AIA|LA Government & Public Affairs Report
From the desk of Will Wright - November 4, 2017

(Following items are excerpted from Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA’s report to the AIA|LA Board of Directors)


Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), President pro Tempore of the California State Senate.

The five key take aways from this important connection with State Senator de León:

1.  He needs architects to help tell the story to neighbors about why we need more housing.
2.  He is undecided about the Cadiz Water project and could be influenced in either direction.
3. He clarified the myth behind the Sanctuary State bill he authored, and explained that it was meant to send a strong message to Washington DC that California values immigrants.
4. That architects will play a key role for our state to reach our 50% renewable energy goals by 2030.
5.  As he campaigns for US Senate, there is an opportunity for other emerging leaders to serve the State of California.  


We strongly support:
  • The reduced parking requirements
  • The floor area exemption for areas used for supportive services
  • The Concessions and Incentives ** (see proposed improvement below)
  • The design standards of facade transparency, landscaping, street orientation and building articulation — these standards will promote scale, visual interest, pedestrian orientation, and are clear and easy to follow but with enough room for design freedom 
Ideally, there this ordinance will also create a specialized interdisciplinary team within Building and Safety that would also prioritize these projects, and help develop solutions to common issues with PSH, in particular plumbing and supplementary drains — the PSH population has known issues with stopping up drains and/or tampering with sprinkler heads, and the approach to ADA allowances.

In addition, we have a few questions that we’d like to receive further clarification on:

1. RE: requirement for at least 50% of units occupied by PSH target population:
-How realistic is it to providers that 50% of their tenants who do not require services would be housed in the same facility as those requiring support?  
-We want to advocate that this ordinance also apply to all 100% affordable projects (not just those with services?) We should be promoting affordable housing for all populations.

(e) Concessions or Incentives (p.5)
Menu of 9 incentives of which a project may use up to 4.
**AIA | LA encourages DCP to adopt policies that all 9 of these be allowed, not limited to 4. 
Especially since some of these are redundant — 1) Yard/Setback, 2) Lot Coverage, and 5) Open Space may potentially all be fulfilled by one design move, and then you may be only able to use 1 more.

item 4) Allowable height increase "to a maximum of 11 ft or one additional story, whichever is lower." Is 11 ft enough?

(g) Performance Standards (p.7)
Most of the performance standards seem reasonable, however:

p. 9, item 11)Historic Resources. “Qualified PSH shall not involve a historical resource” — an example to look at is KEA’s successful 28th Street project for Clifford Beers Housing, which is an adaptive reuse of Paul R. Williams’ 1920s YMCA.  Why exclude this type of project from qualification? Because it might take longer than a year for processing? Are there elements from this streamlining ordinance that could be developed for historic resources?

p. 7, item 4)Facade Transparency: 25% of street facing walls between 2 and 8 feet shall be transparent. This seems reasonable, but I’d just want to check with others whether this would present any problems for PSH projects.  


We met with the LA County Arts Commission to share critical feedback on their Civic Art Requirement Ordinance proposal, which is a directive from a March 2017  motion issued by Supervisor Hilda Solis.

Three main objectives of the meeting:
  • Find the right narrative to support this ordinance:  
  • How can we connect the benefits of this beyond aesthetics. (Some) developers are not seeing this as response to a fundamental need e.g., support transit tax = direct benefit to community because it solves a problem. If we want this to resonate beyond the view that this is a requirement for a superficial and secondary need, we need to improve the narrative.
  • Consider an idea to build on that could potentially be included as another compliance option in the Civic Art Requirement Ordinance report.
  • My research shows that most private developer art requirements have two compliance options: onsite art and an in-lieu fee. The Arts Commission is proposing an on-or-off site cultural facility as the 3rd option. While we don’t think this will be utilized in the very near future, we want to keep it there nonetheless for developers to consider future projects as it would be a beneficial asset to the communities they serve. 
  • The fourth idea should cost less than $50K per project and show ROI (please refer to Option 3 in the attachment under artistic and cultural services for examples). 
  • To receive input of experience for those who have been involved in projects under this requirement.

As a result of the meeting, primary questions:

1.  Is there any opportunity to expand the scope of the ordinance beyond the confines of unincorporated County to apply to also apply to all cities that contract services with the County and do not yet already have an arts fee?

