Recap: Leading Voices in Real Estate featuring Ricardo Pagan
On February 20th, ULI Los Angeles Young Leaders Group (YLG) hosted a special live edition of the podcast Leading Voices in Real Estate.
March 11, 2020
Written by Jack Skelley
ULI Los Angeles presented a day-long program examining temporary shelters, bridge housing, permanent-supportive housing and other solutions to the homeless crisis in Los Angeles. Homelessness: Confronting the Land-Use Challenges to Housing the Homeless, on March 4, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, featured high-level speakers, panels and intensive workshops, and built upon ULI’s 2018 national technical advisory report.
“With nearly 60,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, and encampments proliferating, Los Angeles requires the most-effective possible solutions,” said ULI Los Angeles Land Use Leadership Council Co-Chair and Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP Partner, David P. Waite.
Opening remarks were by ULI Los Angeles Executive Director Marty Borko, and ULI Los Angeles Chair and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing Managing Director Kevork A. Zoryan. Waite introduced keynote speaker CBRE President Lewis C. Horne, who engaged conversation with Dan Shea, Partner, Paradigm Investment Group, about successful private-sector initiatives in San Diego.
Framing the issue was Leigh M. Ferguson, Director of Economic Development, Downtown Development District of New Orleans, and Co-Chair of 2018 ULI Advisory Service Panel on Los Angeles homelessness.
The event featured two significant expert panels in the morning followed by breakout workshops for different policy and market sectors.
Panel 1: Defining Demographics: Who & Why.
Moderating these stories from the front lines of the crisis was Mike Alvidrez, External Ambassador & CEO Emeritus, Skid Row Housing Trust. The speakers addressed: What are the practical next steps in helping individuals navigate the transition to permanent housing? How can land-use professionals pair with faith communities, school districts, property managers, and neighborhoods to better understand the needs and opportunities?
Panel 2: Challenges of Creating Supply: Land Use & Finance
Tim Kawahara, Executive Director, UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, introduced this panel with an anecdote about demonstrating how difficult it is to get “buy-in” for increased density from neighborhood groups: The Westside Pavilion is becoming a huge Google job center. It is two blocks from the Expo Line. “This is the exact area that should be upzoned,” he said.
The four-afternoon workshops addressed:
– Finding Sites
– Finance Solutions
– Expediting Land-Use Approvals
– Innovations in Design and Construction
The Innovations in Design and Construction workshop included some of the most significant leaders in innovating affordable housing. They included Dafna Kaplan, CEO of Cassette Construction Systems; Zach Prowda, Director of BAR Los Angeles, producing “housing at all scales and in all neighborhood”; Wade Killefer, founder of KFA; and Kwaku Gyabaah, Vice President, Clark Construction.
Killefer’s broad experience covers most housing types – including adaptive reuse of defunct buildings – and some technologies still being developed. One current project uses “butler buildings,” an inexpensive structural system often used with aircraft hangars that continues to evolve: “In five to 10 years, modular may be the only type we will use.”
Joining the workshop was Mike Alvidrez, CEO Emeritus, Skid Row Housing Trust, and moderator of the day’s first panel. He oversaw the development of Starr Apartments, the first modular project in DTLA. He pointed the out the costs and inefficiencies of manufactured housing, especially the lack of modular companies in the U.S. “If you had a factory that made modules all in one place it would work. But we’re not at a refined level yet. Meanwhile the estimated need is 1.5 million affordable units in California.”
Also participating was Erika Stubstad, Design Director with architecture, urbanism and landscape-design firm Studio One Eleven, currently producing a series of modular affordable housing projects around Los Angeles.
“Our group included developers, architects, contractors, and modular manufacturers all of whom expressed the concern with addressing nimbyism,” said Stubstad. “I proposed that we each find a way to stand up for one another to keep more positive voices of support for affordable and homeless housing within these public and private conversations.”
Among the other issues emerging from Stubstad’s group were the inefficiencies and unclear requirements of public utilities.
“Everyone is suffering from slow approvals,” she said. “Many of us have projects – sometimes with homeless people sleeping on the same street as an unopened community – just waiting for utilities to turn on the power. In the past year, we have collectively reached out to our public officials to create legislation to streamline the plan check process. We need to do the same with utilities. With inconsistent requirements from one property to another and disagreements between the utility design and installation teams, it’s not surprising there have been significant delays. We all want to play by the rules, but we also need to know exactly what those rules are.”
The event’s closing keynote, call to action and next steps featured Kayo Anderson, Minister of Culture, LA Community Action Network; and Daniel Dart, CEO, DEC Projects.
Jack Skelley serves on the Advisory Board of ULI Los Angeles and is president of JSPR Public Relations, Writing and Marketing.
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