City Council Considers Holiday Festivities in Beverly Hills

At its Sept. 14 Special Study Session, the Beverly Hills City Council reviewed The Beverly Hills Experience mobile app, the rebrand of the “My Beverly Hills” shop local program and approved two purchase orders totaling $541,276 for the 2021 Holiday Lighting Celebration, giving staff direction to move forward. The meeting took place the day before the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) announced new guidance, requiring vaccination verification or a negative test within 72 hours prior to attending outdoor mega events, quantified as event with 10,000 people or more. The order will go into effect on Oct. 7, 2021. 

“We have hit that threshold in the past,” Magdalena Davis, the city’s Special Events and Filming Coordinator, said. “It’s hard to say at any one point how many people might be on the street. But over this period of time, between staff and guests, which is what the county currently counts towards 10,000, we have had that before.” 

In years past, the city-sponsored signature holiday program has attracted crowds of more than 10,000 people. Even before the new Public Health Order, the Rodeo Drive Committee (RDC) was concerned about enforcing mask requirements, particularly because the event does not have one entrance or exit.

The Holiday Lighting Celebration kickoff is scheduled to take place on Nov. 18, from 5-8 p.m., encompassing all three blocks of Rodeo Drive, from Santa Monica Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard, with non-stop entertainment across three stages. The Rodeo Drive/Special Events/Holiday Program Committee’s proposal for the 2021 festivities include fireworks; three stages with coordinated and choreographed performances in 15-minute increments; live models available for photo opportunities; stilt performers; food trucks with kosher and vegan options; a beer and wine garden; holiday helpers on bicycles handing out candy and ornaments; break-dancers; music and Santa Claus in a red sports car.

“The Rodeo Drive Committee will follow state, county and city health protocols as the safety of the community and visitors remains our top priority,” Kathy Gohari, President of the Rodeo Drive Committee, told the Courier. “Updated requirements and guidelines will be posted with event information on the city and Rodeo Drive websites. Attendees are encouraged to check back into the event pages for the latest information.” 

Should the Nov. 18 event be canceled, purchase orders approved with J. Ben Bourgeois Productions Inc., the company producing the event, would only be partially refunded. Councilmember John Mirisch pushed city staff to plan for a robust virtual celebration, given the ever-changing state of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Maybe we should be offering people it virtually anyway,” Mirisch said. “But if it’s not safe to have it, would that not be the way to go rather than to lose the funding?”

The Council directed staff to explore contingency plans, including options for live streaming the event with enhanced virtual components, masking, and options to ensure the show goes on. 

The Council also reviewed designs for the rebrand of the “My Beverly Hills” shop local program, which launched in 2014 and aims to encourage public engagement between local businesses and incentivize residents and visitors to increase the number of dollars locals spend within the city. As part of the Chamber of Commerce’s Work Plan contract with the City, the shop local program will be rebranded from the existing “My Beverly Hills” to “Now Beverly Hills.”  Having garnered support from council liaisons Mayor Robert Wunderlich and Vice Mayor Lili Bosse on Aug. 31, the new design features the word “Now” inside the city’s iconic shield, with Beverly Hills appearing underneath the shield, in orange, pink, and turquoise color variants. The new logo will be used for new street pole banner designs, social media assets, website branding and more.

During the Study Session, other councilmembers were less than enthusiastic about the direction of the rebrand design concept. “It left me confused and very unexcited,” Councilmember Julian Gold, M.D., said.

“The word ‘now,’ for us, incorporated many things together, such as the time for Beverly Hills is now, and it’s now for a variety of reasons,” Wunderlich said.  “Our thought, whether you felt it or not, was that the time for Beverly Hills is now gets incorporated into the word ‘now,'” he added.

Ultimately, the City Council directed staff to move forward with the phrase “Now Beverly Hills” but incorporate a visual element, beyond static images, and incorporate other taglines with broad appeal. 

The Council also considered The Beverly Hills Experience mobile app, which launched on Aug. 10. Members of the Beverly Hills Historical Society presented the new platform to the Council. The app features walking tours of Beverly Hills; videos with facts about the city, photographs, and stories; landmarks and the best locations for “selfie” photographs; stories about some of the city’s most famous residents; an interactive Lily Pond panorama, which allows visitors and residents to view the city as it was in 1915; biographies of 24 famous Beverly Hills neighbors; an augmented reality experience feature, and more. Those who download the free app also receive free access to Robbie Anderson’s book, “Beverly Hills: The First 100 Years.” 

The City Council was unanimous in its praise for the app, seeing it as an opportunity for historians as well visitors and residents. 

“However the city can support this, we should,” Mirisch said. 

“We’ve already started the ball rolling in the promotional efforts,” added the city’s Chief Communication Officer, Keith Sterling.

BHTV is in the process of preparing a video promotion on the app that the city hopes to share. Sterling added that his team is “supporting this app 100 percent and promoting it in all the ways that we know how to promote things, because we see it as a true asset for us.” 

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