City Council Honors Volunteerism, Eyes Inclusionary Housing Strategy
The Beverly Hills City Council took up an array of issues at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Following a duo of community recognitions, the Council swiftly voted in favor of multiple agendized items with no discussion. After, the Council spent roughly two hours discussing its forthcoming affordable housing strategy.
Below is a brief round-up of some of the highlights at Tuesday’s City Council meeting:
The City recognized longtime residents Ray and Donna Flade with its newly established “Kindness Recognition” for their bounty of acts of kindness within the community. Said Mayor John Mirisch: “Ray and Donna care deeply about our community and have always offered their help whenever needed.” Thanks to their extraordinary efforts to protect the welfare of local animals, over the course of the past 20 years, Mirisch said that the Flades had rescued hundreds of cats or kittens, and not once had an animal been put to sleep. Both of the Flades, who count two sons and five grandchildren, are members of the first graduating class of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and are currently involved in Beverly Hills CPR. “The City is a wonderful place to live and we’ve madeitasgoodaswecangetit for now,” said Ray Flade.
The City named newly employed Beverly Hills Procurement Specialist Sharmin Allidina, who joined the City’s finance division four months ago, as the 2019 Embrace Civility Award winner. Allidina is the eighth recipient of this annual award created by the Human Relations Commission to honor the “unsung heroes” of the community who act as role models of positive behavior. Born in Pakistan, following a six-year stint in Canada, Allidina immigrated to the United States earlier this year. She volunteers weekly at her community center, at Best Buddies and as a Census Goodwill Ambassador. “I feel the need to contribute to my community to make it my own,” Allidina said. “I hope that I can continue to make a difference in our community,” she added. Earlier this week, the Commission unveiled a newly minted plaque at City Hall where all recipients of the award are listed.
Fired Up To Help
Beverly Hills Fire Chief Greg Barton provided the Council with an update on his department’s efforts to help in the recent slate of fires. The Beverly Hills Fire Department (BHFD) sent two battalion chiefs and an engine company to help in Sylmar’s Saddle Ridge Fire on Oct. 10 where the team spent 48 hours straight working to help combat the fire. On Oct. 21, BHPD sent a battalion chief and an engine company to help with the Palisades Fire. And on Oct. 24, the department sent a battalion chief and an engine company to help with the Tick Fire in Canyon County, where the team worked to help for 48 hours straight before taking a brief rest period and driving up to help with the Kincaid Fire in Sonoma County. The team continues to help combat the Kincaid Fire.
Following the update, Chief Barton reminded Beverly Hills residents about the importance of brush clearance. “We do brush inspections every year,” he said, “but the thing is, it’s a year-round responsibility and what we’re asking is the community to help us so we can help them. By clearing the brush and protecting your structure, that’s the best way for a structure to survive and it allows the fire fighters to put themselves between the fire and your structure to help try to save it.” Following an inspection this past summer, Barton said that almost 98 percent of structures inspected North of Sunset passed inspection, which he called “outstanding.”
Residents are invited to attend next Thursday’s upcoming community meeting on the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan from 6-7:30 p.m., Nov. 7, at City Hall.
Changing The Plan
The Council unanimously voted to approve amending the Beverly Hills Municipal Code with respect to the assignment of Planning Agency functions. The ordinance, which received zero Council discussion on Tuesday evening, designated the City Council as the planning agency for the purposes of reviewing acquisitions and dispositions of real property for conformity with the City’s General Plan. The City staff report stated that the change “could help to streamline real property transactions.”
Before the vote, Planning Commissioner Lori Greene Gordon approached the Council to express her “concern” with the consent item. “I really do think that you should think twice before you take the responsibility of vetting [something] being in accordance with the General Plan out of the hands of the Planning Commission and putting it into your own hands,” she said.
The City report, prepared by Policy and Management Analyst Logan Phillippo, stated: “The purpose of the general plan conformance review is to ensure that consideration is given to the policies and goals of a jurisdiction’s general plan when real estate is bought or sold by a government agency. This is meant as a safeguard to prevent jurisdictions from purchasing property that may be in a location, or have characteristics that make it a poor investment of public funds, or disposing of property that could be of future use to the jurisdiction.”
The policy change shifts the purview of ensuring compliance with the General Plan from the Planning Commission to the City Council.
“Because of the often fast-paced nature of real estate transactions, the City has limited ability to quickly act when a suitable property becomes available. The Ordinance would streamline City processes by allowing City Council to conduct review of future real property acquisitions (or dispositions) concurrently with approval of purchase and sale agreements,” stated the City report.
The Council unanimously approved reappointing three commissioners for a second term of four years each through Dec. 31, 2023. Peter I. Ostroff was reappointed to the Planning Commission; Charles Alpert was reappointed to the Public Works Commission; and Judie Fenton was reappointed to the Recreation and Parks Commission.
A Study Session staff report was presented to the City Council on Oct. 22 in anticipation of this week’s vote.
Plugging the Beverly Hills Oil Well
The City Council voted to continue forward in support of its declaration that the public interest and necessity requires certain work be performed without competitive bidding when it comes to managing how the City’s final oil well site is mitigated. The City is managing the project on behalf of the Beverly Hills Unified School District to properly secure and plug 19 oil wells located on district property adjacent to the high school. “The project’s objectives are to ensure the long-term well-being and safety of the high school and surrounding areas and to properly plug all oil wells located at the site,” the staff report states.
The City has agreed to pay a maximum of $11 million to help plug the oil wells and remediate the site. Current estimates peg the total project cost north of $35 million.
The Council continued its nascent policy discussion on an affordable housing strategy on Tuesday. In the coming decade, Beverly Hills will be required to build hundreds of new housing units as mandated by State Housing Law. In anticipation, the City is taking proactive steps to ensure the creation of affordable housing units. There are currently around 100 such units in the City.
“I would argue we don’t need more luxury housing. We do need more affordable housing,” stated Mayor John Mirisch.
Following an initial report by Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. entitled “Summary: Affordable Housing Development Process,” the Council engaged in thoughtful commentary with the aim of moving forward in crafting an effective Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.
“Clearly we have an affordability problem,” said Councilman Bob Wunderlich. “Clearly, we’re not going to resolve anything tonight,” added Councilman Julian Gold. “It seems to me a very artificial construct in order to achieve a certain goal.” From requiring developers of new luxury housing to pay an “in-lieu” fee instead of building an affordable housing unit or two to adopting an affordable housing linkage fee, the Council is still in the initial stages of determining just what the ordinance will look like in order to ensure that its policy decision isn’t overly onerous so as to discourage developers from building in the City.
“Luxury housing creates an additional need for new affordable housing,” said Mayor Mirisch. “If we don’t charge enough to actually cover the additional need created by market rate housing, not only will we be failing to address the problem as a whole, we’ll actually be digging a hole by allowing market rate housing.”