Myths and Realities of Lobbying in Los Angeles

Friday, May 19, 2017

Los Angeles doesn't have its own version of K Street, where Washington, D.C.'s, industry of power brokers sets up shop. Nonetheless, Los Angeles's city bureaucracy, and those of other local cities, is vast and it too has its corps of consultants and lobbyists who advocate for legislation and assist clients with projects. Among all local lobbying efforts, perhaps none are as numerous, intense, or contentious as those surrounding development. From variances, to general plan amendments, to planning commission hearings, and city council hearings, many developers would be lost without experts to guide them and, indeed, to advocate for them.  

WUF is pleased to bring together a panel to explain what lobbying is and is not in the Los Angeles area. They will discuss lobbyists' roles and legal limitations, the projects they work on, the influence that lobbyists have, and the limits of that influence. And they will address common refrains about favoritism and the elevation of "special interests" over the common good.  

Panelists
Tanner Blackman, Partner, Kindel Gagan Public Affairs Advocacy
Aaron Green, President, The Afriat Consulting Group
Marc Mitchell,
Vice President, Local Government, Cerrell Associates
Jeff Seymour, Principal, Seymour Consulting Group

Moderator
Ed Reyes, Retired Councilmember, Planner 


The Westside Mayors Panel: Culver City, Malibu, Santa Monica, West Hollywood

Friday, April 21, 2017

It is time for WUF’s signature event, the annual Westside Mayors’ Panel! WUF is pleased to welcome the Westside mayors for a candid discussion of each mayor’s priorities, topics of importance to their cities, and common issues that they face. Amid excitement over the region’s economic vibrancy and new developments and challenges like housing, the Westside stands at a crucial juncture. 

Potential topics include the mayors’ thoughts on the economic outlook for each of their cities, the impacts of the Trump administration on local cities, collaboration with the county to use Proposition H funds to address homelessness, region-wide housing challenges, and ways cities are planning for current and future transportation changes (Expo and Purple Lines, driverless cars, automated parking), among many other topics of interest across the Westside.

Please note that this panel will begin 15 minutes earlier than usual to accommodate a longer Q and A period at the end.

Panelists
Mayor Jim B. Clarke, City of Culver City
Mayor Lou La Monte, City of Malibu
Mayor Ted Winterer, City of Santa Monica
Mayor Lauren Meister, City of West Hollywood

Mayor Lili Bosse, City of Beverly Hills, has an unforeseen conflict and sends her regrets.

Moderator
Fernando Guerra, Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University and Director of its Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles


Our Automated Future: How L.A. Can Prepare Today for the Robot Cars and Parking Innovations of Tomorrow

Friday, March 17, 2017

In the future, cars will drive themselves. In the future, elevators and conveyor belts will whisk cars away for storage. In the future, Los Angeles will have no traffic. What we don’t know is when the future will arrive.

While some of these innovations are a long way off, others are on the cusp of reality. The advent of self-driving cars and automated parking facilities are well on their way. They hold tremendous promise, and, for many, they hold the key to reclaiming cities from asphalt. Perhaps nowhere will these advances be more welcome than in traffic-choked, parking-heavy Los Angeles.

But the future isn’t here quite yet.

Developers can’t know how long we’re going to be on the “cusp” of technological breakthroughs. In today’s world, property owners are forced to heed tenants’ demand for generous parking. At the same time, some are trying to anticipate what’s coming in 5, 10, or 20 years and to build so that today’s trophy properties aren’t tomorrow’s follies. Likewise, cities are crafting long-range mobility and land use plans that accommodate the needs of today along with the hopes of tomorrow.

WUF will look into the crystal ball and the pro forma to discuss ways that developers and cities can navigate this unique moment of transition – to serve the needs of 20th century Los Angeles while preparing for the 21st and many centuries to come.

