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Blog: Renters in Beverly Hills Get a Voice

Important policy changes for the renters of Beverly Hills may be coming soon with the help of John Mirisch.

For a while, I found it hard to believe that a government that’s for the people by the people existed. Recently within my own city limits, I have had a renewed sense of hope that we have a government that listens and cares and wants to make the right choices for the people of this community. While I can’t speak for the White House and Capitol Hill, I can say Beverly Hills may be onto something.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a commentary to Patch when my son and I were forced to relocate due to the demolition of our apartment building for condo-ization. I thought I was just venting about the lack of relocation fees and the process of this relocation for myself and the other families within the five housing developments that were forced to vacate our homes. I never in a million years would have guessed that someone would have paid any attention to my post. But alas, soon after my commentary was published, one council member stepped in and made comments about the importance of keeping apartment stock, limiting condo-ization and providing relocation fees to the families forced to leave their homes. I was beside myself.

This council member was Vice Mayor John Mirisch. He promised through his comments to get these very important topics put on the agenda for a future city council study session. Much to my surprise, someone listened. Someone heard my cries from one little apartment down on the south side of Wilshire and he did something about it.

On July 3, 2012, the issues I mentioned above, amongst other important issues, like rent stabilization, were discussed in a City Council study session. Vice Mayor John Mirisch fought hard to get the other members of the council to review these antiquated policies and make changes that protect the renters of this city. However, much to my dismay, each one was shot down. Please click the link below to watch a video podcast of the study session in which these important topics were rejected.

http://beverlyhills.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2754&meta_id=151213

Now, more than ever, I believe that it’s important to come together as renters and people that believe these policies need to be changed. I encourage you to write letters to our council members on these topics and the importance of them to you as an individual as well as to our community. Use our local media, the Patch, the Courier, etc. to write articles that will be read. In addition, I ask you to please re-elect John Mirisch to our city council next year on March 5 so we can continue to have a voice representing us that will help change these very important policies. After all, the renters of this city make up over half of the population and just like the rest of the city, we pay our taxes, we work hard and we spend our earnings within our city limits too. Our voices need to be heard and we need to be protected.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

cutop December 12, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Okay, Mirisch, you're just being rude by belittling my contributions. You doubted me; you called me silly; you called me a coward. And now you're trampling over the contributions I've made. This behavior exemplifies poor leadership on your behalf. If you quoted me as accurately as the Weekly had done, you would understand that I didn't accuse anyone of impropriety; rather of just the appearance. Hence, "possible corruption". Don't you think it looks suspicious that the school board made a politically unwise home purchase and selected for their realtor a person who had made large contributions to many of the board members' campaigns? That house was in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. That potentially awards the realtor closing costs of about $80,000. Again, the appearance of political kickback. By the way, I can't see how Beverly Hills could justify giving the school board any more money when the board has wasted the sufficient funds they had on buying a Beverly Hills house for their superintendent and squandered millions more of a pointless and completely avoidable lawsuit. Until they show some fiscal responsibility, the city shouldn't give them another dime. Let me know when you plan to learn to debate with civility. I'll be here looking forward to engaging with you then.