2.  Are there any incentives that the County can provide to help provide greater clarity to the entitlement process and/or provide additional floor-area-ratio to projects subject to the arts fee?  Or is it possible to sale the fee so that as you pay a higher % threshold to the fee that you in turn would earn a higher % threshold in FAR? That is, 1% arts fee = X FAR, 2% arts fee = X + 2%X, etc??

Michael Pinto, AIA also shared the recommendation that by having the extra layer of approval for the art project itself, that the County would need to make sure to equip itself with the resources needed to review and approve in a timely manner.

The consensus of the working group was the recommendation that the artist needed to be engaged as early as possible in the project to optimize the arts integration in to the existing needs and infrastructure of the project’s development.  To integrate the art component into all that which is already being built for the project, such as landscape, glass, facade, etc.

There was also the recommendation to the County Arts Commission to create a performance metric for the art and to encourage that the art integrates an environmental or natural component - so that art and nature could create islands of survivalaibity - ecosystems, ecological fabric, natural corridors.

The Los Angeles Department of City Planning released the new guidelines for Transit Oriented Communities, which will Implement Section 6 of Measure JJJ, approved by the voters in November 2016, and added to Los Angeles Municipal Code 12.22 A.31 for all Housing Developments located within a one-half mile radius of a Major Transit Stop. 

This was a progressive step forward and demonstrates the value of having the members of AIA|LA provide critical feedback early in the outreach process.

For more details on the TOC guideline, CLICK HERE and also see the attachment provided from PSOMAS.


In July of 2017, I was nominated to serve on METRO’s Sustainability Council to serve the a representative of the real estate and development community.  Anthony Bower of Gensler will also be serving on the council representing the real estate and development community.  The mission of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) Sustainability Council “Council” is to advise LA Metro regarding its sustainability-related activities and projects; and to continually improve sustainability efforts by developing targets, metrics, and strategies to assist LA Metro achieve stated sustainability program goals.

METRO 27 meeting notes

This sub-committee is charged with pressing the sustainability council to take a deep dive and to examine future-forward options for how METRO can progress to embrace the most innovative solutions by the year 2027 (just in time for the Olympics!)
  • Innovation/ Future Forward/ cutting-edge
  • Emerging Trends
  • Best-practices of what other cities are doing.
  • A list of recommendations of innovations
  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Transportation
  • Urban planning
  • Materials
  • Social/ urban issues
  • The space to be visionary
  • By the year 2027: Every bus stop should have a shade structure with a P/V


A month or so back  called to interview me about Venice Beach-based architect David Hertz, FAIA.  His article can be found here.

On behalf of the Los Angeles chapter of The American Institute of Architects, I shared SUPPORT for the Process and Procedures Amendment Ordinance.

I encouraged The Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP), as part of the larger narrative of this effort (and to gain wider support for this ordinance) to measure the time savings and the cost savings that DCP will benefit from, as well as, the time and cost saving that the private sector will receive once this ordinance is implemented.  

A smart analysis of the time and cost savings (and carbon/ resource-management savings) will help underscore the vital importance of clarifying and streamlining the entitlement procedures so that more resources, time and money can be dedicated to ensuring that the project is well-designed with high environmental performance, contributes to the community and uplifts the human spirit of the neighborhood.

With regards to potential cap-and-trade credits, I encouraged DCP to measure the carbon footprint of the current process and to analyze the net reduction in that overall carbon footprint once the new, streamlined process is put in place for approvals.  

If we can begin to measure the sustainability benefits of smart policy, we can then begin to pay for the administration of those smart policies with carbon credits, etc.

Lastly, I’d shared support for an Alternative Compliance process, which will enable an applicant to request relief from a development standard if an alternative standard is consistent with the ‘intent’ of he original standard.

DESIGN FOR DIGNITY:  Task Force Meeting #4

In October we met with Pete White to discuss our goal to design more homes for those most in need.  He is the Executive Director and Founder, Los Angeles Community Action Network

Community organizing (voter engagement).    Integrative voter engagement.
Community Improvement.
Community Service.  (Legal services).  Legal clinic.  Evictions.  
Lack of fresh, organic produce.  E-roots, purchase pennies on the dollar.  Pop up markets. 1st year, moved 3 tons of fresh produce.  Micro enterprise.  
LA Can Justice and Wellness Center.  Ricahrd Berliner.  
Maya Angeleno quote.  Nothing of note in history was ever accomplished by just one person. 
LA - never enough general fund $$$ for housing.
Houselessness.    HOUSING
Permanent supportive housing 
Stop criminalizing
87 of 100 was spent on policing!
More challenging to implement the policies measure H and Measure HHH.
9000 unused parcel in buildings in Los Angeles.  Shy of being transparent.  We are looking for list and address??!
UCLA Dr. Kelly H. - million blocks project.  Arrest of homeless black people up 49%.  

