The Beverly Hills City Council met on Tuesday afternoon for its annual priorities-setting session for the next fiscal year. Referencing a robust, 100-page staff report during the three-hour meeting held in City Hall chambers, the City Council focused on key vision statements, fiscal accomplishments in 2021, and 2022-2023 budget goals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of the session, Assistant City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey gave an overview of the strategic budget process.
“The city’s vision statements can be summarized as: number one, offering an unparalleled quality of life; number two, a unique and friendly character to our residents and visitors; number three, we are a world-class community, offering an extraordinary environment; number four, we are a community committed to safety, innovation, sustainability and service,” Hunt-Coffey shared. “These statements drive the formation of our strategic plans, the City Council priorities and the budget, which include developing department work plans and ongoing tasks.”
Hunt-Coffey then explained that with the retirement of the City Auditor, the City Council elected to have a request for proposal to hire a firm to conduct the internal audit services, and related priorities were moved from the City Auditor’s office to the policy and management department. She also noted that, along with removing two other priorities, city staff would propose that the City Council consider setting three new priorities in the afternoon session: Gale Yard Improvements, a means-tested assistance program for tenants, and an organics recycling and recovery program.
“This afternoon we’ll begin step one of our two-step process,” she said. “Each department head will be invited up to provide a brief description of their priority, provide some high-level accomplishments for fiscal year 21-22, and then review the proposed deliverables for fiscal year 22-23. After each priority is introduced, the City Council will be able to ask questions of staff. The Council can then modify or remove any priority. Finally, we request that the City Council affirm each priority that is remaining on the priority list.”
Priorities for 2022-2023 were then presented by leaders of each city department–community development, community services, finance, information technology, policy and management, public safety, public works and city clerk–and discussed at length by the councilmembers.
Priorities for community development discussed included those from 2021–hillside development standards, the Southeast Task Force, evaluating the city’s rent stabilization policy, implementing a seismic retrofit program, further development of preservation incentives and a study on inclusionary housing–as well as new priorities for Gale Yard improvements and a means-tested assistance program for tenants.
Among the 2022 priorities for community services, in addition to continuing to promote arts and culture with the “Embrace & Celebrate Culture” theme, the upcoming “Hymn of Life: Tulips” installation by celebrated sculptor Yayoi Kusama, implementing the city’s “Art in Public Places” program and launching “Art Now,” a new initiative to activate storefronts with colorful designs in support of business recovery, is the continued exploration of increasing the city’s green space, including pocket parks. Additional priorities include those from 2021, such as improvements at La Cienega Park and Tennis Center and Greystone Mansion and Gardens, implementing a department strategic plan, and updates on use of BHUSD facilities for city recreation and the community.
The priority for finance continues to be a comprehensive review of the city’s cash flow and assets, estimated to be completed by summer 2022.
2022 priorities for IT include broadening the use of technology to improve efficiency in all initiatives, such as continuing to expand public eGov and video offerings, upgrading the city’s parking systems to include smart capabilities and continuing to increase the city’s cyber security measures.
Policy & Management
Moved from the City Auditor’s department since the retirement of the City Auditor, the annual audit plan, including completing an onboarding for an audit firm and providing guidance for a citywide risk assessment, as well a reopening the Trust & Innovation portal are top priorities for the Policy & Management department. Other 2022-2023 priorities include continued property acquisition and development, the Small Business Task Force, business attraction, updating the city’s five-year economic sustainability plan, strengthening and expanding smoking regulations, creating evening activities in the business triangle, leasing city and parking properties, promoting the city, studying the creation of a city health department and exploring creating an office for a city prosecutor.
Expansive priorities for public safety include strengthening firefighting and paramedics, information technology and police capabilities, including continuing to develop the Just In Case program; public outreach and education on social media; First Watch software; CCTV camera deployments; implementing a co-model for a mental health response team; recruitment and career development; launching Phase 1 of a Real Time Watch Center; greater intelligence-led policing efforts, including adding 16 license plate readers, BHPD Alert and expanded drone use; staffing and planning for the upcoming Metro expansion.
Comprehensive priorities include centralized customer relations, autonomous vehicles, community video security, La Cienega Treatment Facility, Water Enterprise Plan, subway coordination, reservoir reconstruction and water storage, a public works matrix audit, separate landscape metering, public work space assessment, the Urban Forest Management Plan, higher maintenance of streets and sidewalks in the business district, completing the streets plan and implementing a new organics recycling program. Permanent Rodeo Drive permanent bistro seating consideration has been put on hold, as has planning for South Santa Monica Boulevard until the 2024-2025 fiscal year and upon completion of the Purple Line subway station at Wilshire and Reeves. Other priorities are advancing capital investment in the city and continued water conservation program in response to ongoing drought-relief efforts.
The City Clerk’s office will continue to prioritize the Sunshine Taskforce, an anti-voter fraud initiative and advertising employment opportunities.
Impact of COVID
Hunt-Coffey concluded the session with a briefing on the fiscal impact of COVID. Due to a reduction in the city’s revenue due to the pandemic, the City Council previously authorized a reduction in personnel by offering early retirement programs and voluntary separation programs to decrease the work force. This resulted in budgetary savings for employee salary and benefits to offset the reduction in revenue and help the city maintain operational services. While the reduction in personnel has strained capacity for new projects, city staff is learning new and innovative ways to do more with less, such as implementation of the Customer Call Center.
Throughout fiscal years 2020-2022, city staff performed a variety of activities to assist the community with COVID. Those activities have been absorbed into day-to-day workloads for each department as the pandemic is shifting to becoming more endemic. As such, 2022-2023 fiscal years’ proposed deliverables for COVID were not developed as they have become part of each department’s operational tasks.