My Rundown of the 2022 Beverly Hills Candidates

The choices tenants make at the ballot box will affect the affordability and availability of rental housing for years to come. This election cycle there are three of five City Council seats open. Incumbents stand a good chance of winning reelection. But if the composition of Council changes significantly we may find it tougher to win the continued improvements to the rent stabilization ordinance that we need for sufficient protections in this difficult time. Often I am asked which candidates I support. Here is my personal guide to the candidates.

Beverly Hills voters have three votes to cast. Often I am asked which candidates I support. The short answer is that I support John Mirisch and Bob Wunderlich for reelection to City Council because these two incumbents are (for me) the right mix of policy priorities, capacity, experience, and support for tenants. But many (if not all) of the candidates running for City Council have something to offer.

However you choose to vote, please remember that the key thing is to actually cast a vote. Beverly Hills voters have up to three votes to cast for City Council and Treasurer. You can cast one or two or three but please cast a ballot. City Hall believes with good reason that tenants vote at a much lower rate than do other residents. Let’s prove them wrong this time. Turnout is light so far. Please take the time to cast your vote(s) for City Council even if you don’t vote in any other contest on the ballot.

I have arranged my candidate summaries in two groups. First are City Council candidates starting with the incumbents and then moving on to challengers (in alphabetical order). Then I touch on the three candidates for treasurer. Read through the whole enchilada or click below to go right to a candidate.

2022 City Council Incumbents

Councilmember Lester Friedman (candidate for City Council)

Lester FriedmanIncumbent councilmember Lester Friedman was also first elected in 2017 and is running for reelection to a second term. He is an attorney in a labor-oriented family law practice. Prior to City Council Friedman had served on the city’s Traffic & Parking Commission. The commission is advisory to City Council; chief responsibilities include review of resident-initiated parking districts, valet parking permits, and in general oversight of traffic conditions in the City. In terms of representation beyond city limits, Friedman is the city’s delegate to the California League of Cities.

Friedman’s campaign is a bit light on specifics like many candidates for City Council in Beverly Hills. According to his literature he is “a proven leader” and “the right person for the job at the right time.” That’s the campaign’s meta-message, at least, summed up in this election’s most pithy and succinct slogan: ‘Yes for Les.’

Friedman’s stated priorities are public safety, public health and “prosperity.” In campaign mailers and emails you can’t miss Friedman metaphorically locking arms with our former police chief to bolster his law-and-order bona fides. He supports a new police substation at the La Cienega metro station; wants more BHPD drones in the sky (some fly already); and favors an expanded nurse-practitioner program. “Prosperity” for Friedman appears to mean a heavy emphasis on supporting the business community — and giving the OK to greater height and density for commercial and residential development (without pressing for the inclusion of any affordable rental units in any recent luxury condominium project).

Read more about Friedman’s priorities at his website. Watch his candidate statement and his sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

What we don’t find mentioned there is tenants’ rights. In this regard Friedman appears more conservative than either Mirisch or Wunderlich. He did vote with the unanimous City Council to adopt all of the 2017–2018 amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance, though, and he backed the current moratorium tenant protections. But Friedman also wanted to end the moratorium sooner. (Council wanted a longer glide path and agreed to end the moratorium on May 31st.)

Likewise Friedman is more of a headwind rather than a tailwind when tenants take our multifamily concerns to City Council for action. For example, neighbors to the Sixty Hotel on Wilshire took their concerns about rooftop noise to City Council to object to renewing the hotel’s late-hours rooftop permit. Some of those neighbors live about 20 feet from the hotel and have kids in school, but didn’t find much sympathy.

Incidentally and perhaps not significantly, Friedman is the only major candidate for City Council who has not reached out to connect with tenants through Renters Alliance.

Councilmember John Mirisch (candidate for City Council)

John MirischIncumbent councilmember John Mirisch was first elected to City Council in 2008 and is running for a fourth term. He has served one-year terms as mayor three times. That service suggests Mirisch’s experience at the dais. But he is also knowledgable about about Beverly Hills and local governance generally. He has served on numerous multi-jurisdiction bodies like the Westside Cities Council of Governments and the California League of Cities and is currently appointed as city liaison to the Southern California Association of Governments and County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

John Mirisch has been a strong advocate for affordable housing in Beverly Hills and has led the city’s effort to support the construction of new housing for seniors. He has championed the revitalization of southeast Beverly Hills commercial areas and is a strong backer of initiatives like a city shuttle system and safer streets safer for bicycling intended to reduce congestion.

The candidate’s key message point is that he will protect our residential quality of life from developers and fight the overreaching efforts of the legislature in Sacramento to control local planning. To that end he favors tight limits on the height of commercial and residential buildings — a direct challenge to what he calls “The Insiders Club — the special interests, paid lobbyists and developers looking to cash-in on the Beverly Hills brand.”

