AIA|LA Government & Public Affairs Report
by Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
I. Los Angeles County Quality & Productivity Commission (QPC)
As an effort to better promote the AIA|LA and the architecture profession, I am proud to share that I am commencing my third year as a County of Los Angeles Commissioner. Presently, I serve as the Chair of the Department Visits Committee and the Second-Vice Chair of the Commission. The Department Visits Committee coordinates the opportunity for Commissioners to visit all relevant County departments and meet with the Department Head, within a two-year cycle. The intent is to understand departmental operations and priorities, and to assist the department toward realizing enhanced productivity and quality services.
The QPC also manages the Productivity Investment Fund, which provides grants and loans to fund innovative pilot projects within County Departments to facilitate Creative strategies for the enhancement of service delivery, Improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of operations and Cost savings and revenue generation opportunities.
The QPC also produces the annual Productivity and Quality Awards program, which celebrates excellence in public service.
II. Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed)
On behalf of the AIA|LA, I serve on the Board of Directors of BizFed. Currently, I am the co-chair of the Technology & Innovation Committee along with Kish Rajan and Alan Farber.
As a Board Director at BizFed, I have the unique opportunity to make sure that the business community has a chance to learn about the needs and the values of the regional Los Angeles architecture and design profession to ensure that we continue to have a seat at the decision-making table and to advocate for investing in a more delightful built environment.
III. From Lot To Spot (FLTS)
As a founding Board Director of From Lot To Spot, I help provide leadership guidance and strategy to this non-profit so that it can fulfill its mission to empower neighborhoods one vacant lot at a time. FLTS helps convert vacant lots in public parks in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles County. It also promotes healthy living community engagements and environmental justice programs for low-income communities of color.
Guided by a five-year strategic plan that was established in 2015, I target by advocacy efforts on five core pursuits: Housing Affordability, Transportation & Mobility, City Design, Sustainability & Resilience, and expanding equity and innovation in procurement and project delivery.
As measure actions become competed they will be reported here on a bi-monthly basis.
I. HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
A. Affordable Housing Linkage Fee
We have convened several discussions about the draft proposal of the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee and I currently soliciting more feedback from the architecture community on how the AHLF proposal should be improved and/or modified. I need to collect constructive feedback from the architecture profession so that we can help shape the direction of this important legislative policy that will greatly impact new development
B. Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentive Program Guidelines
The TOC Program is a new transit-based affordable housing incentive program that applies to all qualified Housing Developments located within a one-half mile radius of a Major Transit Stop. The program was created by the voter approved Measure JJJ in November and is codified in LAMC 12.22 A.31. These TOC Guidelines provide the eligibility standards, incentives, and other necessary components as outlined in the Measure.
ACTION: Our next meeting to discuss the TOC program will be held at Hanson LA on Tuesday, April 11 (6pm - 8pm)
C. Accessory Dwelling Units
New statewide standards for ADU’s have been established which help clarify the rules and regulations that allow for this important type of housing typology. However, there is still pressure from many community groups for The City of Los Angeles to impose more stringent provisions, which would effectively disallow more units.
ACTION: Will Wright to testify at Los Angeles City Council Planning & Land-use Meeting (PLUM) on Tuesday, March 21 (2:30pm) to advocate for an ordinance that promotes sustainable design innovation, environmental performance and ensures economic feasibility, multi-generational living, mixed-income & complete communities that all for greater housing affordability and healthier, more inclusive neighborhoods.
In the meantime, the County of Los Angeles has reached out to AIA|LA to help share ideas and feedback on how to shape an ADU design competition, which will raise greater awareness of how important a robust ADU policy is to helping add more affordable housing to our cities.
As the County ADU competition further advances, we will keep you posted.
II. TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY
AIA|LA participates in several collaborative advocacy groups to ensure that architects have a seat at the table to help shape policies and initiatives to promote countywide capital improvement programs and transportation investment. The multi-disciplinary strength of these advocacy groups was vital to the success of the recent passage of Measure M in the November 2016 election.
Two such advocacy groups include:
A. #JustGrowth (led by Investing in Place)
Serves as a forum to support the most equitable outcomes for our communities in the next iteration of Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan. METRO’S LRTP guides and directs billions of dollar in infrastructure improvements and community planning tools through-out the County.
B. EnviroMetro (led by Climate Resolve)
Its mission is to promote an equity framework at METRO and a multidisciplinary platform to advance sustainability in Measure M's Local Return Guidelines
We also participate in an ongoing series of transportation policy meetings led by the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed).
III. CITY DESIGN
A. Community Planning
As an effective member of a coalition to oppose Measure S, we successfully told the story to the public that Measure S would NOT achieve positive results to improve the city. It lost at the polls and, therefore, a development moratorium will be not imposed on the market. However, two of the positive outcomes of the political pressure imposed by Measure S is an accelerated community plan update program and an Executive Directive to clarify procedures to plan and development housing and transportation.
