Member Perspective:

AIA|LA Legislative Day at City Hall // December 2022

from Ethel G. Rubio, Assoc. AIA

This is one of the AIA LA Chapter programs that I look forward to each year since attending my first one in 2018: The 2022 AIA|LA Legislative Day at City Hall.

We just concluded another year of Leg Day with Los Angeles City Hall, and it was incredible! The advocacies that we presented this year on housing; adaptive re-use; and getting architects appointed to City Boards and Commissions are very timely and important as the City of Los Angeles was transitioning to the new Mayoral leadership when we started the two-week long up-close-and-personal meetings with key civic leaders and senior management last week. With new Mayor Karen Bass declaring a State of Emergency on housing for over 40,000 homeless in the City of Los Angeles on her first day in office, we should expect some drastic changes in the coming days and months. Everyone from both sides is hopeful!

I am so glad to have participated in the two in-person meetings with the Bureau of Engineering (BOE) and LA City Planning Department (LACP). Nothing beats having meetings at the BOE and LACP offices! The post-formal-meeting conversation further strengthened our relationship with these two Departments. In our meeting with the BOE, we got to personally meet the city-employed architects in key positions who plan and implement housing programs “on the other side.” Who knew!

There were about ten to thirty of us perhaps less in some virtual meetings at any given time that Will Wright, AIA|LA’s Director of Government  & Public Affairs, organized. I am very surprised that we do not have more. Although we have steadily effected incremental changes in the City of Los Angeles through our advocacies as an organization over the years, I would like to see more of us participate in this annual dialog.

This is not just a Government Outreach Committee activity or an AIA|LA Chapter Board responsibility. It is for all of us to have an opportunity to engage and meet the policymakers and decision-makers that affect all of our projects in the City of Los Angeles.

I observed that it is at these meetings that we get updated on what the City of Los Angeles has done or is doing to address the issues we have put forth in our advocacies to date and also being informed about the improvements that they are implementing to make things easier for us.

Licensed or not, as individuals, we cannot operate in silos and dismiss any frustrations to government non-responsiveness or old processes in getting our permits, going through plan checks, get zoning approvals, etc. I have witnessed myself, as a Leg Day delegate, that Los Angeles City management and officials are willing to listen and proactively engage with us to solve the problems that we encounter. I experienced this first-hand in the ADU project that I worked on recently. There is still a long way to go in solving process problems and we are holding both the LA City and us accountable in this matter.

If we ask the LA City officials to appoint architects in Commissions and Boards, we should be proactive rather than reactive in seeking them out. We need to engage in our beloved City not only as architects but as citizens, and this starts with knowing the City Councilmembers in the districts we live and work, and most especially responding to Mayor Bass’ call to action in getting involved.

I look forward to seeing all members of the AIA|LA including associate and allied members to join us next year and get involve. We are all advocates. I know it is trite, but I would like to end this retrospect by saying similar to the words of JFK in his presidential inaugural address: Ask not what the City of Los Angeles can do for you; ask what you can do for our City!



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To encourage civic discussion, AIA|LA invites members to share their own columns that include pro-active solutions which can make our city even better. All columns are the individual opinions of their writers and not the positions of the AIA|LA as a whole. If you are an AIA|LA member seeking to share a column,  contact Will Wright at AIA|LA.

Ethel G. Rubio, Assoc. AIA, ENV SP
Ethel Rubio is the Principal/ Owner of Ethel G. Rubio, Assoc. AIA, a consulting firm specializing in project and construction management, and strategic outreach and engagement since 2017. Her multi-disciplinary career path that spans over 30 years includes work in the built-environment (architecture/engineering/construction) and nonprofit sectors.

She has worked on transportation, educational, prison, hospitality, commercial and residential projects in the Architectural/Engineering/Construction (A/E/C) industry. Her work with the American Red Cross Biomedical Services in the Greater Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley grew the life-saving donor base in those areas. After Red Cross, she volunteered and consulted with her daughter’s Catholic middle school to grow enrollment and obtain grants. She then worked on expanding the membership and engagement for a global professional organization, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), as the Development Manager for its west coast region of North America before taking off solo in 2017.

During the pandemic summer of 2020, Ethel co-founded a social enterprise, Sun Girl Prints, with her daughter Valory who is double-degree Stanford University graduate and created the Pinay Power design. This design signifies the strength and power of Filipinas everywhere . A portion of the sales currently goes to a Southern California-based social justice organization, the Pilipino Workers Center.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Ethel began her architecture studies at the University of the Philippines and completed her Certificate of Architectural Drafting. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree with an emphasis in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Southern California when her family emigrated to the U.S. in 1986. In 2019, the City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Ethel Rubio to the Adams-Normandie Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) Board that is tasked to serve as a volunteer advisory body to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning related to new and remodeling constructions. She currently serves as the Board Chair and is the only woman on the Board. Ethel is the first Filipina to become president of the Association for Women in Architecture (AWA) in 1995 and first Asian American woman to be president of the AIA/LA Associates in 1994. Ethel is the Immediate Past President of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Greater Los Angeles (UPAAGLA) who led the alumni chapter association to the next level in terms of alumni fundraising and engagement. Concurrently, she served on the UP Alumni Association in America, Inc. (UPAAA) Board of Directors from 2019 to 2021 and spearheaded its award-winning first virtual and global UPAAA Grand Reunion and Convention in 2021. In 2021, Ethel received the prestigious University of the Philippines Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award for an Alumna for her creative and dedicated leadership, and for gathering the UP alumni in Greater Los Angeles and beyond to participate in the University’s efforts in humanitarian assistant to needy students and victims of disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Ethel’s passion for making a difference led her to serve in impactful volunteer leadership roles in the professional, civic and alumni organizations. She mentors students and young professionals, and other professionals moving to the next level of their career. She is a determined advocate for women empowerment; diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), and sustainability.