Visit the candidate online to learn more about his priorities. Watch his candidate statement and his sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

John Mirisch is one of the louder voices on the City Council dais in support of tenants’ rights. He pressed for the prohibition on no-just-cause eviction that was enacted in 2018 and provided strong support for the lower cap on rent increases and higher relocation fees. Tenants can count on Mirisch to provide one of the three needed votes in support of stronger tenant protections — and he often sets the tone by adamantly stating the case for such protections.

Moreover, Mirisch has not hesitated to call-out “bad actor” landlords (his term). For example he suggested that Council should name the ordinance which prohibited no-just-cause eviction after landlord Stephen Copen — the Beverly Hills landlord who was summarily evicting his tenants because he was dissatisfied with City Council’s efforts to provide greater tenant protections.

Mirisch is also preservation-minded. His is the singular voice for preserving our character-contributing low-rise apartments. Planners term it “naturally-occurring relatively-affordable housing” because, they say, the most efficient way to provide affordable housing is to preserve what we already have. By the same token Mirisch has been critical of City Council for permitting luxury developments like 9908 South Santa Monica (Friars Club), 9200 Wilshire (next to Lexus) and the massive ‘One Beverly Hills’ project (adjacent to Hilton) without mandating the inclusion of any affordable unit. Unfortunately his lone voice has not persuaded his fellow councilmembers.

I support John Mirisch. Full disclosure: the campaign hired me to manage online communications as I did for his 2017 campaign for modest compensation. That didn’t influence my choice as I would be supporting the candidate anyway.

Councilmember Bob Wunderlich (candidate for City Council)

Bob WunderlichIncumbent councilmember Bob Wunderlich was first elected to City Council in 2017 and is now running for a second term. Wunderlich is a professional economist who runs his own downtown research firm, Discovery Economics. That description shortchanges his impressive CV: undergraduate degree in chemistry from Columbia and a Masters and Ph.D. from Harvard. Not many cities have a Harvard-trained chemical physicist & economist on the dais and I think our city has greatly benefitted from his analytical approach.

Bob Wunderlich’s priorities mirror those of most residents: public safety, quality-of-life and an accessible City Hall. “I want to preserve what we love about Beverly Hills while positioning it for the future,” his mailer proclaims. More than any other candidate he stresses sustainability which he broadly defines as economic, community, and environmental sustainability. Environmentally speaking, Wunderlich represented our city at the Metropolitan Water District for a decade. He knows water and conservation inside-and-out. Economically he favors strong City Hall support for small businesses and Rodeo Drive alike.

Read more about the candidate online. Watch his candidate statement and his sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

Wunderlich’s first-term priority was the hiring of an independent city auditor to monitor operations and recommend improvements to ensure that City Hall operates efficiently and effectively. Wunderlich got his auditor. I was impressed with the breath of the auditor’s work plan too. However some on City Council didn’t agree and signaled a more circumscribed role for auditor in the future. Understandably the auditor quit. This isn’t inside baseball! The appointment of an auditor represented a potentially transformative step, in my view, but seemed one step too far for some other members of City Council.

On tenants’ rights, Wunderlich has consistently supported much-needed amendments to our rent stabilization ordinance. He is often the third vote that we need — it takes only three votes folks! — and his thoughtful and rational presentation of an issue can help to persuade fellow councilmembers to agree. Fun fact: all of the protections tenants have won over the past five years were agreed unanimously by City Council although two councilmembers are not as inclined toward tenant protections as Wunderlich, Mirisch and Bosse.

Two of Wunderlich’s actions during the pandemic are worth highlighting.

First, when he agreed with the rest of the Council to wind-down the moratorium, Wunderlich proposed to allow landlords no more than a 3.1% rent increase over the coming 12 months. That was modest increase given today’s high-and-rising inflation. (And because city staff purposely left open the door to an additional rent increase, Wunderlich secured an unambiguous commitment from his fellow Councilmembers to allow no additional rent increase until July 2023.)

Second, Wunderlich proposed a rental housing assistance program for qualified households that would have the city pay some part of a future rent increase in coming years. The principle is that higher-percentage increases in the years ahead could present a disproportionate burden on lower-income or fixed-income households. The assistance would defray some of that impact. Council is on board and will discuss eligibility criteria later in June.

Beverly Hills tenants went without a helping hand for decades so I value this candidate’s support for tenants. I also appreciate his well-considered perspective on any aspect of city business. I support his reelection.

2022 City Council Challengers

Shiva Bagheri (candidate for City Council)

Shiva BagheriShiva Bagheri is one of the three conservative challengers in this race as evidenced in the candidate’s campaign’s talking points: tough on crime, lower taxes, fewer regulations, less bureaucracy and an end to “government overreach.” The conservative theme is underscored by the campaign’s color scheme (American flag with a HEAVY emphasis on red) and of course the tagline, “God, family, country.” Specifically Bagheri allies herself with Trump’s brand of conservatism (which explains the red).

