Health and Safety Commission Looks Back on Year’s Achievements

At the final meeting of 2023 for the Beverly Hills Health and Safety Commission, current Committee Chair Lee Hilborne and Vice-Chairperson Erica Felsenthal were recognized for their service in 2023. Felsenthal and Helena Rosenthal were introduced as the incoming Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, for 2024.

Incoming Chair Felsenthal announced that her 2024 area of focus would be on optimizing mental and physical health. That will include community outreach to disseminate health and safety information, including available mental health tools as well as programs like the Nurse Practitioner Program, taking action on health and safety-related items in the city’s Climate Action plan, making sure emergency measures are in place for safe drinking water, further limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, and getting the word out about “vaping and its dangers.”

Outgoing Chair Hilborne stated that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Commission in 2023 had been the home fire extinguisher program put on by the BHFD, which included selling and distributing over 100 fire extinguishers and training people how to use them.

“This has resulted in safer homes,” he said.

In addition, Hilborne cited the “Day of Wellness,” a free community event held last Sept. 10 and coordinated by Vice-Chair Felsenthal, a sunscreen/melanoma program, and “Just-in-Case Beverly Hills,” a collaborative emergency preparedness program with the Beverly Hills Fire and Police departments.

Certificates of recognition and appreciation were given to Michelle Marcus for representing the BHUSD to the Commission during its 2023 meetings, and to Lt. Reginald Evans for representing the BHPD.

The BHPD gave a special presentation about its Police K9 Unit, which currently has five police K9 “officers.” On hand in-person (and in-dog) were Officer Michael Downs and his canine partner Darco, a 3 1⁄2-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Downs explained that the dog was born in the Czech Republic and specifically trained to assist members of law enforcement. He said every dog on the force serves a dual purpose; and Darco’s purposes are to detect explosives and “find dangerous suspects in hiding.” Other dogs specialize in sniffing out guns and narcotics.

“We’re always sweeping venues [for explosives] before large-scale events like the Golden Globes,” Downs stated.

“These dogs can work for seven to nine years,” he continued. “They have a lot of physical demands placed on them…After retirement, we have the option to purchase them from Beverly Hills for $1, and most handlers typically do. We care for the dogs 24/7. When off duty, they come home with us.”

The K9 team is supported by the BHPD K9 Foundation, which provides ongoing care for the dogs in both active duty and retirement.

Josette Descalzo, Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Programs Manager in the Public Works Department, gave the commission a presentation on the BH Climate Action Plan, indicating that the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from transportation (49%) and power (46%). Strategies for becoming carbon neutral by 2045 include transitioning to solar power and electric vehicles, diverting organic waste from landfills, using less water, urban forestry, and revising codes for new and remodeled buildings.

Things that individuals can do include sustainable fashion, buying food at the farmers’ market, and walking and biking instead of riding.

The police and fire departments reported a vehicle fire inside a parking structure under an apartment complex on Nov. 26 that spread to other parts of the building. An investigation determined that the fire was intentionally set by individuals arriving in a second car, and arrests were made.