AIA|LA Government & Public Affairs Report
From the desk of Will Wright - March 13, 2018

March is Women’s History Month.  Sophia Hayden Bennett was the first woman to graduate with an architecture degree from MIT in 1890.  Marion Mahony Griffin graduated from MIT in 1894 and is one of the first licensed female architects in the world.

Table of Contents:

  1. City Attorney School Safety Panel
  2. 12 Take-aways = COTE conference 2 Degrees Celsius 
  3. AIA|LA City Leader Breakfast Series
  4. DESIGN FOR DIGNITY: Survey Project
  5. California Statewide initiatives
  6. DTLA 2040 and the design of the skyline - March 29
  7. SHAPING THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT OF TOMORROW:  Emerging Technologies  = April 3
  8. 5 Take-aways = AMY N. ANDERSON - Executive Director, PATH Ventures = Friday, February 23 (8am)
  9. RE:CODE LA =  Process and Procedures Amendment Ordinance
  10. 12 Take-Aways = BEST-PRACTICES for MID-SIZE Firms:  a roundtable discussion 
  11. AIA|LA Political Outreach Committee (4 Key Initiatives) = Design Access at Los Angeles City Hall & Department of City Planning Urban Design Studio 

Los Angeles City Attorney’s Blue-Ribbon Panel

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced last week that he was launching a school safety panel to hold hearings throughout Los Angeles. 
The blue-ribbon pane 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.  In response to this news, I reached out to the City Attorney’s office to encourage them to make certain toinvite an ARCHITECT to serve on the panel.  We shared several recommendations and will learn soon about which architect they will add 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.
As a list of resources, here is a list of several recent articles that speak directly to the role architects have to design safer school campuses:

AIA|LA Committee on the Environment:  2 Degrees Celsius Conference

On March 2nd, AIA|LA COTE organized a conference at LADWP.  I had the privilege to attend the event and to listen to the speakers and provide summary remarks at the end of the conference about the potential next-steps that resonated throughout the conference.  We have a tremendous opportunity to maintain the momentum and initiate real and meaningful action to address climate change.

ACTION ITEMS heard during the conference:

  1. Re-calibrate your role as an architect.  Broaden your scope of service, broaden your focus beyond just the performance of the building and expand your practice to solve problems at a larger scale as urbanists and city-makers.
  2. Communicate.  Tell better stories. Serve as the ‘honest broker”.
  3. Mobilize students to demand more sustainable buildings
  4. Look at the long-term, life-cycle cost approach.
  5. Design for the inevitability of disassembly and/or adaptive re-use and re-programmability of the space
  6. Upgrade our codes and standards immediately.
  7. Change our system of governance so that the new technologies become the first choice (not the 2nd) for implementation. 
  8. Work with Labor to ensure we are all on the same page = pre-wire homes to be solar-ready and install purple pipe.  Legislation becomes regulation, which becomes code.  
  9. Ride the bus.  Change your personal lifestyle to make more sustainable choices.  Small choices make a big collective impact.
  10. Offer solutions at a wide spectrum of scales - at both the micro-level and the macro-level, the small scale and the big scale.
  11. Expand the cost-benefit analysis to talk about the longer-term and the multiplier effect of the added-value on ROI (especially in relationship to the high cost of doing nothing).
  12. Break the silos.  Engage deeply in trans-disciplinary interaction.


For the first half of the year, we have the following ten breakfast receptions confirmed.  These receptions serve as forums to engage directly (and candidly) with civic leaders and to learn opportunities for how the AIA|LA can better serve as a leadership resource to help advance initiatives vital to the region.

As we prepare for our third annual “Design For Dignity” conference, I have coordinated an ongoing series of task force meetings to keep the ideas flowing as we work on advancing ideas for how to help solve our housing crisis.  In conversation with Helena Jubany, FAIA (and in light of the first anniversary of Measure H & Measure HHH), an idea emerged that we would all benefit with greater awareness about all the ideas, projects and programs that are currently making progress.  As I initiate the field research to help canvas that info, we’ve prepared a draft survey that we’d like to fine-tune.  Your comments are encouraged on how to best shape this survey - are we asking the most effective questions?  

