From banning oil drilling in Beverly Hills starting in 2017 to passing an amended noise ordinance, the City Council's latest decisions are making waves throughout the community. Mayor Barry Brucker weighs in on what these changes mean to him.
Beverly Hills Patch: The contract allowing hydrocarbon drilling by Venoco Inc. on the Beverly Hills High School campus expires Dec. 31, 2016. What are your thoughts on the council's decision to when it ends?
Mayor Barry Brucker: It was one of the most proud moments in my career as a city council member because I was there when the erupted. I was the president of the school board, and I saw how this frivolous lawsuit back then absolutely scared this community into being afraid to even send their kids to school.
We already have a municipal code in the city which prohibits oil drilling anywhere in the city except at the high school. Does that strike you as a little odd that the only place that you can have an industrial, toxic, oil pumping facility is on the play field at a school?
The whole city has prohibited oil drilling. The only reason why we [allow] the Veneco site is that they had a contract that expires in 2016. To void their contract, to close them down—they'd sue us for all their lost profits. It would bankrupt the city. We had to grin and bear it [and] let them drill until 2016.
Everybody knew that it was expiring in 2016. Why now? Why didn't we take this vote in 2015? Because what we didn't want is the school board or community members saying, "We don't have time to prepare."
We want to give the school district not only time to prepare to look for other sources of revenue, we also want to let Veneco know because we are not opposed to Veneco finding another location and slant drilling. The drill site would be outside of Beverly Hills' limits. You still get the royalty based on the oil they're taking from underneath your property. There's still a great potential to have royalty payments being paid. We'll still explore that. We're not prohibiting that at all.
Patch: The city's noise ordinance so that the cutoff time for amplified sound is now 10 p.m., seven days a week. How did the council come to that decision?
Brucker: We had two ordinances on the books. We had one, a noise prohibition, that you couldn't have amplified music after 6 p.m. We had another one that said 10 p.m. The police were enforcing 10 p.m.
No one knew about the 6 p.m. one. It was passed 40 years ago. They didn't understand amplified music the way we do now. It said no phonographs and television sets.
We ended up cleaning [the noise ordinance] up. We set it at 10 p.m., seven days a week, and our police have the authority—if there's unruly noise 24-7—they have another ordinance that they can shut down a party ... a nuisance ordinance. That's always been there. That is a check and balance 24-7.
We wanted to have respect for the neighbors and we also wanted other neighbors to be allowed to have respectful social gatherings.
Patch: What is the status of the the Roxbury Park Community Center.
Brucker: The next big issue that's coming down the pipe that's going to be quite turbulent is Roxbury. A lot of this centers around misinformation. People are assuming it's going to be like a sports club. It is hardly that. It's a multipurpose room which will have a stage. It will be the only large congregant area for the once-a-year turkey luncheons for the seniors [or] when you have town hall meetings. It will have some basketball nets that drop down so that people can play basketball at only given times.
Roxbury will be a teen center. It will be a preschool. It will be a senior center.
People are concerned that you're going have late-night bar mitzvahs and weddings and functions, but that's a policy decision that the City Council can make. We can prohibit that. I think it would be under very limited conditions. For instance, if you want to have a bar mitzvah reception there, I don't think I would support having a bar mitzvah reception with 250 people, valet parking and it being let out at 1 a.m. in the morning because that's an externality on the neighborhood. But why wouldn't we have that facility available for a Sunday city carnival? Or a teen dance? That's what a community center is all about. A community center doesn’t have to take the place of a hotel banquet hall.
The architects are finishing up their design and then it will go to bid in the next month or two. Maybe by November or December, [the plan] would be ready for the opening of bids. They would have to be approved by the council. We have to see whether the City Council votes for it.
Back in 1995, we were already told the building was antiquated. The building was built in the early '60s or late '50s. It's a terribly inefficient layout. It's not ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant the way it needs to be.
I've seen community centers within the region here. Roxbury's community center building is in deplorable condition and it's probably the worst one I've seen. Here in Beverly Hills we should take pride in what we have and this is really built for the people. It should be of the quality that we would expect for any other building.
[The cost] was projected to be around $13-$14 million. It looks like we have a good portion of that funding already in place from the recreation and parks fund. Developers, when they build buildings, they put money into the recreation and parks fund. It banks itself.
Patch: The city is in the process of passing the Mills Act, as well as developing a separate ordinance to in the community. What are your thoughts on these actions?
Brucker: It's long overdue that we set up a mechanism to protect our iconic buildings in town. There's a balancing act between what constitutes something that you would preserve. Is it who lived there? Is it the architect? Is it how old the building is?
These are tough decisions. We have to be responsible. We're passing the Mills Act, which offers incentives for people to preserve their homes. We are [also] trying to create a preservation ordinance which identifies homes or properties that could be historic, like old theaters.
It won't affect the . I'm sure it's going to be demolished. It was in horrible condition. Also, a good portion of it had been rebuilt not to the Kronish style.
Patch: What is the city doing to be more ?
Brucker: We are doing some really good things in the city. Our roofs of City Hall—we're redoing all the roofs to make them reflective, non-heat absorbing surfaces to keep it cooler and we're putting in 1,000 solar panels on top ... to power a good portion of the library. That's where our IT department is, in the basement.
We're putting electric charging stations in our city garages. It's going to be for public use.
A CNG [compressed natural gas] station is going in our maintenance yard for all our maintenance vehicles.