May 2, 2019

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

The AIA|LA Advocacy Report
May 2, 2016

As I sit at my desk on the 7th floor of The Wiltern on this rather June-gloom early May morning, I can see three construction cranes immediately out my window along with another five cranes on the near horizon.  According to the RLB Crane Index, as of March 2019, there are about 44 cranes throughout the City of Los Angeles (Seattle has 59 and Toronto has 104, fyi).  Personally, I see those cranes and I’m awestruck with the power we all have to transform our environment incrementally bit by bit.  Smart transformations, however, require deep and empathetic vision, strong community outreach and an equitable financial commitment.  Are those cranes the symbol of a smart transformation?  Or our they emblematic of something more shifting, malign and dangerous?

On April 18, 2019 Mayor Eric Garcetti released a $10.6 Billion dollar proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019.  It’s a solid plan for the year, which includes investing in our city’s long-term fiscal health, as well as, infrastructure, housing and supportive services.

• $399 million reserve fund and a $110 million budget stabilization fund.
• $940 million to improve our City’s infrastructure.
• $348 million for street repairs and maintenance
• $117 million for Vision Zero (Pedestrian and traffic safety)
• $457 million to address the homelessness crisis with permanent supportive housing, temporary shelters and services.

That proposed budget is currently working its way through the City Council’s public hearing process, which is expected to extend until May 16th.  It’s a solid budget and establishes a strong foundation.

However, several areas where we need to prioritize greater investment include:

+ Stronger technical capacity to implement LA’s Green New Deal.
+ Procurement Reform to promote greater business and cultural inclusion.
+ Stopping the “The War on Trees”
+ Opportunity Zones Implementation Strategies
+ Workforce Development
+ Community Planning and a VISION PLAN for the future of Los Angeles

1.  Stronger technical capacity to implement LA’s Green New Deal.  

We need to double-down on our investments to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

On April 29th Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the “Green New Deal” for Los Angeles and released an update to the City’s Sustainability Plan.  It provides the pathway to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045, source 70% of all water locally and recycle 100% of waste water by 2035, create 400,000 green jobs and reach 100% net zero carbon for all buildings by 2050 and 100% net zero carbon for all new buildings by 2035.  The sustainability plan also pledges a commitment to plant 90,000 trees by 2021.

The plan is commendable and we should be proud of it as a proclamation to do better.  After all, AIA Los Angeles has been advocating for a citywide sustainability plan for for 15+ years.    From 2003 onwards, as part of our annual advocacy platforms, our “Sustainable Communities” initiative became a drumbeat to encourage the City of Los Angeles to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures to ensure healthy, sustainable, transit-oriented and pedestrian-oriented development.  As recently as 2013, with the leadership of Scott Johnson, FAIA as the President of AIA Los Angeles, our advocacy platform “Los Angeles: Designing Our Future” included a Ten Point Plan that invited Mayor Garcetti “to embrace long-term planning and encouraged the City Council to invest in a long-term Vision Plan that’ll motivate more people to share their own visions for a vibrant Los Angeles of the future.

AIA|LA intends to coordinate several roundtable discussions with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to analyze strategies to more effectively reach the sustainability plan’s targets, as well as, identify specific code-related regulations, processes and procedures (whether Federal, State or local) that are hindering the private-sector’s ability to implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change more swiftly.”

Reach out to AIA|LA if you’d like to get more involved in that conversation.

2.  Procurement Reform to promote greater business and cultural inclusion.

We need to invest in innovative technologies and human resources to ensure a regional, streamlined procurement platform that will connect together all of the public agencies, as well as, the private sector with the goal to optimize the project delivery of large-scale capital improvements in such a way that facilitates the opportunity for everyone to help design, build, operate and maintain tomorrow’s Los Angeles.  Especially since we have so much work to do to prepare the region for 2028.

AIA|LA is supporting an initiative that is being advanced by the Los Angeles Business Council called “Compete4LA”.  This initiative is currently being considered by the City’s Ad Hoc Committee on Job Creation, as Council File 19-0078.