Survey Questions - Housing for Homeless (DRAFT)

  1. Have you or are you currently working on a housing project that addresses homelessness?
  2. Who is the client/developer?
  3. Have you completed a modular or component base system residential project before (apartments that at a minimum include a kitchenette and bathroom)?
    1. Who is the building manufacturer?
    2. What is the scale of the projects they are building with modular construction?   How many units? How many stories?
    3. Did you feel there were was a large enough pool of manufacturers to select from?
    4. Did you feel there were was a large enough pool of qualified installers for the client to obtain competitive bids from?
    5. Did you experience issues with coordination of plans during the design process?  What about coordination issues during construction?  Please explain.
    6. Was construction completed on time and on budget?
  1. Where is the project located?
  2. How is the project funded?
  3. What agencies need to review the plans for entitlements and permitting?  What agencies inspect the project during construction?
  4. What is the project delivery process (design-bid-build, Design-build, CM-Multi-prime, etc.)?
  5. Are you using any innovation in the entitlement, design or construction process that expedite the schedule or reduce cost? If yes, explain the process, how long each phase took, and how the actual timeline compared to traditional stick built construction projects for a similar sized project in that location.
  6. What are the lessons learned? Do you feel the lessons learned are transferable to any jurisdiction and would enable your next project to be completed faster and at a reduced cost?

As we approach the mid-term elections of 2018, there are a several statewide initiatives that are worth paying closer attention to….two ballot initiatives and a senate bill come readily to mind.

You’ve probably already read a lot about SB 827 in the press.  Some people love the idea.  Others hate it.  Essentially, the bill would impact zoning regulations around transit stations.  In my opinion, this bill is simply a conversation starter.  It’s bold and ambitious and attracts intense debate, which is the healthy beginning of all civil discourse.  Much in the way that CEQA reform and Prop 13 were once ‘third-rails’, the concept of local-control is now being further scrutinized by housing advocates.  

Prop 68 will be on the June 2018 ballot.  AIA California Council is expected to review this bond and issue their position soon.  In the meantime, as this bond would help fund parks and improve the quality of life for many Californians, I’ve asked our AIACC Reps to further analyze the merits of the bond and to introduce a motion to the AIA|LA Board of Directors to consider endorsing the bond and encourage the AIA|LA membership to vote to support Prop 68 in in June 2018.

Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act (SB 3) 

We can expect SB 3 to be on the statewide ballot in November 2018.  The bond, if approved by voters, will provide $4 billion in new funding for affordable housing in California.

The Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing is leading a coalition to of affordable housing advocates, business leaders, labor, veterans and environmental groups to campaign for support of the bond.  

I am recommending to our AIACC Reps to also offer a motion to the Board to support SB 3 and to also join the coalition to advance greater awareness of voting YEs on the Proposition in November.  Fact Sheet + Talking Points + Affordable Housing Now Website + Endorsement Form + Communications & Coalition


Thursday, March 29 (6pm - 8pm)
Presented by:
Bryan Eck - City Planner, Department of City Planning, City of Los Angeles 

For Downtown Los Angeles, what exactly is the "Los Angeles Context" as it relates to tall buildings and what decisions should we make as a City that will help best to shape the future skyline?

Please join us for a "design-thinking” roundtable discussion, which will serve as a forum to provide the Department of City Planning with critical input from an architect’s perspective on the most effective way to shape the future skyline of Downtown Los Angeles.

1. What are the factors at play that shape our buildings - building codes, finance, marketability, CEQA, pride, geology, culture
2. What is the desired outcome for tall buildings - sustainability, visual interest, material, adaptability
3. What can be done to bridge the gap between #1 and #2

There are a few places that the DTLA 2040 can play a roles in the conversation: First is by setting a policy framework around tall buildings that will describe our aspirations. The second is to create guidance through an update to and expanded Downtown Design Guide. Next is updates to the zoning regulations as part of re:code LA.

For additional resources, please look at the DTLA 2040 Site, which provides the larger guiding principles of the project. 