John Mirisch December 13, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Feel free to call me John, cutop. Relocation fees were part of the larger discussion. In fact, they already exist for Chapter 5 and 6 tenants when an existing apartment is converted to a condo. They don’t apply to Chapter 6 tenants when a building is demolished to build condos. This was addressed. The larger issue is maintaining a broad base of apartments and the discussion was framed in this larger issue.The Council was free only to adopt this point, but chose not to do so. Of course forestalling a dwindling apartment stock is all about renters, as when apartments turn to condos supply decreases and this has a direct impact upon rents. My goal was to get ahead of the curve and deal with this before the economy turns, which could lead to more incentivization for condo-ization. Many of my proposals are not specific to renters, but also benefit them, as well. One example would be a pending proposal to extend the validity of parking permits to at least two years from the current one year, which would benefit many renters. The dog park I proposed some years ago, which will now be tested at Roxbury, is also an amenity which benefits renters. We can disagree on the interpretation of the Measure J results. I agree that my editorial speaks for itself and I believe the figures, and particularly the comparison between the Measure R and Measure J results are convincing. By the way, I also support same-sex marriage, even though a majority of Californians rejected it at the polls…
John Mirisch December 13, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I did doubt you, cutop, and as stated that was the direct result of my conversation with the Weekly’s Publisher. But – in direct opposition to you – I haven’t tried to falsely link you with any extremist causes (other than your servile devotion to Metro). More importantly, unlike you, my goal has never been to cause another human being personal “anguish.” I did, however, and do ask you to substantiate your claims of “real-life change.” I still fail to see how your anonymous attack on our School Board President had any “real-life” effect on anything. In fact, as far as I know, the real estate broker in the article did represent the BHUSD and nothing changed as a result of your unsubstantiated allegation towards Dr. Goldberg. This isn’t belittling your “contribution,” this is a legitimate question which bears answering in accordance with your claim. While I agree that the money spent on lawyers is unfortunate, we disagree as to cause and effect. I believe the Board is protecting the ability of the District to best serve future generations of kids. I may not agree personally with the policy of supplying housing for employees as a matter of principle, but I can’t say they have wasted money. What happened under Karen Christiansen was another thing entirely, and this Board gets credit for having dealt with that. Happy to have a public dialog/debate with you on any City subject, notwithstanding your stated desire to cause me personal anguish.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 02:13 AM
You made this about "protecting Beverly Hills from an overrun of condo-ization". However, city staff showed you apartments aren't being demolished en masse for condo conversion. If they were, I would agree with your supply-vs-demand rationale, but that isn't the case. Instead of seeking direct help for renters, you made this about a controversial anti-development crusade. Had you kept this about changing the law to help renters displaced by demolition, you may have gotten at least that third vote. So it doesn't sound as if you pursued this matter since the one attempt in July. Since then, you've proposed a dog park and a change to how parking permits are issued... both good ideas (Thank you!) but neither of which is specifically for renters, but rather our community at large. You may as well say the ice skating rink benefits renters because they can use it too. I'm sorry, but I am having a hard time buying that you are "the renters' candidate" based on this. Let me ask you this: Why don't you take up lowering the max allowable annual rent adjustment from 10% to 5%? Don't you think that would directly benefit renters? And if your assumption is correct – that there are only few instances of landlords raising the rent by over 5%, then your proposal shouldn't raise any cockles. You'll win the hearts of the renters ... and I'll truly be able to say that anonymous posts of Patch really can affect real-life change. :-)
cutop December 14, 2012 at 03:52 AM
You did doubt me. You didn't take me at my word. So the worst thing I said to you was that I delight in the anguish my anonymity causes you which was a response to your constant claim that I am a coward hiding behind a pseudonym; not to mention you trampled over my contribution and you mischaracterize me as a Metro zealot just because I took impartial scientists at their word when they said a tunnel can be built safely under BHHS. If you're going to continue on this way, then I don't think this particular subthread is going anywhere productive and I'll kindly bow out now. On the other hand, if you'd like to continue discussing the money the council wants to give to BHUSD, I am happy to do so as long as you remain civil... My biggest beef is that by writing a $4 million check to BHUSD, the city would be in effect "enablers" – enabling chronic wasteful spenders. In your last council meeting when this item was discussed, I am grateful that several other council members (including Mayor Brien) spoke up about putting stipulations on how the money would be spent by BHUSD. At least then there is some accountability in place with the school board. The money must be spent on students and teachers, and not another $30K for two months extension of lobbyists contracts or another million on law firms to fight a pointless battle or another $1.6 million on real estate speculation. Do you have an issue with putting stipulations on how the money is spent?
