Revitalizing LA's Aging Boulevards

It's Time For A Fresh Perspective

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Hundreds of aging boulevards lined by small businesses in nondescript buildings traverse Los Angeles, the legacy of our City’s 20th century, automobile-centric development boom. We zip through these forlorn business districts and worn-looking, single-story corridors without noting any features or patronizing the businesses. We know that cars don't activate streets - people do. How can Los Angeles transform the uses of major streets so that they connect residents and visitors with local businesses and neighborhoods, rather than serving as anonymous thoroughfares? What policies help achieve that goal, and how do we tackle the obstacles? 

A movement focused on taking action and proposing new policies to reclaim and re-engage our streets has been gathering momentum for a decade. A class in UCLA Luskin School's Urban Planning Department, taught by Gaurav Srivastava, has spent the winter quarter tackling these concerns and developing policy recommendations for LA City Council Districts 5 and 10.  Specifically, the studio lab has focused on the interplay between policies for mobility and land use, and how these policies can be implemented to reshape this timeworn boulevard and make it more pedestrian- and neighborhood-friendly.  During this event we'll hear policy recommendations from two of the class’ student groups, and our panel of professionals will discuss the policies proposed by the students, as well as other solutions to revitalize LA's aging commercial corridors.

Join us as we challenge the status quo and work together to develop opportunities to refocus LA's streets to serve not just cars, but people in neighborhoods.

Marcelo Spina, Principal Design Director, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, and Design Faculty at SCI-Arc.
Deborah Murphy, President, Deborah Murphy Urban Design + Planning, and Founder, LA Walks
Doug Fitzsimmons, Former President, South Robertson Neighborhoods Council
Daniel Skolnick, Planning Deputy, LA City Council District 5
Hakeem Parke-Davis, Planning Deputy, LA City Council District 10

Also Featuring
Gaurav Srivastava, Instructor, UCLA Luskin School's Urban Planning, and Senior Urban Design Project Manager, Dudek
Presentation Group 1: Noy Ramon, Paola Tirado Escareño, and Michael Van Gorder
Presentation Group 2: Ryan Caro, Irene Farr, Alexander Murray, Alejandro Gonzalez

Catching Up With Christopher Hawthorne

Catching up with Christopher Hawthorne, LA’s Chief Design Officer

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Los Angeles, as a sprawling, car-dependent city predominantly made up of suburbs, has long been in need of planning and policies focused on more thoughtful and pedestrian-friendly urban design principles. In 2018, Mayor Garcetti made a splash when he appointed then-LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne as the first-ever Chief Design Officer of a major American City. Hawthorne was charged with fostering a broad public discourse around architecture and urban design in L.A. and overseeing the City’s major civic design efforts for infrastructure and public spaces.


2021 finds Hawthorne using his role to inform larger policy discussions by exploring the ways design can contribute to the evolution of a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable City, from investments in street furniture and infrastructure, to reimagining the future gas stations, and integrating more housing into the fabric of our neighborhoods. One such project, the Low-Rise Design Challenge, is asking architects to submit innovative designs for smaller-scale multifamily housing developments, including duplexes, fourplexes, and transformations of landmark homes - such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollywood house - into multifamily projects, with a focus on reducing a typical home's energy usage and carbon footprint.


Hawthorne originally sat down with WUF back in July of 2018 for a discussion of his initial plans in his new role. Now, nearly three years into his tenure – and in the midst of a pandemic that has potentially forever altered not just Los Angeles, but cities all over the world – how have Hawthorne’s expectations and vision for the City changed?  This month Hawthorne joins WUF for an intimate meeting and Q&A session to discuss how recent events have influenced how he sees his role in the City, and to update us on the current initiatives he's spearheading.


Respondent:  Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer, City of Los Angeles

Interviewer:   Thomas Aujero Small, CEO, Culver City Forward (CCF)


Capri Maddox Event

Meeting the Moment:
A Conversation with Capri Maddox, Executive Director
Department of Civil and Human Rights for the City of Los Angeles

February 26, 2021

As Angelenos work to understand and address the ways in which racism and inequality are embedded in our institutions and in the allocation of societal benefits like housing, education, jobs, and the environment, perhaps the most important question facing our city is how to effect meaningful change.

In February 2020, Capri Maddox was appointed as the first Executive Director of the newly-established Los Angeles Department of Civil and Human Rights (CHRD). The department is tasked with addressing, investigating, and enforcing regulations in response to complaints of discrimination in four broad areas – education, employment, housing, and private commerce – through implementation of the L.A. Civil and Human Rights Ordinance. The department also works alongside the City’s Chief Equity Officer, Brenda Shockley, to assess racial disparities in City employment and contracting and to help inform policy priorities, in addition to working with private sector companies through the RENEW Task Force.

