Blog: Updates on Urbanology

Home Sales Highlight Successes at Playa Vista


Playa Vista, the connected urban community on the Westside of Los Angeles, is nearing successful culmination in the heart of Silicon Beach. 42 of the 66 homes in The Collection, Playa Vista’s multi-level single-family residences, are now sold out. Playa Vista’s additional remaining single-family enclave – the luxury, multi-level residences of Jewel – has seen 12 of 14 homes now sold. Meanwhile The Campus at Playa Vista is nearing buildout of its approximately 3 million square feet of creative space. And Runway, Playa Vista’s retail and lifestyle development, has announced new tenants and a dynamic pedestrian-focused redesign.

“We’re now seeing the fruition of Playa Vista as the highly successful heart of Silicon Beach,” said Alison Girard, Director of Marketing at Brookfield Residential, Playa Vista’s community developer. “We’re approaching the final new homes available within walkable neighborhoods, adjacent to an international technology hub. With an advanced parks system, and shopping and entertainment all part of comprehensive community amenities, Playa Vista is approaching peak Silicon Beach.”

Girard also said the coastal community’s 10-minute drive to LAX has helped attract a sub-set of bi-coastal buyers: “These include entrepreneurs and executives based here in Playa Vista or in the growing creative-office districts in Culver City and West L.A.”

The Collection and Jewel

The Collection is a curated offering of single-family residences and one of Playa Vista’s final neighborhoods of single-family residences. 42 of its 66 homes are now sold out. Highlights of these multi-level, detached residences (approx. 2,624 – 3,666 sq. ft.) include private elevators, airy floorplans, gourmet kitchens and dramatically spacious decks for entertaining.

 Jewel, Playa Vista’s luxury multi-story detached residences, are also nearly sold out, with 12 of its 14 homes now sold. Jewel residences range from 4,200-4,500 square feet. The open-concept modern designs offer luxuriously detailed finishes, spacious living areas, elevators, and indoor and outdoor entertaining areas – including dramatic third-floor entertainer's loft and covered deck with outdoor kitchen possibilities. The design is by Robert Hidey Architects. The homes are priced from the high $3 millions.

“The Collection and Jewel offer the final few new single-family homes on the market today – not just in Playa Vista, but on the entire Westside of Los Angeles,” said Girard. “It’s clear from the pace of sales traffic and closings that buyers increasingly recognize the value of these homes new homes they can make their own with personalization opportunities. We’re all so busy and these homes save you from remodeling a re-sale and hiring and managing contractors.”

The Campus at Playa Vista

Playa Vista’s approximately 3 million square feet of creative office is centered in The Campus at Playa Vista, with international tech and entertainment companies housed in architecturally significant offices.  The most high-profile recent tenant is Google, which now occupies the restored, 319,000 square-foot, seven-story Spruce Goose hangar built by Howard Hughes.

This expansion by Google is among the final major components of The Campus, where Google has also purchased 12 vacant acres adjacent to the hanger. Also at The Campus are Yahoo Inc., YouTube Space LA, Fullscreen Inc., Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies, Fox Sports Networks Inc., The Honest Company, and Belkin International Inc.  Facebook is currently performing major tenant improvements at its new space in The Brickyard, the newest buildings in The Campus.

The Campus offers synergy with the surrounding Playa Vista community, including a broad range of housing that is attracting tech executives and other creatives.

“Playa Vista is built on the former facilities of Hughes Aircraft,” noted Girard. “The Spruce Goose hangar and other buildings built by Hughes offer architecture, scale and a sense of place that inspires creativity. People love to work where Howard Hughes once did.”

Runway Redesign

DJM Capital Partners, Inc. recently broke ground on a pedestrian-focused, $9.1 million re-envisioning of Runway, Playa Vista’s vibrant 14-acre lifestyle development with more than 220,000 square feet of retail and anchor tenants including Whole Foods Market and Cinemark Theaters. A raft of new tenants are also coming to Runway. They incude: Free Market, a 24,000-square-foot retail concept combining lifestyle, food and beverage; and Brella, a 7,000-square-foot co-working concept that includes child care services and wellness; and Sender One, an over 7,000-square-foot, world-class boulder-climbing center.