Lauren Steiner December 14, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I think that is a good idea cutop. But would be better is getting all of Beverly Hills Citizens involved in this discussion. I almost wish that instead of pursuing the farmers market idea that I had tried to start an Occupy Beverly Hills. Imagine if we had Occupy style General Assemblies on City Hall lawn where everyone got to speak as equals instead of City Council members dominating the dialogue every week with just two minutes for public comment. Direct democracy is much more empowering than representative democracy. And Beverly Hills is a small enough city that it is actually possible. Imagine a New England style Town Meeting but every week. Most people reading this probably have never been to an Occupy General Assembly before, so they don't know how empowering it really is. And decisions are reached by consensus so no one feels bowled over. There are rules so people cannot dominate the discussion and filibuster. Right now, I think people feel very disenfranchised as citizens as evidenced by this on line conversation. Wouldn't it be great if it could be broadened to more than two people?
John Mirisch December 14, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Wait a second: I’ve never given myself the mantel of being “the renters’ candidate” (in the last election, that would have been Brent Lilley). I just want to make sound policy which benefits our residents, including renters. I do understand and acknowledge the importance of renters to our Community, even though they traditionally haven’t voted as much, perhaps because they incorrectly don’t feel invested in BH. I first asked staff to look specifically at relocation fees. But then I also asked them to look at the overall issue of condo-ization. While I do oppose overdevelopment, this wasn’t at all about buildings which aren’t in conformance with our General Plan. Condo-ization can be simply converting an existing building from apartments to condos. If it’s a question of demolition of existing buildings to construct condos, the new condos can also be in accordance with the General Plan. My concern was and is that we maintain a healthy apartment stock, which really is a critical issue for renters. Right now there may not be a lot of conversion, but my goal was to get ahead of the curve and put a policy in place to ensure that a changing economy doesn’t force us to react. This should not be at all controversial. In contrast, I don’t think there is Council support for sharpening of current rent control laws, so my hope was to allow a market with a broad supply of apartments to help avoid the problem altogether of abusive rent increases.
John Mirisch December 14, 2012 at 07:42 AM
Yes, I doubted you and I stated my reasons for doing so: see above. As for Metro’s “impartial” scientists, we can disagree whether their scientists were “independent” or ours were. I can still write volumes about Metro’s bad and inconsistent decision-making and why it is in need of serious reform, leaving out BH altogether. However, my comments in relation to you were and are directed at your words and arguments and in no way have been intended to cause you anguish – maybe to try to get you to consider another perspective, as well as to engage in open dialog. As for the funding to the schools (again, this would be better discussed in an open, public forum than in the comments section of an article about renters): the funding I’m proposing restoring to the schools would be completely spent on averting State-caused cuts to programs. The money being spent trying to preserve the District’s ability to build on the campus comes from Measure E funds – they’re categorical dollars which can’t be spent on salaries, programs, etc. You probably don’t know that I literally wrote the opposition argument to Measure E because of concerns with accountability, specificity and transparency (many of the same reasons for my opposition to Measure J). But I don’t think if we loan the money to the schools we can or should put strings on it. The Council shouldn’t act as a shadow school board; we need to let that elected body do its job and either support it or not.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The title of this blog is "Renters in Beverly Hills Get a Voice" and it goes on to state that you are that voice. I am glad that you admit that you are not that voice – not the "Renters' Candidate". That's precisely what I've been trying to show here. That you are unwilling to pursue lowering the max allowable annual rent raise from the egregious 10% to a still higher-than-our-surrounding-cities-but-more-managable 5%, exemplifies that you are indeed not the Renters' Candidate.
