Let’s Design A Healthier Los Angeles with Mayor Eric Garcetti
By Will Wright
August 4, 2017

As Eric Garcetti begins his second term as the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, the AIA|LA has an opportunity to provide design and leadership resources to help advance his key initiatives.  With the Olympics upcoming in 2028, we share the Mayor's genuine commitment to make Los Angeles the healthiest city in the United States.  

Youth Sports are anticipated to get an $160 million dollar infusion as early as next year.  Investments are currently being driven towards stadiums, swimming pools and other facilities that promote and/or showcase physical activity.  Funds from Measure A will provide us with more parks and a cleaner watershed.  Funds from Measure M will be directed towards more active transportation projects and a more comprehensive transit system.  Streets are being reconfigured to be cooler, safer, more inclusive and more multi-modal.

All of this is a gigantic step forward in the right direction.  But still - the healthiest city in the USA?!  How do we truly achieve that?  How do we become the healthiest city when so many of our most vulnerable residents are living on the streets?  Can we even afford to be healthy when the cost of housing is sky-high? How do we transform our physical, mental and emotional selves - especially with a chaotic federal government that is vexing us to the core?  What are the exact steps we need to take to become a healthier city and how do we design a healthier and less stressful built environment?

In Defense of Beauty

Often I hear many people who are critical about prioritizing something so ephemeral and subjective as beauty.  We simply have too many other challenges, right?  Well, perhaps those other societal and political challenges could be solved (or at lease ameliorated) with the multi-benefits of designing, building and maintaining a more beautiful city.

Let’s focus on simple, achievable ways to deliver a beautiful city:  living, breathing, authentic and innovative, high-performance architecture that is built to last, dense tree canopy, green infrastructure, natural and passive utility systems, safer sidewalks and urban hiking trails, cool and climate-pleasant streets, civic plazas that uplift the human spirit, and a junk-free public realm with a visual bandwidth uncluttered with ratty signage and a clumsy array of street poles and plastic bollards.  Let’s dignify our public realm with shade and amenities like benches and chairs and swing sets and climbing gyms.

Let’s invest in healthier public realm so that our built environment becomes less stressful and resplendent with natural habitat, verdant ecosystems and clean watersheds.

The General Plan 2040 update and the revamped community planning process provide two critical avenues for design thinkers to help drive the narrative forward for a future LA that is more beautiful, equitable and inclusive.


For the past six months, we’ve been working with the Mayor's office on the Building Forward LA initiative.  In the spirit of building a more resilient Los Angeles, Building Forward LA serves as an open forum to explore opportunities to ‘futurize’ policies and processes that impact how we design and build our city.  This effort is meant to complement the city’s ongoing Resilience by Design initiative, as well.  After completing five workshops with 250+ people involved, the coalition of partnering organizations will next develop a framework of recommendations for additional feedback and consideration. We anticipate to have the draft set of recommendations ready for review by mid-to-late September.


On Friday, July 14th, Mayor Garcetti shared his key-note speech at our second annual Design For Dignity conference, which was at the historic McCarty Memorial Church in West Adams.  That venue served as the perfect backdrop for the Mayor to share more details about his “Days of Compassion” initiative, which encourages more faith-based organizations and community groups to partner with the City more deeply with care and compassion for the homeless.  As listed on the Mayor’s website, Days of Compassion has for four prime tenets:  To become a hospitality hub and to serve as a safe space for supportive services that restore the dignity of our homeless neighbors with showers, laundry and other friendly amenities; to optimize land as affordable housing opportunity sites (transforming parking lots, etc); to serve as a housing resource matchmaker (lending your time, ideas and expertise); and to host more conversations and educational opportunities to engage directly with our homeless Angelenos.

AIA|LA encourages its members to become a Housing Resource Matchmaker and register on the Mayor’s website if you’d like to be involved as a direct resource.


On Monday, July 17th, we featured Mayor Garcetti at our City Leaders Breakfast Reception.   In a room full of architects and designers, the conversation with the Mayor focused mostly on developing a smart, cohesive vision for the future of Los Angeles.  

We also talked about how to best elevate the role of the AIA|LA to help with design guidance and as a leadership resource as we get ready for the Olympics in 2028.  As a professional organization of 4000+ architects and designs, I believe we are in the unique position to guide and direct the investments we will need to make in effort to host the Olympics with a greater emphasis on the priority of a healthier and more beautiful city.

One idea I asked the Mayor to consider is whether or not he would convene another Mayor’s Design Advisory Panel.  Mayor Tom Bradley initiated a design advisory panel in 1987 and Mayor Villaraigosa had a design advisory panel that was helping the Cultural Affairs Commission.  But it is unclear if the City has been able to effectively utilize this leadership resource in the past and therefore, moving forward we should implement best-practices for how to integrate the input and advice of a panel of design-thinkers.

Recently, the Mayor of London established the Good Growth by Design program and appointed fifty architects and designers to help create a more "socially and economically inclusive" and environmentally sustainable city through its buildings and infrastructure.

I think such a panel of design-thinkers will be essential as we ready ourselves for the Olympics in 2028 and I welcome anyone else that believes in the same to further connect with me so that we can further advocate for its successful implementation.

Now is the time!

Last updated: 07-Aug-2017 10:24 AM
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