Beverly Hills Mayor’s Last Cabinet Meeting

Mayor Lester Friedman presided over his last Mayor’s Cabinet Meeting on March 8. The meeting traditionally serves as a venue in which the chairs of the city’s 12 commissions can update the mayor on the matters before them. Friedman, whose last day as mayor is April 6, took the opportunity to praise the city’s commission system. 

Mayor’s Report

“Since our last meeting, the openBH program was significantly expanded in terms of Spago and Nusr-Et restaurants requesting and being granted from City Council the ability to have a tent on the cul-de-sac created at Canon and Wilshire,” Friedman said. To allow restaurants the opportunity to recoup the cost of the structure, Council has approved that the tent be in place through the end of the year. Friedman also announced upcoming plans to reopen restaurants on the ground floor of the Maybourne Beverly Hills.

“In terms of the robbery that occurred at Il Pastaio. We know there have been several of these types of criminal activities in the region recently, particularly on Melrose Avenue, and it finally hit Beverly Hills. This was an event that could not have been prevented. I just want everybody to know that our police department did, in fact, respond within 91 seconds of the first call that was logged at the 911 center,” said Friedman. 

He added, “Every call that comes into the call center is logged automatically by the computer. When the operator sends a response to the police department to dispatch, that is logged. When the car leaves the station, that is logged. And when it arrives on scene, that is logged. So, there was a very quick response. The criminals did get away. There are very, very, positive leads that our police department has, and they are following up with it.”

In response to concerns regarding callers receiving a busy signal when dialing 911, Friedman said, “over 300 calls were coming in on the same event that occurred, and it jammed the lines. But the dispatch occurred way before those calls and people were placed on hold.”

The issue of 911 call wait times will be addressed during the March 16 City Council Study Session and Regular Meeting. 

Commissioners gave reports during the March 8 meeting. Photo by Bianca Heyward

“Since this is my last cabinet meeting as mayor (he still has another year in his City Council term) I want to thank everybody,” Friedman said. “We say this over and over again, but the work that gets done, the really hard work, is at the commission level. It’s presented to us as a council in a nice package and generally, we accept what the commission says. Occasionally, we go in a different direction. But no matter what we do, it’s always appreciated.”

Architecture Commission 

At its Feb. 17 meeting, the Architecture Commission approved a request related to a temporary art installation on 300 North Rodeo Drive by Van Cleef & Arpels. The applicant requested a temporary installation of a three-dimensional graphic that would be projected on the façade of the retail building. The installation is proposed to be active from March 19, 2021 to June 2, 2021.

Chair Sheri Hirschfeld shared that the Commission’s Restaurant Subcommittee is also reviewing design plans for a new restaurant, Impasta, which will be taking over the former Roxbury Cafe space at 459 North Roxbury Drive.

Arts & Culture Commission

The Arts & Culture Commission has begun distributing the Art Walk brochure and continues to work on the installation of Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Root” and Alexandra Nechita’s “Love Anatomy.” Co-chair Deborah Frank shared that the Arts and Culture website is slated be complete in the spring and reminded residents that the city continues to offer an array of virtual arts programming online.

The Arts and Culture online workshops will also have new sessions beginning March 22 through May 28.  

Charitable Solicitations Commission 

During their March meeting, Charitable Solicitations Commissioners will appoint two members to serve on the Community Assistance Grant Fund ad hoc committee with the Human Relations Commission. Commissioners will be tasked with reviewing the fiscal status of each applicant. 

Cultural grants applicants must be current Beverly Hills organizations that have demonstrated a history of exemplary cultural opportunities that respond to the community needs.

Cultural Heritage Commission

Last week, the City Council approved three Golden Shield nominations: Nate ‘N Al’s Delicatessen, Gearys Beverly Hills and the site of the former Gershwin residence. The next Cultural Heritage Commission meeting will be held on April 14, during which six more Golden Shield nominees will be reviewed before being presented to the City Council. 