Jonathan Gold, Rock Writer and Musician

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Jonathan Gold brandished his rock writing chops when I was starting to do reviews for L.A. Weekly, Downtown News, etc. A total inspiration. Sometimes I'd mentally sentence-diagram his leads, inspired by fresh ways to turn a phrase.

I found this example in a 1991 journal... from an L.A Times review:

“It’s not an inconsiderable skill, causing a head-banger’s head to bang, pushing a band along at that sort of chunka-chunka tempo that allows the forehead to oscillate at a rate that feels more natural than forced, something like a speedy oil derrick or those bobble-headed Dodger Dolls you sometimes still see in the backs of old Chevelles.”

That was the lead! He’d move from there into the review proper, describing whatever metal band it was.

Then there were his subjects: punk rock and hardcore, metal and hair metal, rap and gangsta rap… all when these were mostly ignored. You wanted to get his take on even the most obviously cash-in act. What he came up with was always effing amusing!

Before this, I knew him from his own crazy bands. Tank Burial and Overman (both with musician Russel Jessum). I did readings or music performances with my own bands on the same bill. He’d saw away on the electric cello with a mysterious black eye-patch. A total blast.

Playa Vista Approaching Peak Silicon Beach

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JSPR was fortunate to work with Wall Street Journal Mansion reporter Katy McLaughlin on a major story about the culmination of development at Playa Vista. The community's approximately 3 million square feet of creative office space will approach its cap this fall when Google moves into the restored, historic Spruce Goose hangar, originally created by Howard Hughes. Brookfield Residential, implementing Playa Vista's master plan, is filling-in the community's final neighborhoods with dramatic residences that rival the custom homes next door in Venice. And synergy between the community and surrounding entertainment industry (including in Culver City) is also reaching its peak. 

Yes, Playa Vista is approaching its apotheosis ! (Apotheosis: noun: the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax.)

A Year in Urbanology

In 2017 our friends set the trends. Here’s to more in 2018...

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Here Comes the Agrihood: Freehold Communities opened masterplans across the U.S., including Miralon in Palm Springs – transforming a defunct golf course into groves and gardens for Mid-Century-inspired homes. Word took off in Inhabitat, Architectural Digest, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, Los Angeles Times, Mercury News, etc.



ULI Fall Meeting -- Musical Cities: 2017 saw the return to Los Angeles of Urban Land Institute’sglobal Fall Meeting. Serving on the Host Committee, we helped produce programs such as Satellite Cities: Revenue Solutions from places such as Anaheim and Southeast L.A. Spinning urban tunes during this cool conference panel was KCRW DJ Raul Campos. Wait, what?

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Hope for Homelessness: We debuted designs by KTGY Architecture + Planning’s for Hope on Alvarado – first in a series of projects turning shipping containers into modern habitats for homeless housing and services. The news is still going viral in places as Inhabitat, Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, The Architect’s Newspaper.


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Smart Homes in the 'Hood: JSPR partnered exclusively with Apple and Brookfield Residential to unveil Brookfield’s Connected Home: the first neighborhoods to offer Apple HomeKit standard. You heard about it in places from Wired to ABC 7.


Bank Statement -- A Modernist Landmark's New Lease on Life: We got all retro with Cuningham Group Architecture’s redesign of William Pereira’s Mid-Century bank in Phoenix. Taking note were media such as Wallpaper, Preservation, Prism and The Architect’s Newspaper.


CNN on Playa Vista: JSPR worked with CNN International for its look at : “L.A.’s Innovative Neighborhood” – a creative hub for tech giants and Silicon Beach residents.


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Density Wars: We assisted Urban Land Institute - Los Angeles, producing events and awareness surrounding the regressive planning proposal Measure S – which was dramatically rejected by voters.


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UCLA's Land-Use Brain-Trust: The quotable profs at UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate offered their insight in Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Business Insider, Bloomberg, and virtually every significant medium covering issues such as California’s affordability crisis.