Executive Directive 19 (Planning and Developing Housing and Transportation):
• Direct the Department of City Planning (DCP) to Accelerate Community Plan Updates
• Ban Ex Parte Communications with Developers
• Establishing a Mayoral Task Force on Planning
• Establish a Measure M Steering Committee
• Release a Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Program
• Reform City Oversight of Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs)
• Reform the General Plan Amendment Process
• Direct the Department of City Planning to Expedite the Preparation of a Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance
• Call on Council to Pass an Affordable Housing Linkage Fee
Community Plan Acceleration Program
Effectively, this program will allow the Department of City Planning to update all 35 community plans every six years on a rolling-basis. It will achieve this outcome by leveraging an increase to the General Plan Maintenance Fee of 7% on all building entitlements and permits. The 7% surcharge is expected to deliver $5.19 million a year. The remaining $2.72 million commitment is expected to be provided by an annual contribution from the city’s general fund. However, there is an extreme risk associated with this manner of financing a perennial community planning update process.
The first risk is that it requires a committed source of revenue from our general fund to cover 34.4% of the costs involved and the remaining 65.6% would require the sustained conditions and intensity of today’s development market. Community planning therefore becomes financed only at the mercy of growth. What happens during a recessed market? What happens once we initiate the first round of planning updates and the need to solicit expanded entitlements is lessened because the plans have already been right-sized?
B. HPOZ and Design Review Boards
We are conventing a series of roundtable discussions to derive a smart set of recommendations to improve processes and procedures to make design review more effective. Best-practices will be identified and shared with city leaders.
ACTION: Our first roundtable on this subject will be on March 22 (6pm) at CO Architects.
C. ReCODE LA
We successfully advocated five years ago to have the city invest in an updated zoning code (Re.Code LA). This process is ongoing and we will convene a roundtable in Summer of 2017 to evaluate updates to the process, especially as it relates to ensuring opportunities for greater design innovation in this predominantly form-based code.
D. Baseline Mansionization Ordinance/ Baseline Hillside Ordinance
New regulations have been authored that established for residential floor area ration and setbacks on all single-family homes citywide. However, there is still some confusion in the industry about how to interpret a few of the more ‘unclear’ provisions. Therefore, I am working with LADBS and DCP to organize an upcoming workshop that will allow architects to hear how these new building and zoning code provisions will be interpreted from building officials directly. This workshop will also serve as an opportunity to learn more about the newly adopted ADU provisions, as well.
E. Urban Design Review Sessions at the Department of City Planning
Twice a month, we convene a design review session for architects, as volunteers, to share with city planners candid and critical design review and feedback about pending development projects prior to when those projects will appear in front of the City Planning Commission. The projects tend to be 50+ units of housing and/or 50,000 sq ft or larger.
ACTION: These meetings are every-other Tuesday at Los Angeles City Hall, Room 501.
F. AIA, BIA, LADBS & Department of City Planning
These bi-monthly leadership meetings provide an opportunity to share direct feedback with LADBS and DCP management about how to improve and streamline project entitlement and plan check procedures. These re-occuring meetings also serve as a forum for AIA leadership to learn more about prospective planning and building & safety policies and initiatives and to share feedback on how those initiatives could be advanced more effectively and with greater collaboration.
ACTION: Our next meeting is on March 27 (3pm) in Room 525, Los Angeles City Hall - followed by another meeting on May 22 (3pm).
G. METRO’s Architecture and Planning 101 Presentation
Status pending based on updates from Gwynne Pugh, FAIA and Jenna Hornstock.
IV. SUSTAINABILITY & RESILIENCE
A. Building Forward LA
AIA|LA has partnered with USGBC-LA, A+D Museum, Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC), The Now Institute, Rebuild By Design and the Office of Mayor Garcetti to program a series of knowledge-exchange forums. Building Forward LA will serve as an opportunity to spark discussion from designers, academics, urbanists and technologists about how building rules and processes can be improved to work toward making Los Angeles a more sustainable and resilient city. It supports refreshing and “futurizing” policies and processes that influence how we design and build our city’s buildings.
ACTION: Our kick-off event is on March 23 (6pm) at the A+D Museum.
B. SEAOSC Leadership Lunch Series
We are in the early stages of further developing a stronger collaborative relationship with Structural Engineers Association of Southern California. So far, we’ve met twice in an ongoing series of leadership lunch receptions to bring together the initiatives of SEAOSC, AIA|LA, USGBC-LA and BOMA-LA and to identify prospective partnerships to further advance our core missions of resilience, best practices and innovation. "The main focus was on how our organizations can better be informed of what each are working on and where we might collaborate to develop more comprehensive and better solutions more quickly.”
ACTION: Our next meeting is on May 31 (11:30am) at USGBC-LA.
V. EXPANDING INNOVATION & EQUITY IN PROCUREMENT & PROJECT DELIVERY
Ad-Hoc Business Advisory Committee
We are participating in a series of workshops and roundtables to provide input into how the City of Los Angeles and the Board of Public Works can improve procurement procedures to ensure greater inclusion in the contracting process. As a participant on the Ad-Hoc Business Advisory Committee, AIA|LA has an opportunity to improve technical and systematic procedures in the Business Assistant Virtual Network (BAVN).