Tuesday, April 3 (6pm to 8pm)


This panel discussion will serve as a forum to discuss the role advancing technologies and innovation play in shaping urban environments of the next 20-50 years.  What is the foreseeable impact on the practice of architecture and where should emphasis be placed for design firms that want to remain relevant and competitive?  How are service offerings shaped differently for architects in the next few decades and how is research incorporated into practice to provide adequate support for innovation.  How does innovation target the creation of better spaces, communities, and personal experience?
Cory Brugger, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C - Chief Technology Officer, HKS
Ashley Z. Hand, AIA, LEED AP BD+C - Co-Founder, CityFi
James Warton, Assoc. AIA - Associate | Computational DesignerHKS | LINE

AIA|LA Breakfast Reception w/ AMY ANDERSON Executive Director, PATH Ventures
Friday, February 23 (8am) - Killefer Flammang Architects
  • The values of health, wellness, community, production numbers (of units) contribute to the architecture and design of the housing development.
  • “Housing is an intervention that supports health and wellness.” - Amy Anderson
  • Department of Mental Health, County of Los Angeles
  • RAND County of LA study:  Cost < 60% to provide a permanent home from someone than it does to pay for all of the otherwise needed County services.
  • Realized subsidy = supportive housing.
a roundtable discussion w/ The LA Dept. of City Planning
Friday, February 23 (12:00pm - 1:30pm) - Los Angeles City Hall

About the Event:
Presented by:  Tom Rothmann - Principal City Planner, Los Angeles Department of City Planning
The roundtable served as an opportunity to learn more about the proposed ordinance and offer ideas for how to improve the City of LA’s zoning code.

What We Learned: 
  • Establishes Chapter 1A, which will eventually serve as the only zoning code for the city once all of the Community Plans  are updated.
  • ZAD - CUP, Class 1
    • ZA CUP - CUP, Class 2
    • CPC CUP - CUP, Class 3
  • Site Plan Review renamed Director Review
  • CEQA Administrations
    • New section tat would codify existing City policies on CEQA administration
    • Clarifies provisions for making appeals on CEQA grounds
  • Thresholds or triggers are not changing
  • Trying to not change policy.  
  • Webcode project.  Once click on parcel, provides the provisions of what you can build, etc.
    • Amlegal becomes updated to this new webcode.
  • Does Rec & Parks needs to be added to one of the decision-making authorities?
  • We need a timeline prescribed with each of the various steps along the way.
  • What is the role of technology in this process?
  • Radius maps for notification - legislative actions 500 feet, 300 feet for other notices
Click on a parcel on zimas, get the zoning of that parcel and the necessary steps and clearances and a map of procedures one needs to follow step-by-step to be able to build  by-right what the parcel is currently zoned for.

BEST-PRACTICES for MID-SIZE Firms:  a roundtable discussion 
Wednesday, January 24 (6:00pm - 8:00pm):  JOHN FRIEDMAN ALICE KIMM ARCHITECTS - 821 Traction Ave., #107, Los Angeles, CA  90013 
About the Event:
An open forum roundtable discussion to discuss the challenges and opportunities (mostly challenges, sad to say) that mid-sized firms face to get larger projects – and to advise smaller firms looking to do the same. 
  • Do you want to work on bigger projects than you currently do?
  • Do you have a business plan for how to go after bigger projects?
  • Have you tried to go after larger projects but feel that you have been shut out by a tendency for those projects to automatically go to larger firms?
  • Have you ever contacted a larger firm to discuss a possible joint venture where you would bring your design skills and they would bring their technical expertise?
  • What other things have you tried to get larger projects? 
  • How to be competitive with salaries—there was a huge jump in mean salary numbers in the LA region in last year’s AIA compensation report compared to the previous report (across the board but particularly for 5-15 years experience). Are these numbers reflective of middle sized firms in LA?