Ace T December 14, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Lauren I don't think Beverly Hills is the city for this. Too many things work well here. Some things are getting a little pricey like trash pick up and water etc...There is very little discontent and compared to LA county council we have a very competent smart group of city leaders who have long term vision. Plus I feel people in California are very different then the east coast were they take there politics very seriously. That's the main issue.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
So you opposed Measure E because of lack of school board accountability, but now you're willing to hand over $4 million more of our money to the school board with no accountability? Forgive me if I point out that your positions seem a bit inconsistent. The school board has shown that they are irresponsible with money. One week they buy a $1.6 million home and the next they cut language classes from the high school citing budgetary shortfalls. We voted for Measure E which stipulated that our $300 million bond has to be spent on school construction project, and the board continues to misuse those funds to pay for lawyers and lobbyists. I can't see trusting them with any more of out money... especially – as you suggest – with no accountability.
John Mirisch December 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM
There’s absolutely no inconsistency. 1) The current School Board majority has changed. 2) The bond asked for $300M with no specificity or accountability. 3) The money proposed to backfill the budget deficit created by the state would restore/protect current programs. While I regret that money is being spent on lobbyists, it’s not from the operating budget and we clearly disagree as to cause-and-effect. I look at this as a defensive action in order to maintain long term flexibility to best serve the school district. While in principle I don’t agree with the house purchase, I don’t think the current board is wasting money. I do, however, see continued wasteful spending at City Hall and not providing residents with the best value-for-money. So, the long and short of it is that I trust the current school board to spend the money in the classroom to benefit the kids, and while I have my own thoughts on what we should do (for example, I would restore FLES), I think we need to leave it up to them. Here’s a side question related to the expenditure to protect the integrity of the campus. Would you think it would be fair for Metro to agree to a covenant whereby 1) they might agree to build the tunnels substantially deeper, and 2) they would be responsible for all incremental costs related to any and all future campus construction/renovation, etc., which are a result of the tunnels’ being located where they are?
John Mirisch December 14, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Cutop, I didn’t write the blog or the headline. I never claimed I was “the Renters’ Candidate.” You’d need to take that up directly with Ms. Brugger, though I am gratified by her kind words and happy that at least some renters feel that I’m also looking out for them. My goal is to try to do the right thing and to try to get City Hall to put the residents first, and that clearly includes renters. I live in a part of town with many renters and openly appreciate their importance to our City. And as Ms. Brugger points out, I’m the only councilmember who has brought up any issue specific to renters’ rights. For you, it’s obvious that a sharpening of rent control restrictions is the touchstone for whether a councilmember is “pro-renter” or not, notwithstanding the political realities. We disagree. As has been stated repeatedly in this thread, I believe having a policy which ensures a continued robust supply of rental units and making sure there is a continued healthy rental market is the first, and most important step in keeping a vibrant mix of renters in our City. That remains my priority. Ironically, increased rent-control restrictions could have the effect of accelerating condo-ization, by potentially making going condo a more lucrative option.
Jennifer Brugger December 14, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Part 1. That sure is a lot of comments above, lots of good points but very little to do with my article. Cutop, I hardly think that my argument about relocation fees is a lesser argument than yours. I also don't think displacing 5 housing developments on one block and not paying relocation fees is acceptable. That’s about 40 families in those buildings that had to move! Not 40 people but 40 families. I seriously doubt that 40 apartment homes had their rents raised by 10% in 2011. I saw devastated people and this fight, this one right here, where I fight for relocation fees is not even about me because I am a fighter and nothing can take me down. I heard screams and cries and single parents struggling to stay in our awesome community displaced to other areas. You would fall to your knees in utter despair if you heard what I heard. But you would also have to understand the struggle to get it. Most people think of renters as floaters that enter a community for a period of time and leave it, yet I saw just in my building alone two elderly couples that called that building home for more than 20 years! Between my building and the one next door there were 4 single parents that lost their homes. Now listen, renting means you don't have $20k + laying around or you wouldn’t be a renter. Some people live pay check to pay check barely holding on to each month in their homes.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 08:59 PM
To answer your side questions... 1) If it will satisfy the anti-Metro voices AND it means that Metro can still have the station at Constellation (that lowering the tunnel at BHHS doesn't mean a grade too steep to have the Constellation station still be viable), then I support digging deeper. I personally don't think digging deeper is necessary though. It's not a matter of safety, as the leading anti-Metro voices have conceded that the tunnel can be built safely. It's not a matter of noise nor vibrations – also a debunked myth. It is now just a matter of impacting future, unplanned construction at BHHS. 2) In terms of Metro setting up a bond to cover additional BHHS construction costs needed as a result of the tunnel, I completely AGREE with that. In fact, I've been urging you to pursue this settlement for a long time now, right here on Patch, before the lawsuits, before the mudslinging, before damaging our reputation with our neighboring cities, and before our city and BHUSD wasted millions more of our dollars on lawyers, risk assessment firms, lobbyists and PR shills. If you will allow me to quote my very first Patch comment written 8 months ago: "My only concern about tunneling under the high school is the additional costs to BHUSD if and when they do major construction on the Beverly High site. My idea for a compromise would be to have MTA pay for the 'bridges' necessary to reinforce the tunnels underneath where major construction is planned."
