ULI Los Angeles News

FutureBuild Provides a Sneak Peek into a Transformed Los Angeles

  • The Los Angeles 2024 Olympics will transform the city and the region.
  • Like a Silicon Valley startup, government must take the lead on climate change with tech-savvy, entrepreneurial strategies.
  • The quality of our health is inextricably linked with our daily environments.
  • A city needs resilience to adapt, survive, and thrive.

img_1913300dpiThese are just a few of the ideas explored in depth at FutureBuild 2017, the annual conference that brings together leading thinkers, innovators, and change makers of the built environment. FutureBuild, held on January 31, 2017 at LA Hotel Downtown, was convened by ULI Los Angeles, a District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), in partnership with VerdeXchange. VerdeXchange Chair David Abel and ULI Los Angeles Executive Director Gail Goldberg welcomed the hundreds of attendees, including municipal officials and professionals from all sides of the design and development industries, to a morning of cutting-edge conversations on the best practices and policies impacting the real estate industry in the realms of Sustainability, Resiliency and Creative Disruption.

2024 Summer Olympics

img_1744300dpiFutureBuild opened with an exciting vision of the ambitious infrastructure upgrades and development opportunities to be anticipated if Los Angeles wins its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, surpassing the successful revitalization catalyzed by the 1984 Olympics. LA 2024 CEO Gene Sykes previewed the decisive vote, to take place on September 13 in Lima, Peru. “Investment is flowing into Inglewood for the ambitious, visually arresting new stadium and entertainment complex that will open in 2019 on the former site of Hollywood Park,” said City of Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts. “It will host the 2021 Super Bowl and play a significant role in generating new infrastructure and supporting our Olympics bid.”

Great transportation improvements now underway will be ready for 2024, noted LA 84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril, including the connection to the new LAX Metro station. Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington made some news when he remarked that Measure M seed money could allow the agency to explore an express train between LAX and Union Station.

Opportunities will open up for innovative sustainability programs, in what Brence Culp, Executive Director of Sustainability and Legacy for LA2024, called the “circular economy”— for example, the successful collaboration between the L.A. Coliseum and USC to recycle the waste of 80,000 fans into compost for the use of farmers in the Central Valley.

Investing in Los Angeles: Risks & Rewards

img_1841300dpiSpeaker Rick Cole, Santa Monica’s City Manager, emphasized that we are entering a time of crisis, in which Cole sees opportunities for Los Angeles to lead, nationally and globally. Evoking the image of the Statue of Liberty welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” he said, “We have to be the symbol of what makes America great.” Eclipsed economically over the last several decades by San Francisco, Los Angeles has the people, economic power, and outsized global influence to lead in a time of new opportunities and challenges. “L.A. is in motion today, fueled by the people, diversity, dynamism, mobility and equity,” he said. “We are headed toward a bright future, but we have to steer in the right direction.” L.A. must develop leaders with the wisdom to direct initiatives that will make the most of the city’s vast resources. Cole noted that the victories in the recent election of Measure M, which will fund the most ambitious transit expansion in Los Angeles County history; Measure HHH, authorizing a $1.2 billion bond issue to tackle homelessness; and Measure JJJ, supporting affordable housing, are all signs of a region working together to embrace public sector innovation.

Healthy Places, Healthy People

img_2196300dpiAt the level of the office, the building, and the community, good development and design can improve the health of the individual, the public, and the city by supporting daily access to important health indicators—clean air, daylight, physical movement, and contact with other people. “We’re seeing a shift from wellness to well-being,” said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s VP of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness. “The new view is holistic, and includes more than physical condition, stress levels, and the food we eat.  At Kaiser, we are blurring the line between hospitals and communities, bringing in farmers with fresh produce, engaging doctors in supporting workers’ well-being. Purpose in life and social engagement are essential to the well-being environment,” she added. Naava Founder and CTO Niko Järvinen, whose startup company “combines technology and nature and air and plants,” noted the importance of having “one, dedicated person managing the company’s wellness initiatives, instead of dispersing responsibilities among different departments with different roles.”

“You can’t be competitive if you’re not attentive to wellness inside the building,” noted Wayne Ratkovich, President and CEO, The Ratkovich Company. Do sustainable, Energy Star buildings drive better employee productivity and healthcare outcomes? “You can’t build a building today that isn’t LEED-certified,” said David Pogue, CBRE’s Global Director of Corporate Responsibility. Pogue reported on several years of studies that showed occupants’ performance improved in sustainable environments—adding value to buildings for owners. “The importance of occupant outcomes is going to be the topic in this industry for the next decade,” he said.

Resilient Cities

img_2498300dpi“What is resilience?” asked a FutureBuild panel discussion. The Rockefeller Foundation’s pioneering 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program, founded in 2013, adopts “view of resilience that includes not just the shocks—earthquakes, fires, floods—but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.” These include high unemployment; an overtaxed or inefficient public transportation system; endemic violence; or chronic food and water shortages. 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to such physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century: “By addressing both the shocks and the stresses, a city becomes more able to respond to adverse events, and is overall better able to deliver basic functions in both good times and bad, to all populations.” In addition to funding, 100RC provides each participating city a resilience framework, a platform of resilience tools and services, knowledge and best practices, and inclusion in a network of such cities. “New technologies are key ingredients for resilient cities,” noted Melissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Los Angeles.

“Resilience means having knowledge of problems, an understanding of threats and vulnerabilities, an engagement with complex problems, and also the agility for creative change, consensus building and balance,” said Josh Sawislak, AECOM’s Global Director of Resilience.

Rockefeller has been generous, but “In order to push initiatives forward, cities need more resources for strategy development and needed follow-through,” said HR&A Advisors Partner Paul Silvern. “It’s not enough to identify approaches; you need integrated planning and opportunities to measure results of initiatives on a regular basis.” Silvern cited the example of Boston, where a climate adaption strategy and plan, including values and approaches, is fully integrated into the city plan.

Heather Rosenberg, Director of the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles’ LA Resilience Initiative, addressed resilience in terms of emergency preparedness. Although, she noted, “When you don’t know what the problems are going to be, you can’t solve every problem,” Rosenberg emphasized the importance of community connection and collaboration. “Often, different groups don’t speak with each other. If you get every stakeholder together in one room, you can come up with better solutions.”  Los Angeles needs to invest in water infrastructure, alternative water supply in buildings, and fire suppression. She cited Culver City’s innovative approach to its water issues, where different people working together developed solutions and crated linkages that help everyone. “A connected community is most able to respond,” she said. Rosenberg also stressed the need for credible verification of active risk management via third-party methodologies.

Other panels at FutureBuild discussed energy monitoring and management to maximize building efficiency; the challenges for cities of adapting to self-driving cars, a technology will transform our cities far more than it will the auto industry; and the coming advances in technology and connectivity that will make the urban built environment more sustainable, resilient, and responsive to the needs of a new generation of inhabitants.

Additional coverage of FutureBuild 2017 can be found at Urban Land.

This article was written by Nadene Gallagher of Lauter + Gallagher.

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