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!
Navigating the Org Chart
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.
Here’s a cheat sheet:
- 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.
- Transportation & Parking Division of Public Works oversees the infrastructure and programs that most affect cyclists. Provides staff support to City Council and implements programs and policies at the direction of Council. Reach Transportation at (310) 285-2452.
- Traffic & Parking Commission is advisory to City Council on matters related to traffic and parking. Reach the Traffic & Parking Commission staff at (310) 285-2452.
- Recreation & Parks Commission oversees parks, cultural landmarks, and summer recreation programming. It is advisory to City Council. Reach Rec & Parks at (310) 285-2536.
- Public Works Commission advises on big-ticket items like capital investment and even bike infrastructure. Reach a Public Works staffer at (310) 285-2462.
- Planning Commission is the policy-setting body for land use and planning matters. It would be the body that handles parking set-asides, for example, and other project-level requirements. Reach a Planning staffer at (310) 285-1141.
- 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!