Jennifer Brugger December 14, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Part 2. For 40 homes full of families to get kicked out of their apartments because some overseas tycoon decided to buy some "land" in BH and condo-ize it without giving 40 families fees to move out of the only home they know is a damn atrocity. I'll tell you another thing I'll be darned if I sit around and watch my post turned into a complaint about a possible 10% raise in rent that rarely happens when families are given the boot from our city after they have been nothing but upstanding citizens here. Everyone signs a lease knowing the rent could be raised up to 10% but no one knows when they will get a notice on their door two months before the holidays telling you to get out of your home.
Jennifer Brugger December 14, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Part 3. What about that single parent that has to live close to the school so their child can walk to and from because they have to work 40 + hours a week and worry about their safety with a longer distance? What about that family that couldn’t find a home fast enough and had to move out of the school boundaries and take their children from the best schools in LA and move them away from their friends? What about the elderly couple that lived in their apartment for so long that now they get lost driving home from the store? What about those people that fought tooth and nail to bring their families here to this wonderful city and because there were no relocation fees had their dreams crushed? And what about those people that didn’t find a home at all? You’re telling me that some willing individual who signed a lease clearly stating a 10% increase is possible is worth more than these people who also signed that lease and paid their increase and got kicked to the curb? I think not! If you would like to argue about that 10% increase or Measure J or what did and did not happen with the school board show some respect and kindly write your own blog.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 09:31 PM
And when the rent was raised 10% two years in a row, what do you think happened to the 16 families in my old building? No one could afford to stay. Perhaps that was the landlord's intent. Did any of us get any of our moving expenses covered? Nope. Just a note stating that in accordance with Beverly Hills law, in 30-days the rent will be going up 10%. By the way, the rent doesn't need to be raised 10% to totally price out a family, single parent, or grandparents from their longtime home. 9%, 8%, 7%, 6% ... all of these egregious allowable percentages can be devastating for a family struggling to stay in our fair city. And I hear people complain about getting their rents raised by these percentages all the time. I do recognize and respect that relocation costs for renters living at a apartment planned for demolition is important, but please in turn recognize this isn't what Mirisch took to the council. He made it about stopping or slowing down condo-ization. Read the item on the agenda: "Request of Vice Mayor Mirisch Regarding Limiting Conversion of Rental Apartments to Condominiums and Promoting Construction of New Rental Apartments". If he instead kept this about the renters (your cause) and not about limiting development (his cause), I predict he would have gotten that third vote for you. My point posting here was to demonstrate that Mirisch isn't the Renters' Candidate you've painted him to be. And above Mirisch confirms that about himself.