Design Review Commission

The commission is conducting interviews for one upcoming opening, as Commissioner Ilona Sherman’s term comes to an end on Dec. 31. Seven people have applied.

Health & Safety Commission

Health & Safety Commission Chair Cathy Baker reminded the public that the city’s code enforcement department will continue to perform inspections at the city’s tobacco retailers to ensure compliance with the new tobacco sales ban ordinance. Residents are encouraged to contact code compliance to report violations by calling 310-285-1119. 

The California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 793 (Hill) – Flavored Tobacco Products in August 2020, which banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state. The legislation was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1 of this year. “However, the Secretary of State’s office has confirmed that the minimum number of signatures has been collected to qualify the ban referendum to be on the ballot for Nov. 8, 2022 election,” said Baker.

Human Relations Commission

The Human Relations Commission reminds the public that Beverly Hills promotes positive human relations in all aspects of community life, inviting every member of the community to support an environment where stability, respect and responsible actions prevail.

“The commission has made our homeless initiative work plan a top priority for this year,” Chair Ori Blumenfeld said. “The initiative consists of an education component, designed to help the community learn more about homelessness and the services provided in the city, and an advocacy and innovation component to find new ways to address homelessness through expanded services and partnerships.”

The ad hoc committee will be meeting in the coming weeks to review each of the 31 applications submitted for the community assistance grant fund.

Planning Commission

Planning Commission Chair Peter Ostroff relayed that the commission has been busy with their efforts to develop a revised housing plan for the city.

“As you recall, we were given our target number of housing sites that we were obliged to identify was tentatively 3,096, which is about 25 percent of the market housing as well as the various categories of affordable housing,” Ostroff said. “We appealed that unsuccessfully.”

On April 8, the commission is holding an additional meeting to consider the supplemental environmental impact report for the One Beverly Hills project.

Public Works Commission 

Public Works Commission Chair Chuck Alpert highlighted the commission’s continued work around sustainability, promoting the use of city tap water over bottled water to reduce use of single-use plastics. The commission has also set up a Drinking Water Outreach/Single-Use Plastics Ad-Hoc committee, which will continue to find ways to reduce and possibly regulate the use of said materials. 

The commission continues to monitor the upgrades being made to the water treatment plant, the transmission line, and the groundwater wells along La Cienega Boulevard that are being developed. 

“We haven’t produced any of our own city water since 2016,” Alpert said. “And so, these are major projects to get the city back in the water business so that we have water in case of an emergency.”

Recreation & Parks Commission 

Recreation & Parks Commission Chair Susan Mishler detailed updates on a bevy of virtual library events, community programs and special events, including preschool and Adventure Camp, the city’s childcare program. Adventure Camp returned to Hawthorne Elementary school this week to provide afternoon programming. 

This week, the Pickleball program also returned at both La Cienega Tennis Center and Roxbury Park. Library programs that are being presented virtually include Jim J’s Jukebox, discovering America’s music January book club, on March 18 and on March 22, editor Denise Hamilton will discuss her new book titled “Speculative Los Angeles” with contributors Francesca Lia Block, Lisa Morton, and Luis J Rodriguez.

Traffic & Parking Commission

At the last Traffic and Parking Commission meeting on March 4, the commission discussed ongoing plans for Connect Beverly Hills, the first in a series of streetscape plans the city launched in May of 2020. The “Connect Beverly Hills: Meet Me on Wilshire and La Cienega” project will develop a streetscape plan and design standards for Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards. 

The Traffic and Parking Commission serve on the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) for Connect Beverly Hills, and reviewed designs for benches, trash cans, transit shelters, bicycle racks and more. 

Chair Nooshin Meshkaty also relayed that the neighborhood Slow Streets program was approved by the City Council, giving residents the chance to request that their streets be designated as a “slow street.” The slow streets will still be open to local traffic, deliveries and other services. A draft of the Complete Streets Plan is tentatively scheduled to be reviewed by the City Council at the March 16 Study Session. 

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