Los Angeles

Holmby Hills Annexation Into Beverly Hills: The Truth About Pothole Funding

High-end neighborhood Holmby Hills wants to break up with Los Angeles and be annexed by Beverly Hills -- a potentially years-long, multi-million dollar process -- over some potholes.

Now, just one day after the Los Angeles Times published a story about the campaign, a massive pothole that annexation advocate William Fleischman had pointed out in the article had been patched over with asphalt.

"Somebody's on the alert," Fleischman said in a telephone interview with The Huffington Post. "I suspect the only person who could have gotten that done so fast would be someone from the city."

Although the fix -- asphalt on a concrete road -- will not last as long as a full resurfacing, Fleischman said it was a good first step.

"It's a bandaid, but it's a correct answer," he said.

But Peter Neuman, a spokesman for City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the region of Los Angeles that includes Holmby Hills, denied to HuffPost that the fix had anything to do with the Times story. Calling the timing a coincidence, Neuman credited meetings Koretz and an assistant took with the Holmby Hills homeowners association back in May as the reason the pothole was put on the city's to-do list.

"We are happy to say that even in a city of aging infrastructure, and a time when governments including our city government face severe fiscal challenges, Councilmember Koretz promised action and has delivered," Neuman said in a written statement. "Those streets are now currently scheduled to be resurfaced within the next 12 months and hopefully much sooner than that."

Asked what Koretz thinks about the neighborhood's request to be annexed, Neuman said that neither he nor L.A. City Council had been approached about the idea, and thus he couldn't comment on the issue.

Fleischman is part of a Holmby Hills homeowners association that is seeking Beverly Hills annexation for access to better municipal services, an idea he officially presented to the Beverly Hills City Council during a July 3 public meeting. The HOA represents residences north of Sunset Boulevard, south of Brooklawn Drive and in between Beverly Glen Boulevard and the western border of Beverly Hills.

When asked if the Holmby Hills HOA could divert the funds they'd be willing to use for their annexation campaign to just get the potholes fixed, he responded, "to have to pay taxes twice, I think, is unfair." Fleischman went on to contrast paying to fix his neighborhood's own potholes to the decision to send children to private school.

"Roads are more inherently a part of the city's obligation," Fleischman said. "It's 100 percent optional to send your kid to private school, but I have to drive on public roads, and I expect the roads to be taken care of by the people I pay my property taxes to."

A request to the L.A. County assessor's office revealed that 55 Holmby Hills residences within an approximation of the HOA's boundaries have a combined assessed property value of $465,374,274.

Based on that assessed property value, the L.A. County Auditor-Controller's office told HuffPost that this community pays $4.65 million in property taxes to the county, 26.3 percent of which is then diverted to the city of Los Angeles.

But property taxes are beside the point, according to Neuman. "The idea that property taxes are related to the fixing of streets in Los Angeles is not an accurate idea," he said.

A line item in the 2011-12 Los Angeles city budget called "Special Gas Tax Street Improvement Fund" is doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to fixing the streets; it clocks in at $113,551,000, or 1.7 percent of total city expenditures.

Gas tax funds for cities are generated at the state level from highway user taxes.

Another fund, called "Street Damage Restoration," contributes $5,600,000 to street improvement and is collected on a city-wide level from entities, including city agencies, that damage streets with excavations or other work.

While the Beverly Hills City Council had no official comment on the annexation movement, Councilman John Mirisch told the Times in their original article that he was "very opposed to it."

Still, Beverly Hills has annexed other neighborhoods in the past, which is what gives Fleischman hope about his bid. Trousdale Estates, an expensive residential neighborhood where Hollywood stars and other celebrities now live, was annexed by Beverly Hills in 1955. And in 1999, the city took over a small section of Hillgreen Drive near Pico Boulevard and Century Park East after residents waged a more than decade-long campaign to be annexed. The Hillgreen Drive acquisition was the 14th annexation in the city's history, according to the Daily News.

"It's not as crazy as it sounds," Fleischman said. "It's just a longshot. I'm realistic enough to know it's going to be expensive and time consuming."

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