Why does it cost so much to build a unit of housing??
Gio = Abode Communities
$500K today
$350 sq ft for small.  BIG projects might get down to $175 sq ft.
$250 for construction
Soft cost
$400K a year ago.
$200 sq ft.
Keep costs down // lower regulations.
Tax credits:  For each $$$ granted, responding to each set of rules.  
Measure H - gap financing??
HHH - HCID new set of rules, special needs.  
Building Trades walking away from projects.  HCID making us change our windows, high hit on the window.  Contractor, calm down the trades so they don’t leave.  Time is a big factor.  
Everyone is competing for the same piece of land.  
Prevailing wage = 15% increase.  
# of homeless people per bed available (shelter).  1 to 1, NYC, 2 to 1, Seattle.  4 or 5 to 1 in LA.  ??????
Where are the opportunities to create temporary facilities??
The political process v. Regulatory process.  Overlap, yet distinct challenges.
The Golden Hotel - Temple City.  Housing Element.  A proposal by LA County to convert a derelict hotel into a temporary transitional housing project.  Residents of Temple City opposed.  Convinced City Council to convince the Supervisor not to pursue.  
Hidden homelessness.  Community organizing non-profit working with Faith-based institutions.  Win LA.  A consolidation of organizations.  Parish’s, congregations, unions, to build relationships with the people of the community.  

Modular homes.  Moveable.  Containers.
End goal - the result =  To influence the decision makers.
Small budget, big idea.  $200K per unit solution.  $30K per unit solution
House keys, not hand cuffs.  
"People like having a key."  

Temporary Solutions.
Tent city.  
Temporary structures.  Inflatable structures.  Easy ground.  
Oakland = Tuff Sheds!  
Something that is mobile.  That provides showers, medical facilities.  
Drinking fountains.  
Shade structures.  
Pop-up food markets.
Bricks and mortar takes too long.  We need mobile public health amenities.  
MAPPING - the dirty divide.  Walk the entire 50 sq block of DTLA.  Restrooms, trash cans and their conditions.

Public Health Infrastructure.  The dirty divide.
East if Main.  V. West of Main St.
Water, restrooms, a bit of humanity.  
Operation Healthy Streets = operation healthy sweeps.  
Bringing Back Broad - TFAR money.  

Ralph Mercuer -
As architects, we want to diesign the end result.  So….
Workshop idea?  TO partner with non-profits and ask them what they’d like to see, then we can design it.
Partner with the array of social service providers.

Research & Cognizance:
What are the obstacles to building 100% affordable housing more quickly?   Regulatory barriers litigious vulvernabilties, etc.…community opposition.
Speed traps = regulatory hurdles.  

Comment period open for the Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance.
Motel conversion ordinance.
ADU ordinance. 

New slew of state housing bills that just passed.

Common themes:
  • Lengthy approvals process.
  • Community Opposition. - a speakers bureau.  
  • Plan check and LADBS lack of coordination.  Specialized, inter-disciplinary team for interpretation housing clasificaliotons issues, etc.  (hospitality group).
  • Funding streams.  
PSH ordinance - approvals time down to less than 1 year.  More by-right so you don’t have to go through discretionary review.  
Reduction in parking.  

Community Outreach.  

Education and collaboration.  Appeasing the fear of development.  “There goes the neighborhood.”  About how density can be good for the community.  
Strong process of listening, responding to the issue.  Reflecting back.  Consensus building process.

Visualization // MAPPING 
A visual document that clearly explains what all of these resources mean.  
 Integrative voter engagement.


Key word is ‘ownership.
The need for architecture standards for what temporary housing solutions can look like.
Myth that people chose to be houseless.  That is bullshit.
Myth that people are moving her to be homeless.  No, real story - lost home to gentrification.  Stayed in community.  Moved to the river bed……
Where did you live?  What was your address???  People are staying in their neighborhoods??
Right now if there was ever a time to have some leverage on this political process…..
We need good news.  
We need innovation.

Noel - SECTION 8 - outreach to landlords to encourage them to accept section 8 vouchers.  

To understand the process, benefits of accepting Section 8

Last updated: 10-Nov-2017 09:48 AM
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