Election 2020: Beverly Hills Steps to the Right

California voters have spoken! Biden/Harris prevailed with 65% of the statewide vote and handed Trump/Pence a defeat by a margin of thirty points — a showing matched by just a few left-leaning states. But Los Angeles County leans even more blue: the Biden/Harris ticket won over 71% of county voters. How did Beverly Hills voters swing?

The top-line finding is that Beverly Hills is not quite as blue as either the state or Los Angeles County. Where 65% of statewide voters gave Biden/Harris a thirty point margin of victory, support for the ticket in Beverly Hills swooned to 57%. The margin of victory was halved to sixteen percentage points in our city.

Forget the blue wave. Here in Beverly Hills were can only talk about a blue tide. Trump/Pence in 2016 racked up a majority in only one  precinct across the entire Southland and it was right here in Beverly Hills. This year republicans expanded their appeal to turn two precincts red as this LA Times map shows.

Trump-Pence 2020 majority precincts map
Map generated by Los Angeles Times based on County Registrar Data. Beverly Hills north precincts are a near-lone island of Trump/Pence support across the Southland.

Trump-Pence ticket majority map detailThe blue tide barely lapped north of Santa Monica Boulevard. Across Los Angeles County three of every four votes went to Biden/Harris. The democratic margin of victory was fifty-five percentage points. That makes Los Angeles County among the most democratic-leaning counties in the nation.

Ballot tell more of that story. Measures tend to cut across a variety of issues and for that reason voter choices provide a window onto the values and concerns of the electorate. Where state and county voters tacked left on social and fiscal issues, Beverly Hills voters tacked right.

Statewide Measures

Statewide we saw wins for progressives as parolees were restored the vote; new regulations will govern the online collection of personal data; and the police-backed Proposition 20 (to roll-back criminal justice reforms) failed decisively. Beverly Hills voters joined state and county voters on those choices but the tallies suggest less enthusiasm. On nearly every measure, voters support trailed by a significant margin.

On the other side of the coin progressives lost on some measures. Affirmative action was defeated and the money bail system will stay (for now). There will be no voting for 17-year olds in primaries and the expansion of rent control is off the table perhaps for good. On these measures Beverly Hills voters were even less enthusiastic and could barely muster a 40% ‘yes’ vote for any of them.

Comparing Beverly Hills voter choices with choices across the county and state suggests that California is a centrist state at heart and Beverly Hills is right-of-center. This table shows the tallies for the twelve statewide ballot measures and the lone county measure J.

Ballot measures 2020 results table
Election results for all statewide ballot measures and county Measure J. Results as of November 6. Green bands indicate statewide measures that passed. Red figures indicate less than 50% support for majority measures that did pass. Bold figures indicate high/low counts for each group of voters. Table by Renters Alliance.

The vote tallies suggest two observations. First, Beverly Hills is less inclined than both the county and the state to embrace change though direct democracy. Ten of the twelve statewide measures on the ballot found less support here than statewide — about 5 percentage points less support on average for those measures. It seems like voters here are really not as interested in ballot-box legislating as are our fellow Californians.

The difference between Beverly Hills and the larger electorate was even more clear when we compare local support for measures that passed with the support shown by county voters. Beverly Hills voter support trailed that of county voters by 9% on average for those same measures. County residents as a whole seem much more interested in bringing change via the ballot box.

On social justice issues specifically, Beverly Hills voters seem more inclined to keep things just as they are. Take county Measure J for example. The measure will allocate ten cents of every county budget dollar “to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through community investment and alternatives to incarceration,” according to the county voter guide. Fifty-seven percent of county voters supported Measure J. However the measure couldn’t muster even a majority of Beverly Hills voter support for funding alternatives to incarceration. The margin of difference was ten percentage points.

Likewise Proposition 17 to restore the right to vote for parolees found strong support among county voters as 65% liked the idea. In contrast 55% of Beverly Hills voters like it — another instance where a social justice reform found support here trailing the county vote by ten percentage points.

This table shows the difference in support among city, county and state voters across all of the statewide measures and Measure J on the November 4th ballot. (Download the table in excel format.)

Ballot measures 2020 results difference table
Table compares support for statewide and county measures in Beverly Hills compared with county support for those measures. Table by Renters Alliance.

Beverly Hills voters were also cooler when it came time to put-up the money. We didn’t like stem cell research bonds (Proposition 14 passed statewide with 51%). We didn’t like higher property taxes on commercial landlords to fund public services (Proposition 15 did not pass). And Beverly Hills certainly didn’t like the prospect of higher property taxes on inherited property to provide a windfall for already-advantaged senior homeowners (Proposition 19 garnered only 40% of the vote in Beverly Hills but passed with 51% of voter support statewide).

Beverly Hills voters were notably cold to expanding rent control. Proposition 21 would have rolled-back some aspects of the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which was enacted 25 years ago specifically to limit local rent control programs. The measure would have allowed our city to extend the ca on the annual rent increase to tenants in single-family homes and condominiums. (It would not have required our city or any locality to take that action.) Beverly Hills city council endorsed a similar measure two years ago.