Panelists

Wally Marks, Owner of WNM Realty
Michael O'Bryan, President of Park Plus California
Ryan Snyder, Principal at Transpo Group
Erik Thoreen, Director of Investments, Hudson Pacific

Moderator

Michael Manville, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs


NIIMBY or Niice? Impacts of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative

Friday, February 17, 2017


Tension over development, while nothing new in Los Angeles, seems to have reached a fever pitch, transcending conventional policy discussions and leaping to the ballot box. The November passage of Measure JJJ set new requirements for the inclusion of affordable housing in market-rate developments. If passed in March, Measure S -- a/k/a the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative -- could have even farther-reaching consequences on growth, including a two-year ban on projects requiring amendments to the city's General Plan or zone changes.

Measure S's supporters and opponents have staked out their positions. But what will the measure actually do? How will it affect different stakeholders? 

This panel will go beyond campaign sound bites and explore in detail how the Measure S's passage (or failure) could impact development in the short and long-term. Will it achieve its stated purpose of protecting neighborhood character and preserving housing? Will it kickstart a General Plan Update? How will the interim ban on "spot zoning" affect housing production and affordability? How will developers of market rate and subsidized housing adjust to its provisions? How would Measure S interact with Measure JJJ? 

Please join us for a candid discussion as Los Angeles voters decide what the future of our city will look like.

Panelists
Joyce Foster, board member of Westwood Community Council; former President of the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission; former vice-president, Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission. 

Sheila Irani, Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, 2015 Los Angeles Times-Endorsed Candidate for City Council District 4

Luke Klipp, Abundant Housing L.A.; President, Los Feliz Neighborhood Council 

Paul Rohrer, Partner, Loeb & Loeb LLP

Moderator
Gail Goldberg, Executive Director, ULI-Los Angeles

How L.A. is Learning to Live with Marijuana

Friday, January 20, 2017


For the past decade, cities in Los Angeles county and around the state have existed in an unclear haze when it comes to marijuana. The regulation of dispensaries, commercial farms, and other facilities has been haphazard and halting. Now, with the passage of Proposition 64, the grey market for cannabis is turning green. 

Cities now face a bewildering array of options, amid Prop. 64's 62 pages of regulations. They can take a family-friendly approach with outright probation. Or they can try to lure tourists and tax dollars by becoming the Amsterdam of the West Coast. WUF will discuss what legalized marijuana may mean for the L.A. area. We will look at land use regulations, legal considerations, growers' and sellers' concerns, and strategies that cities are taking to take advantage of -- or forego -- the green economy. 

Panelists
Casey Dalton, Latchkey Pioneers, LLC
Maricela E. Marroquin, Senior Counsel, Richards Watson Gershon

Moderator
Cat Packer, Policy Coordinator, Drug Policy Alliance

Beyond Gentrification: Elevating the Dialogue around Neighborhood Change

Friday, October 21, 2016


In a city long characterized by fault lines between rich and poor, charges of "gentrification" elicit increasingly passionate responses and have renewed political power to stall or outright block development projects large and small. Developer concessions and "stakeholder outreach" processes no longer cut it. A more robust set of tools is needed to convince skeptical and wary residents that new development can be a net positive while simultaneously responding to legitimate concerns over neighborhood change. 

This month we will showcase some of those innovative approaches and reframe gentrification debate as both an economic and social phenomenon.

To do this, we are bringing together a community advocate, for-profit developer, and public servant to discuss the role each plays in creating neighborhood change and stability. Our aim is to move past the rhetorical stalemates that stall projects or offer only superficial mitigations of community concerns. Economist David Bergman will lead the panel, framing the "problem" that gentrification presents and provoking the panelists to identify how they can---individually and collectively---support local community aims without deferring regional housing, transportation and economic development goals.

October's Forum will take the gentrification conversation to the next level, producing new interdisciplinary insights that will equip residents, developers, and regulators with the tools they need to re-shape the community dialogue around neighborhood change.

