Robin Rowe Beverly Hills Weekly Interview

Candidate’s newspaper interview discusses affordable housing

Robin Rowe at Capital Records
Robin Rowe at Capital Records

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2020/2/29 – The Beverly Hills Weekly asked me for an interview last month. Posted below, interviewed January 26th. What’s changed since January is that SB50 was defeated by three votes. The state law anticipated to force Beverly Hills to catch up building affordable housing, to build the 3,100 units that the city has failed to build over ten years.

At a candidate forum last week at Roxbury, the incumbents promised seniors that the city will build affordable housing, and to expect it to take ten years. The same politicians who got no affordable housing built in the last ten years while they were in office. I urged building 3,100 units quickly, to which an incumbent angrily responded, it will NEVER happen!

Why are you running for City Council?

Many reasons… One, I was asked. I’ve been on the Beverly Hills Technology Committee since 2016. Two city council members urged me to run for office. Of course, not the two incumbents running in this election.

Another reason for me to run is because the city council needs a technologist, someone who expects to get things done at the speed of Moore’s Law. High tech, driven by Moore’s Law, improves every 18 months. The city takes a decade of longer to produce changes.

In December, the city council passed an “urgent” resolution to amend a zoning regulation that has been driving restaurants out of Beverly Hills. On the eve of an election, change became urgent, but that law was from 1974. Not ten years. It took our city council 45 years to fix an obvious problem. The incumbents said during the recent Beverly Hills Chamber candidate forum that maybe they should revisit other laws of that era. You think?

The city is learning the hard way from avoidable mistakes. Problems that would have been prevented had a technologist been in the room.

Beverly Hills installed last year and has operational a highly sophisticated CCTV security system. This citywide security system, with 1,500 cameras, protects many locations, including Beverly Hills parking garages which so far have been crime-free. However, our police department wasn’t actively monitoring the Nessah synagogue. It was attacked and damaged.

Nobody at city hall thought to put Nessah on the security list as a high value potential target. The city council, the city manager, the chief of police, all were unaware we have operational a security system capable of using AI computer vision to detect suspicious activity at a specific location. To alert the police automatically, to send a message with a picture of suspicious activity, to catch anyone breaking into Nessah. Our city’s typical police response is rapid. Had the police been alerted, they would have stopped cold the vandalism of the synagogue.

Catching the perpetrator in the act at Nessah would have saved the city the cost of an extensive investigation and of apprehending a suspect who had fled to Hawaii. This week I got to meet our chief of police. I was able to brief her on AI security capabilities for the first time. The next day the city was busy installing better security at Nessah. With a technologist on the council, what needed to be done to protect our community would have happened sooner.

An incumbent candidate says voters should trust her to protect Nessah because her parents were victims of the Holocaust. While nobody would question how much she cares, it was on her watch that an attack on Nessah was not prevented.

Who of the city council candidates has the best qualifications in national security? I was chief technologist at the defense company SAIC. For DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. military, I created crisis detection and monitoring technology installed at NORAD and other U.S. command centers. I’ve designed enhancements to the U.S. traffic control system, which is national critical infrastructure. As a navy research scientist, I built VR war gaming technology used to train special forces.

If elected, what do you hope to accomplish?

Many things.

Housing. Beverly Hills is anticipating that the state will pass a law requiring we build more affordable housing. To build over 3,000 units. With so little undeveloped land here, there is nowhere to build but up.

Let’s build residential housing to be a lasting city landmark. I lived in Chicago near Lake Point Tower. Seventy stories tall, 1,600 residents, 857 units. The most beautiful residential tower in the world.

The units we build in Beverly Hills must be a careful balance of affordable and luxury. Why build luxury units too when our goal is more affordable housing? If we build segregated housing only for low income residents, it will have the unintended consequence of creating a dangerous housing project. Let’s not build a Cabrini-Green, which became so crime-ridden that Chicago had to tear it down.

Transportation. A new skyway connecting the Rodeo Drive subway stop to the rest of the businesses in Beverly Hills. More public transportation cuts pollution and alleviates traffic and parking congestion.

A police substation is desirable at Rodeo Drive, but a lack of parking makes it seem impractical. Better transportation can change that. The skyway can connect Rodeo to the Beverly Hills police station at city hall. Then the chief of police can allocate officers to the substation as needed, rapidly, without sending more police cars there.