But Proposition 21 won the approval of fewer than four-in-ten Beverly Hills voters even though households that rent are more than six-in-ten city households. County voters also turned away from the measure but the 49% who supported it is at least closer to the 55% of county households that rent housing.

Beverly Hills voters did find something to like in two ballot measures. Proposition 20 would have imposed parole restrictions for certain offenses but it was defeated despite a major push by law enforcement agencies and nominally democratic advocacy organizations. Beverly Hills voter support for Proposition 20 ran three points higher than the state electorate and seven points higher than in the county. (The measure failed to pass.)

Proposition 22 went to voters backed by $200 million from Uber and Lyft. The objective was to classify app-based drivers as independent contractors despite both Sacramento legislation and a recent state court judgement that ran contrary. Yet the measure passed decisively statewide with 58% support. Beverly Hills voters were more enthusiastic: 62% voted ‘yes’ which was more support than for any other measure. If Beverly Hills is enthusiastic about anything it is our ride-share!

The ballot measures vote probably confirmed what many of us already knew: Beverly Hills is not a liberal town. Take affirmative action (Proposition 16): the measure won the support of 62% of Santa Monica voters and 66% of West Hollywood voters but only 40% of Beverly Hills voters liked it. The disparity is even greater where it concerns funding alternatives to incarceration. County Measure J won support from 69% of Santa Monica voters and 74% of West Hollywood voters but not even a majority of voters in Beverly Hills could agree.

Ballot measures 2020 Santa Monica and West Hollywood results table
Table presents voter tallies for Santa Monica and West Hollywood on three selected statewide measures and county Measure J. Green bands indicate measures that passed. Table by Renters Alliance.

Los Angeles County: Liberal Bastion!

In comparison to relatively less-progressive Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County voters gave the nod to several statewide measures that suggest the liberal California of the popular imagination. County voters like the idea of commercial landlords paying their share of property tax to fund social services; Proposition 15 was backed by 53% of county voters. At the county level we also liked the idea of 17-year olds voting in primaries: 52% voted ‘yes’ on Proposition 18.

Likewise 51% of county voters supported Proposition 16 to restore affirmative action in hiring and education — a perennial liberal bellwether — whereas only 44% of voters statewide agreed. County voters also wanted to restore voting rights to parolees and voted 65% for Proposition 17 — a greater show of support than for any other measure. The same proportion of county voters (65%) rejected the police-backed Proposition 20 which would have rolled-back some criminal justice reforms.

County of Los Angeles is the real liberal bastion! Ten million people strong, it rivals the truest blue states of Massachusetts and Vermont but tends to fly under the national radar when we talk about progressive values. Heck, the Biden/Harris ticket won 71% of county voters which is a proportion close to that of liberal meccas like Santa Monica and West Hollywood. The county sent Trump/Pence to defeat by a whopping 45-point margin.

Looking Out for #1

Finally we come to the local initiative that was only on the Beverly Hills ballot: Measure RP. The measure will enact a city sales tax increase of three-quarters of a cent but only if a “local governmental entity” enacts it first. The concern is that Los Angeles County could raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a cent to the maximum allowed in order to fund housing or other services. Measure RP conditionally allows the city to raise and keep that sales tax money.

“Without Measure RP, the County keeps the money and will have discretion to spend the collected funds on whatever and wherever it sees fit,” says the city’s FAQ. That point perhaps proved persuasive as fully 74% of Beverly Hills voters supported RP — far-and-away the greatest support shown by city voters for any ballot measure.

Now city leaders were clear to emphasize that this was not a tax increase. “YOUR CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS ARE ALL OPPOSED TO ANY NEW SALES TAX,” said the official city statement in support of Measure RP. The statement continued:

Most likely the County will in the coming years, find more reasons to raise taxes. By approving Measure RP voters can prevent the loss of $28 Million and retain these dollars. By approving Measure RP you will be taking a defensive step to protect local control of our tax dollars…Rather than lose $28 Million to Los Angeles County, let’s keep it home where we all can benefit from its use. AGAIN, NO CITY COLLECTION UNLESS THE COUNTY TRIES TO!

A sharp reader noticed that West Hollywood’s city council had also placed a local sales tax measure on that city’s ballot. But instead of the “defensive” sales tax measure, West Hollywood told voters that the pandemic has strapped the city and simply asked voters to raise taxes to sufficiently fund city services. West Hollywood’s Measure E won the support of a 73% of city voters.

That’s the difference between here and there. West Hollywood city leaders understood that residents there value public services and are willing to fund those services — and they would trust city hall to spend the money wisely. Beverly Hills, by contrast, knows its citizenry does not want to pay more in taxes and does not trust the city to spend it wisely. But if the county was going to reach for the money, we would grab it first. It’s time to take care of number one!

Read more about Beverly Hills Measure RP in our post, ‘Thoughts on the City’s ‘Tax Payer Protection Act’.