McConnor's Corner
Small Town America--Beverly Hills, California
By Sean McConnor
Oct 1, 2002 - 11:38:00 PM

Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News
BEVERLY HILLS — "No way," my friend replied when I told him that Beverly Hills was just a small town. Up toward the canyons and Sunset Boulevard are some of the most palatial estates in the country, if not the world. Rodeo Drive is one of the most exclusive and well-known trend setting fashion streets on the planet. All of this being true and the population of the town being 34,000 people and the area of the city is about 6 square miles, but really, how is Beverly Hills a small town?

Too bad my friend couldn't have been with me on a recent Sunday morning when I arrived in Downtown Beverly Hills for the Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast held in conjunction with the police department right in the heart of the civic center. For instance, I thought I was in small town America back in the midwest. I mean whoever thought that the Rotary and pancake breakfasts still existed?

Scores of local residents of one of the wealthiest cities in America chatted with each other as they waited in line for the local Rotarians to dish out the pancakes whose mouth watering aroma was spreading over the hungry morning people, such as yours truly.

These citizens were of every ethnic persuasion and every age from senior citizens with their fellow seniors to toddlers with their moms and dads. Middle-age members of the local Rotary, which was formed in 1924 just ten years after the city was created, manned the grill as attractive volunteers for the police sold souvenirs of the department. Small and immaculately groomed young people passed out "junior" police badges for their small fry counterparts. A few adults wore them, too.

One thing I can say for the Rotary and one of their sponsors, Peets Coffee who provided the coffee, is that it was one of the best pancake breakfast I have ever eaten and I have been to many in fact. I was once a service club president in Los Angeles and we put on many an annual breakfast. Equally super was the friendliness of all who volunteered to put such an event together for the benefit of the entire community.

Beverly Hills Police Department. Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News
Nearby watching the proceedings, since they were one of the sponsors, were two of Beverly Hills' finest. They were positive in their responses to the many questions put forth about the police. The officer who patrols on a bicycle filled in the gaps on the knowledge I had about bike patrols. He compared bike patrolling to the old foot beat patrolling of yesterday. Individual contact with police officers was a common practice in small towns and I was glad to see it has returned.

That individual contact in Beverly Hills is done on bikes. The officers who patrol Rodeo Drive and all of Downtown can do so more efficiently and reach the scene of an incident many times quicker than the black and white cruiser caught in traffic on Wilshire. Also, I learned from the bicycle officer that all schools in Beverly Hills have a sworn member of the department at each school. Not only do the officers provide security, but they lecture the students on safety issues.

Someone else gets lectured by the police, too. Ever been cruising Beverly Hills around 6:45 a.m. in the morning? It happens to me five days a week. Talk about a riot. The minute my fellow drivers and I enter the Beverly Hills city limits, we become model drivers. We slow down like the cars do on the freeway when the CHP slows down the traffic to create traffic break for some reason. In the case of us in Beverly Hills, we know we had better abide the 25 mph speed limit or we will be lectured by an motor officer from the BH Police Department.

I spoke with one of the motor officers at the pancake breakfast. He was not the Big Bad Wolf incarnate that the morning motorists think he is. He explained that the department realizes that not all people can keep the 25 mph speed limit in town. The police department uses a formula to judge how fast 85 percent of the drivers are going. Anyone nearing 40 mph is usually out of that percentile and may get pulled over. It is nice to know that the department cuts us some slack.

I told the officer, and he laughed, that when we hit Wilshire and Santa Monica, we usually hit the metal and drive like bats out of hell cause we are out of the hills. He politely informed me that the city limits doesn't end there but further up Wilshire by the Union Oil Station. So, I guess we had better cut out the Indianapolis speedway stuff around Beverly Hills.

After the breakfast, I window shopped through Downtown Beverly Hills. I passed Vidal Sassoon and the venerable Nate & Al's Deli, but I also noticed in true small town tradition, stores devoted to cheese and another devoted to cooking utensils exclusively. Now, how much more small town can you get?

Well, you can see it, if you walk over to Canon Drive between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday morning. The Beverly Hills' Farmers' Market holds court on the 200 block of North Canon. Again, members were interacting with themselves and the vendors who provided a dazzling display of fruits and vegetables from all over California. One vendor served hot tamales which one customer began devouring immediately after purchasing. There are tables nearby for those who want to sit and eat or just chat. For more information, you call the city at 310-550-4796.

Check out small town Beverly Hills some day soon. There is a safety expo on October 13. It is a Sunday and the Farmers' Market will be going that day,too. It might be an awesome morning for the family to continue the traditions of small town America, particularly in one as quaint as Beverly Hills, California.

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