Silicon Beach & Westside Cities - Can Disruption & Planning Get Along?

Friday, September 22, 2017

From a few quiet startups a decade ago to full-fledged unicorns and outposts of major firms, Silicon Beach -- the catchall term for the tech industry in Venice, Santa Monica, and West L.A. -- has become a major influence on the economy, built environment, and culture on the Westside. Some firms have been "disruptive" beyond shaking up industries.These companies brought jobs and wealth to some in the region, and they have attracted new residents. But this influx of jobs has also contributed to traffic, compounded the region’s housing shortage, and priced some longtime residents and businesses out of their neighborhoods.

While Silicon Beach has been busy coding, raising money, and going public, local governments have struggled to keep pace with the speed of disruption. As they try to balance residents’ needs with the region’s economic growth, they wrestle with land use decisions that will affect the tech industry and its host communities for years to come.  

Tech companies appear to be here to stay. The question is, what does the next phase of Silicon Beach's growth look like? How will companies integrate with local communities to create an environment that balances everyone's needs? Can an ethos of disruption go hand in hand with good citizenship? Please join WUF to discuss a range of questions about Silicon Beach and consider how municipalities, developers, neighbors, and the companies themselves can coexist and thrive.


Tricia Keane, Deputy Chief of Staff, L.A. Council District 11 / Mike Bonin
Eric Kirsten, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Codesmith Academy
Jim Kruse, Senior Managing Director, CBRE
Ronen Olshansky, Co-Founder & CEO, Cross Campus


Gleam Davis, Santa Monica City Councilmember

Here Comes the Neighborhood

Friday, July 21, 2017

No real estate development of any magnitude goes ahead without involvement of stakeholders. That goes double for those developments that don't go ahead. But, in a city of 4 million people, who are stakeholders, exactly? Who represents the "typical" L.A. resident? How do those representatives arrive at their views? And, importantly, who is listening, and what makes them pay attention?  

In Los Angeles, a host of organizations and institutions play the roles of, variously, watchdog and advocates for projects and policies. They include homeowners associations, neighborhood councils (city-certified and otherwise), and grassroots groups. They often square off against developers and lobbyists, with planners serving as moderators and commissioners and elected officials serving as judges.  

This month, as a rough complement to May's program on lobbyists, WUF will delve into the world of stakeholder activism to find out who the players are and how exactly they shape our city. We will discuss the types of developments that generate the most resistance and ways that developers and community stakeholders can find common ground and even mutual support. 


Doug Fitzsimmons, President, South Robertson Neighborhoods Council

Bill Pryzlucki, Executive Director, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER)

Amanda Seward, Community Attorney, former board member of Venice Neighborhood Council and Mar Vista Community Council

Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Inst. of Public Affairs; Executive Director, L.A. Appointed Charter Reform Commission  

Greg Nelson, former General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment 

Beach Tour with Jenny Price

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Co-sponsored by: 

Remember that cool Malibu beach access app pioneered by Jenny Price, WUF's 2016 Legacy Award winner and co-founder of L.A. Urban Rangers, and journalist & technologist Ben Adair? Jenny and Ben have graciously offered to meet a group of WUF members and members of the local section of the American Planning Association at Carbon (aka 'Billionaires') Beach in Malibu for a discussion about beach access and some fun exercises using the Our Malibu Beaches app.
We may even get a guest appearance by Linda Locklin, who heads up public access efforts for the California Coastal Commission - which will be very helpful should we get hassled by security and/or homeowners claiming "private" access to the beach!

2017 Westside Prize

Friday, June 9, 2017

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.  

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

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.

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.

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.


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


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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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

David Bergman, Metropolitan Research + Economics