Advocacy Updates from AIA|LA - January 30, 2018

These ongoing updates are here to inform the architecture & design community and AIA members about policies and issues that impact the built and natural environment of the Los Angeles region. Posted on an as-needed basis, the AIA|LA Advocacy Updates will communicate the status of regional and citywide measures, share actions taken by the chapter staff and AIA|LA Board of Directors, as well as, serve as a forum to advance membership engagement.

From the desk of Will Wright - January 30, 2018


As of January 2018, on behalf of AIA Los Angeles, I’ve been appointed to serve as Co-Chair of the CEQA Committee for the Los Angeles County Business Federation.  As a co-chair, I will be joining environmental & land-use attorney Jennifer Hernandez (Holland & Knight LLP) and economic development & real-estate expert Larry Kosmont (Kosmont Companies) in this endeavor.  

So for 2018, my task will be to do a better job updating the AIA Los Angeles membership about ever-evolving changes and reforms The State of California will be making to California Environmental Equality Act (CEQA)  with the aim to streamline urban infill and provide greater clarity and certainty to the development of projects near transit.  Ideally, these reforms would mean that less money, time and human resources would go into the legal entanglements of developing buildings and instead enable for that money, time and human resources to be spent on making the buildings more functional, more beautiful and with higher performance.

The State of California Natural Resource Agency recently released their draft guidelines and is seeking public comment on the proposed update to the Environmental Review Process.  Written comments are due by March 15 (5pm) = email: & copy

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is hosting a public hearing in Los Angeles on March 14 (1:30 - 4:30pm) at The California Science Center, Annenberg Building, Muses Room - 700 Exposition Park Dr., Los Angeles 

Examples of some of the proposed changes include:

  • Updated exemptions for residential and mixed-use developments near transit and redeveloping vacant buildings.
  • New provisions to address energy efficiency and water supply.
  • Clarifications to rules allowing for later projects to use existing environmental documents.
  • Modified provisions reflecting recent CEQA cases addressing baseline, mitigation requirements and GhG emissions.

The proposed changes also address some of the complications and interpretations to the provisions that were meant to help implement SB 743 (Steinberg), which aims to simplify the analysis of a project’s transportation impacts by focusing on Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) rather than Level Of Service (LOS).  However, there is a lot of consternation that SB 734 implementation is creating additional snags and burdens that may make some projects more litigiously vulnerable than they need to be.

In my opinion, when you are building a project in an urban-infill setting, VMT and LOS are mute-points and projects near transit need to be exempt from these considerations and the expensive, complicated analysis that such measuring requires.  Of course, I’m not a land-use attorney nor an architect - so I look forward to learning more about the potential benefits and unintended burdens imposed by these new provisions.  

If you are an architect passionate about CEQA, then please connect with me so that we can dive deeper into the impact that these updates will have on the design of our city.


Are you interested in helping to shape the 2018 AIA|LA advocacy platform? Then please make plans to attend our upcoming Political Outreach Committee meeting.

AIA|LA Political Outreach Committee 
Tuesday, February 20 (6pm - 8pm)
724 South Spring Street
Suite 1002
Los Angeles, California 90014


POC Leadership:
2018 Chair = Douglas Hanson, AIA, ASID - President, Hanson LA
Past-Chair = D. Rocky Rockefeller, AIA - Senior Partner, Rockefeller Partners Architects
Vice-Chair/ Chair-elect = to be determined

We are working with Tom Rothmann from the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to organize a roundtable discussion on the proposed  Process and Procedures Amendment Ordinance.  

Presented by:  Tom Rothmann - Principal City Planner, Los Angeles Department of City Planning
Friday, February 23 (12:00pm - 1:30pm)
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St., Room 501
Los Angeles, CA. 90012

BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH. You can order take-out from Home Boy Cafe on the 2nd Floor of City Hall.


Please review the draft ordinance in advance.  CLICK HERE to read the ordinance.

The objectives of this roundtable will be to allow AIA members to share critical and constructive feedback and ideas on how to improved the draft ordinance.  The proposed ordinance will cut in half the number of project review processes for gaining entitlements and permits for development projects across the city.  It will streamline and clarify the process and consolidate the decision-making pathway for how the City reviews development project proposals, etc.  The proposed changes will enable a more consistent standard of review and help safe the City and the project applicant time and money.

Tom RothmannPrincipal City Planner, Los Angeles Department of City Planning
Tom has worked at the Los Angeles Department of City Planning since 1999 and is currently the Principal City Planner for the comprehensive Zoning Code rewrite project – re:code LA.  In addition to re:code LA, Tom supervises the Code Studies Section and has drafted citywide zoning ordinances on a variety of topics including mixed-use zoning, affordable housing, urban farming, development reform, murals, and parking. 

TAX INCENTIVES Available For Architects

On Wednesday, January 17 (6pm) the managing director of Welsh Advisors, Steve Ho, shared with attendees more details about three important tax credits available to architecture & design firms.
  • Training Grants:  The Claifornia Employment Training Panel (ETP) provides funding to employers to assist in upgrading the skills of their workers through. Up to $26 a hour can be reimbursed to the employer.
  • Research & Development Tax Credits:  Certain qualified wages, supplies and contracted services can amount up to a 13% tax credit.   There is a 4-part test to see what specific activity qualifies as research & development.
  • California Competes Tax Credit:  The California Competes Tax Credit is an income tax credit available to businesses who want to come, stay, or grow in California.  Credits are allocated when business create additional positions or make an increase in capital investments from the year before.  There is also a carve-out for small business making less than $2.5million a year in gross receipts.
Overall Impressions: 
There are many essential tax credits and benefits that many architecture firms may not know enough about.  With the guidance of an advisor, or even just taking the time to do a little extra research, architecture firms in California can save thousands of dollars  a year in tax liabilities.  Also, by off-setting the expenses of professional development and employee training, architecture firms are better able to attract and retain top quality hires.


AIA|LA defers to AIA California Council on all legislative issues related the California legislature and we defer to AIA National on all federal legislation.  However, in effort to serve the local membership I do track State and Federal matters and find ways to further support AIACC and AIA National with additional resources and direct input from local AIA members.

SB 827 - Senator Wiener.  If adopted, SB 827 would mandate denser & calling zoning near transit by creating density and height zoning minimums near transit (within half-mile of a high-connectivity transit hubs).
SB 831 - Senator Bob Wieckowski. If adopted, SB 831 may help Californians build accessory dwelling units by lowering the costs of fees and streamlining regulations.

For more information please contact AIA|LA Director of Government & Public Affairs: Will Wright.
Last updated: 30-Jan-2018 02:07 PM
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