With petitions in support of Pioneer Hardware keeping its reduced rent circling the community, City Council is set to discuss the issue at its closed session Tuesday.
"This is not a rental increase but simply a return to contracted rates from rental rollbacks," Councilman Barry Brucker said.
Located at 315 N. Crescent Drive in a city-owned building since 1983, Pioneer's monthly rent had been lowered by council from about $9,500 to $7,300 upon the request of store owner Jeff Tilem. His latest appeal for Pioneer's lowered rent to become the new base rent was denied by council.
"Why is this city forcing all the small businesses and the independent businesses to leave?" said Tilem, who grew up on Foothill Road. "It's all a tourist-based economy and this is not what Beverly Hills was when I was a kid."
Tilem said the struggling economy and periodic Crescent Drive closures during construction of the Annenberg Cultural Center have resulted in a 30 percent drop in sales and the downsizing of his staff to minimum levels.
"The city lowered the rent during the street closure and due to the economic challenges that Pioneer expressed," Councilwoman Lili Bosse said. "They were always told that the lower rent was for a set amount of time and would go back to the original rent they were paying."
However, Bosse said that if the council cannot come to a consensus on Pioneer's rent during its closed session, she would like the issue to be placed on the study session agenda.
"This is city property, which to me means it belongs to our community. The issue is about balance," Bosse said. "How do we balance revenue for our residents responsibly as well as listen to what our community feels is important? If that means to operate city property with less revenue, we owe it to them as residents and tax payers to have that discussion."
The family-owned Pioneer Hardware was brought to Beverly Hills in 1926 by Tilem's grandfather. The store was then run by his father, former Mayor Joseph Tilem. Jeff Tilem took over the shop in the mid-90s.
Those petitioning the city for Pioneer to keep its lowered rental rate are expected to speak out at Tuesday's formal meeting during the public comment period.
"If you live in Beverly Hills, you have to drive out of Beverly Hills to go shopping for your stuff," Tilem said. "There's nothing in Beverly Hills for the residents anymore."