Electric Vehicles, Fentanyl Danger on Council Agenda

Beverly Hills is preparing for an electric vehicle future. 

At a regular City Council meeting Oct. 18, city planners proposed that for each new residential unit built in Beverly Hills with an assigned parking space, the spot must be ready to have an electric vehicle charger installed. By ready, city officials mean a branch circuit with cable raceways to enable charging. 

The rule is part of a new building and fire safety code proposed by Arlen Eskandari, supervising plan review engineer for the city. Every three years the state of California hammers out new code statutes that cities must adopt. Municipal governments can go a step further and initiate requirements in addition to state law. 

Under the newest state statutes, which the city must adopt by Jan. 1, 10% of all newly constructed parking spaces must be electric vehicle capable. That means electrical vehicle ready plus the qualification of an electrical panel space that a car charger can plug into. And 25% of all new spots must be electric vehicle ready.

But Beverly Hills wants to go further, as Eskandari explained. 

The proposal follows in the footsteps of the city approving two electric vehicle car dealerships, Faraday Future on North Beverly Drive and Galpin Lotus on Wilshire Boulevard. 

Council members are not set to vote on these and other code changes until a Nov. 11 meeting. But members raised questions about how the charging requirements would fit with a more public transit-friendly Beverly Hills. 

Councilmember John Mirisch pointed out that new buildings constructed near public transit, such as those adjacent to the under-construction Wilshire/La Cienega and Wilshire/Rodeo purple line stations, are not required to have parking. Mirisch wondered if developers would be incented, then, to build near transit, and have to deal with the hassle of electric vehicle requirements. 

“On the one hand, the state says that we should have electrical charging for all these great new electric vehicles,” Mirisch said. “But if you don’t provide parking, where are you going to charge?”

“The code and the needs of the residents don’t necessarily match,” Mirisch added. 

Other proposed code revisions include stricter enforcement of vegetation management to curb wildfire risk, transitioning from natural gas to electric heat pumps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and enhanced seismic design construction standards for hillside buildings.

Councilmember Sharona Nazarian expressed concern about the multiple code changes and if the city’s six staff focused on code enforcement are enough. 

“It seems like a lot of code for six people to maintain,” Nazarian said. “Is that something that’s doable?”

Ryan Gohlich, assistant city manager, responded that “The majority of these codes are enforced through the plan check and building inspection process. So that is a separate team of people from code enforcement.”

Council members deferred making from overall comments about whether they would approve the code changes, waiting until Nov. 11.

In other meeting news, the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) provided a report on the dangers of fentanyl, a prescription painkiller that is leading to drug overdoses. A danger is that a drug user could unknowingly ingest fentanyl, as it is mixed with other drugs. One officer related reviving a 17-year-old who had accidentally taken fentanyl. The officer used Narcan, a brand name of a medicine called naloxone, that can be used as a nasal spray to counteract an opiod overdose. 

Nationwide, fentanyl was the cause of 77% of adolescent drug overdoses in 2021, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The police department prepared its fentanyl report amid Mayor Lili Bosse’s concern fentanyl could be slipped into Halloween candy. Bosse’s warning was prescient. 

Two days after the Council meeting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that 12,000 fentanyl pills were seized from a suspect concealing the drug in bags of Skittles, Whoppers and other candy as they went through a Los Angeles International Airport security checkpoint. (The suspect fled, but has been identified, according to the Oct. 20 report.)

Councilmember Lester Friedman instructed parents, “You need to go through your child’s candy,” and, “If you even have a doubt, take it away.” 

A police department social media message does state, “Two milligrams of fentanyl can kill you,” Giovanni Trejo, public information officer for the department, mentioned that it is a stunning 50 times more dangerous to consume than heroin or cocaine. 

The police have filed no criminal charges regarding fentanyl possession, following Los Angeles County District Attorney’s orders to decline prosecution of misdemeanor drug possession-related arrests, according to Trejo. The police department spokesperson added that from July 1 to Oct 16 there have been 141 drug-related arrests in Beverly Hills. 

Following the Council meeting, City Librarian Karen Buth presented the annual report of the Beverly Hills Library Board of Trustees, which showed a public service still recovering from COVID. 

In the past fiscal year ending June 30, the library reported 218,000 checkouts and renewals of books and other materials, along with 234,000 people total entering the library. Those figures are more from the prior fiscal year.  But they demonstrate how far the library must go to return to pre-COVID levels. In 2019-20 fiscal year, there were 313,000 checkouts and renewals and 456,000 people entering the library. 

The library went back in April to their pre-COVID hours of being open to the public 70 hours a week. The city government entity does generate modest income through passport applications and renewals, $131,000 in the last fiscal year, a number less than half what it was before the pandemic.

Goals for the present fiscal year include expanding passport services to offer more appointments. Also, there are plans to rent out the auditorium again, cataloging and digitizing the local history collection, and a redesign of the local history space. Also, Buth floated the idea of eliminating
overdue fines.