Get to Know City Hall

Get to Know City Hall

City of Beverly Hills is a small city relatively accessible to stakeholders. At the same time, department responsibilities are not as clear-cut as in a larger city. A large city may have a Department of Transportation that plans for mobility and engineers facilities, for example, but in Beverly Hills transportation is part of Public Works. Transportation planning plays a very small role.

Yet planning for mobility is a core function for any city. State law requires conformity with road standards and the federal government keep a watchful eye on safety. Those of us who choose to ride a bicycle should ask ourselves why our city is not doing more for everyone who uses our roads – and not just motorists.

We can start by familiarizing ourselves with City Hall. You don’t want to be embarassed by a bunch of boy scouts who know more about Beverly Hills city government than we do, right? So study up! Or consult our handy cheat sheet to reach city officials.

Navigating the Org Chart

Beverly Hills organization chartThe first step is to figure out which department handles the issue that is of concern. Refer to the flow chart (right) to see how our city is organized.

In Beverly Hills the City Manager has responsibility for the day-to-day running of the city. The City Council makes the policy (our five members represent every district in the city in an at-large system) and hires the manager. And our departments implement the policies and programs.

Commissions are merely advisory to City Council (with the exception of the Planning Commission which is a policy-making body).
A rough metaphor is that the Council runs the railroad; the City Manager makes the trains run on time; and the commissions & committees do the engineering. For an issue, one usually begins at the bottom of the org chart with a committee or commission.

Where mobility issues are concerned, for example, the Traffic & Parking Commission is the place to begin. It advises City Council on traffic and parking issues. Have a specific complaint? Introduce yourself to the Commissioners during public comment at the top of the meeting. Describe your issue. And follow up with staff. Ask that a pressing concern be agendized for an upcoming meeting. Traffic & Parking meets once per month on the first Thursday at 9 a.m. with public comment near the beginning.

City Council meets twice monthly in both the afternoon (study session) and in the evening (formal meeting). The city publishes (but does not promote) a Policy and Operations Manual that clarifies how the process works.

School District Issues

Education is different. Due to local control, representatives are elected to the school board, which sets the policy while the superintendent of schools manages day-to-day operations. He works for the board. In a small district like Beverly Hills Unified Schools we have an opportunity to bring bike-friendly facilities to the city beginning with the schools. There’s federal and state grant money available. Contact Beverly Hills Unified at (310) 551-5100 and tell Superintendent Gary Woods (a cyclist!) that safe routes to school for cyclists and walkers matters.

Your Cheat Sheet for Contacting City Officials

  • City Council is the key policy-making body for Beverly Hills. Five Council members represent every district in the city (an at-large system) so you need to talk to more than just one. Reach the City Council at (310) 285-1013 or email Council at mayorandcitycouncil@beverlyhills.org.
  • City Manager Jeff Kolin is hired by the City Council to run the city. He’s a rider himself! Surely he’d like to hear from other riders concerned about safety; reach him at (310) 285-1014 or by email at jkolin@beverlyhills.org
  • Transportation Division (a part of Community Development) oversees programs and infrastructure. It provides staff support to City Council on mobility issues and implements programs and policies at the direction of Council. Reach Transportation at (310) 285-1128 or by email at transportation@beverlyhills.org. Or contact deputy Aaron Kunz at (310) 285-2563 or by email at akunz@beverlyhills.org.
  • Traffic & Parking Commission is advisory to City Council on matters related to traffic, parking, and yes, mobility too. Reach Traffic & Parking Commission staffers at (310) 285-2452 or by email at transportation@beverlyhills.org.
  • Recreation & Parks division (in Community Services) oversees parks, landmarks and recreation programming. Reach the division┬ádesk at (310) 285-2537 or drop director Steve Zoet an email at szoet@beverlyhills.org.
  • Recreation & Parks Commission is advisory to City Council on matters of mobility. Policies come here first before reaching Council. Contact the Rec & Parks Commission staff at (310) 285-2536 or by email at iknebel@beverlyhills.org.
  • Planning Division of Community Development implements land use policies, reviews applications, and supports City Council with information regarding development issues. Reach Jon Lait, Deputy Director at (310) 285-1118.
  • Planning Commission is the policy-setting body for land use and planning matters like parking minimums and other project-level mobility requirements (think bike racks and showers). Reach a commission staffer at (310) 285-1124 or by email at dmohan@beverlyhills.org.
  • Beverly Hills Unified School District enjoys significant power as a stand-alone body backed by a fat bond issue. Their facilities master planning process is underway and presents an opportunity to secure bike-friendly improvements. Contact the district at (310) 551-5100.

