New City Website. Same City Hall Indifference.

We could fund a robust tenants’ rights campaign if only we had a nickel for every time that we found and reported a problem with the city’s website. For a decade we have complained to the city about poorly-organized menus, long load times, and broken links throughout the site. A recent redesign of the website added a twist: broken links are now our problem because new URLs for all of the city website pages broke every link in our posts. Now we have nearly 200 broken links to the Beverly Hills website to fix. To what can we attribute this city oversight? Indifference!

City hall has long been indifferent to how it communicates with its stakeholders. The website is the single most important communications platform yet the website’s consistently frustrating user experience suggests it is not the city’s priority. The current redesign was several years in the making. And after $150,000 paid to an outside vendor it is still frustrating.

But nothing is as frustrating as finding that every one of our links to the city’s website, and every browser bookmark that we ever saved, were immediately broken. Since the website redesign in May those links and bookmarks return an error page.

Why the dead-end? Because the city’s website vendor reformatted every webpage address for no good reason. Take for example the Traffic and Parking Commission webpage. For a decade this was the page’s URL :

Now that link is broken (try it). With the redesign the URL changed to this nonsensical scheme:

Not only was there was no good reason to reformat every webpage URL; it makes no sense to insert a random number into the URL in the first place. That change means we have to update our 40 or so browser bookmarks and manually edit nearly 200 links in Renters Alliance posts simply due to the city’s mistake.List of broken links to city of Beverly Hills website


What is galling is that there was a way to avoid this problem.

The vendor that was paid $150k for the redesign could have created a URL redirect for each changed webpage URL. That would have automatically redirected a visitor to the correct URL in an instant. Indeed that’s what the vendor’s own support documentation suggests should be done when a webpage URL is changed.

Had a redirect been in place for each of those nearly 200 changed city webpage URLs then a Renters Alliance reader who had followed one of our links, or who visited the city website using a browser bookmark, would be properly redirected instead of getting the 404 error page that we show at the bottom of this post.

Our Take

City hall can and should do better. We have the know-how. The assistant city manager who was overseeing the website redesign comes from a communications background in TV news and public relations. He earns an annual salary of $321,000 plus benefits. He knows better than to make stakeholders shoulder the burden from the city’s mistake.

City hall also has well-paid staffers who can be tasked with adding the necessary URL redirects. Why pay the public information manager ($145,000), web developer ($131,000), web coordinator ($118,000), and communications specialist ($100,000) if they can’t fix this simple problem?

The answer: because it’s not the city’s problem; it is our problem. Think of that every time you open a browser bookmark and get this error page.

Beverly hills website 404 page
City hall even helpfully reminds us to fix our own browser bookmarks!