April 19, 2018

Los Angeles City Attorney’s Blue-Ribbon Panel on School Safety

In the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Florida, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on March 5th that he was launching a school safety ‘blue-ribbon panel" to hold hearings throughout Los Angeles.  The panel of experts willl strategize ways to make our schools healthier and safer places, especially as it relates to preventing gun violence at our area campuses.   After hearing about the panel, Nancy Martinez from DLR Group reached out to me and encouraged that I make direct contact with the City Attorney’s office and encourage them to consider adding the expertise and perspective of architects to the panel.   Essentially, the expertise of an architect as it relates to school design is integral to the conversation to ensure we are making genuine progress for safer schools.

We are delighted to say that the City Attorney’s office was exceptionally open to the idea and encouraged AIA|LA to submit names for their consideration.  From the names provided, the City Attorney’s office selected Michael Pinto, AIA from NAC Architecture.

"It’s such a conundrum. We want our kids to be safe at school. At the same time, school is a place for learning and is a center of community. Student success is enhanced by access to natural light, visual connection between classrooms, engagement of parents and community members. I think it’s important that as architects, we leverage our experience and expertise in this type of critical discussion. It’s likely that changes are ahead that will transform the nature of schools and school buildings.

  It seems that we are in a period of rapid social and cultural change. As architects or as citizens, we all need to find our way into the discussion and help shape our future. This topic jumps out as one that really intersects design, education, and public space. I can’t predict the testimony that we’ll hear, but I value the opportunity to develop agency with Angelenos, all interested in doing right by children in the city." - Michael Pinto, AIA – NAC Architecture

Permanent Supportive Housing
The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance finally passed!  On Wednesday, April 11th, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the PSH Ordinance, which will help to facilitate the design and construction of more affordable housing for those who are most in need of permanent shelter.

The Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance amends the Los Angeles Municipal Code and affects all parcels zoned for multi-family residential in High Quality Transit Areas, as well as, some parcels zoned for Public Facilities.  It also establishes regulations that define PSH and project eligibility criteria and establishes unique development standards.  The PSH will also facilitate administrative review and modify certain regulations related to height and density, setbacks, transitional height and parking requirements.  Essentially, it makes it easier and less costly to build permanent supportive housing for those who need urgently need a place to call home.

LAX Automated People-Mover

On Wednesday, April 11th Los Angeles City Council approved the contract for the LAX Automated People-Mover Train to move forward, which will connect the airport terminals to the METRO Crenshaw Line, a ground transportation hub and a car rental facility.

The winning  bid at $4.895 billion will fund the design, construction, operations and maintenance of the system for twenty-five years. 

LAX Integrated Express Solutions (LINXS) is a giant joint-venture comprised of  Fluor, Balfour Beatty, Dragados USA, Flatiron, and Bombardier Transportation amongst many others. and the architecture and design services of HDR and HNTB.  A a project delivery model, I will be following this rather closely to see if it serves as new paradigm for a best-practice for how to procure and deliver large-scale public infrastructures investments expeditiously and equitably.  The process has laudable goals of ensuring that 30% of the Design and Construction value ($580 million) goes to local, small and disabled-veteran owned businesses and at least $85 million of that dedicated to local businesses to ensure these expenditures stay within the regional economy.  

Laudable, yes - but is 30% enough?  Should we be aiming to achieve greater business inclusion?  Especially if, by ensuring greater business inclusion, we actually help to expedite the project by attracting smarter and more collaborative partnerships - partnerships that excel within a vibrant culture of diversity!

LINXS will also dedicate up to $600,000 in scholarships through local organizations.  I’d like to see those scholarships go towards encouraging LA’s disadvantaged youth to enter the architecture and engineering professions an expanding the pipeline of emerging professionals to broaden our reach into traditionally underserved neighborhoods.  

The automated people mover is expected to be fully operational by the year 2023.  

PROP 68 = #OURPARKS Greater Los Angeles

PROP 68 will be on the June 5th ballot.  If it passes, the general obligation bond will fund $4 Billion towards parks and natural clean water resources.  It will ensure over $140 million in direct investment in the LA area and sets aside at least up to $2Billion in competitive grant programs for the region.  The bond will dedicate funding towards ensuring those neighborhoods in the greatest need have more access to parks and open space.  It will also fund programs to protect our natural resources and to ensure healthier, cleaner watersheds.  

Although I do not know if AIACC has taken a formal position on PROP 68, we here at AIA Los Angeles are encouraging more architects and designers to further examine the prospective peacemaking and livability benefits the bond measure will have on our local communities.

Learn more about PROP 68 here.

What Do you Think About the Water Fix?

On April 10th the Metropolitan Water District's Board of Directors voted to approve a $10.8 Billion dollar expenditure plan to pay towards the $17 Billion two-tunnel project, that once built may continue to source Southern California with a freshwater supply. It’s more than MWD’s fair share, but their line of reasoning is that once the project is built that they may be able to sell some of the water rights back to the San Joaquin Valley.  Although I am personally in favor of bill, bold infrastructure investments, I’d also like to see an equal amount of urgency and financial resources applied to ensuring that when and if it does rain in Southern California that we’re doing all that we can as a region to capture the stormwater and recharge our local aquifers.  In my opinion, we need both systems to optimize the health, self-sufficiency and resilience of California as the 6th largest economy in the world.

