2022 Annual Westside Mayors Forum

Annual Westside Mayors Forum

Wednesday, February 16, 2022
12:00 PM
via Zoom


WUF is pleased to welcome the 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 2022 from a land use perspective and covers different ways each of their cities is responding to current issues. 

In 2022, mayors faced a myriad of issues including the central conflict of land use and social and racial equity and they will be discussing their cities’ efforts to:

  • Implement SB9 (the state requirement that cities allow additional units on lots zoned for single-family use), and SB10 (higher densities allowed near transit), while trying to maintain local land use control;
  • Meet state-required Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) housing unit numbers by providing enough opportunities for housing to be built in their cities; and,
  • Address historic inequity with actions such as Santa Monica’s recent effort to bring back former city residents displaced by freeway and other public construction.

The mayors will talk about their different approaches to addressing ongoing and pandemic-related changes to retail and commercial businesses and land use.  You will hear straight from the mayors whether they think these changes are temporary or here to stay, the potential impacts of these changes to city budgets and what these changes can mean for the character of their cities.

Mayors will discuss how they view tourism in their cities and what their cities are doing to attract visitors, and what efforts are being made to house workers in the hospitality industry.  And they’ll discuss whether pandemic-inspired changes -- such as outdoor dining -- are here to stay.

The Metro Crenshaw-LAX Line and the Regional Connector are set to open later in 2022, with the Purple Line extensions to follow in 2024-2027.   What do these transit improvements mean for each city and what is the outlook and commitment to public transit in a period of reduced ridership but increased need to cut emissions?

Join us to hear directly from the decision makers on these and other 2022 Westside land use topics.



Mayor Robert Wunderlich, City of Beverly Hills

Mayor Daniel Lee, City of Culver City

Mayor Sue Himmelrich, City of Santa Monica

Mayor Lauren Meister, City of West Hollywood



Dr. Fernando Guerra, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Loyola Marymount University and Director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles


AI on LA's Streets: Autonomous Vehicles Are Arriving

AI on LA's Streets: Autonomous Vehicles Are Arriving

Wednesday, December 8, 2021
12:00 PM
via Zoom

Read our Speaker Bios here!

Freeway congestion, toxic pollutants, and long hours spent commuting are the stereotypes associated with mobility and life in Los Angeles. Though we've fortunately seen tremendous progress over the decades, transportation in Los Angeles is evolving rapidly and tomorrow may look much different than today. Emerging technologies, in particular, will leave a profound imprint on that future, and perhaps no technology will be more impactful than autonomous vehicles. 

Autonomous vehicles are already roaming the streets of some US cities, acquiring miles of experience. It’s likely to see such vehicles carrying passengers before year’s end in California as a result of recent permit eligibility from the California Public Utilities Commission. Narrowing our focus to Los Angeles, we can expect to see autonomous vehicle testing before the start of 2022, namely in Santa Monica. 

Addressing autonomous vehicles raises countless questions, both familiar and new. There is at once a great amount of optimism, including the liberation from the steering wheel for people who can’t or don’t want to drive, as well as great pessimism, such as what will happen to our streets and neighborhoods if it becomes even easier to take a trip by car. With fewer owned and more shared vehicles, does that lead to less vehicles on the road resulting in less congestion and less emissions? Or will it have the “Uber effect” of placing even more vehicles on the road, worsening outcomes?

The elephant in the room is safety - for pedestrians, cyclists, passengers, other drivers, and so on. Could artificial intelligence improve upon the current rate of human error? Other important questions include who has access, with consideration of economic, geographic, and personal physical barriers such as mobility impairments. 

We’ll be considering these and other important questions as we prepare for automated vehicles - soon coming to a neighborhood near you. 



Ellie Casson, Head of City Policy and Government Affairs, Waymo

John Yi, Executive Director, Los Angeles Walks

Nina Harvey Schatmeier, Principal, Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates

Kate Kigongo, Senior Innovation Analyst at City of West Hollywood



Justine Johnson, Head of Mobility Engagement, Ford


My Favorite Local Spot Closed! The Future of Local Commercial Places

My Favorite Local Spot Closed!  The Future of Local Commercial Places

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
12:00 PM
via Zoom

Read Speaker Bios Here

We are all looking forward to getting together in person, but where will that be and what kind of place will it be?  We have long been accustomed to identifying neighborhood shopping and entertainment districts as places to gather.  Retail and restaurant businesses, along with personal services, have been crucial anchors of public gathering areas and help provide a sense of place that give our communities their distinctive character.  However, there is no denying that retail is changing, which means our local gathering places are changing.  Throughout the pandemic, the Los Angeles metro area saw significant closures and declines in small businesses.  Long before then, however, the character of the retail and commercial gathering place landscape was changing due to the migration of shopping online.  


What, if anything, is going to fill the empty storefronts we all see, and how will this evolution impact the sense of place within our westside cities and neighborhoods?   Is this an opportunity for under-resourced local business owners and local entrepreneurs to fill these spaces and create a renewed sense of place that serves the needs of residents and stakeholders, or will this just enhance the feelings of gentrification?   What alternative concepts are taking shape to bolster brick and mortar shops competition in the increasingly e-commerce driven marketplace?


Come hear from the people on the ground doing the hard work to create retail/commercial opportunities, support existing shops, fund innovative new local businesses, and help these businesses locate in the many empty commercial spaces - and in so doing, shaping our neighborhoods and revitalizing their unique sense of place.



