller said. 

It is critical that residents take measures to ensure they have enough supplies, particularly water, to weather out an emergency. 

Mayor John Mirisch suggested that Muller’s office take steps to provide residents with basic “what-to-do” informational material, such as refrigerator magnets, in order for people to know what to do in various emergency instances from a fire to a thermonuclear war. 

“People tend to panic,” he observed. “But if they knew what to do, that would help.” The report will soon be available on the City’s website. 

Golden Shield 

The City Council unanimously approved awarding the first three inaugural Golden Shield recognition plaques. 

The new award is the result of several years’ work after the Cultural Heritage Commission first tasked staff in 2016 to study additional methods by which the Commission could recognize important contributors to the City’s cultural history. The City Council approved the new award this past April. 

The recipients include: the site of the Doña Maria Rita Valdez de Villa Homestead (Sunset Boulevard and Alpine Drive); the original location of Lawry’s Restaurant (North La Cienega Boulevard); and the original Giorgio Beverly Hills Boutique (Rodeo Drive). Each of the three recipients were selected for being culturally significant within the City’s landscape. 

Each of the bronze plaques, which will be mounted to the sidewalk, tells information about the importance of the site. 

“It really takes another step toward fulfilling the charge of the Cultural Heritage Commission, which is not only preservation of buildings, but doing things to preserve and recognize and raise awareness about the cultural heritage and history of our City,” said Cultural Heritage Commissioner Richard Waldow.

The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 

The City Council took an initial look at the available options related to Senate Bill 330 (“The Housing Crisis Act of 2019”), which Beverly Hills must comply with by Jan. 1. Signed into law on Oct. 9, SB-330 will be effective from Jan. 1, 2020 through January 2025. 

The new bill amends the Permit Streamlining Act and the Housing Accountability Act. It also aims to address the housing shortage by “suspending” local restrictions on housing development and expediting the permitting process. 

“I don’t expect you’re going to see a lot of people who are excited about this, but time alone will tell,” opined Councilman Julian Gold. 

Key provisions of SB 330 include: requiring checklists; creating a new preliminary application process; creating judicial remedies; imposing a five-hearing limit on certain projects; prohibiting the City from approving a housing development project that does not replace pre-existing dwelling units, including rent-controlled units; chasing the general plan, specific plan or zoning ordinance to less intensive use; and prohibiting a moratorium on housing. 

The City is currently in the midst of creating a thoughtful affordable housing strategy in order to augment its housing stock, and the Council has yet to make a final determination on just how to best comply with SB 330 by Jan. 1, 2020. Staff is now continuing to work on checklists for the Jan. 1 effective date and will bring back relevant items to Council as needed for discussion.

Bullet Before Breakfast 

Beverly Hills resident Vera Markowitz used the public comment period to criticize the Beverly Hills Police, and specifically, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli, for the inadvertent firing of a gun at Beverly Vista school on Sunday, Oct. 27, around 7 a.m. 

“Who gave them authorization to invade the Beverly Hills neighborhood on a peaceful Sunday morning?” questioned Markowitz. 

“As a department, we do conduct law enforcement training at various places throughout the City, including our campuses and we do that because it’s important for our new officers to learn about the schools and how they’re set up. These critical, onsite trainings really prepare our officers for the unexpected, with the ultimate goal of our residents and children being safe in this community,” Spagnoli subsequently told the City Council, noting that it was a training for five brand new police officers. “On behalf of the department, I do sincerely apologize for the concern that this may have caused.”

Autonomous Vehicles 

City Council members were particularly impassioned when it came to the future of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) in Beverly Hills. Three years after the City Council passed a resolution declaring support for AVs, the City is knee-deep in its efforts to change the way people move through Beverly Hills, with a pilot project poised to launch in the second quarter of 2020. 

To reach this point, staff and the Autonomous Vehicle Committee have conducted over 100 meetings with AV manufacturers, academics, and technology companies to determine the current “state of the art” for autonomous vehicles, and to formulate plans on the role of AV’s within the larger public transportation environment. 

An upcoming workshop on various alternatives is slated to take place later this year prior to further consideration by the City Council. 

“For our City, I think we’re looking at it as a form of public transportation,” described Mayor John Mirisch, noting that there are also concerning ways the technology could be harnessed. “It’s point-to-point on-demand mobility.” 

The forthcoming Beverly Hills AV Pilot program will include a safety driver. 


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