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Hot Homes & DesignsHalton Pardee + Partners led the red-hot Silicon Beach scene. Tami Halton Pardee, her team and Venice artist/builders got coverage everywhere from Financial Times to NBC Nightly News.

CNN International Zooms in on Playa Vista: L.A.'s Innovative Neighborhood.

We worked with the excellent producers of CNN International's series "One Square Meter" on this story about Playa Vista, the heart of Silicon Beach. Story zooms in on the robust, 3 million-square-foot creative office campus, its new residences, parks and open space, and retail destination, Runway. This piece ran worldwide.

Liquid Modernism: The Power of Gaudi and Dali in Catalonia, Spain

By Jack Skelley

The Catalan region of northeast Spain – with Barcelona its capital – is a hotbed of explosive culture, technology, architecture and design. In the modern 20th century two world figures were Catalans: architect Antoni Gaudi and artist Salvador Dali.

Gaudi’s supreme triumph is the still-unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. A monumental work of art, overpowering in scale and stylistic ingenuity. Upon completion in 2016, the tallest of its 18 towers will be 172 meters, the highest church in Europe. Visit it and you’re floored by verticality of the building. As you move closer and inside, the infinite variety of detail saturates and uplifts you.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

Gaudi began construction in 1882. The architect’s life’s work overlapped several 20th century trends: If you had to define its style of Sagrada Familia you might say Modern Gothic/Art Nouveau. It’s been termed Modernista, but its effusive decoration feels like the opposite of minimalist Modernism. In reality, its idiosyncrasies make it nothing less than Gaudian. 

Although the primary surfaces and forms are structural, there is elaborate decoration on every inch. Both pictorial and abstract. Barely a straight line to be found. Walls, staircases, the spiraling towers, the towers of the vast interior … all melt and reform. The biblical imagery is endless, and, on the “nativity” side of the exterior, erupts in a celebration of nature. Some of the tallest columns colorfully explode at their tips with fruit and wheat.

Surface detail, Sagrada Familia.

Surface detail, Sagrada Familia.

Gaudi inspired the younger Dali, who was born in the town of Figueres north of Barcelona. At the center this very up-to-date village is the Dali Theatre Museum. In maze-like galleries and around the exterior, are many of Dali’s surrealist images… and all of his bizarre personality. One gallery holds a tapestry version of “The Persistence of Memory,” with the famous melting time-pieces. Other masterpieces similarly change shape, including 3-D reproductions of paintings.

The Persistence of Memory wall tapestry, Dali museum.

The Persistence of Memory wall tapestry, Dali museum.

Dali and Gaudi share this playful plasticity of form. And both revered the Catalan landscape. Gaudi was said to be inspired by the soaring and soulful rock formations that surround the medieval monastery of Montserrat in the mountains west of Barcelona.

The rock pillars of Montserrat and its Benedictine monastery.

The rock pillars of Montserrat and its Benedictine monastery.

Dali said of Gaudi, "To raise towers of living flesh and living bones to the living sky par excellence of our Mediterranean, this was the architecture of Gaudi, inventor of the Mediterranean Gothic."

Both Modernists raised Catalan effusiveness to timeless levels.

Clive Piercy: Without Him L.A. Would Not Have Been Quite as Creative

There are creative directors – some of the best – who see themselves as fine artists. Clive Piercy – who passed away August 20, 2017 – did not require self-flattery. He was both a successful creative director and a true visual artist.

Clive was the founder of Air Conditioned, the influential design studio. But that’s not where I first learned of Clive. Rather it was through the 2003 book Pretty Vacant, which he wrote, photographed and designed. Ahead of its time in celebrating indigenous Los Angeles density, Pretty Vacant is fat, 500-page love/hate affair with dingbat apartment buildings, published by Chronicle Books. (That Clive, an Englishman, named it after a Sex Pistols song gives it extra credit for me.)

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Clive’s influence includes teaching at Otis College of Art and Design, and later at Art Center in Pasadena. But he leaves his marks all across Southern California. I mean that literally: He created logos, marks and branding for:

-          Los Angeles 1984 Olympics

-          Center Theatre Group

-          QuikSilver Edition

-          California Pizza Kitchen

-          Father’s Office

-          Bestia

-          Chin Chin

…as well as new places to become landmarks: the new Hollywood Park masterplan and WREN apartments in DTLA, for example.