Darrell Menthe, President, Culver City Downtown Business Association & Partner, Sage Law Partners

Parke Miller, Executive Vice President, LPC West

Ed Sachse, President, Kennedy Wilson Property Services

Seta Zorabian, Regional Manager, Small Business Program, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC)



Emily Bianchi, Senior Project Designer, JERDE

Private Trees, Public Benefit: Fortifying L.A.’s Disappearing Tree Canopy

Private Trees, Public Benefit: Fortifying L.A.’s Disappearing Tree Canopy

July 21, 2021
12:00 PM
via Zoom

Trees in Los Angeles are under threat – some neighborhoods have seen their tree canopies shrink by 15 to 44 percent since the turn of the century, according to a 2017 USC study. Drought, disease, construction, and sidewalk repairs are amongst the culprits that have been chipping away at our public resource. As with any major city, urban forestry in Los Angeles is vital for the health and wellbeing of our communities.  The preservation and expansion of the tree canopy is a key strategy to mitigate the impacts of urban growth and climate change.

However, the urban forest also lays bare two of LA’s most pressing societal challenges: entrenched inequality and the limits of government influence. A recent study by the LMU Center for Urban Resilience (CURes) showed that Los Angeles County has a robust urban forest, but the region’s trees are not evenly distributed among communities, reflecting decades of public disinvestment in communities of color and contributing to great variations in the social, environmental and health benefits to residents. Throughout the country, studies have observed that formerly redlined neighborhoods are the ones that experience the greatest urban heat island effect, driven by sparse tree canopy and an abundance of heat trapping surfaces.

While local government has an important role to play in the preservation and maintenance of trees on our streets and public lands, these only account for a fraction of our urban trees. Addressing inequities and bolstering the tree canopy will necessarily require the participation of private land owners as well as local jurisdictions. How might we encourage, incentivize, and celebrate private sector examples of bolstering our tree canopy, especially on the Westside where there is so much low-rise residential? And how do we ensure this happens in low-wealth neighborhoods?



Jerome Chou – Planning Director, Kounkuey Design Initiative



Scott Baker – President, RELM

Eric Strauss – President's Professor of Biology & Executive Director, LMU Center for Urban Resilience

Milan Ratkovich – Executive Vice President, The Ratkovich Company

Wister Dorta – Project, Operations & Urban Forest Management, City of Santa Monica

Eliminating Parking Requirements: Does it Help or Hurt Housing?

Eliminating Parking Requirements: Does it Help or Hurt Housing?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021
12:00 PM
via Zoom

Registration is now closed for this event.

With parking spaces for new development in Los Angeles costing $30,000-$60,000 each to build, many city planners would agree that removing parking requirements from transit-rich areas is good for housing production and sustainability—at least in concept. Recent legislation proposed in the California legislature, like AB 1401, would de-regulate parking requirements for new development near transit and allow developers to determine the number of spaces to provide. So what are the implications for housing development in Los Angeles? Rather than prohibit parking or setting parking maximums, if the goal is to provide planning flexibility and possible cost savings to lure private developers to build more affordable housing, wouldn't 'lighter' parking regulations be the way to go?  

Such proposals have their critics, and not only from neighborhood advocates concerned with traffic, inadequate parking, and overflow parking. A number of affordable housing advocates have raised concerns that such proposals may undermine affordable housing production, since parking reductions are often offered to private developments that incorporate affordable units through the State Density Bonus program and L.A.’s Transit Oriented Communities Program. Local governments also worry that decreased private sector participation in affordable housing development may impact their ability to achieve State-mandated affordable housing production targets—which have increased significantly; current levels of public subsidies are inadequate to fund the number of units needed, increasing cities' reliance on leveraging privately-subsidized mixed-income development.

Join us for a lively discussion of the pros, cons and other perspectives on parking policy, zoning requirements and lenders' points of view on the subject of parking for LA's new mixed-income and affordable housing developments.


Mott Smith, Chairman of the Council of Infill Builders
Amy Anderson, Senior Vice President, Social Impact Lead, Wells Fargo & Company
Mahdi Manji, Public Policy Advocate, Inner City Law Center

Patricia Diefenderfer, AICP, Planning Bureau Manager, City of Long Beach

Many Vacancies: LA's Tourism & Hospitality Industry After the Pandemic

Many Vacancies: L.A.'s Tourism and Hospitality Industry after the Pandemic 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, one of the most immediate and obvious economic casualties was that of the hospitality industry. Nearly overnight, tens of thousands of hotel rooms in Los Angeles went dark. Conferences, weddings, and other gatherings -- which we would now identify as super-spreader events -- got cancelled. Airlines grounded their planes and flew many of them nearly empty. While Los Angeles's economy is diverse, hospitality typically contributes over $35 billion to the county’s economy and provides many working-class jobs. Moreover, it is a crucial element of the city's identity and, not insignificantly, a major source of revenue for local cities. 

As vaccination levels increase and restrictions begin to loosen throughout Los Angeles and Southern California, WUF convenes a panel of industry experts to discuss how hotels have (or have not) fared during the pandemic and what the future of tourism, conferences, and hospitality may look like in L.A.



Wednesday, May 19th: 12-1pm on Zoom



Adam Burke, President & Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

Phillip Barnes, General Manager, Fairmont Century Plaza and Regional VP, Fairmont Hotels

Ramin Kolahi, Principal, Lighthouse Investments, LLC

Garrick Brown, Managing Director of Western Region Research, Newmark

Amy Horwath, Manager, Transaction Real Estate & Hospitality - EY

A Special Conversation with Congressman Ted Lieu: How the Business Community Can Help Counter Anti-Asian Racism

The Westside Urban Forum was very proud to be a sponsor, alongside JERDE, of this important and meaningful conversation with Ted Lieu, moderated by Steven Sharp of Urbanize LA.


You can access a recording of the event here: https://vimeo.com/536430976

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