At its Nov. 16 regular meeting, the Beverly Hills City Council considered instituting weekend nighttime closures of Rodeo Drive in response to public safety concerns involving “car clubs.” While the Council agreed that full closures would be prohibitively expensive, the body moved to request other possible solutions to the problem.
“Candidly, I am beyond concerned that it’s only a matter of time before somebody really gets hurt, or one of these cars is out of control and then we have a number of injuries right in the middle of Rodeo Drive,” said Councilmember Julian Gold, who made the request to discuss the matter. “I just think that that would be a huge tragedy that we can avoid.”
According to Gold, the city has dealt with coordinated gatherings of cars in the past. He attributed the issue to the allure of Rodeo Drive. “Of course, it’s because it’s Rodeo Drive. What better place to be doing wheelies than on Rodeo Drive and having your buddies film it. It’s almost too attractive not to do it,” he said.
Since November 2020, the Beverly Hills Police Department has received about six calls for service on Rodeo Drive, according to Acting Captain Renato Moreno. Moreno told the Council that the calls stemmed from incidents “that involve either car clubs or exotic cars coming in, shutting down the streets and being loud or doing photo opportunities or even doing donuts in the intersections.”
While Gold thanked BHPD for its response time in sending officers to the scenes of such shows, he said that by the time officers get there, it’s already too late. “As much as I’ve asked our amazing Police Department [if ] can we just surround them, arrest them all and confiscate and sell their cars, it would seem that that’s not a possibility either,” he said.
Given the limitations, Gold requested that the department look into the possibility of shutting down Rodeo Drive to vehicles on the weekends between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Each closure would require six traffic control officers, or 18 each weekend. This would come in addition to the extra deployments for traffic closures related to construction of the Metro D Line.
Shutting down the street seems to have been effective in at least one instance in the past. According to Moreno, BHPD had advance knowledge that a car club from Malibu planned on gathering on Rodeo. In anticipation of the event, with the group inbound, “our night watch sergeants took initiative to shut down…Rodeo Drive to keep them off of that street and that seemed to work fairly well,” he said.
Councilmember Lester Friedman worried about whether the department has the bandwidth to implement the closure without impacting other operations.
“I’m lukewarm to this idea. I think that Rodeo Drive is a targeted area,” Friedman said. “I’m just not sure we have the bandwidth to handle it, and plus the expense.”
While Gold said that he had received positive feedback on the idea from business stakeholders on Rodeo, the sentiment was not universal. “Businesses pay for that exposure,” a member of the Rodeo Drive business community who was not authorized to speak publicly told the Courier. “I understand people are doing bad things, [but] you’re asking that the cost of that be borne by a different group of people other than the people that are doing the bad things.”
Most of the Council balked at the possible price tag–a minimum of $850,000 a year.
“I’m just wondering if there’s not a less expensive way of maybe stopping the donuts,” said Councilmember John Mirisch.
Mirisch raised the idea of installing bollards, mechanical barricades that collapse into the ground when not in use, which would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bollards are installed by The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in order to shut off North Crescent Drive between North and South Santa Monica Boulevard.
Rodeo Drive is not alone in attracting dangerous and disruptive activity by luxury sports cars. Vice Mayor Lili Bosse raised similar reports of incidents on Canon Drive, Walden Drive near the Witch’s House, and Sunset Boulevard.
“I think we all have been very frustrated by these types of shows of public chaos,” said Bosse. “For that amount of money, I think we unfortunately have some serious crimes that are happening right now with gunpoint and robberies and such. I think that, for me, is more of our priority than stopping cars from joy riding.”
Friedman offered a motion to direct the police department to “further research the subject and bring it back to a future city council study session.”