A Bridge Home for the Homeless: Is LA Up to the Task?

Friday, October 19, 2018

LA voters overwhelmingly voted in Measure HHH to build housing for the homeless. But when Mayor Garcetti challenged City Councilmembers to build A Bridge Home shelters in all 15 districts, many local stakeholders balked, protesting against chosen sites. Many of these are the very neighborhoods where street encampments are the most prevalent and complaints are often loudest. In Koreatown, the Council Office's peremptory siting of a Bridge Home shelter resulted in major protests. Once the parties sat down together, they worked it out, but the pushback has continued in Venice and elsewhere. . Many opponents, and even some supporters, question whether A Bridge Home is a serious effort to combat homelessness as much as a PR initiative by the city.

Even if A Bridge Home succeeds, it will leave 90% of the city’s homeless on sidewalks. City officials have promised to clean up encampments as part of the program, but the 9th Circuit court recently ruled that cities can’t prohibit sleeping in public if enough shelter beds aren’t available. Officials explain that the first occupants will soon move on to permanent housing, making room for others in their place -- but housing providers say there’s no housing to move to.

If the program falls short of the promises, what lies in store for other programs? How will neighborhoods and public officials agree on sites for Not on My Sidewalk, Not in My Backyard – A Bridge Home supportive housing? How much longer will homeless people languish on our streets? Join WUF October 19 for a frank discussion by panelists straight from the front lines, who understand the complex needs, conundrums, and the life-and-death stakes of making A Bridge Home a success.

Chan Yong Jeong
Wilshire Community Coalition

Shawn Landres
Chair, County of Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission;
City of Santa Monica Planning Commissioner & former Chair, Social Services Commission

John Maceri
Executive Director
The People Concern

Shayla Myers
Staff Attorney, Housing and Communities Workgroup
Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles

Tommy Newman
Director,Public Affairs
United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Carla Hall
Editorial Board Member
Los Angeles Times

Proposition 10: The Death and Life of Rent Control

Friday, September 21, 2018

Since 1995, the Costa-Hawkins Act has limited cities' ability to impose rent control. Loved by landlords and hated by tenants' rights advocates, Costa-Hawkins has been blamed for many ills associated with California's current housing crisis, including rising rents, evictions, displacement, and even homelessness. As rents have risen to their current all-time highs while incomes lagged, California has earned the dubious distinction of having the least affordable major cities in the country. Now organizations and activists have joined forces to challenge Costa Hawkins with a state ballot measure this November. Proposition 10 would repeal Costa-Hawkins and give cities and counties vastly more freedom to institute various regulations that, collectively, fall under the category of rent control. And LA County is already considering a temporary rent control measure.

While Los Angeles and several other local cities have pre-Costa Hawkins rent control regulations, the passage of Proposition 10 could open the floodgates in the Los Angeles area and around the state. This month at WUF, we will discuss the varieties of rent control and their potential impacts on stakeholders including tenants, landlords, developers, and the greater Los Angeles community. What regulations might cities adopt? Will they protect tenants as promised and alleviate the housing crisis? Or will they chill new development and dampen the economy, as many developers and economists content contend? In other words, will new regulations avoid the pitfalls of the past, or Is rent control always a short-term fix with long-term consequences?  Panelists to be announced. 

Tim Piasky, CEO, Building Industry Association of Southern California
Molly RysmanHousing and Homelessness Deputy, Sup. Sheila Kuehl 
Cynthia Strathmann, Executive Director, SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy)
Daniel TenenbaumFounding Principal, Pacific Crest Realty; Commissioner, Housing Authority of L.A.; Chair-Elect, California Apartment Assoc.

Leonora Yetter, Steering Committee Member, Abundant Housing Los Angeles

L.A's New Era of Urban Design

Friday, July 27, 2018

For over a decade, architecture fans have read, appreciated, and debated Christopher Hawthorne in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. In addition to critiquing the city's architectural masterpieces -- new and old, large and small -- Hawthorne branched out into a form of academic activism, sponsoring a series of discussions that he called the "Third Los Angeles." Third L.A. encompassed the idea that, with the era of rampant growth behind us, Los Angeles must embrace a new urban form. Now, Hawthorne has leapt from the page to the lecture hall and now to City Hall, where he recently began his tenure as the city's first Chief Design Officer. 

In this role, Hawthorne will guide the city's efforts to promote good design and improve the aesthetics of the public realm. This vision is surely a work in progress, and Hawthorne is speaking with Angelenos citywide to discern common goals and visions. This month, Hawthorne joins WUF to update us on what his tenure might mean for the city's architects, planners, and developers. We will have a wide-ranging discussion and audience participation to learn about, and contribute to, the future of urban design in Los Angeles. 