John Mirisch December 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Digging deeper would allow for more flexibility for future construction, which would tie the hands of future Boards even less. It would help address some of the BHUSD's concerns. I had also suggested that Metro at the very least agree to a covenant to pay for any and all incremental costs to the District caused by the tunnels going forward. Just as a tunnel easement would run with the property so would this obligation for Metro, no matter what kind of construction the changing needs of the District would suggest. To my knowledge, Metro has never proposed anything of the sort. They want to pay a few hundred bucks for a permanent easement and be done with it. In my opinion and as someone who has first-hand knowledge, the acrimony started with Metro's arrogant, ham-fisted and unrepentant attempts to pull a bait-and-switch on this Community. It's a separate issue from the route, safety, ridership, etc,. I know, but also a very important one, and it follows the pattern Metro has established with numerous other stakeholders and community groups. Despite Metro's history of bad and inconsistent decisions (some of which seem sheer amateurish for those of us who have spent years using other world-class mass transportation systems) and their unjustifiable arrogance, I'm convinced the School Board would look at all serious offers and attempts to compromise from Metro side. Metro's offering a covenant to cover all incremental costs for the District would be a good start.
cutop December 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Why wait for an offer from Metro? Why not offer it to them? Again, this was my suggestion from the start... before the lawsuits, PR shills, name-calling, and lobbyists. From my view – granted not as privy to everything as you are – the acrimony began from our city... specifically the Southwest Homeowners Association. Before the school was even mentioned, they were talking about how having a tunnel under their properties would lower their property values and began slamming Metro.
Mark Elliot January 25, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Not to revive a dormant (but energetic) thread, I think Lauren's point about Occupy Beverly Hills is an interesting one. We may not share specific grievances with City of LA, say, about City Hall corruption, fiscal malfeasance and real quality of life issues like they do with regard to public safety, but we have our own ethical challenges in City Hall. Not least we have our own entrenched crony networks here; hogs feast at the BH trough like they do anywhere, and it's the networks of influence and quid-pro-quo that make it possible. Real estate is the most obvious example: our two largest recent projects have gone to the voters after the community raised substantiated concerns about how City Hall adopted general plan changes to accommodate them. Sitting in on the Gateway process for more than a year, I saw how developers and their attorneys - and influence-peddlers like former Councilwoman Briskman - worked the Planning Commission in favor of more permissive rezoning for the land near the Wilshire-SM Starbucks. I support John Mirisch because he's got the courage to question such arrangements and, most important, because he simply asks 'Why.' We have had no shortage of policymakers who fail to ask, and it's saddled BH with oversize projects per our own city policies (and undistinguished designs, FWIW).
Mark Elliot January 25, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Not to revive a dormant (but energetic) thread, I think Lauren's point about Occupy Beverly Hills is an interesting one. We may not share specific grievances with City of LA, say, about City Hall corruption, fiscal malfeasance and real quality of life issues like they do with regard to public safety, but we have our own ethical challenges in City Hall. Not least we have our own entrenched crony networks here; hogs feast at the BH trough like they do anywhere, and it's the networks of influence and quid-pro-quo that make it possible. Real estate is the most obvious example: our two largest recent projects have gone to the voters after the community raised substantiated concerns about how City Hall adopted general plan changes to accommodate them. Sitting in on the Gateway process for more than a year, I saw how developers and their attorneys - and influence-peddlers like former Councilwoman Briskman - worked the Planning Commission in favor of more permissive rezoning for the land near the Wilshire-SM Starbucks. I support John Mirisch because he's got the courage to question such arrangements and, most important, because he simply asks 'Why.' We have had no shortage of policymakers who fail to ask, and it's saddled BH with oversize projects per our own city policies (and undistinguished designs, FWIW).