For ground transportation, Smart Cities traffic shaping technology can use AI to reprogram traffic lights to reduce traffic congestion and cut air pollution. Make every day like that magical day when you hit every green light.

Tourism. The Beverly Hills Skyway will be a tourist attraction, a way to see the city.

Incumbents say competition for shoppers is a big issue, that they don’t know how but hope to devise a way to compete with Westfield Century City mall and the Beverly Center mall. Westfield recently spent $1B renovating their mall. Does Beverly Hills expect to spend $1B to directly compete? Where would that money come from?

Instead of trying to beat our neighbors to the same shoppers, let’s work together to expand our market. Connect the Skyway to adjacent shopping in Westfield Century City and Beverly Center. Make Beverly Hills the biggest, greatest, shopping destination in the world.

Visitors will be able to take the Metro subway to Rodeo Drive. Hop on the Beverly Hills Skyway to see a view of the city. Stop for a nice breakfast at the Beverly Hilton. Skyway again to Westfield Century City. Back on the Skyway to visit the Robertson area, for lunch and the shops. And so on.

Quiet enjoyment. That’s the experience that residents hope for living in Beverly Hills. I will restrict leaf blowers, which are noisy and smelly. The landlords and landscape crews causing this problem are not residents, do not listen when residents ask them to stop.

Clean streets. I will have a crew keep our streets spotless, like Disneyland. I walk in Beverly Hills. Everywhere I walk I’m picking up trash. Beverly Hills deserves clean streets.

Air pollution. Some areas of Beverly Hills have twice as much air pollution as others. I’ve done the Walk with the Mayor for years. I currently walk with the Beverly Hills Walkers, meeting at the park on Mondays. Walking is supposed to be healthy, but it’s not great to exercise in air pollution. None of the incumbents are talking about fixing this. There’s much the city can do to cut pollution using technology.

Healthcare. While I was walking with the Beverly Hills Walkers, a woman felt unwell and had to turn back. Everyone was very concerned. The woman refused to have an ambulance called. Someone said she didn’t think the woman had health insurance. An ambulance trip in Beverly Hills costs $1,800.

Beverly Hills has a new program called Nurse-Practitioner. That provides first aid on the spot from a health professional for free. A medic could have come to evaluate if the woman needed urgent care. I will make more residents aware this program exists to serve us.

Beverly Hills has a Senior & Disabled Bus Service. Mainly used to take vulnerable patients to their doctor. Putting sick people together on a bus, to have them sit together in a hospital waiting room, spreads contagious diseases. I will expand the Nurse-Practitioner program. Check patients at home for infectious diseases. Avoid getting more people sick.

Community Access Television. I’m a community access TV success story. Producing a dance documentary with a community access station led to me being hired as a technical director for television broadcast news at NBC. I will have the city hire a community access director dedicated to supporting community access. Increase the use of our TV studio without adding to the workload of our government channel crew.

Better budgets. Beverly Hills has $255M in unfunded pension liabilities, plus $109M in retiree medical. At a recent city council session, it was mentioned there is an $18M overrun in the current budget. Nobody seemed concerned. In fact, the council asked that the budget be tweaked to shift funds earmarked for specific projects back into the general fund. That would make overruns less obvious.

As a subcommittee chairman for the CFO Alliance, I help define best financial practices in industry. I will make our city budget clear so our city council can make informed decisions using it. My campaign treasurer, a former California State auditor, is reviewing the Beverly Hills city budget for me.

Why should someone vote for you?

Whenever I hear this question, I tell people they should vote for Beverly Hills.

Don’t vote for a candidate just because he or she seems to have a nice personality. Or, has stuffed everyone’s mailboxes with campaign postcards. Or, blanketed the neighborhood with yard signs. Or, is offering vague promises to listen better.

Vote for the candidate who is ready to do something specific for Beverly Hills, who has a plan. When judging the candidates on what they say they will actually do, the choice seems clear.

I’m Robin Rowe, a candidate running for Beverly City Council. I don’t accept contributions from developers or from anyone. I don’t do paid political advertising. I don’t plaster everybody’s yards with “free” yard signs paid for by special interests. I’m #1 on the ballot in the March 3rd, 2020, election.

Feel free to write or call me with ideas you have for making a positive change in Beverly Hills.