Bagheri helped to organize what she calls the Beverly Hills Freedom Rally — a series of assemblies in the fall of 2020 that were held in Beverly Gardens Park north of the business triangle. The assemblies gained regional renown as a beacon for mask-less Trump supporters who opposed masks and COVID-related public health mandates as a restriction on personal liberties. That such assemblies were held in Beverly Hills was a feat of cultural counter-programming at a time when COVID rates were ramping-up and our majority-Democratic city was clamping-down with COVID mandates.

The ‘Freedom Rally’ broke the cardinal Beverly Hills rule: do not generate additional traffic congestion! Indeed the assemblies and consequent police response created something of a spectacle. That is, until the city imposed new restrictions on public assemblies. There were stricter parking restrictions around the park and large assemblies were banned. Protestors were dislocated to La Cienega park (far from City Hall) and new restrictions on noise were imposed after rally goers took a loud nighttime protest to then-mayor Lester Friedman’s home.

The assemblies and the city’s response has allowed Bagheri to claim the role of ‘freedom fighter.’ Yes, that is the actual phrase used in the campaign’s website description. And it is the animating force behind her campaign: “If they can do it to me, they can do it to you.” She calls-out the tyranny embodied in the current councilmembers. She says in her video campaign statement, “Vote for me and I will work hard to drain the swamp in Beverly Hills.”

That message resonates with some. Remember that two northern election precincts tipped for Trump in 2020 in contrast to nearly every other district in the greater Los Angeles region. Will that base of support and taking points like “No draconian mandates!” translate into support at the polls? If it does she may well siphon votes from establishment candidates on election day. In other words, she’s loud, she’s out there, and once the votes are counted she may be a spoiler.

Visit the candidate online. Watch her candidate statement and her sit-down with Beverly Hills View. And be sure to catch Bagheri’s cheerleader video on Youtube where she sum-up her concerns. As far as I can tell, it is as close to a campaign platform as any I’ve seen from the candidate.

Akshat Bhatia (candidate for City Council)

Akshat Bhatia is one of the three conservative candidates in this race. He is keeping a decidedly lower profile than his freedom-fighting rival. Much lower profile: he has no campaign webpage and the campaign’s facebook page was created only five days ago. It consists mainly of images of the candidate but no campaign platform per se.

He taped a candidate statement video but unlike every other candidate did not sit for a discussion with Beverly Hills View to expand on his vision.

Indeed Bhatia’s platform seems pretty thin. In a Patch Q&A the candidate described himself as a small business owner and “real estate professional.” He presents his concerns as crime and safety (specifically the recall of District Attorney Gascon, like the incumbents) and support for our schools (and specifically greater parental control). “I will fight for your business, advocate for less taxes, and red tape,” he said in his candidate statement.

Bhatia’s argument for election to City Council is “new ideas” and “time for a change.” That’s simply not enough of a vision to win my vote to City Council in a city with an annual operating budget of about $570 million.

Moreover, he’s not trying very hard to win my vote! I haven’t received a single piece of snail mail from the Bhatia campaign nor even an email with some policy bullet points. In a brief Q&A with the Courier he reiterated his shortlist of concerns (“I decided to run for office primarily because of safety/small business/ school issues”) but declined entirely to comment about housing policy and development — arguably the most important issue facing the city in the coming decades.

I’ll have to decline to consider supporting this candidate. But I encourage readers to view the forums (links are at bottom) to learn more about him.

Darian Bojeaux (candidate for City Council)

Darian Bojeaux Darian Bojeaux is running for election on a promise to retain the city’s fairly tight limits on residential and commercial development which is 3–5 stories for residential in most areas and 3 stories 45’ feet in most commercial areas.I think she has thought-up the most memorable tag line of any candidate: “Keep building heights low with Darian Bojeaux!” (It rhymes.)

There is a broad carve-out from the city’s commercial height restrictions for mixed-use development. Mixed-use is a departure from single-use zoning (residential or commercial) to include both residential and commercial in the same development — typically by anchoring a residential development with first-story commercial. City Council created a new ‘mixed-use zone’ in 2020 to encourage redevelopment along most of the city’s commercial corridors including Wilshire Boulevard (outside of the triangle), Olympic boulevard east of Rexford, and all of Robertson and La Cienega within city limits.

Mixed-use heights range from three to five stories however additional stories may be allowed under the state’s density bonus law. If built-out according to the current zoning, and taking advantage of the state’s density bonus, the new mixed-use zone could permit 10,000 new dwelling units to be added to the city’s current housing stock of 15,000 dwelling units. It could be more if City Council further lifts height restrictions for any particular project.

