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On May 23, Beverly Hills residents will vote on the fate of Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills. Residents can begin mailing ballots as early as May 13, voting yes or no on Measure B, which asks if they want to approve the zoning ordinance allowing the development to go forward, and Measure C, which asks if they want to approve the city’s development agreement with LVMH, the luxury-goods giant behind the project.
The zoning ordinance and development agreement were both approved by a 4-1 council majority, with Councilman John Mirisch casting the sole dissenting vote, claiming the development agreement provides far more benefits to LVMH than to Beverly Hills residents. His colleagues, however, argued that the project presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to bolster the financial and reputational standing of Beverly Hills.
If it goes forward, the luxury mixed-use development would transform the northern part of the Golden Triangle. The project, however, has sparked opposition from some residents who contend the proposal is out of step with the Golden Triangle’s character, and would favor the interests of developer LVMH over those of Beverly Hills residents.
The City Council did not hold a planned discussion on the special election during a May 2 study session, but opponents and proponents have made their voices heard in recent weeks, publishing newspaper editorials and launching websites.
Yes on B&C, the campaign funded by LVMH, has secured prominent endorsements from current and former city leaders, law enforcement organizations and unions.
“Measures B and C will significantly increase funding for Beverly Hills police, fire, paramedic, and other vital city services by generating an estimated $778 million over the next 30 years for the city’s general fund. The measures will also generate more than $100 million for Beverly Hills schools and provide a one-time payment of $26 million to support critical city needs, and another $2 million to support city art and culture programs,” according to a Yes on B&C spokesperson.
During a Nov. 1 City Council meeting, an economist hired by Cheval Blanc, a subsidiary of LVMH, said the city could earn up to $1 billion in the event of a sale, but a Yes on B&C spokesperson said LVMH has no intention of selling the property.
LVMH has spent more than $2.315 million on the campaign, hiring communications professionals, consultants and paying at least $45,000 for ads in the Beverly Hills Courier, according a financial statement filed May 1 with the City Clerk. The statements are mandated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
The company’s well-funded lobbying efforts have been a point of criticism for Residents Against Overdevelopment, a grassroots organization composed of residents against the project. The group also takes issue with the size of the project, increased congestion and other impacts on the village-like charm of the Golden Triangle.
“[LVMH] is looking for something big and splashy, and I disagree with that concept,” said resident Macey Lipman, who donated to the group. “We’re supposed to be a village, or at least that’s what I was led to believe long ago.”
He noted the discrepancy between the millions LVMH has spent on the campaign and the much smaller sums spent by Residents Against Overdevelopment. Between March 14 and April 23, the organization had raised approximately $12,000, and spent approximately $8,800 of those funds, according to an election filing.
Another opposition group, Citizens for Responsible Development, is backed by Unite Here Local 11, a union representing service workers involved in the petition gathering effort that triggered the special election. That group has spent more than $156,000 on the campaign.
“It’s David vs. Goliath,” Lipman said.
Resident Darian Bojeaux, who spearheaded local opposition to the project and formed Residents Against Overdevelopment, said that while it is impossible to predict the result of the election, there may be more opposition than immediately apparent. The group has raised an additional $4,500 since April 23, she added.
“There are many people who are voting no but are not advertising it verbally or with a lawn sign because they do not wish to alienate city officials … They are afraid of retaliation, which also says something about our council majority,” Bojeaux said. “It is obscene how much more money the Yes on B&C Campaign is spending than our side can, but money doesn’t always win.”
For election information visit lavote.gov and beverlyhills.org/cityclerk/fppcfilings/specialelectionmay232023measuresbc.
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I always have to wonder at the amounts that will supposedly added to city coffers thrown out there by developers in trying to get their projects approved. Do they ever deliver? Did the Montage? Did the Waldorf? I would think that if they did then this would be used as an argument to approve another oversized development promising the moon and paying through the nose to advertise residents into submission. Oddly, not a word on the millions they promised..