Thomas Aurelio Small, Mayor, City of Culver City


Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer, City of Los Angeles

Where’s the Marlboro Man? Billboards as a Land Use in the 21st Century

Friday, June 15, 2018

Who would have thought, 100 years after mass production of the automobile, billboards and their progeny would be hot in 2018?  They seem to be everywhere from movie screens to art installations (and wooing LeBron James to join the Lakers).  And yes, they also advertise goods, services and entertainment in a format that can’t be blocked or turned off; therein lies much of their current appeal.   Billboards are a staple of outdoor advertising, (aka “out-of-home media” in the ad world), which is undergoing a digital transformation in all of its forms and locations including ads on transit (shelters, bike share), mobile transit (buses, trains, cabs), street furniture (newsracks, kiosks) and building exteriors. The next generation of the billboard is already in the works.

Why so popular?  Digital signs are more profitable than static signs and may allow for the creation of visuals and environments that promote user-generated content that is posted to social media, amplifying the reach of advertisers.  So, who decides the rules?  Where should digital signs be permitted?  How much, how big, how bright?  How do cities and neighborhoods benefit?  The panel will include a representative from West Hollywood which is currently drafting a Sunset Strip Off-Site Signage policy which will be informed by the Sunset Spectacular Pilot (a creative billboard project), a Consultant who has been integrally involved in the billboard battles, and a representative from the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight which has been a leader in voicing concerns about the negative effects of digital signs.  Please join us for this illuminating discussion.

Patrick Frank, President of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight
Aaron Green, President of The Afriat Consulting Group
Francois Nion, Executive Vice President JCDecaux North America and Co-Managing Director, Outfront/JCDecaux
Bianca Siegl, Long Range and Mobility Planning Manager, City of West Hollywood

Clifford Selbert, Co-Founding Partner, Selbert Perkins Design

The Color of Los Angeles: The Legacy of Segregation and Future of Social Equity

Friday, May 18, 2018

Los Angeles has long been considered a land of opportunity for many. But it has also been a land of oppression. As documented by Richard Rothstein in his recent book The Color of Law, Los Angeles was one of the many cities across the country that engaged, formally and informally, in residential segregation. Abominations like red-lining, restrictive covenants, and other discriminatory practices shaped the urban landscape we live in today.

As accounts like Rothstein's make Angelenos become more aware of the city's dark history, including the forceful role of the federal government in promoting segregation, the question becomes: How exactly do policies of 50 or 60 years ago manifest themselves today? What obligation and opportunities to do present-day planners, lenders, developers, and community members have to un-do this legacy and promote social equity? How can formerly red-lined neighborhoods prosper, and how can exclusionary neighborhoods embrace socioeconomic and ethnic diversity? These are the important issues that we will explore this month at WUF.

Chancela Al-Mansour, Executive Director, Housing Rights Center
Vanessa Carter
, Senior Data Analyst and Writing Specialist, USC Program for Regional & Environmental Equity
Gilda Haas, co-founder, Right to the City Alliance
Elizabeth Ryan Murray, Project Director, CarsonWatch at Public Advocates

Christopher West, Asst. Professor of Social Sciences, Pasadena City College

Putting the “T” in TOD: How Transit Agencies and Developers are Responding to Ridership Trends

Friday, April 20, 2018

Transit ridership on a per-capita basis has been falling in Los Angeles County and nationwide. A recent SCAG/UCLA study points to the biggest (and surprising) reason: lower-income residents in Southern California are embracing car ownership at higher rates than ever before. At the same time, many with the resources to own a car are instead choosing some combination of shared mobility services, including bikeshare and scooter rentals, a transportation networking company solution, or other first-last mile options, and paying more to live closer to rail transit.

This trend upends a lot of longstanding planning and land use assumptions around the role of transit oriented development in promoting regional equity and livability and in reducing reliance upon automobiles. If these recent trends persist, how should cities, transit agencies, and developers respond to them? How do we make sure TOD is a livability strategy and not just an amenity? WUF’s panel will unpack ridership trends, discuss agencies’ plans to win back riders with customer-focused reforms and consider long-term implications for market-rate and affordable housing developers.

Greg Ames, Managing Director, Trammell Crow Company
Conan Cheung
, Senior Executive Officer, Operations at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority 
Brian Taylor, Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA; Director, Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; Director, Institute of Transportation Studies 
Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director of Los Angeles Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LA LISC).

Naomi Iwasaki, Deputy Director, Investing in Place

Mayors Panel: What’s Going Well in Westside Cities?