cutop January 25, 2013 at 04:31 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to demonize former Mayor Briskman nor the projects she backed during her time in service to our city. For instance, her detractors pejoratively dubbed Beverly Drive just north of Wilshire "Briskman Canyon". Well, let's see... The Montage is not exactly undistinguished in terms of design -- the Mediterranean style certainly blends nicely with Beverly Hills (not the monstrous eye sore its detractors claimed ). And it's quite the revenue-generator for our city both in TOT and the wealthy tourists it attracts to our city. The complex also hosts a couple of our city's finest restaurants, not to mention a plethora of public parking for shoppers. And let us not forget about the beautiful green-space, fountains, and outdoor seating which the Beverly Gardens parks provides. As for the modern building immediately across the way, I believe it's now the home of MGM. The Montage replaced some dilapidated buildings and the MGM offices replaced longtime vacant retail space that never really saw a successful business (I think there was a Beverly Hills tourist store in there, a couple of failed restaurants, and Georges Marciano used the space to auction off some of his art collection.) So, I'd say in retrospect "Briskman Canyon" has turned out to be quite a nice addition to our village – in style, in function, and in dollars – and certainly not the blight on our city which the anti-development faction of Beverly Hills threatened it would be.
lalins January 25, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Thanks Cutop....couldn't have said it better myself. It gives me the greatest satisfaction to see 2 of the greatest detractors of the project enjoying lunch frequently at Bar Bouchon. Smart growth was always my goal. If Briskman Canyon is my legacy.......I stand tall.
Mark Elliot January 26, 2013 at 09:26 PM
I was referring to Briskman's post-service work influencing the planning commissioners, not specifically her city service. But since you mention North Beverly, we should look at the Montage and the project across the street, which was permitted to accommodate a tenant that left us high-and-dry with a largely empty building. Each is much too large for its site, and both required significant departures from our city's plans. I feel the latter continues the city's march toward oversized and undistinguished architecture. But that said, it's a far better project than the Montage, which (in my opinion) is retro-grade faux-European frosting on an oversized box. Aesthetically, it's crap I think. But it's the scale that rankles. But Cutop, since you mention the parking and gardens at the Montage there, are you aware that the city went into significant debt (and over-budget) for that garage? And that the city paid for the Gardens to be constructed to the hotel's standards? And that taxpayers forgo $130k annually to maintain the gardens to the hotel's standards? According to the city park official whom I asked about it, the plantings there require a level of maintenance above and beyond any other city park because of it's design. I haven't looked into the development deal for the Montage, but dollars-to-donuts I bet we're forgoing occupancy and/or other taxes in a sweetheart deal for that monstrosity.
lalins January 28, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Blogs are a lot like Editorials...very deliberate but often inacurate. When a merger lead to the formation of WME the City retained them on Camden and they were replaced with the internationally known MGM as the tenant on Beverly Drive....so where's the loss? When it comes to The Montage you are not well informed. When former Mayor Mark Egerman and I as Council liaisons negotiated this deal it was for a price fixe construction contract for all the City interests which included ALL subsurface parking with hotel dedicated parking for residents exempted, the Liner building where Bouchon is the major tenant and the Gardens. All that for $32M when in fact by occupancy those costs had escallated to $60M. The Montage is a 5 star hotel and the City wanted nothing less than 5 star Gardens to protect it's investment. The maintenance was in the total package of negotiation. As for TOT, on the contrary, the City gets 5% more than any other hotel in the City pays in taxes on each room night. Personally, I would have preferred a percentage of the condo sales over a base amount but community naysayers said we shouldn't be "in bed" with the developer. Sadly, some estimate that amount to be about $40M so far that the City would have gained. "That monstrosity" is a hugly valuable asset to our City and an award winning example of how public/private partnerships can work. Your personal preference may not favor the style but it's success is undeniable.
