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

Welcome to the first day of Fall, the autumnal equinox.  On this day in 1953, the famous “four-level” officially opened in Los Angeles, connecting the Harbor, Hollywood, Pasadena, and Santa Ana freeways. As the first stack interchange in the world, it has been certified as a civil engineering landmark by the LA Section of ACSE. Completed in 1949, the interchange sat ’empty’ until 1953 — waiting for the completion of the freeways that would connect it. However, its construction permanently displaced 4,000 residents and demolished the neighborhood adjacent to Bunker Hill.

Adaptive Reuse 2.0

In collaboration with Los Angeles City Planning’s Urban Design Studio, we are organizing an Adaptive Reuse 2.0 roundtable to rethink specific zoning code and building code requirements in an effort to promote recovery, health and wellness, and resilience.  Given the potential for a change in demand for office space, and with the Health Element of the General Plan in mind, let’s see how we can expand the City’s adaptive re-use provisions to more areas of Los Angeles.

· Allowing hybrid uses
· Open, adaptive buildings and spaces
· Adapting parking for other uses
· Environmental benefits of adaptive reuse: conservation of resources and energy upgrades
· Update of Adaptive Reuse ordinance, moving the age of buildings forward
· Exploring a mix of uses in current office space

The desired outcome is for City Family to help inform a set of recommendations to Los Angeles City Council during AIA|LA’s annual Legislative Day at City Hall.

The roundtable will take place virtually on October 21st, from 2-4pm. If you’re interested in joining, please email me at for more details.

The Impact of LADWP Transformers on the Public Realm

On September 21, we held another roundtable discussion with LACP Urban Design Studio about the impact of LADWP transformers on the public realm.  At present, they are enforcing an on-site staging area, open to the sky with pads ranging from 18 x 30 feet for smaller projects to 30 X 38 feet for larger projects.  Not only do these transformers pose detrimental urban design impacts for neighborhoods, lessening the space available for landscape and tree canopy, these on-site staging requirements (and the land they occupy) often impact project feasibility by diminishing the number of units possible to build on a lot.  According to Ian Sanchez, the founder of Dry Utilities Experts, “the current climate is still obtaining variance request per project basis.”

To better understand the comprehensive impact that these on-site staging areas are posing, we’re circulating a survey to collect more insight into whether or not your projects are being impacted.  Please click on the link below so that we’re able to record the impact these requirements have on your projects:

LADWP Staging Area Change – Call to Action

Another area of concern is the understaffing at the major design group at LADPW, which is severely impacting scheduling and timelines for approval.  At present, LADWP is not scheduling equipping customer stations until final LADBS sign off on all electrical.  With the current lead time at approximately 6 months, this means that once you have the final electrical sigh-off at LADBS,  you have to wait an additional 6-8 months for a customer station to be equipped and since electrical sign off is usually one of the last items prior to TCO, this is severely impacting the ability for us to deliver affordable housing to the market.

Measure J (Re.Imagine LA)

I’m working with the JEDI Committee to organize a roundtable on Measure J (Re.Imagine LA), which will be on the ballot in November.  The objective of this roundtable will be to get a better understanding of the Re.Imagine LA initiative and its direct connection to the core values of AIA Los Angeles and the architecture and design community. If Measure J passes in November, it directs the County of LA to prioritize investments in health, housing, and economic justice in their annual budgets.  This virtual roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, September 30 (5:30pm) and all are welcome with advance RSVP.


AIA California’s Board of Directors has officially endorsed Proposition 16, which will be on the statewide ballot on November 3rd.  If approved by the voters, Prop 16 will repeal Prop 209 and will facilitate more inclusive procurement by enabling public agencies, such as the City of Los Angeles, to

As a collaborative forum with So Cal NOMA and the JEDI Committee, we hosted a roundtable on Prop 16 (Prop 209 repeal) and heard experiences from black-owned architecture firms. As a follow up, we scheduled a meeting with Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley, the City’s Chief Equity Officer, and shared recommendations for specific changes we’d like to see made to the City’s procurement process and to selection criteria in their RFQs and RFPs, that move beyond simple good-faith efforts and empower more minority-owned firms to qualify as prime contractors.

To watch a recording of the Prop 16 roundtable, please CLICK HERE.

City of Los Angeles Housing Element Update

As a member of the Housing Element task force, I’m working with Abundant Housing LA to help promote The FAIR Plan, which recommends “a methodology for allocating the 456,000-home RHNA target across LA’s neighborhoods, based on factors like housing costs, access to jobs, access to transit, and environmental quality.”

