Next Beverly Hills Committee Considers City Policies

The March 18 Next Beverly Hills (NBH) Committee meeting included spirited discussion on a number of topics affecting the city. The Committee–comprised of a talented group of civically minded young leaders–is focused on engaging residents between the ages of 25 and 45 through innovative initiatives that address their lifestyle, economic and civic needs. In an ongoing effort to keep the next generation informed, Mayor Lester Friedman and Councilmember Dr. Julian Gold provided Council updates. The meeting agenda also included NBH’s civic action items, such as integrating affordable housing in the city’s General Plan. 

Founded in May of 2015 by then Mayor Gold, NBH is open to residents and non-residents of all ages. Currently, there are 45 members and half a dozen others who are in the process of officially joining. In order to become a voting member, one must attend 50 percent or more of NBH meetings. The chair of NBH is 31-year-old Noelle Freeman, a former Miss California with a background in online marketing.

“The main goal I have is to create a formalized process for having a voice in upcoming policy,” Freeman told the Courier. This year, NBH formed a civic action subcommittee and a business and economic development subcommittee; both play active roles in formulating and drafting policy statements. The first subcommittee statement released was in support of extending the city’s OpenBH program. The subcommittee will next present the letter to the City Council. According to Freeman, NBH has expressed interest in drafting future statements regarding public art and security in the city. 

“We have opportunities to find what’s new, and what’s different, and what’s exciting and what’s unique,” Gold said at the March 18 meeting. “I look to you and your generations for the answer to what that is and what the next generation of business going forward should look like.” 

Among the city matters discussed at the meeting were the City Council’s recent vote of no confidence in L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón and the 2020 Annual Report on the General Plan and Housing Element Implementation.

“The city is in the process of working on the General Plan which is reviewed approximately every decade,” Vice Chair Tiffany Davis said. “And it’s something that we should all be aware of and educate ourselves on so we can weigh in on various areas when the time comes.”

“The general plan is something that we are by law required to do,” Gold said during the meeting. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to take stock of where we are in our city and the kinds of things that we would like to see moving forward. It’s an opportunity for us to see the future. To envision what we think transportation is going to look like, what housing is going to look like and what our streets are going to look like.”

Gold touched on the work currently before the City Council regarding housing, transportation and mobility in Beverly Hills, and a call to action. 

“This is the part where you’re very, very, very important,” Gold said. “Because, ultimately, it’s your future. In order that you create that which you want, it’s important that you get engaged as to the decisions and the discussions around this that are progressing.”

Following Gold’s remarks, Friedman explained the Council’s recent vote of no confidence in D.A. Gascón. Friedman noted that the countless hours he spent inside the city’s Emergency Operations Center informed his vote. 

“When the District Attorney is refusing to prosecute people who the police are arresting, it just takes away the entire morale of the police department to do their job, and that’s something that I just can’t sit by and let happen. Yes, our Council is talking about creating our own independent prosecutors’ arm or enhancing the prosecution arm that we have right now.” However, Friedman underscored the costliness of such an undertaking and the need to evaluate if the project is the most effective use of taxpayers’ dollars. 

“I encourage you to pay attention,” Gold said. “If you feel strongly individually about it, get involved and as a group come to a consensus around those issues which are important to you as a group. And then be able to reflect that consensus in the appropriate forum, either in front of the Planning Commission or the City Council.”

For millennials and Gen Z, living in Beverly Hills can be prohibitively costly. Many who grew up in the city find living there again as adults inaccessible.  

“I do think that there is an issue with affordability and perception,” Freeman told the Courier. “If you’re looking to live here, there are a lot things that can be done to lower the costs of housing. One particular issue we were looking at was reducing the minimum size of a one bedroom or a studio. I think that our generation doesn’t necessarily need or want these big spaces, and that will help with affordability. In terms of the renting market, there’s a perception that it’s not affordable.”

“What we’re really working to figure out is what young professionals want in their city,” Freeman told the Courier. “Whether it’s setting up shop with your business or being in close proximity to where you work, these are all things to look at. The committee will certainly do research on it and come up with recommendations to make Beverly Hills a viable and attractive place for these young families.”

The next Next Beverly Hills Committee meeting is scheduled for April 15. 

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