That some of L.A.’s best architects – Studio One Eleven and EYRC (founded by Steven Ehrlich) – chose Air Conditioned tells you how much he understood placemaking.

Whether in advertising or art, Clive fused word and image with an arch slyness. Even the most straightforward layout held a layer of satire, or at least playfulness. Or maybe I projected bemusement onto the work after speaking with Clive, who always cracked me up. I can’t be the first person to think his work suggests a slightly less dramatic Ed Ruscha.

And yet, it is rooted in the fundamentals of human perception: Highly successful as well as highly entertaining.

The Air Conditioned team continues, inspired by Clive. In the meantime, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Art Center’s Scholarship fund in Clive’s name at (indicate Clive Piercy’s name in the Tribute section).


Eco-Modern Community Coming to Palm Springs

Freehold Communities has announced the launch of Miralon, the sustainably designed community emerging in Palm Springs. One of the largest new “agrihoods” in the U.S., Miralon offers 1,150 Modernist-inspired residences to harmonize with the Coachella Valley’s architectural heritage. A highlight of Miralon’s 300 acres is its transformation of a previously constructed 18-hole golf course into working olive groves, community gardens and walking trails. Homes and amenities in the masterplanned community will break ground in Q4, 2017.

The community's extraordinary approach -- customized to the climate and culture of California's Coachella Valley -- has gotten attention from media as unusual as Yahoo Finance and Curbed L.A., as Olive Oil Times. (Yep !)

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Silicon Beach Homes Get Apple HomeKit Standard

Brookfield Residential unveiled its latest Playa Vista neighborhood, The Collection. It's the first new hood in L.A. to have smart-home technology included standard. Brookfield Residential COO Adrian Foley spoke to ABC 7 Eyewitness News and the Los Angeles Times about why the company chose Apple HomeKit and how it works in the tech hub of Playa Vista, Silicon Beach. 

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Advanced, Eco-Friendly Venice Home Is a Record-Setter

Well-known Los Angeles architect and environmentalist David Randall Hertz FAIA has sold Venice home he designed for himself and his family. The $14.6m sale price is the highest recorded home sale in Venice. In addition to being a classic compound of four structures connected by three bridges within a tropical oasis, the home is made famous as a setting in the Showtime series “Californication.” Los Angeles Times first reported the sale.

Hertz designed the residence in 1995, and created an addition in 2006. Its design is inspired by Hertz’s travels surfing through Southeast Asia. It is also indigenous to Venice and the California tradition of home design represented by Rudolph Schindler, particularly in its use of indoor/outdoor spaces and natural environmental features. Hertz has referenced the style of the residence as “Bali Modern meets Venice Craftsman meets Schindler.”

A native Angeleno, Hertz will remain living in Venice where he also keeps the offices of his design firm, The Studio of Environmental Architecture.

The 5,000 sf home is set on a 7,500 sf lot. It is a compound of buildings set around a lap pool, with 7 bedrooms, media room, pool house. All of the residence’s exterior is built out and put to use with features including: outdoor kitchen, fire-pit, roof deck, outdoor shower, basketball area.

Hertz is a thought-leader in environmentally conscious design. The home pioneered several sustainable and energy-saving features and materials: concrete floors and counters; recycled and certified sustainable wood; photo-voltaic solar energy system that was installed in 1995; natural ventilation that requires no air-conditioning; zero VOC paint; reclaimed materials. The home was awarded the Sustainable Living Award by the Eco Home network.

Other environmental features are listed on the home’s webpage. Assisting the sale were Justin Alexander of Halton Pardee + Partners with Tami Pardee of Halton Pardee + Partners, plus Tim Mullin of Partners Trust and Katie Pardee, also of Halton Pardee + Partners.

A Year in Urbanology, 2016

Jack Skelley and JSPR thank colleagues, clients and cohorts for another inspiring year. For a 20-second highlight reel click below...