Bojeaux’s campaign sprang from her fervent opposition to the mixed-use policy in substance and process — and specifically the potential effect of relaxed height restrictions. Bojeaux has expressed her opposition in numerous meetings and letters in the newspapers not to mention her campaign materials. And not only opposition to mixed-use but also proposed developments in the triangle and beyond. “Keep building heights low with Darian Bojeaux!” really is the crux of her campaign.

Visit the candidate online to read more about her platform. Watch her candidate statement and her sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

Bojeaux is a transparency-minded candidate who has rightly called-out political action committees (and certain candidates they support) for accepting pro-development campaign contributions. She is the only candidate to provide a link to the candidates filings.

What about tenants’ rights? Notably Bojeaux has called-out “renters” in each of the two candidate forums. That was more than most candidates did. And she may well have a sympathetic ear for tenants’ concerns. But Bojeaux has no record on which she can run. We haven’t seen her on a city commission. And until her high-profile campaign against the mixed-use ordinance, she wasn’t very visible on city issues. City Council entails broad responsibilities but Bojeaux seems to be somewhat of a single-issue candidate.

Bojeaux’s twin themes of overdevelopment and transparency closely align with messaging from Councilmember John Mirisch…although Bojeaux is careful not to siphon voters from Mirisch. She praises him at every opportunity. For those looking to slow growth, the Bojeaux / Mirisch informal slate is the choice and pocket your third vote.

Kevin Kugley (candidate for City Council)

Kevin Kugley is the other of the three self-described candidates in the City Council race. He appears to have some verifiable education credentials (which I did not investigate): bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, executive master of business administration from USC Marshall School of Business, and, he said in his profile in the Beverly Press, he completed an executive training program at the Wharton School.

To put those credentials into some context, the executive master is not the same as an MBA. According to USC it is a hybrid program “designed for senior executives who wish to remain fully employed…[but] eager to break out of their functional expertise and hone their leadership, communication, and broader business acumen.” And an executive training program is of course not the same as a Wharton degree. (The candidate has not represented it otherwise.)

As for employment experience, he cites ownership of local financial firm Kevins7, which is not listed as an entity with the Secretary of State. It may be in-house family financial planning (known as a ‘family office’ if the wealth is considerable) or perhaps may be more of a limited vehicle for personal investments. Hard to know.

His campaign website is thin on detail. He told the Beverly Press that he is for “revitalizing public safety, supporting small businesses and listening to community needs.” His campaign statement aligns him with law enforcement but is substantively thin too. He refers to “fresh and invigorating ideas on how to improve the quality of life in Beverly Hills,” for example, but that’s not enough of a platform.

He told the Courier that his concerns were crime (“We are under criminal attack!”) and called City Council “overly tough on small business during the Pandemic.” The city, he said, has harassed and cited businesses for non-compliance with COVID-related restrictions; others feel that enforcement was too lax. Kugley also decried business tax rates that are “currently 7 times higher for some industries than others.” Well that’s true — the city does indeed categorically tax businesses differently depending on the type of business. “I will bring equality to local taxation,” he said.

Kugley has promoted the COVID guidance of Los Angeles County Sheriff Villanueva who has frustrated many by eschewing the mask mandate (claiming there is no science behind it). Closer to home, Kugley’s poster is featured at the South Beverly newsstand. I’m told that the newsstand owner believes that Kugley, if elected, will bring back cigarettes to the newsstand — a big boost to sales.

In consideration of all of the above I don’t find Kugley to be my candidate.

Andy Licht (candidate for City Council)

Andy LichtAndy Licht is a challenger with a long history of public service…unlike some of the other challengers. Licht sat for six years on the Traffic and Parking Commission — a surprisingly effective springboard to City Council! Candidates Friedman and Manaster served on Traffic & Parking too. So did current councilmembers Bosse and Gold. (Perhaps all of them saved their best ideas for City Council because that commission historically hasn’t been a fount of innovation.)

Licht was then appointed to the Planning Commission in 2016 and has served for six years. The Planning Commission should be good training for City Council: the commission conducts land use hearings and is the penultimate stop before any major project goes to City Council for approval.

Licht’s time as planning commissioner coincided with a number of luxury residential projects coming to the commission for review: 9908 South Santa Monica, 9200 Wilshire and, most notably, the gargantuan ‘One Beverly Hills’ hotel and condo project. Together these projects accounted for hundreds of uber luxury condominiums. The commission green-lighted them without a single unit of affordable housing in the mix. Commissioner Licht didn’t fall on his sword to demand any affordable housing.

Aside from the candidate’s service on the Planning Commission — which is a real commitment given the commission’s responsibilities — Licht’s top three priorities seem to be public safety, public safety, and public safety. He touts endorsements from the police officer’s union and Defend the LAPD. “Andy Licht has been consistent about public safety and about his support for law enforcement and that’s why law enforcement supports him!” claims a recent mailer.