We are advocating for neighborhood-level housing targets to be integrated into the current housing element update.  According to a report from Abundant Housing’s Anthony Dedousis, 2.7 million homes are needed throughout Southern California.  For us to ensure healthy, equitable, and complete communities, we must ensure that we are building this much needed housing in transit-and-job rich areas, rather than predominantly on the margins.

Affordable Housing Resources

SCANPH recently released a report that details the student housing needs at the community college level.


Housing California and the California Housing Partnership recently released a report on their Roadmap Home 2030 proposal.

Planning for Health Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership (PHEAL)

I was invited by Miguel A. Vázquez, AICP (Healthy Communities Urban Regional Planner, Riverside University Health System) along with 77 others to contribute to creation of The PHEAL Guiding Principles, with the purpose of “empowering and elevating the voices of historically overburdened communities with health inequities in the time of COVID-19.”

Community Health & Regeneration
Community-Based Advocacy
Healing Through Leadership

LACP Planning 1010 Training Sessions

Los Angeles City Planning will host their Planning 101 training sessions focusing on the topics of project and community planning. The annual Planning 101 series provides a general overview of the core functions of planning in Los Angeles and serves as an educational resource for anyone interested in learning more about participation in the land use process, especially residents, newly elected neighborhood council board members, and members of other community-based organizations.

In keeping with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Safer at Home Order, this year’s training will be offered virtually to minimize and stop the spread of COVID-19. Attendees will be able to join by telephone or remotely, through GoTo video conferencing software.

Project Planning

The Project Planning training will highlight how projects are reviewed and walk attendees through each step of the development review process―beginning with the submission of a project application at the public counter and ending with the approval of a building permit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 (1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
Thursday, October 15, 2020 (5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, October 17, 2020 (11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)

LADBS Updates

According to a recent newsletter, The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) has modified its procedures and implemented new practices “to provide customers with the best possible service during these challenging times, while safeguarding the health and safety of both LADBS customers and staff members.”

In response to the pandemic, LADBS established designated “Drop-off/Pickup” areas for new submittal and verification plans. LADBS will now offer limited in-person appointments to facilitate quicker resolution and improve the efficiency of the plan check process. The

Effective as of Monday, September 21, 2020, the following submittal and verification procedures will be implemented:

A completed permit application will be required as part of the submittal package.
Applicants will be given a “screening” appointment at the time of submittal package drop-off. The applicant will be given two printouts of the “screening” appointment confirmation, one for reference and one to wrap around the submittal package for identification. An LADBS staff will contact the applicant by phone on the scheduled “screening” appointment time to review the submittal package for completeness. It is important for the applicant to be available during the “screening” appointment.
Incomplete plans will not be accepted. Another “screening” appointment will be scheduled upon receipt of missing documents.

If the applicant cannot be reached during the scheduled “screening” appointment, the submittal package will not be processed. The plans will be placed back in queue for another “screening” appointment.

Once plans are accepted for plan check, LADBS staff will create the permit application and send the applicant a link for online payment of the plan check fees.

The verification package must be dropped off at the designated “Drop-Off” areas. No appointment is required when dropping off verification packages for Over-The-Counter (OTC), Appointment Plan Check (APC), or Expanded Counter Plan Check (ECPC) projects.

OTC verification packages must contain the following:
1. An LADBS “Drop-off” transmittal cover sheet, wrapped around the plans, with the project information clearly visible
2. Original marked plans
3. Revised plans
4. Original correction sheets with a written response addressing each pending correction
5. Any other required documents per the plan check engineer’s instruction

The applicant must contact the plan check engineer to schedule a phone/virtual verification appointment. Subsequently, an appointment email will be sent to the applicant. Applicants must show the appointment email at the time of drop-off of the verification package.

The verification package must contain the following:
1. Original marked plans
2. Revised plans
3. Original correction sheets with a written response addressing each pending correction
4. Any other required documents per the plan check engineer’s instruction

The verification package must be dropped off at the designated “Drop-off” areas at least 48 hours prior to the appointment date for quarantine.
An LADBS “Drop-off” transmittal cover sheet and the appointment email must be wrapped around the submittal package, clearly visible.

The plan check engineer will review the revised plans with you during the appointment either by phone or online via google meet.

Drop-off packages must contain the following items:
1. Completed RTI form, wrapped around the plans, with the permit address clearly visible.
2. The original RTI-stamped set of plans. The number of sets is indicated on the RTI form.
3. All documents required on the RTI form.
4. Relevant Contractor information. See the RTI form for further information.

Legislative Day at City Hall

We are presently finalizing our plans for our annual Legislative Day at City Hall, which this year will be a virtual event.  Tentatively scheduled in mid-November, we’ll have an exact date and the annual advocacy platform confirmed soon.

Stay tuned for more details.