Real Estate Trends in L.A. 2017 -- Tami Halton Pardee, ABC7

Tami Halton Pardee, Founder of Halton Pardee + Partners, discusses 2017 real estate trends with reporter Elex Michaelson. Live on ABC 7 Eyewitness News, December 14, 2017. Tami discussed where interest rates are going and the mood in the market, post-election. Tami also pointed out L.A.'s next hot neighborhoods, including those along the Expo Line light rail.

Los Angeles Times on Green Development

The latest L.A. Times "Hot Property" looks at new energy-efficient and eco-friendly community design:

At Brookfield Residential’s expanding Playa Vista development, new additions to the community adhere to the same eco-conscious principles as the existing homes’, said Alison Girard, the company’s director of marketing.

The new homes are LEED-certified; the fitness center was built with large windows, which allows the building to be cooled without air-conditioning. Girard estimates that a LEED-Platinum certified home can add up to $30,000 to the value of a property.

Helen Park, who recently purchased a 2,500-square-foot house in Playa Vista, said she was drawn to its sustainable attributes. Although the cost was “a little higher” than expected, it was an investment she and her husband were willing to make.

“I’m in the tech business, so I always look for progressive and new innovation,” said Park, the CEO of tech talent firm UXTalent. “I like the solar panels so we can conserve energy and avoid waste, and that the dog parks have dirt instead of grass, to cut down on watering.”

Mid-Century Modern Landmark Going Creative Office

Not to worry. Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. is lovingly restoring the historic Farmers & Stockmens Bank, making it its new Phoenix office. The building was designed by the internationally famous team of Pereira & Luckman in 1951. It is certified a historic structure by the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. Cuningham Group moves into building when it completes interior renovations in December.

The Arizona Republic covered the move.

“For a firm such as ours that deeply respects good design, it is an honor to make this landmark our home,” said Cuningham Group Principal Nabil Abou-Haidar, AIA. “There is a clean-lined simplicity to the building that remains attractive to this day. It is certainly an approach we bring forward in contemporary architecture for our clients, and in our other offices around the world.”

The Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank is one of just two Phoenix structures by William Leonard Pereira. The architect is famous for the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, the masterplan for the City of Irvine, and (with Paul Williams and Welton Becket) the jet-age “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport. 

The original landmark was captured by famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman in images now controlled by J. Paul Getty Trust.

Original Farmers & Stockmens Bank interior, by Pereira & Luckman. Photo by Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Farm Charm for Urban Homesteads

The Los Angeles Times Home & Design section published this story including our friends at Brookfield Residential:

At Ontario Ranch, a planned community that will eventually include 47,000 homes, homebuilders have incorporated modern farm décor into many of the single-family dwellings, town homes and condominiums. The community of New Haven, for example, features reclaimed wood walls, optional barn-style closet doors, and upcycled farm tools (tractor gears used as mirror frames in the community’s clubhouse, for example), in a blend of rustic and chic. “The farm motif honors the area’s legacy, but we made sure that it accompanies the most up-to-date amenities,” says Mercedes Meserve, vice president of marketing for Brookfield Residential, which is building several neighborhoods in the area.

$6 Billion in Destination Investment Taking Place in Anaheim

Approximately $6 billion in investment is coming to Anaheim around the city’s world-famous theme parks and around Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The investment includes the coming Stars Wars-themed land at Disneyland Park but much more: four new luxury hotels and other lodging, expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center, plus new homes, shopping, dining, offices and hotels at the Platinum Triangle around Angel Stadium.

This level of investment in Anaheim is among the largest in the U.S.

It comes as Anaheim is enhancing its visitor industry on a global scale. More than $3.5 billion in investment is coming to the Anaheim Resort District alone -- a 1,100-acre area that includes the Disney Resort, Anaheim Convention Center and hotels.

With the luxury hotel market  growing quickly, these new properties help secure Anaheim’s place on the map of world-wide destinations.

Here is ABC7 Eyewitness News interview with John Woodhead, Director of Community & Economic Development for the city of Anaheim

Moorish, Mexican, Mauian

Exactly what is “authentic” architecture?

