by Rachel Reeves
When Vish Chatterji moved to the Beach Cities, he believed he’d found paradise. The sun always shone, the ocean sparkled, and everyone was nice. As the years passed, he found himself fascinated at the levels of stress people still carried, and how much anger filled the community’s social media platforms and events.
Chatterji considers himself a student of both business and happiness. In his corporate life, he was a tech entrepreneur and ran $200 million divisions of corporations. In his personal life, he has 20 years’ worth of experience studying yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic medicine. He wrote about this dual perspective in his book, “The Business Casual Yogi,” and applies it daily. He coaches executives in attaining balance, clarity, and success.
Chatterji pursued with great interest the Blue Zones Project, a national initiative run locally by the Beach Cities Health District that focused on changing the built environment — infrastructure, policy, and programs — to support healthier, more connected, happier communities. He Also became interested in how the health district operated and spent its money.
In 2016, Chatterji ran for the Beach Cities Health District’s board because, he said, he wanted to contribute his skill set to an organization he believed was poised to continue making a difference. He lost but was unanimously appointed the following year when a seat opened up. He ran again in the 2018 election and won.
Chatterji advocates term limits. He believes that as a fairly new board member, he can be more critical than long-standing incumbents.
He said he has focused on analyzing the way the health district spends its money. He began by asking questions about the quality and size of the staff. He also had questions about the proposed Healthy Living Campus, which has been the subject of robust controversy.
“I like things to move forward but my questions ended up delaying the project by a year,” he said. “I carry the weight of that, but I think it was the right thing to do. We went back to the numbers, got the analysis. I now feel satisfied that we have come to a concept that makes sense, that takes into account all the community meetings, all the talk in the papers and on social media — we’ve taken in that input and we have a really well-developed, well thought-out proposed plan.”
Chatterji has three children who attend elementary and middle school in Redondo Beach. He said he feels passionately about elevating youth, and recalls vividly the time a young volunteer said at a board meeting: “You, as adults, may have the data and the knowledge, but we’re not going to listen to you. We’re going to listen to each other.”
“That was a big turning point for me,” he said. “We have to get the youth involved to help one another understand mental health, substance abuse, suicide. It’s got to come from them.”
He said he also understands dealing with end-of-life issues, having cared for two parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Though his father was able to age at home, his mother lived with Chatterji and his young family until her care became too difficult and expensive; after six months on the waiting list, his mother made it into Silverado, the memory-care facility at the health district’s campus. Chatterji sees the facility, and the entire infrastructure of the BCHD, as a rare asset.
“I think one of the misunderstandings is how Beach Cities Health District operates, why do we have one, why do we need one, and I believe if we didn’t have a health district we’d get lost in the budget line items in L.A. County Department of Health,” he said. “Our local health district tackles the questions: what are our needs, what are the issues locally? We run the surveys with Gallup and find the data to determine the key issues. We then make sure the dollars get put toward those programs that most improve the quality of life for residents.”
At a public strategic planning meeting this year, it became clearer to him that people do value and make use of the health district. The board asked viewers to answer a question: Would you like to see our programs expanded? More than 98 percent voted yes.
“That was a big wake-up call for me,” Chatterji said. “I think the need is quite clear. BCHD is a beloved asset, a beloved jewel of our community, and my job as a board member is to be a steward of that jewel.” ER