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

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