The city declared a local emergency in March of 2020 in the face of public health concerns presented by the pandemic. More than three years later, the threat of COVID-19 has decreased, and as state and countywide leadership have ended the state of emergency, Beverly Hills is following suit.
“The termination of the local state of emergency will end the city’s pandemic response, but it should be noted that the threat posed by COVID-19 will continue,” reads a city document recommending approval of a resolution ending the state of emergency.
To date, Beverly Hills has had more than 11,500 cases of COVID-19. There have been 56 local deaths caused by the coronavirus.
For repayment of costs associated with COVID-19 emergency response activities, the city has submitted $2.7 million to Federal Emergency Management Agency for review and reimbursement.
At this point, it is unknown how much of that sum will be reimbursed by FEMA.
During the session, the council also approved an ordinance preserving housing protections established under the emergency declaration. The deadline for paying forborne rent because of COVID-19 continues to be May 31, and a 3.1% cap on rent increases for the current fiscal year remains.
Appearing before the council, Beverly Hills Fire Chief Greg Barton provided an update on the city’s Emergency Medical Services program and Nurse Practitioner Program, asking for additional appropriations.
The council members said they admired the fire department programs and approved an approximately $506,000 increase to the budget for the Nurse Practitioner Program.
“You are defining the future of community-based medicine in real time,” Mayor Dr. Julian Gold said.
Expressing support for the program, Councilmember John Mirisch said he’d like to see more data collection about the kinds of calls they receive.
“This is about efficiency,” Mirisch said. “This is about providing the best kinds of services we can for our residents.”
During the two-hour meeting, Beverly Hills residents continued to voice strong opposition to the controversial removal of Ficus trees lining Robertson Boulevard.
Though the issue of Ficus tree removal was not on the agenda, a handful of people addressed it during the public comment segment of the evening. Resident and activist Wendy Klenk was choking back tears while discussing the ongoing saga of the trees, which has led to a court battle.
“I really want us all to sit together and just find a resolution so we can move forward,” Klenk, founder of the Robertson Boulevard Special Task Force, said. “We want to work with you. We really do.”
The council session began on a somber note, with Gold leading a moment of silence to commemorate Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which took place from April 17-18. Hate and prejudice continue today, the Beverly Hills mayor said before calling for a more loving and kinder society.
“We have to continue to promote all human dignity and confront all forms of hatred, persecution, tyranny and injustices in the world,” he said. “We have to stand united, loud and clear, and say this is just not the world we want.”
As has become customary, the five-member council offered special shoutouts to deserving businesses and organizations in the community. First, they presented the award-winning professional theater company, Theater 40, with a special proclamation honoring its upcoming 57th anniversary season in Beverly Hills.
Then, city librarian Karen Buth accepted a proclamation for National Library Week, celebrated this year from April 23-29. She said this year’s Library Week theme, “There’s More to our Story,” highlights the many activities performed by the Beverly Hills Public Library, including passports services, issuing parking passes for national parks, and holding writing workshops.
“Libraries provide communities with the opportunity for everyone to pursue their passions and engage in lifelong learning,” Mirisch said.
Another recipient of a city proclamation was Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman. He attended the council meeting as the State of Israel prepares to celebrate 75 years of statehood in May.
“This is just another expression of the very special relationship between the State of Israel and the City of Beverly Hills,” Newman said.
Councilmember Lili Bosse agreed, saying, “No one celebrates and appreciates Israel more than we do here in Beverly Hills.”
During public comment, Beverly Hills resident and former City Council candidate Vera Markowitz discussed the success of Just in Case BH. Markowitz, co-founder of the all-volunteer program, which trains residents in emergency preparedness, said the program’s recent kickoff event at La Cienega Park was a resounding success.
“The object of Just in Case BH has always been to save lives in major emergencies,” Markowitz said. “Our city leads the way for the entire country in emergency preparedness.”
Beverly Hills resident Marc Maretsky shared about the 123rd U.S. Open coming to Los Angeles Country Club in mid-June for the first time in the tournament’s history, urging city leadership to publicize the event more proactively.
“The excitement is building,” Maretsky, a self-described golf fanatic, said. “I hope the city recognizes this tremendous publicity opportunity.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilwoman Sharona Nazarian took a moment and congratulated Bosse on a successful term as mayor. She also offered words of praise for Gold–the April 18 meeting was the recently installed leader’s first in his third term as mayor–and for Vice Mayor Lester Friedman.
The City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for May 2.