Although I do not believe AIA California Council took a formal position on the WaterFix, I am curious to know what architects think of these larger infrastructure investments.  Is this a step in the right direction?  Or is it, once more, an example of engineering ourselves further away from a human-scale solution?

Speaking of Infrastructure, thanks to AB 2800 (Quirk), the Climate Safe Working Group has become quite active.  They’re hosting monthly webinars and workshops, which may serve of great interest to architecture and design professionals.  Architects Chet Widom, FAIA and James Deane AIA, CDT, LEED AP, PMP have been appointed to the working group, along with METRO’s Dr. Cris Liban, P.E., ENV SP.  AB 2800 requires state agencies to take in consideration current and future climate impacts when planning, designing constructing, operating and maintaining infrastructure.  The working group is charged with integrating scientific cliamte-impact data into design and engineering.

Is Local Control Today's Third Rail?

About a decade ago, it was CEQA reform.  For the past several years it was Prop 13 reform.  This year, what I am witnessing is more and more people (especially younger generations) questioning the sanctity and wisdom of local control.  Although I doubt many LA-area politicians will ever willingly give up their local land-use authority, I do welcome the debate and encourage more architects to enter into this highly-charged civic discourse.  

At present there are at least four statewide measures that aim to streamline the production of housing and expand our region’s capacity to build more homes.

SB 827, SB 828 (and AB 1771) and AB 831, in my opinion, are all prospective tools to ease an increase in housing supply throughout California.  For many who feel that the housing affordability crisis can be solved by adding supply to meet demand, then these four legislative ‘fixes’ are a welcome reprieve.  Still yet, others fear that these bills will wreck havoc on the character of our neighborhoods, tear-open the seams of our communities and stress out land values with speculative forces looking to maximize profits over people.  To both camps, I raise a hand of conciliation - and perhaps this is where the architect is needed more than ever = to broker these conversations and tell a more honest and compelling story about how we need a combination of “Yes and….” to solve our housing crisis.  

* SB 827 (Wiener) - Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus.
* SB 828 (Wiener) - Land use: housing element.
* AB 1771 (Bloom) - Planning and zoning: regional housing needs assessment.
* SB 831 (Wieckowski) - Land use: accessory dwelling units.

Just because you can build something doesn’t mean it’s going to get built.  Someone has to pay for it, first.  And if someone is going to pay for it, then there going to take a careful look to see if it makes financial sense to invest in that building.  Sure, there are a lot of un-wise, money-losing investors out there.  But I think the perseverance of our market forces is due to a more cautious approach.  If SB 827 passes, will every applicable parcel now be built-out to the max?  Of course not.  Perhaps a few here and there.  But for the most part you just have to look at these statewide initiatives as ‘conversation starters’.  The bolder the beginning of the conversation, the more it will bring us to gather - and it is only when we as neighbors talk to one another that we ever actually solve anything.  So yes, I welcome a challenge to local control because it is one of the most sure-fire ways of compelling us to all get off our rockers and being engaging in dialogue together about how we want our neighborhoods to evolve.  

When there is urgency at hand, we need to solve some of our immediate problems much faster - there is so much more at stake here that we need to find a dignified solution much more quickly than we ever did in the past.  Let’s solve our housing crisis immediately so that we can free up our collective Human Resources to start tacking challenges such as how to make our oceans healthy again so we can sustain life on this planet for generations to come.  If we can’t find a place for your neighbor to find rest, then how are we ever going to ensure that our children’s grandchildren’s great-grandchildren are going to have a healthy meal and a legacy of which to be proud.


The Unites States Department of Veteran Affairs recently announced that it will host a public hearing to launch a competitive selection process for a Principal Developer "to finance, design, construct, renovate, operate, and maintain the permanent supportive housing units”.  Utilizing an Enhanced-Use Lease Program (EUL) as the procurement and project deliver model, the VA hopes to renovate building 207 on the northern part of their campus into 900 units of supportive housing.  

The draft masterplan calls for 1600 housing units in total throughout its 387 acre campus.  I’m sure that number was carefully reached with the expertise of both HOK and Johnson Fain working different plans visa vis a rather complex stakeholder process.  But is 1600 enough?  Is there a way that we can outfit 387 acres with a design approach that will accommodate 3200 homeless veterans?  7500??  What is the sweet spot?  What is the most sustainable dwelling units per acre we should be striving for?  After all, housing our veterans is something that we should prioritize and it will always prove to be a challenge to find enough land in Southern California to accommodate our veterans with the dignity and the housing they deserve. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Enhanced-Use Lease Program:

HEARING DATE AND TIME: April 26, 2018 at 5:30 pm (PST) 
HEARING LOCATION: Main Hospital (Building 500), Room 1281 West Los Angeles Medical Center 11301 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90073

For more information, please contact:

Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs
American Institute of Architects/ Los Angeles Chapter
3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 701
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(o) (213) 639-0764
Last updated: 19-Apr-2018 02:38 PM
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