According the LABC: “The Compete4LA regional procurement platform proposal will create business-to-business opportunities, spur economic development, and create equity in the benefits reaped from major investments and events.” It will do so by:

  • Taking advantage of high-profile events to create a clearinghouse of procurement opportunities and small businesses databases for buyers and suppliers alike to take advantage of;
  • Simplifying and streamlining the process for small businesses to find procurement opportunities;
  • And, strengthening accountability measures for prime contractors through detailed tracking of spend and subcontractors.

Let’s dedicate money in the 2019-2020 budget to implement this proposal.

3.  Stopping the “The War on Trees”

We need to take immediate action to stop the so-called “War on Trees”.

As highlighted in the City Plants report, “First Step: Developing an Urban Forest Masterplan for the City of Los Angeles”, we need to invest at least $3 million for a professional street tree inventory, an urban forestry management plan, and public education programs.  The street tree inventory should also include the locations of empty tree wells, as well as, identify underutilized and interstitial pockets in the public right-of-way where trees could be planted.

We also need to invest in more trees citywide, in general.  Let’s aim to have at least a citywide average of 30% canopy coverage by 2028. Yes, that’s a tall glass of water!  We need to create incentive packages to ensure that more trees are planted on private property.  We need to create comprehensive, holistic and flexible planning and land-use tools that will update zoning requirements, specific plans, street tree regulations and tree-trimming practices that are detrimental to the health of our canopy.

And lastly, we need to fund design charrettes to resolve the conflict of our competing needs:  housing, density, economic development, universal access, urban heat island, sidewalk repair, bio-diversity, natural habitat and watershed management.

Healthy trees become the symbol for when a system is working well – and we need to design that system with sensitivity, care and deliberation.

4.  Opportunity Zones Implementation Strategies

We need to invest in an inclusive community outreach process to ensure that Opportunity Zones attract equitable investments that don’t damage the authentic fabric of neighborhoods or disenfranchise residents and local businesses.

If Opportunity Zones aren’t done right, displacement will be severe.

CLICK HERE, to read the IRS updated guidance on how to capitalize on opportunity funds.

Please note: California needs to provide some quick legislative updates to encourage greater investment in OZ’s here in the state.

5.  Workforce Development

We need to invest in stronger workforce development programs to attract K-12 students into STEAM jobs.   Let’s empower future generations to enter the architecture, engineering, urban planning, design and construction (AEC) professions. These are some of the “green jobs” that will grow our economy and help us solve our societal challenges to mitigate climate change.

We’re encountering a labor shortage right at the time when we need to build more housing, mobility and stormwater infrastructure, which is driving up costs and slowing down the process.  We also need to diversify the workforce as a way to increase our collective ability to solve complex challenges and achieve a greater return on our investments.  The value proposition is tremendous.

AIA|LA is partnering with LAUSD to encourage 20+ firms to offer internships to high school students this summer. To pledge your commitment, CLICK HERE.

6.  Community Planning and a VISION PLAN for the future of Los Angeles

As a city, we’ve consistently underfunded the Department of City Planning.  More of the general fund needs to be directed towards providing DCP with the tools and human resources it needs to comprehensively engage the public in a planning process that keeps in equal consideration the multitude of community stakeholders (whether past, present or future residents), local business, faith-based organizations, academic and cultural institutions.  A healthy, robust planning process is fundamental to our long term health as a city.

Unfortunately, DCP has been consistently underfunded by the Los Angeles City Council possibly by intention to keep more land-use authority and discretion in the hands of our elected representatives.  However, by doing so, we are now facing severe, unintended consequences that are most evidently on display with our current homelessness and housing affordability crisis.  Our communities seem more divided than ever before on what shared vision we all have for the future of our city.  There is so much misunderstanding, confusion and lack of clarity in general as a consequence of our outdated community plans.  Resources are constantly misdirected by lawsuits and, too often, progress is derailed by the very nature of the litigious vulnerability all innovation carries.

