By Will Wright
August 18, 2017


Two steps forward, four steps back!  It is a dance.  A crazy, fervorous dance that does nothing for the spirit of Los Angeles.  For every moment of progress, when we think we are aligned well with our local leadership, there seems to be an equally confusing derailment and a stumble backwards.  We seem to be wasting our energy and draining our resources with deliberate abandon.

On August 15th, the City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management Committee granted an appeal filed by the owner of El Mercado to delay and potentially block the development of Lorena Plaza, which will provide much-needed housing for forty-nine homeless people.  The appeal is a symbolic slap in the face for all of us that are working together to ensure more Californians have access to healthy and affordable housing.  The fact that the PLUM committee granted the appeal (despite tremendous support from a diverse set of community stakeholders) seems to be in stark contrast to the goals of the City’s Comprehensive Homelessness Strategy and potentially undermines the feasibility of Measure HHH.  

Lorena Plaza is located near the Gold Line’s Indiana Station and would sit on a vacant METRO-owned parcel of land.  It was to be a LEED Platinum building developed by the permanent supportive housing provider A Community of Friends   Perfect infill, right!?!?!  A terrific place to build housing, especially for those who currently do not have shelter.  So what happened?  Why the delay?  What justifies additional environment review?  What is the genuine concern here?  

Was there a way that the concerns of El Mercado could have been better understood early on?  Or did they simply just NOT want housing built near their market - and if so, then why not?

Although I really don’t know the political reasons why the appeal was granted, nor do I grasp the moral complexities for why the appeal was filed in the first place, I do know one thing:

If we don’t allow more housing to be built in our own neighborhoods, and if we don’t allow this housing to be built immediately, then we will continue to exacerbate the affordability challenges we are all collectively facing as a region and as a State.

Now more than ever is the need for architects and designers to listen to the concerns of their neighbors and engage in a honest dialogue about what each of us can do to tell a better story and design a better solution that will allay the fears and concerns of neighbors opposed to affordable housing projects in their community.

Perhaps I am being naive, but I think if we just start doing a better job listening to each other, then perhaps we can start working together to advance solutions instead of expending all of our energy on a crazy dance.


It is getting ever more confusing at the federal level.  The recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development paints the WORST CASE HOUSING NEEDS of our country.  Besides just being the bleakest title ever for a report to congress, it offers some damning evidence that current federal policies are failing to address our housing needs.  Instead, we will have to rely more and more on the leadership of our State to provide funding and resources to achieve greater housing affordability throughout the West Coast.  Here is a comprehensive list of pending legislation that our current legislature may be looking to pass in the near-term.  

Click the links to learn more:

Do you have ideas for how AIA|LA can help solve our regional housing crisis?

Do you want to personally get involved as a leadership resource and as a volunteer to achieve measurable results within the next 6 to 9 months, if not sooner?!

Then please consider going the DESIGN FOR DIGNITY task force.  We have our next four meetings confirmed.

This task force will identify a few very specific homelessness & housing policy ‘call to actions’ to prioritize and then will establish a road-map to accomplish moving forward on these call-to-actions.  Ideally once the D4D task force has had a chance to identify its core objectives we can align in effort and synthesize our ideas and call-to-actions together.  Multidisciplinary collaboration will be key to our success.

Within 6 to 9 months, if all goes well, we will have made genuine progress towards offering ideas to help end our housing crisis.

D4D Task Force Meeting #1 
Wednesday, August 9 (6pm - 8pm) 
333 South Hope Street
Suite C-200
Los Angeles, CA 90071

AGENDA:  Intros & round-robin of each person’s top ‘fix it now’ priority, discussion and consensus of 3 or 4 priorities to target for next six months ((e.g., temporary housing settlements, mobile showers, parking reform, permit streamlining, PSH funding).  For ideas & inspiration, see my notes from last week at the end of this email chain.

If you can't make the meeting on the 9th, then share your idea to me in writing by the 8th and I will share on your behalf.

D4D Task Force Meeting #2
Tuesday, August 29 (6pm - 8pm)
724 South Spring Street
Suite 1002
Los Angeles, California 90014

AGENDA:  Strategize most effective way to ‘move the needle’ forward on 3 or 4 top ‘fix now’ priorities.   Assign specific tasks and roles to each volunteer in task force.

D4D Task Force Meeting #3 
Thursday, September 21 (6pm - 8pm)
1149 S. Hill Street, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90015

AGENDA: Status update on "moving the needle forward" and identification of specific challenges/ obstacles that need to be resolved.

D4D Task Force Meeting #4
Tuesday, October 10 (6pm - 8pm)
888 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 2170
Los Angeles, CA 90017

AGENDA: A group review of the proposed solution/ outcome. Develop a roadmap to strategic consensus building & partnerships.

RSVP to Will@aialosangeles.org // And get ready to roll up your sleeves!

Some additional resources (food for thought):


On Friday, August 14th as part of our ongoing series of breakfast receptions with city leaders, we met with Grayce Liu.  Grayce is the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.  The discussion, which occurred at the office of Lehrer Architects in Silver Lake, focused mainly on how architects can get more involved with Neighborhood Councils and what opportunities existed in the current NC system to develop greater empathy and compassion so that communities were able to grow into healthier and more inclusive neighborhoods.

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: 21-Aug-2017 01:31 PM
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