February 7, 2019

From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs

On Business & Cultural Inclusion

We have so much work to do as a region. We need to immediately transform our built environment to withstand the impacts of climate change and mitigate our overall carbon footprint. We need to build housing for all, dignify our public realm, clean our watershed, upgrade our seismic resilience, drastically lower our energy consumption, and provide for greater cultural connectivity and economic mobility.  In LA alone, we need to lift more than million people out of poverty. We need to widen our sidewalks, plant more trees, restore our natural ecosystems.  We need to upgrade and transform our utilities into a distributed system of renewable resources. We need to build parks and playgrounds and schools. We need to build more health facilities, wellness centers, civic plazas, auditoriums and even more brew pubs, too.

The good news is that as a region, we’ve voted to self-fund many of these improvements. We voted to pass measures R, M, W, H, A, HHH and countless other city initiatives and state propositions, which will invest billions into improving our built and natural environment. On the upslope, it all looks like we’ll weather the next recession moderately well since we will have such an ample pipeline of work ahead that is already funded.

And yet, our social inequities are widening. Thousands are without shelter or a place to call home. Thousands more are crippled by student loan debt. Even those of us lucky enough to have good-paying jobs will still never be able to afford to buy a house (in today’s market) or build enough wealth to retire on. In fact, we seem to be more divided and alone than ever before.

Therefore, how do we ensure that everyone has a chance to participate in this ever-evolving landscape of opportunity?  How do we solve this rather intractable problem?

Last year AIA|LA, with the leadership involvement of several architects, including Doug Hanson, AIA and Barbara Bestor, FAIA, organized a series of discussions (such as LA Plays Itself) centered on how we need to create a regional framework to achieve greater business and cultural inclusion as we prepare the region for such as events as the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics & Paralympics. In addition, with the leadership involvement of AIA|LA Allied Affiliate Member Karen Compton, we also coordinated several roundtables and working-group sessions with LA’s Chief Procurement Officer Michael Owh, and with the Office of Contract Administration. We met with the Board of Public Works and contributed to their small business inclusion initiatives to improve the BAVN system and streamline the City of LA’s procurement process.

These discussions evolved into one of our core tenants for our annual advocacy platform for 2018: Business & Cultural Inclusion.  On April 24, we will dive deeper into this initiative for our third annual Encompass: Inclusive Architecture conference (more details soon).

In the meantime, I have excellent news to report.  As an outgrowth of substantial research and a feasibility study “Compete4LA” created by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, AIA|LA now has an opportunity to direct our political outreach and advocacy efforts towards an initiative that aims to create an open platform for local, small businesses to connect to major contract opportunities, especially related to our preparation for the Olympics and other major events.  This regional platform, if done right, will ensure greater business inclusion on public and private contracts alike.

In late January, Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Marqueece Harrison-Dawson authored a motion to instruct the CLA, CAO, ITA, City Attorney and Chief Procurement Officer to review the feasibility study and report back on:

  1. Analysis and assessment of efficiencies or benefits that could be achieved through development of a regional procurement portal jointly operated by public and private sector partners as discussed and described in the LABCi Small Business Feasibility Study;
  2. Analysis and assessment of a potential legal framework for implementing a regional procurement program and the potential to form a Joint Powers Authority or other governing structure to oversee a regional procurement platform; and
  3. Assess overall budgetary needs necessary to implement the proposed regional procurement program.


As your Government & Public Affairs Director, I intend to lend support to this initiative (Council File 19-0078) and guide it forward for the benefit of the architecture profession. However, I’d also like to do something more and I invite your input and insight. If done right, such an open, regional procurement platform will also have a cultural inclusion objective.

What do I mean by that? Well, our region is an aggregate of unique and varied neighborhoods and districts. Each one is its own beautiful place. Culturally, we’re the most diverse place on the planet. As we prepare the region for major events and infrastructure investments, etc., we need to do more to ensure that we’re better connecting our yesterday’s people to our today’s people to our tomorrow’s people. All three constituencies have a right to a beautiful, healthy and thriving Los Angeles.

For it to be successful, this regional procurement platform must do more than simply administer inclusive contracts.  It needs to facilitate an open source, “plug-in and play” framework that allows for neighborhood groups, heritage conveyors and emerging constituents to not just compete for, but to actually lead the shape of these investments with crowd-funding opportunities, blended financing models and multi-beneficial geo-centric cooperatives that can implement and execute a multitude of visions, each authentic and replete with cultural inclusion.

In this manner, each individual and community group is able to contribute to the greater vision with direct participation. Examples of tools and platforms to help achieve this include DesignCore Detroit, Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit, Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano’s Urban Footprint and Interboro Partners’ Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion.

And an example of an open-source (crowd-sourcing) initiative specifically relates to the Olympics is the Bloom by Plethora-Project, which was commissioned by the City of London for the 2012 Olympic Games optimized public interaction.

Just imagine Los Angeles as a giant bee hive and we all get to nourish its ever-iterative creation.