Beyond policing Licht’s campaign platform tends to stray into generalities. On land use Licht calls for “cohesive, long-term strategies, rather than relying on short-term fixes” and wants to develop a “strategic plan for quality, environmentally strong development.” However the city already has a General Plan for that purpose but I have not heard Licht call for revisiting it.

On the city’s business climate the candidate calls for “cutting red tape” and “fast-tracking permits.” But the city has already undertaken a program to ‘streamline’ permits spearheaded by Councilmember Gold. Licht can’t possibly point to our business-friendly City Council and say the current council is not doing enough to support police or hasn’t provided sufficient business incentives. Heck, they’re giving the store away.

Visit the candidate online. Watch his candidate statement and his sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

The Planning Commission has also just green-lighted the Cheval Blanc mega hotel project in the business triangle. Licht favored the project as he does most significant development project. The project employs former city mayors, councilmembers and commissioners as legislative advocates — paid lobbyists really — so it was no surprise it headed to City Council from the commission with a tailwind. If Licht is elected he could cast a deciding ‘yes’ vote on Cheval Blanc there too.

More relevant to multifamily residents, the Planning Commission reviews applications for permits to allow the operation of outdoor (sidewalk) dining, rooftop activities, even nightclubs and hotels. The commission has its say on just about any commercial use that is not an ordinary commercial activity. These can be relatively minor permit requests or more significant reviews of proposed projects. All can affect the quality-of-life of neighboring multifamily residents.

Recently the commission heard a request to approve both a development plan, and related variances from the municipal code, for the expansion of a private school at 9210 Olympic that generates considerable school vehicular traffic and contributes to big jams near Robertson. Project applicants sought a permit to expand enrollment and create a two-lane carpool drop-off with heavy use of a residential alley parallel to Olympic. Multifamily residents brought their complaints about traffic and noice to commission hearings in April and May and it was commissioners other than Chair Licht who raised serious questions about local impacts and have kept the project under review.

Last year, multifamily neighbors near Sixty Hotel complained about past noisy rooftop operations late into the night. But the Planning Commission gave the hotel the OK to continue operations without any substantial additional restriction. It is fair to say neighbors didn’t feel heard and took their concerns to City Council which discussed — but didn’t effectively overrule — the commission’s decision. (One of the councilmembers not inclined to revisit it was candidate Lester Friedman.)

The city records all commission meetings. See for yourself candidate Licht in action on the commission in the April hearing on the 9120 Olympic Boulevard school and the hearing last June on the Sixty Hotel application.

Aside from his commission service, candidate Licht is a hometown boy and film producer. He is an affable, self-deprecating guy in my experience and clearly he’s invested in the welfare of the city: “For the love of Beverly Hills!” is the campaign’s website tagline! Plus he makes himself very accessible to the public (“Take my number, please!”). Overall Licht is an establishment candidate who polls well with former city officials and endorsers. (By way of full disclosure he bought me a breakfast and gave me a swell swag hat! I enjoyed the coffee and conversation.)

Vera Markowitz (candidate for City Council)

Vera MarkowitzVera Markowitz is running for City Council for the second time after having trailed candidates Friedman, Mirisch and Wunderlich badly back in 2017. The candidate has upped her game this time around with significant spending on mailers, a raft of endorsements, and a campaign message that positions her squarely against City Council incumbent-rivals who “have forgotten that they are our public servants.”

Markowitz has taken her opposition message to the campaign with an axe to grind. “Political cronies and City Hall insiders have stacked the field of candidates putting special interests ahead of our community,” she says on her campaign website. “It’s time we have a council member that puts our neighborhoods first.” She pulls her punch when it comes to Lili Bosse. She told the Beverly Press that Bosse was the exception to alleged Council misrule…even though Council has voted unanimously on all police department management issues that so concerned Markowitz.

Markowitz name-checks some issues that may appeal to voters in her letter, such as improving the schools, maintaining the character of our community, and ensuring “responsible” development. None is fleshed-out online or in the candidate’s mailers. The candidate’s video statement hews mostly to the policing issue. And images of cops and firemen predominate.

Visit the candidate online to learn more. Watch her candidate statement and her sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

Markowitz is a familiar opposition presence in City Council chambers. She roasted former chief Sandra Spagnoli for allowing discrimination, bias and other misdeeds to proliferate in the department, in the candidate’s opinion, but the way Markowitz raised those issues — publicly and loudly, in chambers and in the newspapers — raised hackles in a city where such concerns are typically aired in private. I have no doubt that the culture of policing, to say nothing of policing priorities, is in need of big adjustment.

However Markowitz has made missteps. She seems to have contributed to — or at least highlighted — factionalism in the police department. (Some longtime officers and department brass have left city employment.) And it raised some eyebrows recently when two former captains penned a letter to voters on behalf of the candidate whom they called “a person of courage and integrity.” That letter was conspicuous for the letterhead which featured a lookalike six-pointed sheriff’s star ringed by bogus Latin phrases.