Let’s invest in a new way of thinking, a new process to empower communities to share their vision for how Los Angeles will look, feel and “be” in the future.  Let’s enable multiple and diverse visions for that future to co-exist in a healthy and compatible manner.

But first we have to “see it.”  If we can’t see it, then we can’t ever get there.

To see it, we first have to invest handsomely in a design process that assembles everyone’s paths of desire in a harmonious and iterative manner, which will promote greater equity for all voices involved.

Perhaps the 2019-2020 budget will be a step towards getting us there.

Yours truly,

Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

AIA Los Angeles

Follow-up on AIA’s Capitol Hill Day 2019

Since AIA’s Capitol Hill Day during Grassroots 2019, the AIA federal relations team has analyzed all the intelligence that was received from your meetings and followed up with all offices to thank them for meeting with AIA members. They also met with those that indicated a high level of interest in working with AIA on either the school safety or sustainability issue (or both). Our main goals for Capitol Hill Day were to make a big impression on members of Congress and jump-start our legislative initiatives on school safety and sustainability. Thanks to your efforts, it appears we were successful!

What follows is a short synopsis of our progress on both issues since Capitol Hill Day. We also have a quick and simple opportunity for you to help get your member of Congress to support AIA’s newest bipartisan federal legislation known as the Invest in America Act.

School Safety

The two major elements of our school safety initiative are securing more public funding and informational resources for school officials to design safer schools.

Federal funding – because of the great work from AIA Louisiana and AIA members, Jay Brotman and Jenine Kotob, on Capitol Hill Day, we secured bipartisan House and Senate champions to submit appropriations requests to include design services as an allowable use of funds for the STOP School Violence Act grant program. This submittal also included a request to add another $100 million to the program. We are currently working both chambers to ensure the request is included in the Commerce, Justice Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
Clearinghouse – because of the great work from AIA Georgia on Capitol Hill Day, we secured our first champion for the establishment of a federal clearinghouse that would provide materials, training and technical assistance to local jurisdictions seeking guidance on school design and safety. We are close to identifying champions in the House and working on bill language for both chambers’ bills. We hope to have a bipartisan sponsored bill introduced in the coming months.


The federal relations team has continued to work closely with the Real Estate Roundtable, environmental groups, and other industry partners to ensure that an introduction of EEQIP has all the necessary stakeholder support. We will be circulating a letter to Congress signed by each member of this coalition before the end of April. From there, work is ongoing to secure legislative language that can be introduced in both the House and Senate with bipartisan champions and support.

Invest in America Act

On April 10, the AIA helped spearhead the introduction of bipartisan federal legislation that would create project opportunities for architecture firms by increasing state and local leaders’ ability to attract much-needed global investment to improve buildings and infrastructure in their cities and towns. Known as the Invest in America Act, HR 2210, this bill would create numerous opportunities for architects, their firms, and the communities they serve by creating jobs and spurring new projects.

Help requested.

We are doing a big push in May to get as many Democrat and Republican co-sponsors on the Invest in America Act by June 8. This will help us prove it has support to potentially be attached to a bipartisan infrastructure bill. We could very much use your help on this as we all know constituent weigh in moves the needle on members of Congress. Please email if you would be willing to send out an email communication to your members that encourages them to contact their member of Congress on this portal.

As you can see from the progress, your work and the powerful message you sent to Congress on Capitol Hill Day is resonating. The relationships that you and your members have with members of Congress will be critical to our success in the coming months. To that end, we are beginning to make plans for the summer recess and for engaging AIA members, watch for our next update with more details on how you can help. In the meantime, if we can provide additional information or you wish to become more engaged in these campaigns now, please contact

For more information, please contact:

Sarah (Thomson) Dodge
Senior Vice-President, Advocacy & Relationships Department
American Institute of Architects

AIA National

AIA California