Juneteenth: The Beverly Hills Construction Holiday That Wasn’t!

Beverly Hills employee unions asked for a paid holiday for Juneteenth. City hall couldn’t agree more and city council gave its approval in December. Would residents also get a holiday from construction on this new city holiday? Yes! Five months later council proclaimed it so. However the holiday ordinance was adopted two days too late for Juneteenth to be recognized as a construction holiday this year. The employees got their paid holiday but residents didn’t get our holiday so construction proceeded apace across the city. Read on to learn how we lost our promised construction holiday in 2024.

When city council agreed in early May to an ordinance that recognized Juneteenth as a city holiday and a construction holiday, councilmembers were assured in the staff report that it would take effect in time for the 2024 holiday on June 19th. Council had adopted the ordinance on first reading as part of the council’s consent calendar (which doesn’t usually require discussion). The required second reading of the ordinance on May 21st likewise proceeded without discussion.

A construction holiday notice was then sent to contractors. “Juneteenth is a recognized holiday construction moratorium day,” it said, “which means no permitted construction activities are allowed on June 19th, 2024.”

Yet five minutes after we left the apartment on the holiday we encountered construction. We weren’t surprised; construction happens on every city holiday because city inspectors don’t actually flag any of that activity for enforcement.

What did surprise us was the police response when we called the police non-emergency number (310–550–4951) as we would do on any construction holiday or a weekend. The police dispatcher’s response: “This is not a construction holiday.”

If we hadn’t have known that council had recognized the Juneteenth holiday by adopting ordinance 24-O–2895, and even seen with our own eyes the construction notice that was issued to contractors, then we might have taken that assertion at face value. But we knew it was a holiday. We saw the ordinance. We saw the notice.

We said, “This is Juneteenth.” The dispatcher’s reply: “We received a notice this morning that the holiday is not recognized today. It takes effect on June 21st.” The 21st? That is two days after the holiday. Who sent that notice? “Code enforcement.” Who at code enforcement? “Officer Vardan.”

Officer Vardan Vardanyan was the code enforcement officer on duty this city holiday. We called him at city hall. He said Code Enforcement manager Leslie Medina send that message. It read:

Construction moratorium for holiday construction for Juneteenth is not in effect until June 21, 2024. Therefore, we cannot enforce it, but can politely ask folks to comply and stop activity.

Politely ask a contractor to stop work? That’s not realistic. We had to accept that the guidance meant that we lost our holiday. But why?

Rookie Error

We went back to the May 7th council where the ordinance was introduced and adopted by council on first reading though without discussion. But the staff report said that the ordinance would go into effect in time for the holiday on June 19th. Next we checked the May 21st council meeting. At that time council again adopted the ordinance on what is called the second reading. Again there was no discussion as is customary for a second-reading.

The ordinance was signed by the mayor that same day as also is the custom. The problem is that an ordinance takes effect on the 31st day after it is signed, and in this instance that meant June 21st…two days after Juneteenth on June 19th. The calendar shows the 31 days.
Juneteenth ordinance calendar

When we advised tenants to be on the lookout for construction that is prohibited on the holiday, we had not factored-in those 31 days. That was a rookie error. However staff evidently didn’t factor-in that 31-day period either. Staff are not rookies!

Staff Failed Us

Despite the fact that the staff report assured councilmembers that the holiday would take effect in time for Juneteenth, the fact is that it didn’t. Staff had not counted the 31 days for the ordinance to take effect.

Now, oversights do happen. And so does negligence. The question is, Why did staff wait five months between December, when city council formally agreed to declare Juneteenth a paid city holiday, and May when this ordinance was brought forward? Had it been introduced earlier we would have had our construction holiday.

Worse, there was an opportunity to rectify the problem. Staff could have brought forward an urgency ordinance between the time that the contractor notice was issued and the time when somebody, likely the city attorney, recognized that the ordinance would not take effect in time for the holiday. City council met the evening prior to Juneteenth. Had an urgency ordinance been adopted by councilmembers that evening then it would have taken effect immediately and in time to make the construction holiday enforceable.

Because staff waited for too long to bring the ordinance to city council, and then did not recommend an urgency ordinance once it was realized that the prohibition was not enforceable, we residents lost our construction holiday.

On the morning of Juneteenth the police dispatcher told us that the department had received numerous complaints about construction activity on the holiday. Indeed we saw active worksites on Charleville, Robbins, Oakhurst, Palm and Almont, to name just a few streets, with major remodeling continuing throughout the holiday at 414 N Palm and 244 N Almont.

Surely neighbors next door to those construction sites couldn’t enjoy the new holiday. But city staff surely did: it is one of their eleven paid holidays this year. We residents are owed an apology. But no apology will be forthcoming from city hall.