Beverly Hills and its Chamber of Commerce plan to replace the Christmas snowflakes that have been strung along city streets since 1977 with large, illuminated greeting cards featuring winter sleigh rides and other nonsectarian themes.
But while City Council members last week approved the new design, they balked at spending the nearly $840,000 proposed by the chamber to buy and install 450 of the new decorations. The chamber later offered to cut back the proposal to 270 decorations costing about $500,000, but the council decided to wait until it meets Tuesday to decide how many to buy and where to put them.
Christine Coleman, the chamber's special projects manager, said the chamber decided it was time to change the nearly 10-year-old decorations. "Basically, we're retiring an old program in favor of a new look," she said.
City and chamber officials hope the new decor will offer a more attractive atmosphere from Nov. 28 to about Jan. 1, when shoppers are expected to spend 25% to 30% of the record $1 billion in gross retail sales estimated for Beverly Hills this year.
Fred C. Cunningham, city public affairs director, said the chamber will provide the council with a map showing the original and scaled-back proposals. He said the council will also consider whether the city could save money by buying the decorations in bulk now or spreading the purchase over two or three years.
The city has spent almost $1 million on holiday decorations since 1967, according to city records. Cunningham said city officials believe the decorations promote business which, in turn, benefits the city in the form of sales and other taxes.
This year the chamber wanted the city to buy 50 "street cards," some as big as 60 feet by 20 feet, to span Wilshire Boulevard at key intersections in the business district. It also wanted to affix 400 12-by-6-foot "lamp cards" to lamp posts where the snowflakes were hung last year and along other streets not previously decorated.
Demand for Decorations
Coleman said owners of businesses outside the city's fashionable business triangle, bounded by Crescent Drive and Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, also want decorations.
The $840,000 proposal calls for lamp cards on parts of La Cienega, Robertson and Little Santa Monica boulevards and Roxbury Drive.
At the urging of the city, the chamber offered the alternative $500,000 proposal, with 25 street cards and 245 lamp cards.
The chamber chose the locations for the 400 snowflake decorations last year, Coleman said.
The snowflakes, purchased between 1977 and 1982, cost about $175,000. Installation ran between $28,000 and $50,000 each year. The city will sell the flakes to the manufacturer for about $15,000.
Coleman said the new decorations, featuring winter scenes, were selected to reflect the season instead of Hanukkah and Christmas.
"We're trying to be nonsectarian (with the new decorations)," she said. "There will be no candy canes, wreaths or Christmas trees. We feel those connote one particular date. Beverly Hills is an international city and we want to avoid limiting our decorations to specific dates (in favor of) the season."
However, in keeping with city tradition, two Santa decorations that have been part of the seasonal celebration in Beverly Hills since the late 1930s will return this year at the intersections of Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, Coleman said.