But it wasn’t the first time. A prior letter to voters from the candidate herself featured an official-looking logo cribbed from the city’s own Just In Case emergency preparation program (which she says she founded). That logo also featured Latin phrases. The stunt earned the candidate a cease-and-desist letter from the city attorney — and no small amount of frustration among current councilmembers.

I can’t support the candidate because I can’t get on board with her single-issue campaign to “restore integrity and confidence” in the police. Seems like support for the department is robust already. More to the point, I’m frankly suspicious of any candidate who aligns herself (or himself) too closely to the department generally. Markowitz certainly has done that by aligning with certain officers (or factions) specifically.

Sharona Nazarian (candidate for City Council)

Sharona NazariaSharona Nazarian is a hard-stumping candidate who has run a strong campaign. Her messaging is action-oriented: “innovative,” “experienced” and “a problem solver who gets things done.” She is a psychologist with a speciality in multicultural psychology (evidently that’s a thing). He current focus is on public service. In addition to her work with Rotary, Nazarian currently sits on the city’s Public Works Commission (to which she was appointed in January of last year). Public Works is an important commission with real responsibilities such as oversight of major capital projects. Watch Nazarian in action by browse the commission’s video archive.

Prior to Public Works Sharona Nazarian served on the Human Relations Commission. Externally she sits on the County’s [Commission for Alcohol and Other Drugs](County Commissioner for Alcohol and Other Drugs). She has earned key endorsements from former mayors and the firefighters’ union.

According to the campaign literature, Nazarian’s top priority is public safety. That’s the top priority of every credible candidate. But look at the specific proposals and they are either already underway or on the council’s agenda. For example the city is already hiring more officers and funding police substations; and the department is expanding the drone program and is rolling out privacy-busting AI technologies.

Candidate Nazarian touches on a kitchen sink’s worth of other issues in her literature too. Some are amorphous and read more like a campaign theme, such as “continue our historic lifestyle to live, work, shop and dine in Beverly Hills.” More substantively she wants to “focus on sustainability efforts especially for water” and to “invest in new technology to maximize city operations.”

Visit the candidate online to learn more about her vision for Beverly Hills. Watch her candidate statement and her sit-down with Beverly Hills View.

My take is that Nazarian has put some significant time in as a Public Works commissioner and may have a perspective on how to accomplish her goals. But we don’t have concrete proposals. For example I feel she is on less-than-solid ground when calling-out the city’s “aging infrastructure” such as streets and sidewalks. Beverly Hills is second-to-none in maintaining that infrastructure.

As for tenants’ rights, she too, like most candidates, is silent about the concerns that affect tenants. In my view most councilmembers and candidates are simply not aware about what life is like in the cheap seats…such as the state of our alleys for example.

Platform aside, Nazarian is a formidable candidate because she is highly presentable, very relatable, and she stumps hard. She was a credible threat to incumbents the moment she entered the race. And like the other women in the running, she would be a second woman sitting on the Council dais. I admire her fortitude and hard work on the trail. I’m not sure I see a reason to replace any incumbent however.

Robin Rowe (candidate for City Council)

Robin RoweThis is Robin Rowe’s second campaign for election to City Council. He last ran for election in March 2020 using his standard playbook: Don’t take a dollar in contributions, don’t spend a dollar on outreach, and grab as much free media as he can get. Without collecting or spending a dollar there is no need to create a campaign committee or even file a single form.

In that March 2020 council race for two available Council seats Rowe placed a distant fourth with 3.5% of votes cast. He barely edged out the last-place finisher candidate who spent no money and appeared not to take the contest seriously.

Rowe pulled out his playbook again for the November 2020 school board election. He placed last in a field of seven candidates for three available seats but captured 2,359 votes (7.6% of votes cast) substantially behind the 3,100 votes garnered by the 6th place finisher who had recently graduated from BHHS.

Maybe this third time’s the charm. Rowe threw his hat in the ring but hasn’t spent a dollar — or even filed a standard campaign disclosure form. But he has participated in all three city-sponsored candidate forums (links below) plus the BHUSD candidate forum. He won’t turn down an interview. He described his motivation to run for Beverly Hills City Council to the Hills Weekly this way: “Robin Rowe is the Beverly Hills City Council candidate who brings better management to make best use of the rich resources the City already has to increase public safety and public services, not raise taxes.”

Rowe has not expressed a coherent campaign platform. He told the Courier that public safety is his top priority. He presents himself as the only candidate uniquely qualified to undertake that crime-fighting challenge: “I understand public safety from the perspective of having implemented America’s national security.” He went on to describe himself as a “technologist” with deep expertise in artificial intelligence and pledged to apply that experience to policing problems.

