For the first time since taking the reins to lead the Beverly Hills City Council, this week Mayor Lester Friedman presided over his first Mayor’s Cabinet Meeting. The last time City commissioners had an opportunity to update the mayor on the state of the City’s 12 commissions was in February. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the cabinet meetings were a monthly occurrence.
“We all know the really hard work gets done at the commissions,” Mayor Friedman told commission chairs at the July 13 meeting in anticipation of listening to the reports.
Chair Sheri Hirschfeld highlighted two projects of interest on Rodeo Drive: Van Cleef & Arpels wants to do a temporary art installation that will stay up for two months and Chanel wants to change its exterior cladding.
Arts and Culture Commission
Chair Michael Smooke shared that the famed artwork by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei is “stuck” in China. “We can’t seem to get a permit to ship it out of the country,” he said. The Millard Sheets mosaic, which had been under restoration, is now finished and ready for installation. In addition, this month the commission welcomed Liliana Filipovic, a classical musician, as its newest member. “She should be able to broaden our expertise to fulfill the cultural component,” Smooke said.
Charitable Solicitations Commission
Later this month on July 23 the commission will be holding an interview process for two upcoming openings. Seven people have applied. Commissioner Joe Safier’s term is slated to come to an end on Dec. 31 and Vice Chair Pam Kraushaar is slated to end her term on June 30, 2021. Chair Ira Friedman said that two letters were recently sent out for groups that did not obtain permits for soliciting. “We’re waiting to see what happens with that,” he said.
Cultural Heritage Commission
Chair Jill Tavelman Collins paid homage to the commission’s founding chair, Noah Furie, who ended his term last month. He had been the final commissioner of the original five Cultural Heritage Commission members. Tavelman also highlighted the two new properties recommended by the commission for Landmark designation, the MCA/Litton Headquarters Complex by architect Paul Revere Williams and the Pendleton/Evans Residence by architect John Elgin Woolf.
Design Review Commission
Chair Tony Spann shared that the biggest issue the commission was dealing with was the increase of fake materials. “We don’t want the quality of our built environment to be so low,” he said. In addition, the commission will welcome Terri Smooke as its newest commissioner on Jan. 1, 2021.
Health & Safety Commission
Chair Daniel Nazarian highlighted how all previous commission meetings since the mayor’s last cabinet meeting have centered around COVID-19. Nazarian underscored the importance of preventive measures, which everyone has heard repeatedly over the past three months. Currently, Nazarian said it was important to educate people to not hold social gatherings in their homes. In addition, Nazarian highlighted the importance of undertaking actions to improve mental health. An upcoming meeting with the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force is slated for July 17 at 10 a.m.
Human Relations Commission
The commission launched its ninth Embrace Civility Award campaign this week to recognize individuals or groups in the City who exemplify one or more of the following attributes: acts as a role model of positive behavior; takes a stand in support of responsible actions; and promotes positive neighbor to neighbor interactions. As part of the campaign, the commission will select an Embrace Civility Award recipient and is currently accepting recommendations through Sept. 4 (http://beverlyhills.org/embracecivilityaward). “Now more than ever the City of Beverly Hills promotes positive human relations in all aspects,” said Chair Ori Blumenfeld. The commission also helped facilitate 19 organizations to receive money from the community assistance grant fund. In addition, the commission welcomed Rhoda Sharp as its newest member and said farewell to Sonia Berman.
Chair Peter Ostroff highlighted how busy the commission has been, particularly with respect to moving a Mixed Use Ordinance forward for City Council approval that will permit residential units in certain commercial areas. “It drew a lot of attention on both sides,” he said. In addition, he said that the Planning Commission would be weighing in on a “number of significant projects” in the future, including the Beverly Hilton/One Beverly Hills project, the LVMH luxury hotel on Rodeo Drive, and the transformation of Lots 12 and 13. Ostroff said that a priority for the commission would be its “effort to deal with the requirement that we as a City enact a revised housing element of our General Plan.” The City is expected to have to build over 3,000 new housing units. “It’s very important that folks pay attention and give us input,” he said.
Public Works Commission
Just one day before the City Council voted to approve $68 million in water revenue bonds, Chair Joshua Greer highlighted the positive change in the City’s Water Enterprise fund, which just had its credit rating upgraded. “The Water Enterprise Fund just got a AAA rating, which is fantastic. It’s the best rating,” he said. He also touted the importance of the City’s integrated Water Resource Management Plan. However, in light of the state of the City, he said that the commission might need to reexamine the plan. In addition, the City can soon decamp from the Oil Well project, with the final oil well now in the process of being decommissioned.
Recreation & Parks Commission
Chair Julian Javor detailed a bevy of endeavors from the Community Services Department. City staff is continuing to provide daily meals for seniors and has augmented the program through the Beverly Hilton expansion program, which increased the number of seniors receiving free meals from 60 to 180. Javor detailed the success of several virtual summer camps, which kicked off on June 8. In addition, an in-person summer camp, which began on July 6 had the registration fill in one day. “This of course remains to be seen whether it will continue,” he said. Virtual preschools began on July 6, continuing the trend of virtual learning. The tennis courts reopened on June 15, although Javor noted, “Who knows for how long at this point.” In addition, the Farmers’ Market once again reopened on June 21 with new safety measures.
Rent Stabilization Commission
Inaugural Rent Stabilization Commission Chair Lou Milkowski shared that the commission held its first meeting on June 3. The first meeting included having the new members sworn in, being educated by City staff on the requirements of commissioners, and electing Neal Baseman as the vice chair. “We’re an unusual commission in that we have an uneven number of commissioners by design,” Milkowski stated. The commission is slated to hear its first rent appeal at its upcoming meeting on July 22.
Traffic & Parking Commission
Following a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Traffic and Parking Commission last met on July 2. Chair David Seidel shared that the City is now in the process of updating signage about “red flag alerts” and educating residents about parking restrictions when such an alert is declared. With respect to the “Complete Streets Plan,” which stalled following the Dec. 3, 2019 Town Hall, Seidel said it would be important to reignite the process in order for the City to be able to apply for grant money. “That seems to have stalled out completely as we sit here in July,” he said. “Hopefully we can do it.”