Join us, on the anniversary of Ms. Maddox’s first year on the job, for a conversation on some of the most important civil rights issues facing our city.



Demetra Thornton, AIA, NOMA
Senior Associate & Studio Director, Gensler
City of Los Angeles RENEW Task Force Member


Capri Maddox, Esq.
Executive Director
City of Los Angeles Department of Civil and Human Rights


Westside Mayors Forum 2021

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

WUF is pleased to welcome Westside Mayors for the annual Mayors Forum!  This is a Westside Urban Forum signature event that brings together the Westside Mayors for a candid discussion of each Mayor’s priorities for 2021, the land use policy issues of importance to each city, and provides the opportunity to understand the different ways in which these unique cities are responding to current issues in what is already another extraordinary year!  

In 2021, our Mayors will be faced with a myriad of issues, including the central conflict of land use and social and racial equity, police reform, and housing and homelessness  - all within an environment of shrinking budgets resulting from the pandemic.  To begin to address these complex matters, what are the cities’ near-term responses to retail spaces left vacant by the pandemic?  How are cities going to change as a result of the pandemic and what temporary COVID policies would the Mayors like to see adopted permanently (such as encouraging telecommuting to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, greater diversity in housing typologies and private outdoor space, growing park space for all community members, or allowing outdoor dining to remain permanently)?  How are the cities working to address structural racial and social injustices in land use and government agencies’ operations?  What measures are cities considering to address police reform and community mental health?  What is the outlook for public transit and the extension of the Purple Line Subway?  And what does all of this mean for the cities’ plans to address climate change? 

Join us to hear directly from the decision makers on these and other topics as we consider land use policy on the Westside in 2021. 


Mayor Lester Friedman, City of Beverly Hills
Mayor Alex Fisch, City of Culver City
Mayor Sue Himmelrich, City of Santa Monica
Mayor Lindsey Horvath, City of West Hollywood


Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Managing Partner, HR&A Advisors, Inc.

How to Ensure That Development Benefits Minority Communities

October 28, 2020

In Los Angeles, with its long history of redlining and other racist land use policies, minority communities sorely need new real estate development. However, new development may be fraught with risks for both communities and developers. Numerous questions arise, such as who defines and weighs the community needs relative to the development opportunities? What are the real effects of “revitalization” on low-income and minority neighborhoods? How can developers and community members work together to ensure redevelopment addresses the needs of existing residents?

A supercharged real estate market has made the process of answering these questions much more complicated and the stakes higher. Developers must answer to investors seeking a financial return, and yet they must also listen and respond to the specific needs of the community, lest they motivate a backlash that torpedoes their project altogether. For communities, on the other hand, a major development may feel like a hostile takeover with the threat of gentrification and displacement.

Much of the above is currently playing out on in the areas around Crenshaw Boulevard, with the pending arrival of the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail. What would equitable redevelopment in this area look like? And more generally, what have we learned about the complex challenges in redressing the structural racism that historically and currently drives urban inequities for people of color?

Vanessa Delgado,
President, Azure Development, Inc.

Donahue Peebles III
Development Executive, The Peebles Corporation

Ben Caldwell
Founder, Kaos Network and Leimert Park Art Walk

John Heath
President, United Homeowners’ Association II
Executive Director, New Life Economic Development, Inc.

Derek Fleming
Managing Partner, of MSDG, LLC
Senior Advisor, HR&A Advisors, Inc.

Dr. Belinda Allen
Executive Director, West Angeles Community Development Corporation

Will the Updated California Building Code Foster Sustainable Development?

Friday, September 20, 2019

The 2019 California Building Code goes into effect January 1, 2020. Cities across the Westside and the State are analyzing the new legislation, adopting amendments or “reach codes” to supplement the State Code in order to encourage new buildings to use less energy and water, as well as incorporate better construction practices. Meanwhile green building programs such as LEED Certification, Fitwel Certification, and the Living Building Challenge are on the rise. Developers, architects and engineers are developing creative and innovative approaches to implement sustainable design features, materials, and building systems within the constraints of the various codes. But the question remains: do new processes and requirements create bridges to sustainable development - or layer on more obstacles creating barriers to such development?  
What additional tools, code upgrades, and systems are now available to green leaders in Los Angeles to keep moving toward sustainable design and operations? How should we solve roadblocks—technological constraints, long permitting and approval processes, budget limitations (design, development, materials, and operational budgets), and limited information about proven techniques—that inhibit the potential for innovation?  
This month, WUF brings together a panel of professionals who collaborate on buildings that use less energy and water, adapt to a changing climate, and abandon fossil fuels. This ’Green Team’ will share lessons learned and help us uncover what policies can—and should—be implemented to speed up the process of adapting to our precarious future.   

