The City Council is meeting twice this week. Monday, July 19th is the regular City Council meeting, but Wednesday, July 21st, was set to be a “special” meeting so the public could express “appreciation” to our former City Manager, Paul Arevelo.
While Paul deserves a special appreciation day, Staff has apparently decided it is a good time to slip in a couple of items for the Council’s consideration while the public is not paying any attention.
The weekend closure of Robertson Boulevard is one item up for deliberation on Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The Council has the option of letting the closure expire as of this weekend or continuing the closure for another three months, through October, or, as the Staff report cryptically states, continue the closure “as part of the work plan to be evaluated annually”, which in English apparently means keep the closure going indefinitely and work to expand the programing to include food trucks, live music and greater participation by non-profit groups.
The pilot program has costs the City $171,048 as of this weekend, when it is set to end.
Staff if pushing to make the closure permanent and provided the Council with an annual costs of $400,000. That figure should be viewed with skepticism.
Currently the closure costs the City $10,567.00 a week. Staff proposes to save money by cutting Sheriff’s Department staffing by half to lower the costs to $8,074.00 a week.
Apparently the cuts in Sheriff staffing has to do with the availability of deputies; as the County is opening up there is a greater demand for deputies. Staff believes that the project could continue even as demands for deputies increases across the County. Clearly if worse come to worse we could pull deputies off of their regular West Hollywood patrols in order to staff this essential program. So there is a potential of longer waits when you call the Sheriff when you need them.
The Staff report also discusses the bureaucratic challenges of arranging for food trucks, who need to get special permits and are skeptical of making a profit from this program. More outreach is needed to have attendance from non-profit organizations. It would seem to me that these “challenges” would have been anticipated when the program was adopted but obviously that was not the case.
What is unstated in Staff report is any substantive support from the community or local businesses. Sure we love the extra seating for the Abby but that hardly warrants a closure of Robertson.
Staff believes that the closure program can be saved by the introduction of live music.
While people will have differing opinions about the benefits of live music and the impacts on the quality of life of adjacent neighborhoods, the costs of live music do not appear anywhere in the projected budgets if the program is to continue. I think that is a bit disingenuous.
Indeed staff does not talk about is the fiscal impacts of having life music. It is just assumed that live music is a positive for the program. We run lots of events in West Hollywood so staff is no stranger to this issue. If you have a music venue where much of the audience will have imbibed at local bars, you
will undoubtedly incur additional costs for portable bathrooms, trash clean up and most importantly security. In fact staff suggests adding live music while cutting the Sheriff’s presence to two deputies. Is it just me or does this seem like trouble waiting to happen.
I am not a kill joy. If the Council wants live music then we should have live music. But we need to be ready to absorb the additional costs. Staff has avoided any mention of such costs as I guess it would sort of bummer that such things cost money. But staff appears anxious to put the closure on it’s “permanent work plan” because staff needs to keep busy.
What was missing from the staff report was any mention of issues that came up from neighborhood groups and emails and communications from the businesses impacted by the closure.
You would think that would be an important part of the deliberations. I wonder of Anawalt Lumber or the other businesses on Robertson were even notified about this agenda item and that the “temporary” closure could be extended or even made permanent?
What was missing from the “costs” of this closure was any mention of loss of parking revenue from meters and parking tickets, the lifeblood of the City’s budget. Weekends on Robertson mean full meters and plenty of tickets when they expire; it is a prime location for generating revenue.
Also missing was any demand for an “economic impact” report. We have not heard from any of the local businesses who have been adversely affected as to their loss of revenue and loss of wages for their employees. This closure has not occurred in a vacuum.
The loss of sales tax and parking revenue plus the costs of extra security and clean up if we have live music will push the real cost of the program, if made permanent, to well above $500,000.00 annually. All of this in a time when the Chamber of Commerce is warning we may suffer cuts to social services due to poor performance by out embattled hotels.
I am not saying that the Robertson closure was a half baked idea; it was just not fully thought out. Maybe at some point when our budget has recovered we could have closures that might have food trucks, live music and meaningful security that would create a really positive energy for the area. But that takes time, planning and resources that are better spent elsewhere during these times. Save half a million here and half a million there and pretty soon you are talking serious money.
This is item 4B on City Council’s July 21st Agenda.