Healthcare: Beverly Hills Considers Medical Makeover

By Pete Griffin for Beverly Hills Patch

Does Beverly Hills need more plastic surgeons?

The City Council will take up the matter later this month, when it considers a proposal to curtail the city’s medical office boom. But Councilman John Mirisch has already made up his mind.

“Our cachet is ‘Come to Beverly Hills and see a star—eat where the stars eat and shop where the stars shop,’ ” Mirisch wrote in a recent letter to the Los Angeles Business Journal. “It’s not: ‘Come to Beverly Hills to see a sick person—or the latest advances in plastic surgery.’ ”

Beverly Hills has long served as a medical mecca, with doctor’s offices and cosmetic surgeons setting up shop in the shadow of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

But in recent years the number of medical offices has multiplied, in part because the depressed economy has made it harder to attract other types of commercial outlets to the city.

Limiting medical use office space “will make it harder for owners of commercial buildings in Beverly Hills to lease the spaces they have available,” Mark King, a commercial real estate agent, said during a recent meeting of the council where the ordinance was discussed.

Medical office space in Beverly Hills now constitutes more than 21 percent of all commercial space in the city, compared with about 5 percent of all commercial space in Los Angeles, according to Mirisch.

In July 2009, the council asked city staff to prepare an ordinance for limiting new or expanded medical use in commercial zones around Beverly Hills, expressing concerns with the negative effects of medical use offices when it comes to parking, traffic, ability to attract priority business and the overall image of the city.

A year and a half later, city staffers and the Beverly Hills Planning Commission presented a proposed ordinance during the Nov. 20 council meeting that would allow the continued operation of existing medical use offices, but wouldn’t permit new medical use or conversion to medical use “by-right” in various commercial zones.

Also, property owners wishing to expand medical use would be required to seek an application for a medical use overlay zone, which would be reviewed by the planning commission and then recommended to the council for final approval.

“You have a double standard of approval,” said Murray Fischer, a Beverly Hills real estate lawyer who also spoke at the meeting. “If this ordinance is passed, it is our belief that you will see no more new medical use brought into the city of Beverly Hills.”

The long-term effects of leasing more and more office space for medical use could have a damaging impact on the city, according to Mirisch, who said he is concerned about the southeast part of Beverly Hills, where he resides.

“I think it would be a shame to turn it into Cedars-Sinai West or a medical ghetto,” Mirisch said.

Councilwoman Nancy Krasne struck a softer tone, pointing out that medical offices are an integral part of the economic and cultural history of Beverly Hills.

” ‘Medical’ has been at the core of this city since the beginning,” Krasne said. “Things have changed, but medical is the core.”

After hearing concerns from public speakers who fear the ordinance will mean the end of medical use offices in the city, Beverly Hills Planning Commission Chairwoman Lili Bosse made it clear that isn’t the case.

“The commission is in no way saying no more doctors, no more medical use,” Bosse said. “The only thing the ordinance is providing is what our city provides and what we’re proud of. We’re looking at the quality, we’re looking at the impact…that’s it.”

The council did not make a decision regarding the ordinance, instead opting to provide the planning commission with a list of possible revisions that include a one to two year review of the ordinance’s impact on the city. The revised ordinance will be presented at the next council meeting on Dec. 21.

[beverlyhills.patch.com]

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