Friday, February 16, 2018

While governance globally and nationally faced a tumultuous year in 2017, local issues and city governance are coming to the fore more so than ever. We all know the litany of issues faced by cities all over LA County: homelessness, traffic, congestion, affordable housing, gentrification, displacement of businesses and residents due to fast-rising rents, crime, city services, emergency preparedness and climate change. And yet, there’s plenty of good news to be celebrated in the arenas of land use, planning, architecture, design, development, and urban life in general. Local and state economies are booming. Communities are evolving. Problems are being tackled. In many ways, local pride is running high.

What’s happening for the better? What goals did the Westside cities of Inglewood, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica achieve in 2017 and set for this fiscal year? How are they faring in making real progress toward improving in each area of concern? What trends are they setting or responding to? What opportunities lie ahead in 2018-19?

Please join the Westside Urban Forum in welcoming the mayors of four Westside cities as they review for us where they stand at the fiscal year halfway mark - and what they see for the future of their cities.

Mayor James Butts, Inglewood
Mayor Jeffrey Cooper, Culver City
Mayor John Heilman, West Hollywood
Mayor Ted Winterer, Santa Monica

Jody Litvak, Director, Local Government & External Affairs
Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro)

8,900 Parcels Up for Grabs: What to Do with L.A.'s Surplus Properties

Friday, January 19, 2018

The office of Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin recently made available a searchable database of more than 8,900 city-owned parcels. This database enables the public to determine what value, if any, can be extracted from its existing assets. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority owns another 2,700 parcels, a handful of which are marketed as joint development opportunities. Among its school campuses, LAUSD has hundreds of acres of underutilized or vacant land, according to some estimates, but little is known about their location or availability.

One of the biggest drivers of development costs in Southern California is land. Leveraging public land ownership to build more affordable housing seems a logical solution, but the hurdles are many. Many such properties are considered unsuitable for residential (or any other form of) development due to their dimensions, access constraints, or undesirable location. What will it take to unlock the development potential of these properties for the public good? Can developers and architects make use of odd-sized lots? Or are the constraints ultimately regulatory and/or political?
Join WUF to learn more about the city's effort to market development sites, and hear perspectives from affordable housing developers and architectural design experts on the potential for innovative housing prototypes to transform available sites into viable development opportunities.

Ron Galperin, City Controller, City of Los Angeles
Shmel Graham, Director, Operations Innovation Team, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti
Lorcan O'Herlihy, Principal, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Kevin Wronske, Partner, The Heyday Partnership

Helmi Hisserich, Directory of Housing, L.A. Housing & Community Investment Department

Sacramento's Solution to the Housing Crisis

Friday, December 15, 2017

As California's housing supply has stagnated while demand has risen for years, legislators in Sacramento passed fifteen bills -- signed by Gov. Brown in October -- designed to fund and facilitate the development of housing statewide. Targeting both market-rate and subsidized housing, the bills collectively provide funding while requiring cities to speed approvals for many types of developments. Given that Los Angeles is the epicenter of the housing crisis, developers and housing advocates are eagerly waiting to see if these new laws bear fruit. Will they usher in a new era of building, or will they make only a marginal difference? 

WUF is pleased to welcome Santa Monica-based Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who was one of the key players in getting these laws passed. He will speak firsthand about the legislative process and goals of his laws and others. Panelists from the development community will assess the promise of this year's legislation and its potential impact on Los Angeles and the Westside. Please join us for this crucial glimpse into the legislative process and an important discussion about one of the greatest challenges facing our city. 

Richard Bloom, Assemblymember, 50th District (Santa Monica)
Matt Glesne, Housing Planner, Los Angeles Department of City Planning
Ken Kahan, Principal, California Landmark Group
Elisa Paster, Partner, Glaser Weil, LLP 

Brent Gaisford, Director, Abundant Housing L.A.

Making Food & Making Places: The Changing Economics of Restaurants in L.A.

Friday, October 20, 2017

From street food to five-star dining, Los Angeles prides itself on its cuisine. But restaurants are not mere amenities. They are integral elements of the city's culture, important sources of employment and opportunities for entrepreneurship, tenants for landlords, and crucial elements of the places that planners and developers envision when drafting their plans and designing communal spaces. Indeed, the intersection of food, people, and the public realm is one of the great delights of urban life. 

But these delights may be under threat. With rising rents, competition from delivery and home-cooking services, the new $15 minimum wage, and many other economic factors, many restaurants -- especially independent, mom-and-pop places -- are facing increased pressure. This month, WUF will investigate the economics of restaurants and discuss these threats, and consider the fate of placemaking in an age when planners might not be able to count on restaurants to "activate the street" and create "urban vibrancy" that their plans envision. 


Eddie Navarrette, FE Design & Consulting
Jamie Rogers, CBRE
Susan Healy Keene, Beverly Hills Community Development Director
Jesse Gomez, Founder, Cocinas y Calaveras (Mercado, Maradentro, Yxta Cocina restaurants)


Michael Dubin, Michael Dubin & Associates