The Beverly Hills City Council apparently doesn’t realize what it’s got.
It’s got a city with a reputation. A huge reputation. A worldwide reputation. The kind of reputation that other towns lust for but can only dream of.
Beverly Hills is known as the place to get cosmetic surgery.
Everybody knows that. And if they didn’t, the cable TV show “Dr. 90210” pretty much sutured up that reputation for good.
Face it. Beverly Hills and plastic surgery go together. Like Detroit and autos, New York and finance or New Orleans and disaster. OK, bad example.
And it’s great for the town to be associated with cosmetic surgery. I mean, it’s better than being closely associated with Jed Clampett.
Thanks to its reputation, Beverly Hills attracts wealthy albeit saggy people from all over the country, from all over the world, really, to get a little tuck here and smoothing there. After a few days, those people return to Decatur or Dubai freshly sculpted and eager to “confess” to friends in hushed tones that they saw a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.
Think about how those formerly wrinkled people spent their three or four days in Beverly Hills. Chances are they shopped on Rodeo Drive. They ate at Spago. They stayed at the Montage or the Peninsula. In fact, the signature businesses in Beverly Hills should be mighty grateful for the burgeoning industry of cosmetic surgeons.
Yet the Beverly Hills City Council apparently has had enough of all this. “No more of those awful medical offices in our town,” they’re essentially saying.
The council has spent most of a year toying with a way to cap medical office space. That, of course, means there’s now an artificial shortage of doctors’ space, which means doctors suddenly are getting stuck with much higher rents. In a reversal of what you normally hear from a doctor, this is stinging for much longer than a minute.
Faced with 25 percent hikes in their rent, some Beverly Hills doctors are considering becoming roommates with other doctors to save money or leaving Beverly Hills altogether. (For more, please see the story on page 1 of the Aug. 16 issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal.)
Of course, this artificial shortage of doctors’ space will enrich the owners of existing medical buildings. That, inevitably, may turn doctors into cynics as they wonder who’s really behind this drive to limit medical office space.
There’s another effect that’s harder to see but more pernicious. The limit on doctors’ space means that the city, and council members in particular, will became more powerful and “important.” Because the council members will have ultimate command over which petitioner gets new medical office space and which one doesn’t, that means City Council members must be curried and favored as never before. There will be all manner of political favors carried out. Yes, true mischief looms here.
The way out of this mess, of course, is very simple. The City Council doesn’t have to do a thing, other than scrap this destructive and stupid plan. All it needs to do is sit back and let landlords and their tenants figure out what works for them. Rents will be rationalized, and the number of doctors’ offices will increase or decrease as demand dictates. Even if more medical offices pop up, that’s not a bad thing. Plastic surgery is a clean, light industry that caters to wealthy people. It’s not like they’re smelting ore or running 24-hour rendering plants there in the Golden Triangle.
Thanks to its reputation, Beverly Hills doesn’t even need to spend money marketing its medical facilities. It can just sit back and enjoy the bounty.
But if the city persists in limiting medical space, the inevitable result will be that some doctors will leave Beverly Hills. It may seem farfetched now, but if plastic surgeons begin clustering in, say, Santa Monica or in a beach community in Orange County, that place will slowly acquire the reputation as the new and hip place to get a tuck. Beverly Hills may slowly lose its great reputation.
Well, it does have that other reputation. It could still pass out maps to tourists showing where the Clampetts used to live.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.