Beyond public safety, Rowe’s only concrete policy prescription is to offer affordable housing to city workers. (That is a reprise of a policy point he made in 2020.) Rowe has taped a city video campaign statement and sat for a Beverly Hills View segment so that should give more insight into the candidate.

On the latter point I feel obliged to note that Beverly Hills municipal employees are the best-paid municipal workers anywhere. Even executive assistants can afford market-rate housing in Beverly Hills. If city employees can afford to live here, yet 95% of them choose to live elsewhere, then in my view city employees don’t deserve affordable housing that should go to residents of modest means.

But then again I’m not the candidate with extensive experience in Fortune 500 management. And admittedly I have not led high-tech teams in pursuing artificial intelligence solutions for the defense department.

But has Rowe?

In Rowe’s segment for Beverly Hills View he identified his current position as “financial services manager at a $20 billion financial services company.” But his LinkedIn page doesn’t show any such employment. He has described himself as Product Innovation Manager at Heroic Robots. A walk down the Internet’s memory lane shows the Heroic Robots website first went live in 2018 as a firm that purported to develop “bionic hands for factory and agriculture robots.” More recently a bare-bones HTML landing page represents the company as a purveyor of computer games (“coming soon”).

That is not a $20 billion financial services company. Indeed there is no hint on the LinkedIn page of any such employment. Checking LinkedIn for Heroic Robots shows a company with only two employees: Rowe and his wife Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe (who is running for Beverly Hills treasurer).

There are other employment entries on his LinkedIn page that raise more questions than they answer. Rowe claims to be a boardmember for Gap Capital Partners. Interestingly there is a big financial services firm by a very similar name…but let’s not to confuse the two. This one has a bare-bones website and it is not even a secure site — odd for a financial services company! Like Heroic Robots, the LinkedIn page for the firm only shows two employees: Rowe and his wife.

There are further entries for a variety of unknown organizations but some web sleuthing shows that these website are all hosted on a computer in Rowe’s home. They are all accessed via the same IP address ( A reverse-IP lookup shows that there are at least 15 websites hosted at that IP. Were these actual organizations with an arms-length distance from the candidate each would have different IPs reflecting servers in different locations around the country or world.

Seems like many of the firms that Rowe (and wife Gabriella) have associated themselves with for the purposes of employment history are controlled by them personally. One-third of the URLs are long-gone anyway. About a third resolve to the bare-bones GAP webpage — and why would they? The remainder load bare-bones sites that don’t reflect the hand of a ‘technologist.’ Consider Rowe’s campaign website and Gabrielle’s campaign website side-by-side. They look mighty similar!

Rowe’s LinkedIn page reflects more than a list of lesser-known outfits. He represents a long a varied employment history at well-known firms and organizations which the candidate invariably name-checks in interviews and in candidate forums. There is work for the Navy as a research scientist; he is founder and director of an artificial intelligence research lab; he has worked for DOD to establish “artificial intelligence crisis management systems” at command centers “including NORAD.”

There is more: video game producer for the World Health Organization; artificial reality ‘strategist’ with major computer manufacturer Lenovo; Engineering Manager at DirectTV; software architect at Universal; Chief Technologist and Enterprise Manager at big DOD contractor SAIC; and perhaps most conspicuously computer systems architect for research & development at DreamWorks.

Not least he served a stint as the chair of a subcommittee at the US Dept. of Homeland Security. That body purportedly “defined security best practices for banks and manufacturers.” Maybe it did; the point is that these references are simply not checkable. There is nothing specific to check.

Rowe has even described himself as a “professor” to a BHUSD student in a school board campaign interview in 2020. That alone is a stretch. The candidate’s LinkedIn page shows no degrees earned or even mentions a university that was attended.

I believe none of these assertions about employment, credentials or work experience because diligent, targeted googling turns up absolutely no support for any of the claims.

However there is one credential that I could verify: Rowe was an elector pledged to candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Nicole Walker from the Green Party for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States (respectively). Why hide that credential away?

I wouldn’t have supported Robin Rowe for City Council because I didn’t think he grasped the important challenges that face our city. Specifically I didn’t hear any policy specifics from the candidate that might assure me that he is qualified to sit on City Council. However it is Rowe’s trail of specious and unsupported assertions concerning qualifications and ‘technologist’ experience that is the deal-breaker for me.

If Rowe were a more credible candidate, then perhaps somebody who had interviewed him might have properly googled him beforehand. Heck, much to her credit that high-schooler sounded plenty dubious as he recounted a fuzzy history of impressive-sounding work gigs in the school board interview. That is more than any of the many adults who have since interviewed the candidate can say.

2022 Treasurer

Howard Fisher (candidate for City Treasurer)

howard fisherIncumbent treasurer Howard Fisher’s is in a predicament: either he faces a tough road to reelection because nobody knows him of the job he does; or he is a shoe-in who benefits from the momentum of incumbency precisely because few voters know about him or his office.

