Beginning on July 28, the Beverly Hills Planning Commission will have a new face among its five members when Terri Kaplan, a longtime resident and retired real estate asset manager for the federal government, fills the vacancy left by the expiration of former Commissioner Andy Licht’s term.
“I feel my whole career has prepared me for a position on a Planning Commission,” Kaplan told the Courier in an interview. “It’s a way to give back in a meaningful way and to use everything I learned over 40 years of a career to contribute to my community.”
Over the course of that career, Kaplan first worked for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the governmental agency tasked with managing and supporting the basic functioning of other federal agencies, which includes managing nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in real estate. There, she was in charge of leasing properties in Southern California on behalf of the federal government.
“When Ronald Reagan was elected president, I had to go lease his neighbor’s home for the Secret Service to use as a command post,” she recalled.
Kismet brought her to Beverly Hills when she leased a new Hollywood space for the Social Security Administration in 1983. The landlord for the space was 30 days late in letting the new tenants move in, so Kaplan withheld money from the rent.
“I ended up negotiating with this guy, Michael Kaplan, and we split the difference 50-50,” she said. “And then he asked me out. We will be married in October, 39 years.”
“That might be the high point of my career,” she laughed.
Kaplan found her way into the Army Corps of Engineers in 2000, where she worked as the real estate chief. In Los Angeles, the Corps concerns itself with flood management, preservation and maintenance of rivers and harbors, and support to the region’s military. She described the organization as “troubled” at the time of her hiring, characterized by “low productivity” and “poor morale.”
In her position, she oversaw the acquisition of thousands of acres of land in the Mojave Desert around Fort Irwin National Training Center, much of which is now preserved critical habitat for the desert tortoise and other native species.
This background, Kaplan says, gives her a wealth of experience to draw upon as a Planning Commissioner.
“Especially with the Corps of Engineers and a little bit with GSA, I had experienced doing master planning for military installations and housing plans for federal buildings and courthouses,” she said. “I know what it is to engage in a planning process and all the moving parts that it entails.”
While Kaplan has not sat on any city commissions before, she has graduated from the city’s Team Beverly Hills program and served on the school district’s Facilities and Construction Committee.
As she takes her first steps on the Commission, she said she hopes to “listen more than I speak and to work with people to try” and find compromise.
She sees the cost and supply of housing as the largest challenge facing the city, joking that “affordable and Beverly Hills are a little bit of an oxymoron.” She points to the statewide shortage of affordable housing and the dramatic rise in the cost of living.
“That’s the biggest challenge we have,” she said, “to find ways where we can be part of the solution.”
Kaplan has lived in the city for over two decades now in the same location where her husband grew up.
“I love it because it’s walkable, it’s beautiful, I have felt embraced here for as long as I’ve lived here,” she said. “I want to preserve what makes Beverly Hills the special community that it is and at the same time help us move with the times.”