Beverly Hills 100th Anniversary: A Town Built on Rail

Beverly Hills 100th anniversary city sealBeverly Hills was incorporated as a municipality on January 28, 1914, which means that our 100th anniversary is coming up. And that means a party! City leaders have already appointed a ‘blue ribbon’┬ápanel (yes, we’re that old school) to suggest festivities that will stretch out over more than a year. And the city has lowered the drawbridge to receive public input too. Let’s take a moment to suggest what we cyclists would like to celebrate for the city’s next 100 years: our history of mobility!

The rare occasion when Beverly Hills actually solicits public comment is our opportunity to pipe up without City Hall saying, Who asked you? Seizing the opportunity, Better Bike recently visited our city’s 100th Anniversary planning page to offer the following reminder to our blue ribbon panel that the city’s historic role in regional transportation can’t be overlooked when planning our upcoming 100th anniversary celebration:

From our antecedent as ‘Morocco junction’ on the Los Angeles Pacific railroad, a stop on the ‘Balloon’ excursion route to the Beach, to our likely future as multimodal hub for the greater Westside, we have a chance to show the larger Los Angeles-area community we’re not all about keeping good transportation options out of our backyard, as it is said. Let’s look retrospectively to our past that preceded the motor car, and then forward to a future that will certainly supplement, if not supplant, it with new mobility networks, like that for pedestrians & cyclists.

In accord with city leaders’ zeal to recognize this centennial jubilee so far in advance of our 100th birthday (in 2014), we want to suggest right now that transportation has a place in the ceremonies. As the interurban rail system put Beverly Hills on the map for our first fifty years in existence, and the automobile nourished us for the next fifty, we’re saying, Let’s remember to look backward and then forward in order to create the infrastructure that will make multimoda mobility viable here for the next hundred years.

This Town Was Built on Regional Mobility

Beverly Hills station pictured in 1920
Our first rail station put Beverly Hills on the map!

To eyes that only know our Western Gateway as a stretch of vacant land, or Santa Monica Boulevard as a potholed disgrace, we offer a reminder that our city was once a stop on the Los Angeles Pacific’s Balloon excursion route.

That Beverly Hills was later a key junction on the Western mainline where the Hollywood and San Vicente rail lines converged near today’s historic post office at Little Santa Monica & Canon Dr.

Pacific Electric station at Beverly Hills circa 1925
The Pacific Electric stop at Beverly Hills - our 2nd generation rail station.

And let’s remind ourselves that not one but two generations of station marked ours as a mass transit city – and that was long before the automobile played its role. For fifty years Beverly Hills occupied a certain place in the legendary Southern California light rail network as suggested by the handsome station (right) and the commercial activity that it generated. Rail put Beverly Hills on the regional map as a center of commerce.

Last, Better Bike wants to remind our city leaders that not only was rail key to our growth; but that pedestrian accessibility then (and today) makes our community one of the more walkable anywhere. And because connections to transit are every bit as important today, that there has to be a place for cyclists on our street. After all, Metro is planning for us with bike hubs at rail stations, and today every bus has a bike carrier. We need Beverly Hills to step up and do its part to make our streets safe.

If we have a 100th anniversary wish, it is to celebrate our past with a nod to the future and the street improvements that will make our city welcoming to all road users. Let’s add mobility to the long list of festivities planned.