Mariam Mojdehi
, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate,  Frederick Fisher & Partners
Andy Reilman
, Managing Principal, Integral Group
Osama Younan, Executive Officer, LA Department of Building and Safety
Natalie Allan Teear, Vice President, Sustainability and Social Impact, Hudson Pacific Properties

Ted Flanigan, CEO, Ecomotion

A Green New Deal for Los Angeles

Friday, July 19, 2019

The original New Deal was designed to bring the United States out of economic torpor and into the modern era. It was implemented at a time when California was an outpost and a refuge, when the Dust Bowl brought desperate migrants to its shores. Today, California has one of the most robust economies in the world. But it -- along with the rest of the world -- is facing a climate emergency whose magnitude dwarfs that of the Dust Bowl. 

Into this crisis steps the City of Los Angeles. While a Green New Deal may have little chance of passage in today's Congress, Los Angeles is taking matters into its own hands. Building on the Sustainable City pLAn of 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a range of initiatives, including increasing use of renewable energy, creating hundreds of thousands of "green jobs," and planting tens of thousands of trees to make the city cleaner, greener, and even more economically vibrant. It may call on developers to build more densely, commuters to wean themselves from gas-powered vehicles, and everyone to adapt to low-carbon lifestyles. 

This month at WUF, we will discuss the land-use implications of this proposal and debate its efficacy and viability: How realistic are these goals? What will they demand of developers, planners, and other land-use stakeholders? Is it a bold initiative to catalyze an era of green economic growth -- or too little too late?

This program is presented in collaboration with the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. 

Evelyn Blumenberg, Director of Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA 
Lauren Faber, Chief Sustainability Officer, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti 
Susana Reyes, Vice President,  National Sierra Club Board of Directors (2017-2019)

David Abel,
Chair, VerdeXchange

2019 Westside Prize

Friday, June 19, 2019

Congestion Pricing on the Westside and Beyond

Friday, May 17, 2019

Even as the Los Angeles area has invested billions of dollars in public transit, traffic congestion has only worsened, especially on the jobs-rich Westside. Now, Los Angeles officials are turning to a solution that economists and some planners have advocated for years: congestion pricing. Used in overseas cities including Singapore and London, congestion pricing has gotten a chilly reception in the United States. It is now getting serious consideration, though, and the Westside may turn out to be Ground Zero in the congestion pricing revolution -- for better or worse.

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) recently released the first of many studies evaluating congestion pricing in a 4.3 square mile area of West LA and Santa Monica, just west of the 405 and north of the 10.  They found that it could significantly cut down traffic jams and commute times. $4 -- the price of a latte -- seems to be the right price to cut commute times by 20%.

For professionals commuting to Silicon Beach and Century City, that latte could be a smart investment. But for blue-collar workers who often travel the longest distances and make relatively little money, congestion pricing could be an undue burden, no matter how much it improves the commute.

Is congestion pricing a planner’s  fantasy or is it the real solution that LA—including the Westside—needs?

Kim Christensen, Land Use Chairperson, West of Westwood Homeowners Association
Michael Manville, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Tham Nguyen, Metro Office of Extraordinary Innovation
Asiyahola Sankara, Organizing & Outreach Program Manager, Act LA

Carter Rubin, Mobility and Climate Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council

Burning Down and Building Up: Wildfires and Resiliency

Friday, April 19, 2019

Last year, The Woolsey Fire incinerated tens of thousands of mountainous acres between Malibu and Thousand Oaks, destroying homes, businesses, and habitat.

Rebuilding and recovery efforts are often the immediate focus, and tough questions that need to be asked are deferred and then never addressed. Should we rebuild in high-risk areas? If the answer is yes, how should we rebuild smarter?

Beyond pure planning and building code considerations, there are also thornier issues of economic equity and public policy to be addressed. Fires have a documented gentrifying effect, forcing those without significant means to sell their land and move elsewhere, while those who can afford to rebuild remain, often supported by insurance policies that underprice the true risks and costs of living in the vulnerable urban-wildlands interface.

This panel proposes a candid dialogue on how we can support a balanced approach to development on the urban fringe, and what will be required to align this approach with the environmental realities of a warming climate and continued population growth in Southern California.

Bonnie Blue, Planning Director, City of Malibu
Joshua H. Haffner, Attorney, Haffner Law (specializing in insurance claims from property damage)
Chief Anthony C. Marrone or Chief Jon O'Brien, Los Angeles County Fire Department
Malcolm V. Williams, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation

Jacob Margolis, KPCC science reporter and host of the popular podcast, The Big One