In part two of our interview with Dr. William Brien Patch talks with the vice mayor about the Roxbury Park Master Plan, ways to revitalize the southeast section of town, the new Annenberg Cultural Center, a dog park coming to town and the possibility of a plastic bag ban.
For part one of Patch’s interview with Brien, click .
Beverly Hills Patch: What are your thoughts on the renovations planned at the as part of the Roxbury Park Master Plan?
Vice Mayor William Brien: It is an old building. It does not meet the standards and the needs of the community of Beverly Hills. It does not meet the appearance and look of what’s needed in Beverly Hills. So we need to do something.
The question then becomes what to do with it. My feeling has always been that if you can build new, it typically will be more cost-effective than remodeling something that has been in existence for decades because the needs in the community typically change over decades. The cost of remolding—you never know what’s behind walls.
I think that yes, the plan is a good plan. It meets substantially more the needs of this community for the next 10, 20 years. Is it perfect? No, but rarely are things perfect. It’s certainly better than what we have. In terms of providing needed services for our kids, for our seniors, for the community at large through youth sports programs, I think that those would be a benefit to the city.
Do I love every aspect of this? No. Are there things that I would maybe do a little differently? For me, the climbing wall. The climbing wall is something that’s not important to me. And we could [get rid of it]. And we very well may do that.
Patch: What about concerns raised that a new Roxbury Park Community Center could be used as a ?
Brien: It has been stated that this is somehow going to become a banquet facility. That has never been part of the concept. I don’t know anyone who wants to get married on a basketball court. The kitchen is a warming kitchen, somewhere just over the 500-square-foot range. I don’t think anyone could put on a wedding off of a 500-square-foot kitchen. That’s not the intent of this. It is not a banquet room.
There is a parking component of it; one level of underground parking that would add some additional parking spaces there. You couldn’t have a 500-person event there because there’s not enough parking.
I would be very comfortable saying that we’re not going to do bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, large parties [at the community center]. But I also believe if we’re going to have a middle school dance, there’s nothing wrong with that. If a hundred plus kids come to a middle school dance from Beverly Hills, I think it’s a great place to put kids—a safe, enclosed, contained environment if that’s what parents want.
Patch: How is the City Council planning to of town?
Brien: That’s the key question. What does the city want to do? And I think that we’re looking at that right now. One of the big things is to look at your residents and say, “What would you like to see in this area?”
We need to look at what the community wants in that area in terms of what benefits them as well. We also want to do something in a way that will attract retail. And you want to have diversity too. You want to have some restaurants. You want to have types of retail stores that service the community, and bring people into the restaurants and other areas.
And in the end you’ve got to have parking. Because if you don’t have parking, you can’t draw people into that area and it never will get revitalized.
Street parking is hard. During rush hour you can’t park on a lot of the streets. Everything is permit after that. You’ve got to have a place where people can park, because when you have places for people to park, then they don’t want to park on the residential streets. Then the permit parking can be implemented and not have a negative impact on your businesses.
South Beverly Drive is a destination site for a lot of people—limited parking, which is a challenge for the businesses—but for the residents who live around there, that is their community. It’s a great street.
Patch: What is the status of the , which will be located at the site of the old city post office at North Crescent Drive and South Santa Monica Boulevard?
Brien: The Annenberg Cultural Center is moving forward. They are starting their work right now on the old post office and then adjacent to that, right across from City Hall, will be a new 500-seat Goldsmith Theater.
This is a cultural center and part of that cultural center is a theater being built—500-seat theater. And imagine what that’s going to do for Beverly Hills. Not only do we have great retail, but now we’re actually going to have the theater and the cultural aspects.
It’s a foundation that’s doing this.* The city’s not paying for it. They pay in installments back for some of the parking that we built there. The city owns it, but they’re paying for a certain number of spaces.
We believe [the cultural center] should be done somewhere in the next 18 to 24 months.
Patch: Is the city making plans to address a call to ?
Brien: We’ve discussed that in a recent meeting. We’ve actually asked to look into details of the plastic bag ban concept and what it would mean to our businesses and get feedback from our businesses. Some of our stores have already done that.
We are looking at it. When you make policy decisions, changes, oftentimes those decisions make absolutely total sense and then you find out that’s there’s some unintended consequences unique to Beverly Hills that may not be true in another city for whatever reason, that you didn’t think of and now you’ve created a major problem for yourself.
We want to do this right and we want to get our feedback from our businesses and we want to understand what the implications are going to be. But we are discussing that. I believe that we’ll be taking it up again on how likely we are to eliminate plastic bags.
Patch: Is the city still discussing the possibility of a ?
Brien: We’re still talking about that. I actually wanted to try, as a trial, a dog park in an enclosed field at La Cienega [Park] just in the summer when the fields are not really in use—the baseball field. The big one. Because it’s totally enclosed.
I thought that that would be a great place to try it and see how it worked. You have a closed, controlled environment that’s a pretty large space. There were some reasons why the Recreation and Parks Commission didn’t like that idea. Some of the people on that commission are very big into trying to find that dog park. So we’re looking.
*The Goldsmith Family Foundation.
This interview has been edited and condensed.