The Beverly Hills City Council has given up the idea of granite sidewalks, instructing its staff to come back with a more modest plan for revamping the downtown business district.
The modified program would cut some streets out of the new sidewalk program entirely and replace existing walkways elsewhere with concrete sidewalks cut into a diagonal pattern.
"Preliminary estimates are that the total program cost would drop from $50 million to something on the magnitude of $30 million or less," said Mark Scott, director of environmental services. Maintenance costs would drop by up to 30%, he said.
The 5-0 vote came after owners of high-rise office buildings in a hearing last month protested that their share of the costs would be so high they would have to pass them on to tenants, forcing the tenants to look elsewhere for office space. The scaled-back plans for the proposed assessment district would eliminate an extra charge for taller buildings.
"We aren't averse to something as long as it's within the realm of reasonableness," said Harold Held, owner of a building on Wilshire Boulevard and another on South Beverly Drive. "I can't for the life of me understand why granite sidewalks would improve anything."
Graham Miller, owner of MGM Management Co., said he, like Held, has volunteered to meet with city planners as they draw up the new plans. Office building owners and managers said at the previous hearing that they had been ignored.
"It should have been thought out a little bit better. Now they're going to sit down and look at it from everybody's angle," Miller said. "Without them thinking about it, it was going to raise rents and make it more expensive to do business in Beverly Hills."
The vote was made with little discussion. Scott said in a memo to the City Council that owners of nearly 50% of the property involved had already protested the proposed assessments.
"We feel pretty good about it," said Mary Cynar, the city's project manager. "I think that the council, as well as most of the public, is still supportive of a program,. . . but it was clear that the program, at least at this price, just was not acceptable."
She said city workers will soon set up a sample block to show what the proposed flower boxes and other improvements will look like with the existing sidewalks.