And a few numbers for Beverly Hills public safety which may come in handy if you’re nailed by a motorist: Police general number (310) 285-2101; Watch Commander: 285-2125; Traffic Division (for collision reports): 285-2196.

We always encourage cyclists to drop in on City Council, commission, and school board meetings in order to learn first-hand with how your city government operates. Join Better Bike in reminding officials that safety matters. Have you called City Hall? Let us know what you found out!

Our Plans: The Policy Context for Making Pro-Bike Change

Recent Posts

File Under ‘Crap Facilities': Dangerous Crescent Dr. Sharrows

City of Beverly Hills was warned many months ago about this improper placement of sharrows on Crescent Drive:

Crescent Drive sharrows placement

Is this any way to make our streets safer for those who choose to ride a bicycle?

As explicated in this graphic, these sharrows guide northbound Crescent riders into the left-hand lane, which allows motor traffic to pass on the right. After the South Santa Monica intersection, however, riders are then guided back to the right-hand lane which requires a merge back into faster-flowing traffic. This remains an eye-catching road engineering #FAIL six months after we notified the city about it.

Crescent Drive is a well-traveled N/S street that finds northbound motorists rushing to make the stoplights at North and South Santa Monica boulevards. So putting riders literally in the middle of this scrum is at best a mistake and, more likely, is a result of professional incompetence or ignorance.

While the misplacement of a sharrow marking may seem trivial to a driver, this state-approved traffic control device is important to riders as it offers official guidance as to where to ride. It is intended to make roads safer for those who ride a bicycle, not put them in harm’s way.

What is a Sharrow?

According to the state’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), sharrows can be used to:

Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane; alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way; and encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists…. (MUTCD Section 9C.07 Shared Lane Marking)

sharrow markingAccording to the manual, the marking “shall only be used on a roadway which has on-street parallel parking.” But Crescent northbound here has no parallel parking, of course. And even if it did, the MUTCD offers this bit of specific guidance: Where used to direct riders to a lane adjacent to a traffic lane, it should be only to the left of a right-turn-only lane. (Section 4D.104 Bicycle Signals).

As the manual suggests, it is better to use no sharrows at all than to implement unsafe sharrows.

We’ve Tried and Tried to Get This Fixed

I first contacted the Beverly Hills Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz in early June after noticing the unsafe sharrows placement:

Sharrows on Crescent (south of little SM) make an ill-advised jog around a non-turn lane as I recall (not the best practice).

Then I suggested that our city fix it. After seeing no action, though, I followed up in early August:

I’ve been puzzled by the hazardous placement of n/b Crescent sharrows. I wonder if the city has a plan to fix it?

Kunz acknowledged the problem and said a fix was in the works. But no fix came. So I followed up again in early October:

Can you remind me if the city will be fixing the sharrow alignment problem on Crescent at SM South? (We spoke about it in early August.)

Kunz replied, “I will check on the status of moving the sharrow as we discussed and get a date.” Hearing nothing back about it (of course) I then followed up a third time in late October:

I’m wondering if you’ve been able to nail down the date?

Aaron replied, “The moving of the sharrow will be a priority but unfortunately I do not have a date yet.” Optimistically I said I would look forward to having the problem corrected.

But evidently I was too optimistic! Here we are approaching February and there is no fix yet. Where in the transportation planner’s handbook does it say that a mistake like this can go unaddressed despite highlighting the problem and following up three times? It cries out for a lawsuit!

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