The exotic and lush Virginia Robinson Gardens are a huge part of Beverly Hills’ historic and cultural heritage, but for decades their operations have been controlled by the County of Los Angeles. Now, change is in the works.
Thanks to a motion authored by Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, the Board has initiated a process to hand the keys to the gardens over to the city of Beverly Hills.
“I moved to transition operations of Virginia Robinson Gardens to the city of Beverly Hills because they have an outstanding track record maintaining properties for the public’s enjoyment,” Horvath told the Courier in a written comment. “Coming from city government, I know how valuable it can be for the local community to operate an asset like this in partnership with the county.”
By taking over day-to-day operations, the city will be able to better control the impact that visitors and events have on the neighboring residential area and implement its own programming in the gardens.
The six-acre property is a draw for locals, visitors and international tourists alike who come to view its stunning garden, lavish mansion and pool pavilion. It was built in 1911 and once served as the home of retail giants Virginia and Harry Robinson. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The property has the unique honor of being the first luxury estate in Beverly Hills where the Robinsons hosted lavish Gatsby-esque parties that drew the likes of Elvis Presely, Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Virginia wanted the gardens to become a gift to the public after she passed, and Mayor Julian Gold, M.D. said her original wish was for the city of Beverly Hills to control the gardens.
Now that wish is one step closer to reality.
Gold said that the council first voiced a desire to take control of the gardens around August 2022 when the county mulled expansions to the garden’s operations that would allow for more visitors and events and longer hours.
The council worried about how this would affect neighboring residents and successfully worked with the Board of Supervisors to come to a compromise on the expansions. At the same time, the council worked with then 3rd District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to initiate discussions regarding a transfer of operations.
Horvath, who took over Kuehl’s seat in November 2022, also inherited this initiative and successfully brought a motion to the finish line in an April 4 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
“I look forward to working with the City and our County Parks and Recreation Department to develop the plan that will guide this transition, so that the gardens can both honor the legacy of Virginia Robinson and adhere to her wishes for it to continue as a cherished community gathering space,” Horvath told the Courier.
Gold said it is a tremendous asset to have Horvath on the Board of Supervisors, as she was formerly a mayor and councilmember in West Hollywood and has a fantastic working relationship with Beverly Hills’ leaders.
“The fact that we have a supervisor who is available to local constituents and willing to work with us to do this is really a good thing,” he said. “I certainly look forward to working with her more on things that, as a city and as a region, we want to get done.”
Horvath’s motion established a 120-day timeline for the LA County Parks and Recreation Department to work with Beverly Hills to develop “scopes of work, cost estimates, timeline to develop a management lease agreement and a funding recommendation,” for the city to take over operations.
City Councilmembers will also begin discussing their vision for the future operation of the gardens.
Gold, for his part, wants to see a connection forged between the gardens and the historic Greystone Mansion and Gardens, which dates from the same period. One of his ideas is for the city to run joint tours of both estates.
“I see these properties like bookends, they are part of the past of the city and are historic treasures that represent the grandeur of the time,” he said. “I really think that this (motion) really gives us an opportunity to build educational programs around these two amazing properties.”
One thing that will not change under the city’s operations is Virginia’s desire for the gardens to remain open to all.
“It’s a resource for everybody, not just Beverly Hills,” said Gold. “It has been and will continue to be an attraction for anybody, whether it’s a visitor to the region or people who live here and like to come walk around the gardens periodically.”