Ace T January 28, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Living in Beverly Hills since 1985 I think the Montage was a huge improvement of that area. It was an ugly parking lot which looked out of place, and the old corner building with questionable tenants. The reality is L.A. and BH are changing and we need bigger better projects and I think the Montage is a great example of that. I think the city should do revenue share with developers; were else in L.A. county can you sell a 6000 sq foot condo for almost $20 Million. That happens in only ONE city named Beverly Hills. I've been to Bouchon many times in the past year compared to never to the old parking lot and corner building in over 20 years. I almost also chose to get Married at the Montage, it has given the resident a great place to hold events, eat, celebrate, walk, and increase the quality of life over a parking lot. My only question is what percentage of property tax dose Beverly Hills benefit from these type of projects. With almost all units sold at the montage it must generate close to $1 Million a year to L.A. county tax rolls. What percentage of that dose the city get back?
cutop January 28, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Since WME stayed in the city and MGM left Century City for Beverly Hills, not only is there no loss, there's actually a huge gain. Mark Elliot, the gist of my response before reading Linda Briskman's reply was actually going to be quite similar... though lacking the facts-and-figures which she has provided. I follow that neither the Montage nor MGM's new home isn't aesthetically-pleasing to you. There are certain buildings in our city that I don't care for either. But these are our opinions. The fact are that the hotel, residences, the gardens, the restaurants, shops, office space, and parking structure are successful providing status, function, and revenue for Beverly Hills. I agree with you that having council members who asks "Why?" is valuable. In Mirisch, however, we don't have that. Rather we have a council member who just says "No". No to smart growth. No to smart development. He claims to put residents first, when in actuality he is putting his opinions first. A clear example of this is Measure J. Despite his efforts to get that defeated, 58% of Beverly Hills residents still voted in favor of it. Does Mirisch now change his position to align with the majority of residents of Beverly Hills? He has not. And I doubt he ever will. So how is he putting residents first when his positions contradict the majority of Beverly Hills' residents?
Mark Elliot January 28, 2013 at 11:05 PM
I appreciate that some folks may like visiting the Montage or Bouchon, and even may like its architecture. All according to taste. It's simply not for me. But I'm not sure I can agree that the hotel is a hugely valuable asset. I haven't seen the city's revenue from the hotel or condos so I can't speak to financial specifics, but I have heard anecdotally that the hotel hasn't met projections. If true, that can only be a hit to the taxpayer wallet. I'd like to hear more about that development agreement! Since the cost overrun for the construction package has undeniably overrun estimates - and by nearly double, according to the post - then I have to wonder about the assumptions made by the policymakers who approved it. The park is a particular issue of concern: why should this park be created and maintained to higher standards than any other park in the city? Even our landmark park on SM Blvd? What investment was protected if not that of the developers behind the hotel? I recall in Council a few years back when one of our veteran council members (who liked a regular Bouchon lunch, I'm told) actually said in session that the monthly cash handed to the hotel for park upkeep - which bears no relation to the hotel's expense I'm sure - was important because occupancy was below projections. And let's not forget that Bouchon has come to City Council for their rent reduction (they rent from the city). I don't see that rent reduction reflected in pricing.
William D. Webster March 13, 2014 at 09:37 PM
I caught attorney Jennifer K. Brugger committing 10 counts of perjury/suborning pejury in Kitsap County Superior Court.(its a matter of record in Kitsap County.) The Port Orchard police filed charges, but Brugger is a past Kitsap County prosecutor so they wouldn't prosecute (Kitsap County Washington, the most corrupt county in America) I also caught the judge (with pictures) partying (during trial) with Brugger and accepting gifts of alcohol (with pictures) at a political fund raiser for Kitsap Legal services (Jennifer Brugger Chair person) Kitsap Country Superior Court Judge Leonard Costello is no long a judge as he retired two years into a 4 year term (rather than face truths/corruption carges during the next election) The corrupt/feminist Northwest Justice Project wasted US government funds to bring in a mega law firm to defend Brugger. It was me, a pro se against 7 attorneys and a judge that was in the pocket of the Northwest Justice Project. Ask your Congressman to cut off funds to the Legal Services Corporation/Northwest Justice Project as it our tax many sponsoring attorney welfare for attorneys like Brugger who can't make it in the real world.

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