Panelists
Rudy Espinoza, Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN)
Jenna Hornstock, LA Metro Joint Development 
Mark Sanders, Fifteen Group

Moderator
David Bergman, Metropolitan Research + Economics

Confronting the Shame of Los Angeles

Friday, September 16, 2016

Of all the problems that Angelenos experience, firsthand or otherwise, on a daily basis, perhaps none is as shameful as that of homelessness. Always too large, the region's homeless population has grown amid the housing crisis of recent years. Encampments have taken over some public spaces and hearts break on every street corner. City and county officials have finally pledged to do something about this tragedy. Both the city and the county have devised homelessness plans and are promoting ballot measures that would fund them at least partially.

Has Los Angeles finally found the combination of compassion, political will, and funding to ease this humanitarian crisis? This month at WUF we will discuss the prospects for these plans and learn how the city, county, and other entities intend to turn intention into action. We will unpack the city and county ballot measures, learn where the money will go, meet some of the people leading these efforts, and discuss the plans' impact on land use issues, such as the development of affordable housing. Homelessness has long been a complex problem. This year we may finally find out if urgency can prevail over complexity.

Panelists
Phil Ansell, Deputy Director, LA County Dept. of Public Social Services
Hon. Mike Bonin, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 11 
Miguel Santana, City Administrator, City of Los Angeles
Ann Sewill, Vice President, Housing and Economic Opportunity, CCF 

Moderator Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times

Seeking Long-Term Solutions for Short-Term Rentals

Friday, July 15, 2016

More than five years after Airbnb, Home Away, and other short-term rental services started "disrupting" the hospitality industry, the City of Los Angeles and other Southern California cities are reckoning with the impacts. By some estimates, over 11,000 properties in the City of L.A. are listed on Airbnb (compared to 98,000 hotel rooms citywide), including nearly 12 percent of properties in hot neighborhoods like Venice. For proponents, STRs offer extra income and new ways to welcome visitors to our cities. For others, STRs are nuisances and black-market businesses, and they make a housing shortage even worse. Fair regulations have been difficult to draft and, in some cases, even more difficult to enforce.

These debates have pitted neighbor against neighbor, homeowners against hoteliers, and advocates of affordable housing against free-market champions. WUF will address the complexities of short-term rentals in July, including an assessment of Los Angeles' draft ordinance. We will seek the real story on the economic and social impacts of STRs and discuss what lies ahead for guests, hosts, and their neighbors.

Panelists

Judith Roth Goldman, Co-Founder, Keep Neighborhoods First
Walter Gonzales, Government Relations, HomeAway
Lynn Mohrfeld, President & CEO, California Hotels & Lodging Association 
Robert St. Genis, Executive Director, Los Angeles Short-Term Rental Alliance

Moderator

Salvador Valles, Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development, City of Santa Monica


A $120 Billion Decision for L.A. County

Friday, May 27, 2016

In 2008, Los Angeles County voters agreed to a half-cent sales tax hike in exchange for the promise of improved roads and accelerated public transit projects. Over 40 years, Measure R will produce over $35 billion worth of rail lines, busways, and other investments that have been completed, are under construction or in development. That amount was just a down-payment for mobility in L.A. 

Now, L.A. County Metro is considering a new ballot measure to augment and extend the sales tax beyond the current 2039 expiration date, generating up to $120 billion in revenue. 

When the pie is as big as the national budgets of some small countries, everybody wants a piece. When a measure requires two-thirds to pass, compromises are necessary to allocate funds among the county's jurisdictions while getting the most out of Metro's investment. Cities around the county are demanding what they consider to be their fair share, and activists for every mode, from tractor-trailers to the humble foot, are weighing in. Please join WUF to help decide whether Metro’s measure is a crucial investment in the region's future or a Christmas tree that serves too many specific interests at the expense of a comprehensive strategy.

Panelists 

Eric Bruins, Principal, Bruins Policy Solutions
Steve Lantz, Transportation Director, South Bay Cities Council of Governments
Mary Leslie, President, Los Angeles Business Council
Pauletta Tonilas, Chief Communications Officer, Metro
Denny Zane, Executive Director, Move LA 

Moderator
Bill Parent, Lecturer, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs


Past Events

To view past Westside Urban Forum events from April 2016 and earlier, please click here: 

https://westsideurbanforumla.blogspot.com



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