That is understandable. Who knows what the treasurer does anyway? For the record: the treasurer manages the city’s investment portfolio. Numbers don’t lie, so it should be possible to evaluate the job he’s done. But it’s not so straightforward because City Council establishes the city’s investment policy. The treasurer helms the ship but doesn’t set the course!

There are three candidates in the race. For me it comes down to perceptions of honesty, integrity and capability. From my interactions with incumbent Fisher, and my occasional look at his periodic report, I believe he does a fine job and I can support him for four additional years.

Visit the candidate online to learn more about his campaign for City Treasurer. Watch his candidate statement and his interview with Beverly Hills View.

Jake Manaster (candidate for City Treasurer)

Jake ManasterJake Manaster seems well-qualified. Like incumbent Fisher he’s an attorney. And like Fisher he has a record of public service: commissioner for Traffic & Parking and former boardmember and past president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Manaster is as knowledgable as anybody about municipal affairs (and more articulate and chatty than most). His online bio inspires confidence. I won’t hold it against him that he sits on the California Apartment Association’s board of directors. He’s CEO of a carpet company and multifamily housing is probably where his bread is buttered!

Manaster is a good guy and evidently qualified for the office. But the task for Manaster, like any challenger, is to persuasively argue that he’s a better choice than the incumbent. Notably his campaign doesn’t point to quantitative data to make the case that the incumbent is not performing well (the point would be lost on most voters anyway). Instead Manaster’s campaign proposes two changes: creation of an investment advisory committee, and formation of a “resiliency fund” (I put it in quotes because he does). The campaign’s messaging centers around trust and responsibility and leadership. Read more about the candidate online.

Knowing Manaster I’m sure he has many ideas he would bring to the office but I have not seen a persuasive argument for changing horses. So I’m putting a thumb on the scale for Fisher’s experience in the job. More broadly, the challenge for the treasurer is that City Council likes to hold tightly to the reins of power. It is not clear to me what significant change could come at the suggestion of the treasurer.

Visit the candidate online to learn more about his campaign for City Treasurer. Watch his candidate statement and his interview with Beverly Hills View.

Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe (candidate for City Treasurer)

Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe is running for Treasurer. That should put a spotlight on her academic and employment credentials. After all, the treasurer invests the city’s money! Her LinkedIn page doesn’t include any education history. But she does describe herself as “asset coordinator” working for UCLA.

Maybe she is and maybe she isn’t. A search of state public employees doesn’t turn up a match. And a targeted google search doesn’t turn up any paper trail (as it were). I did find a ‘digital assets coordinator’ at UCLA in my search, but that gentleman is validated by his representation in professional settings….and she’s not him.

I could be all wrong on this. An obscure website called Signal Hire (“real-time verified contact info for recruiters, sales professionals, and marketers”) does show a listing that reads, “Gabrielle Pantera, Assets Coordinator.” But I don’t have a lot of faith that it’s legitimate.

There are other questionable claims she has made related to employment and qualifications. She “helped make” digital assets management systems (cataloging of images and related information) at Disney and Zodiak. Is that verifiable? “At Heroic Robots I produce mobile and metaverse games.” But Heroic Robot has not produced any game, evidently, and the presence online looks limited to a basic HTML site on Rowe’s server.

But there is more, according to Pantera-Rowe’s LinkedIn page. “I’ve worked at Disney, Fox, MGM and The CW. Been the executive-in-charge at production offices on two studio lots.” (To me that sounds like a casual description for a big job.) “At Disney 20th Television, I managed logistics for 62 primetime series, including The Simpsons, Family Guy and This Is Us.” (Is logistics line production? Line production entails minute-to-minute responsibility. Logistics I haven’t heard about in the context of TV production and it sounds a bit hazier.)

Pantera-Rowe adds, “I was reluctant to leave Disney, but missed the creative control of being a producer.” Creative control she had with her web series Gosh! TV which featured minor celebrity interviews posted to Youtube. This is another Rowe family enterprise but these interviews really do exist online.

There’s even more to discuss but I don’t need to go into much more detail. I won’t be supporting Pantera-Rowe at the polls box this Tuesday. Decide for yourself. Visit the candidate online to learn more about her campaign for City Treasurer. Watch her candidate statement and her interview with Beverly Hills View.

Don’t Forget: Vote on or Before Tuesday June 7th

I encourage all voters to learn more about the candidates before casting one, two or all three municipal election votes. POLLS CLOSE at 8 p.m. Polling locations include City Hall, Horace Mann, the Hilton and La Cienega Park auditorium. Ballot drop boxes are located at City Hall and the Roxbury Park community center.

Here are some handy links for further reading/viewing.

Newspaper interviews with the candidates

Candidate forums

If this editorial has rubbed you the wrong way, then I will beg your pardon. I invite your questions and opinions. Please get in touch with me at Renters Alliance.