Following the installation of Mayor Lester Friedman and Vice Mayor Bob Wunderlich, the Beverly Hills City Council held a 10-hour video conference meeting addressing a bounty of issues via Zoom.
As part of an update on state and local requirements related to COVID-19, the Council discussed various testing possibilities for the community and employees. There are now more than 4,045 cases of the Novel Coronavirus in L.A. County, including 45 in Beverly Hills and 68 in West Hollywood.
“The health crisis continues to evolve and change,” Policy and Management Analyst Cindy Owens told the Council. Worldwide, over one million people have contracted the virus with more than 53,000 already dead as a result of COVID-19. While there is currently no possibility of local testing, Owens said it was imperative that people stay inside for 72 hours after they are fever-free and at least seven days from the first onset of symptoms.
With over 100 elderly and vulnerable residents receiving meals through various programs, the City is also looking at the possibility of taking over one of its shuttle buses to ramp up home delivery. City staff also continues to take actionable measures to assist the City’s senior population.
Hotels To Defer TOT Remittance
With Beverly Hills hoteliers experiencing unprecedented losses of guests due to COVID-19, the Council approved deferment of the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) remittance due date for the months of February, March and April. As a result, the hotels have the option to wait an additional four months (following the month in which the tax is supposed to be collected) to remit taxes to the City.
Several hotels have temporarily closed as a result of the pandemic, including Avalon Hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, Luxe Rodeo Drive, and Montage Beverly Hills. Those that do remain open are operating well below 30 percent occupancy (compared to an average annual range of about 75 percent to 90 percent over the past seven years), with several reporting five percent to 10 percent occupancy.
Over the past year, TOT revenue has generated on average $4 million per month for the City. “The loss of TOT revenue is also devastating to the City as it must continue to provide vital services even as revenues drastically decrease,” a City staff report stated.
Wilshire Boulevard to Close for Metro Construction
On April 2, portions of Wilshire Boulevard closed for three months in order to expedite work on the Metro Purple Line Extension project. As part of the closure of Wilshire Boulevard between Crescent Drive and Beverly Drive and Beverly Drive at Wilshire Boulevard, and adjusted hauling hours for the Metro Purple Line Extension Wilshire/ Rodeo Station construction, a spokesperson for Metro agreed that the street could reopen at any time as long as there is a five-day notice given before the proposed time of reopening. The Council agreed to the closure due to the reduced vehicular and pedestrian traffic throughout the City because of the COVID-19 emergency.
“This is truly a unique circumstance that will allow for minimal disruption in our City,” said Mayor Lester Friedman. The work will include new hauling hours between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. All other authorized work hours and days will remain in effect. For more information, visit www.beverlyhills.org/purpleline.
Rent Stabilization Commission Shapes Up
The City Council approved appointments for nine members to the newly established Rent Stabilization Commission. The following applicants were selected for the three groups that will be represented in the commission: “Landlord” will be Remmie Maden, Neal Baseman and alternate Frances E. Miller; “Tenant” will be Kathryn Jacoby, Gwendolyn Owens and alternate Kathy Bronte; and “At Large” will be Lou Milkowski, Donna Tryfman and alternate Ryan D. Gurman.
In tandem with approving the new members, the Council appointed Lou Milkowski, the only member who has previously served as a commissioner, to serve as the commission’s inaugural chair.
West Hollywood Poised to Lease Log Cabin
The City is now in negotiations to lease the Beverly Hills-owned property at 617- 621 N. Robertson Blvd., which includes the iconic “Log Cabin,” to the City of West Hollywood. Following a declaration to reclassify the parcel as “surplus land,” the Council approved a short-term commercial lease agreement with an option to purchase for the price of $5.75 million with the City of West Hollywood. The base rent for the entire lease term is $1. The decision concludes a contentious fight to preserve the facility after the City sent a letter to the Lions Club of West Hollywood, which had allowed dozens of recovery meetings each week to take place inside the structure for the past several decades despite not having a lease agreement in place, to vacate the premises by March 31. Going forward, the West Hollywood Recovery Center would manage the Log Cabin.
City May Ticket People Who Gather
With people continuing to gather in public, despite the “Safer at Home” directive issued on March 20 by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health to control the spread of COVID-19, the City Council explored the prospect of ticketing people who disobey the social distancing mandate.
“We haven’t issued citations yet, but we’re getting close to a point where we probably need to consider that,” City Manager George Chavez told the Council.
City Attorney Larry Wiener said there were multiple options afforded to the City, including ticketing people $100 for a first offense, $500 for an infraction or $1,000 for a misdemeanor. After noting that people had been playing soccer at Roxbury Park, Councilman John Mirisch stated: “People who are willfully ignoring this, they deserve quite frankly to be ticketed. I really think we need to be vigilant.”