What We Learned: 
  • We need a stronger presence at City Hall
  • We need to encourage prominent architects to write more editorials for publication on behalf of the value of the profession and about the importance of giving more design influence to smaller firms.
  • We need an designated liaison to influence the way RFQs & RFPs are written to facilitate greater access to contracts for smaller firms.
  • We need to create an advocacy platform to ensure more inclusive business opportunities for 2028 Olympics (diversify the suppliers).
  • We need to develop a Design Quotient Index to measure the performance of design values.
  • To create more opportunities for interaction between small and mid-size firms and potential clients - to facilitate greater exposure to ‘decision-makers’.
  • Best-Practices:  30% mandate/ set-aside for small firms.  (Howard A. Friedman, FAIA - Berkeley?)
  • To advocate to have more architects on RFQ/RFP selection panels.
  • To invite more facility managers to serve on AIA|LA design award juries.
  • To further explore the benefits of ‘blind competitions’ for a more inclusive selection process.
  • To foster more collaborative partnerships between the large firms and small/ mid-size firms (Craig W. Hartman, FAIA - SOM)
  • To produce an RFP Writing Seminar and offer insight into best-practices for the model RFQ/RFP.
  • To give ‘decision-makers’ greater exposure to architects.
  • To organize more speed-dating forums to foster greater mentorship between architects and contractors/ builders/ developers/ clients/ facility managers, etc.
  • To create customizable list of pre-qualifications in the Call-For-Entries (CAFE) RFP process

AIA|LA Political Outreach Committee:  The Citizen Architect, Design Outreach, Access and Leadership
Tuesday, February 27 (6pm - 8pm)
HANSON LA - 724 South Spring Street, Suite 1002 - Los Angeles, California 90014

Chaired by AIA|LA Board Director Douglas Hanson, AIA, the POC identified four primary initiatives that he wants to further advance in 2018.
  1. BUSINESS INCLUSION:  On advancing an initiative to ensure greater business inclusion as our region prepares for the Olympics in 2028
  2. HOUSING FOR ALL:  On creating an inventory of all the housing affordability & “Design For Dignity" solutions being advanced by AIA members (see draft survey doe D4D) = Survey Questions - Housing for Homeless (DRAFT)
  3. URBAN DESIGN:  advocating for more resources to fortify the DCP Urban Design Studio. (To embolden the urban design studio to have larger role in the design review process. How helpful is the feedback? To have the architect present for the review is that better or worse??
  4. DESIGN THINKING:  On programming a monthly ‘brown-bag’ (bring your own lunch) presentations at City Hall to showcase well-designed worldwide projects from LA-based architects
  • Bringing the way that architects work/ think to our community.  The advantages of Design-Thinking.  
  • The idea of integration….synthesis.  A way we can talk to government, the community, developers.
  • Six Topics on Agenda.
  • Doug Hanson:  What 1 or 2 people become the “VOICE” of the architecture profession.  Who is our voice??  In mainstream media.  May or may not have to be an architect.  The role of Frances Anderton.  
  • Adding an architect’s voice to land-use conversations.  
  • What is our vision for Los Angeles for the year 2028?  The Olympics serve as the catalyst.  
  • How are the brown bag lunch presentation thematically curated?  That theme, that message is emblematic of the vision we want to advance for our city.
  • The Complete Communities Presentation powerpoint from Gwynne Pugh for METRO.  A format to expound upon.
  • Who has an example of a really healthy, inclusive RFP/ RFQ process?  Who is doing it right?  Is QBS the right way forward?  What if you’ve never done that project type before?
  • A program/ workshop that facilitates more established firms to MENTOR younger FIRMS.  
  • To foster more collaborative partnerships between the large firms and small/ mid-size firms (Craig W. Hartman, FAIA - SOM)
  • The power of Mentoring, services to advance your career - the power of that membership to become a much larger force.  Double the membership = more clout to get things done.  Raised the level of discourse.
  • AIA|LA:  How doe we serve our members?  How as an organization do we effect our community?
  • Los Angeles, a great place where you can ‘fail’ at architecture = it’s a great place to experiment, to take a risk and try unproven things.
  • How do we re-ignite that conversation in Los Angeles?
  • On Delivering Housing to the Market:  The entitlement process is the one thing that gets in the way of our ability to deliver housing to the market more quickly.   The discretionary process, the EIR.  
  • Doug Hanson - look at Denver as a good example.  For what you can build by-right.
  • SB 827 - should the AIA|LA take a position or not?  Five or Six Tables, each with a different topic.  A workshops, to share ideas and opinions.
  • DESIGN-THINKING:  On programming monthly ‘brown-bag’ (bring your own lunch) presentations at City Hall to showcase well-designed worldwide projects from LA-based architects
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 (Open to 2018 AIA|LA Board Members….)

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: 13-Mar-2018 10:08 AM
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