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Beverly Hills News

Sign Is Hitch In Talent UTA's Move
Posted by Charlie Golestani on May 2, 2012 - 2:13:13 PM

BEVERLY HILLSTuesday night’s city council meeting touched on  annoyances on the part of key council members with staff and an impasse for a local entertainment staple.

“UTA is a large entertainment and talent agency firm that has been in the city for 21 years,” began Assistant City Manager,
Mahdi Aluzri.  “In that time the company has grown to a staff of over 350.”

The second largest entertainment employer in the city according to CEO and co-founder Jeremy Zimmer, United Talent Agency has remained in Beverly Hills while many other talent companies moved to nearby Century City.

“Century City was very aggressive in their attempts to snag UTA for their own,” said Zimmer.

Zimmer stands by the decision to relocate within the city.

“We’re very happy to be staying in Beverly Hills”¦ our company started [here] with 13 agents and 21 employees total and now we have 115 agents and 350 employees,” Zimmer told the council.

The company currently resides at 9560 Wilshire Blvd., “a space that they have recently outgrown,” Aluzri said.

The company is proposing a move to a location that can accommodate the ever-growing and changing entertainment giant and chose the 9326 and 9346 addresses on Civic Center Driver ”“ formerly the Headquarters of Hilton, an approximately 180,000-square-foot space, according to Aluzri.  The company had hoped to move in by the end of the summer.

“When it came time to start considering a move we looked at a lot of different options. Ultimately we decided on the Hilton headquarters,” Zimmer said.

UTA’s proposed lease agreement would last through April 2027 and is intended “to maximize the benefit to the City and UTA,” Aluzri noted.

UTA’s attorney and former Beverly Hills Mayor Mark Egerman added “We have before us what I believe to be an absolute win-win situation for both the City and my client.”

Lauded the members of the council, “Sit down with an important corporate citizen and say ”˜we want you to stay in our city’.” Egerman went on to hint at competition in areas more densely populated by talent agencies as a reason for UTA’s cooperation and noted what UTA believes to be substantial fiscal benefits for the City at “little cost” to Beverly Hills itself.

In his outline of the agreement, Aluzri stated that considerations on the part of UTA appear few; they claim to have planned ahead for the move so as to meet or exceed the company’s current business retention. As a substantial portion of Beverly Hills’ tax base, if the company’s move would negatively affect the city’s bottom line, it would be a noticeable decrease and the move would be nixed.

UTA did, however, make some stipulations of its own, including a request to establish street signage on the corner, an addition to the Civic Center Drive sign already in place, establishing a nickname or ”˜vanity signage’ of sorts for the street as ”˜UTA Drive.’

Councilmembers Lili Bossi and Vice-Mayor John Mirisch were troubled by the concept of the added signage, with Bossi citing that a Playboy business established there for some time might take issue as they themselves had not proposed the change to plant their own company flag on Civic Center Drive.

Aluzri cited the example of the proposal that El Camino Drive be dubbed William Morris Way in honor of the famous agency that no longer sits on that street. Bossi and Mirisch were not dissuaded.

“Has there been any outreach to any of the other business in that area about adding the UTA signage to the street?” Bossi asked Aluzri. He admitted that there had not been.

“Having two signs”¦ is cluttered and inconsistent, and I don’t think when you’re talking about policy that that is a policy I would support,” she said.

Mirisch in particular took issue with the way in which the proposals were issued to the council. Aluzri agreed to a 7-month interim in which to notify the council of UTA’s conditions.

Mirisch argued that what stood before the council now was a “finalized contract” looking for endorsement rather than issues of policy to be contested. “It seems like this is a done deal,” Vice Mayor John Mirisch said.

Aluzri argued that the contents of the document in question were “Proposals [that] were based on pretty much code as it exists now, past city practice and direction and policy guidance that we have obtained from the council in the past.”
Vice-Mayor John A. Mirisch, from the council's live meeting coverage

Other concerns revolved mainly around zoning and traffic as it could be affected by other local businesses in the area, an issue of little concern as the city appears to see no impending changes.

In observance of its adherence to the majority of existing city planning and zoning, UTA asked for five free space rentals of the stretch of Civic Center Drive that is home to Sunday’s farmer’s market. In addition, financial considerations offered to local entertainment businesses like UTA in exchange for their continued contract with the city would be extended to UTA as well, which remained without added incentives.

Councilmember Julian Gold, M.D. consented to the proposal, but also took issue with idea of an added sign.

Bossi supported incentivizing, but stated, “I feel that everything else is out of the ordinary and would create too many impacts to our community.”

“UTA sees itself as part of the city,” Egerman offered.

“It’s disturbing that despite some of these objections or reservations were brought up, that staff presents us with this and that they’re listening more to lobbyists than to the issues and potential reservations of the council themselves,” Mirisch added.


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