from the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA


As part three of our ongoing leadership lunch meetings with USGBC-LA and the The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC), we discussed ideas for how the AIA|LA can partner more often on multidisciplinary efforts to further connect the three organizations.  One of the prime concerns I emphasized was the need for the A/E/C industry to tell a better story about its collective social and economic impact on the Southern California region.  Consensus was reached that such a narrative would be invaluable and that we could potentially join forces to advocate for the area university and foundations to apply resources to research and quantify this impact.  SEAOSC leadership volunteered to take the lead on framing a draft letter that will allow for AIA and USGBC input.

As more details emerge on this nascent effort, I will keep you updated.

PLANNING AND LAND-USE MANAGEMENT Committee, Los Angeles City Council

On Tuesday, June 6th, I attended the PLUM hearing and shared input to Councilmember Huizar, Harris-Dawson, Cedillo, Englander and Price about the questions and concerns I had about the proposed citywide Affordable Housing Linkage Fee (AHLF) = Council File # 17-0274

The AHLF will levy a fee on all applicable development at the following rates:

Types of Use Price per square foot
  • Non-residential uses (including hotels) $5.00
  • Residential Uses (6 or more units in a development project) $12.00
  • Residential Uses (5 or less units in a development project) $1.00
Although I commend the leadership of the Department of City Planning on drafting such an instrumental ordinance and remain encouraged by their willingness to involve the architecture community early and often in the shaping of policies that will greatly impact the built environment of the city, I still have a few outstanding questions and concerns about the specifics of the ordinance.

The AIA|LA takes our region’s housing crisis seriously and we whole-heartedly agree that we need to allocate revenue streams to fund more affordable housing citywide.

I encourage City Council to form a task-force of stakeholders and to work with AIA|LA to identify best-practices in generating dedicated revenue streams for affordable housing.  We also want to work with City Council to develop strategies to enable the private sector to deliver to the market housing more efficiently and with better quality results that amplify the livability and heritage of our city.  We want to make sure that the AHLF actually achieves the intended results and generates more affordable housing instead of driving the overall cost of housing production to untenable levels.

FOR THE RECORD, I am seeking greater clarity on Section 21.18.2, the Applicability of the ordinance:

With exemption #2, if a housing development contains at least 40% affordable units for moderate income households, is the entire project exempt from paying the fee?  If yes, then excellent.  Or are only the 40% of the units exempt from paying the fee - with the other 60% of the units liable to pay the fee?  I am seeking confirmation since I’ve heard two different interpretations.

The language as drafted in the ordinance reads as:

"Any for-sale or rental housing development containing restricted affordable units where at least 40% of the total units or guest rooms are dedicated for moderate income households, or at least 20% of the total units or guest rooms are dedicated for low income households, or at least 11% of the total units or guest rooms are dedicated for very low income households, or at least 8% of the total units or guest rooms are dedicated for extremely low income households, for at least 55 years, where covenant has been made with the Housing and Community Investment Department. Such covenant shall also ensure that projects using this exemption are subject to the replacement policy found in Government Code Section 65915(c)(3). For the purposes of this section, total units includes units added by a density bonus or other land use incentive." 

Also, with exemption #3, I encourage City Council to include "partially funded” in addition to ‘being constructed by, or on behalf of, a government or public institution.

Lastly, I seek greater clarify on how the production of housing in general exacerbates the need and increases the demand for affordable housing.  That nexus is not immediately obvious and may lend itself to gross misinterpretation.  While I am supportive of equitable, reasonable fees that are allocated smartly, we want to make sure that the narrative to support these proposed fees are more widely-understood.

In fact, there may be legal vulnerabilities with that nexus of these fees due to the fact that you are allocating a fee of $12 per square foot for residential projects of six or more units, while only allocating a fee of $1 per square foot for projects of five or less units. What justifies the difference?  

That differential may create inequities in the market that are not legally defensible to the validity of this perceived nexus and creates confusion, in essence, on how housing production in general increases the demand for affordable housing when, on the contrary, it seems that adding to the supply of housing will actually relieve market pressures, and therefore, increase housing affordability overall.

I look forward to further engaging the architecture profession and civic leaders on these matters and working together to identify sustainable and lasting solutions to achieve greater housing affordability region-wide.

More on the AHLF can be found here.

URBAN DESIGN REVIEW, Los Angeles City Hall

After 28 years, Simon Pastucha is retiring from the Department of City Planning.  He and his husband will be moving to Montepulciano in Tuscany, Italy later this year.  Last year, the AIA|LA recognized Simon as a Presidential Honoree with the Design Advocate of the Year Award at the annual AIA|LA Design Awards party.

With Simon moving on, it is vital that the AIA|LA continue to encourage DCP to invest in hiring more urban designers and to continue to support their urban design studio.

We currently coordinate two design review sessions per month at Los Angeles City Hall.  DCP’s Deputy Director Lisa Webber is hoping to work with AIA|LA and AIA San Fernando Valley to coordinate an additional urban design review session at the Van Nuy’s Civic Center to review projects proposed for the valley.

If you’re interested in getting more involved, please contact me at


Last updated: 12-Jun-2017 04:33 PM
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