Measure S and the Future of Los Angeles
Craig E. Hodgetts, FAIA - 2006 AIA|LA Gold Medal
In the debate over measure “s” it is important to recognize what is at stake. Los Angeles is one of the world’s most dynamic cities with an opportunistic economy that has created vast rewards for not just LA, but for the U.S.A. itself. With a business economy that ranges from garage start-ups to corporate giants, the flexibility and rapid adaptations to suit entrepreneurs and visionaries is a unique asset that enables a rock band, an automotive start-up, and a donut chain to find a place in the city that is “just right”. This kind of growth is not predictable, much less controllable, and is famously disruptive to conventional wisdom. Straight-outa Compton, Tesla, and countless other home grown success stories require the freedom to grow and experiment rather than being forced to go elsewhere because of restrictive codes or zoning restrictions.
Its easy to bemoan the impact of the developments which grow in response, especially if they create inconvenient travel, overcrowded restaurants, or long lines at the supermarket, but these are the signs of success, and the dues we pay as citizens of a great city for the incredible quality and variety of life-styles, cuisine, and cultural resources.
Like it or not, the supple interpretations of zoning are an important part of that picture. Projects envisioned by present-day developers are researched carefully, sometimes for many years, before they are implemented. That research, in every conceivable area, reaches far beyond the resources of government entities as developers and their architects seek to ensure that a project will be successful. No developer wants to invest willy-nilly in a project that may fail, much less becomes a drain on their pocketbook.
That process, in its own way, is a self-imposed limit on development over-reach. To a large degree it supplants traditional city-planning with a dynamic, responsive system of checks and balances, including community input, which seem to fit productively into the existing matrix of shops, offices, drive-thrus and houses which make up our city.
To some, maintaining the status quo over-rides the rambunctious, restless qualities that have made Los Angeles such a success story. To them, the stress of merging with an ever-growing stream of traffic, or waiting on a help line when their computer has died signal the terminal throes of an ailing environment. To others these are the growing pains of a city still very much on the move.
The truth is, that should measure “s” become law, the growth in the Los Angeles region, as a whole will continue unabated. The forces which drive it are simply too powerful to shut down altogether, so that, like water, development will simply flow into the many communities, like Burbank and Glendale and Pasadena and (yes) Compton and Inglewood and Culver City and Beverly Hills and Industry and Van Nuys which are embedded in Los Angeles County. These cities will continue to flourish, to attract talent and investment, and to fund their schools and infrastructure as a result.
The city of Los Angeles should not encourage this to happen. The city needs every advantage it can get to retain its global leadership, and should not cave in to narrow, self-serving interests that favor the status quo."
As you may already know, Measure S is on the ballot on March 7th and it is an issue that deeply effects the future of the City of Los Angeles, the built environment and the architecture profession.
AIA|LA reached out several AIA|LA Past-Presidents and Gold Medalists to share their individual thoughts. We will be sharing those thoughts over the course of the next few weeks.
The AIA|LA Board of Director’s voted to oppose Measure S in January 2016 back when it was referred to as the 'Neighborhood Integrity Initiative'. The Board voted to re-iterate that opposition at the January 2017 board meeting and instructed staff to communicate that opposition in a constructive manner and to elevate the architect’s role as the bridge builder between developers who are investing rapidly in the transformation of Los Angeles and communities who may feel uncomfortable with the intensity of our current development boom.
Yes, the AIA|LA opposes Measure S - but we also want to share with the public our pro-active ideas for how we can ensure Los Angeles evolves as a more beautiful, equitable and prosperous place and yet preserves its authentic character. For well over the past twelve years, we’ve been strong advocates encouraging City Council to invest more robustly in an inclusive community outreach process to update community plans. However, that investment has never occurred at the scale we’d like to see - hence the community backlash that is manifested in the Measure S initiative.
We’ve noticed how divisive Measure S has become between professionals (architects, developers, city planners) and the community-at-large. Therefore, rather than inflame that division, we’d like to deliver a carefully crafted article that captures the voices of a diverse set of design professionals and offer that blended perspective as a bridge that connects the two camps so that we can underscore the role of the architect to serve clients AND communities with a thoughtful approach to inclusive community outreach.
To read the Measure S initiative in its entirety, please CLICK HERE
Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs,
American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles Chapter
3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 800
Los Angeles, CA 90010
tel: (213) 639-0764