It’s a design shock, for example, to visit the Fairmont Kea Lani. The conceptual design of the hotel – on the southwest edge of Maui, near Wailea – is not “traditional” Hawaiian, but Moorish. Its larger forms resemble a Moroccan palace. Its innumerable details echo this style within the (blissful) constraints of the Maui landscape, and the demands of a resort.

In 1986, the development hired Mexican architect Jose Luis Ezquerra, an authority in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean art, architecture and archeology to design the property.  According to the Fairmont’s well-sourced documentation, the design team sought to express the theory of Spanish origin in the discovery of Hawaii: “In particular, the story of Spanish navigator Juan Gaetano, who was the first known European to visit Hawaii and charted the islands in 1555.”

The result? Moorish colors and motifs, filtered through their Spanish and Mexican extensions, and rendered in Mauian uses. Under the palatial domes and arches of the property’s entry, the sense of arrival is overpowering. These curves extend throughout: balconies and bridges, lattice-work and lanais… all exhibit matching proportions. One can also get enjoyably lost in the smallest replications: Moroccan hanging lamps in lounge off the lobby; blue and white starburst wallpaper and carpeting; koi pond and outdoor furniture set against vertical villas.

It’s beautifully done. Architectural Digest included the property among the best designed hotels on Maui. And, like Hawaii in general, it raises the question of just what is “authentic” culture in a place that – like many – has been impacted for centuries by many other cultures. The effect is also experienced in the islands’ food and music. But that’s another story…

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Farmhouse Chic in Silicon Beach

We recently worked with NBC's Open House to profile this home created by artist Kim Gordon and presented by Pardee Properties. Here is the link to that broadcast.

Kim is the long-time Venice artist who moved to interiors before building custom homes of her own design. This residence, on one of Venice's peaceful walk-streets, combines eclectic influences: New York loft, Belgian farmhouse, Modern open space and 30-foot-high industrial-size windows, all with an indigenous Venice vibe. A perfect fit for Silicon Beach creatives or artists. 

This home debuted in November and sold almost immediately. Check out the video. Pardee Properties unveiled Kim's latest home last week. It is almost certainly a sudden success as well.


Anaheim Packing House Elected to National Register of Historic Places

Chet Frohlich Photography – Left to right: Anaheim Community Investment Manager Laura Alcala, Community and Economic Development Director John Woodhead, and Mayor Tom Tait.

Anaheim, CA (March 1, 2016) — The Packing House, Anaheim’s innovative food hall in a restored 1919 Sunkist citrus-packing building, has been awarded a rare placement on the National Register of Historic Places. It joins approximately 150 properties in the U.S. with the historic designation. Anaheim officials recently unveiled the official plaque commemorating the award.

“The Packing House represents not only a very important period in Anaheim and Orange County history, it is an explosively popular destination today and the centerpiece of a vibrant future,” said Anaheim Community and Economic Development Director John Woodhead. “This recognition by the National Register affirms our decades-long goal to repopulate and re-energize the historic heart of Anaheim, a goal that we are achieving with the support of many people.”

 The food hall has become the most popular new attraction in Anaheim. One of the few remaining citrus packing houses in the county, the Packing House also recently took top awards at the West Coast’s largest design and planning competition, the Gold Nugget Awards, by Pacific Coast Builders Conference.

The Packing House is a grand hall reminiscent of the great public markets of Europe and South America, and is fast becoming a West Coast destination along the lines of San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Its independent, gourmet food and beverage vendors and merchants are curated by LAB Holding. The two-level structure features a large central atrium with communal dining surrounded by cafes and kiosks. It includes outdoor picnic gardens, a dining porch looking over the Farmers’ Park outdoor marketplace, and live entertainment.




How the Future Gets Built

Mayor Eric Garcetti's keynote to FutureBuild / VerdeXchange heralded the coming restoration of the L.A. River. photo by Dlugolecki Photography

Mayor Eric Garcetti's keynote to FutureBuild / VerdeXchange heralded the coming restoration of the L.A. River. photo by Dlugolecki Photography

Urban Explorations from FutureBuild / VerdeXchange

 By Jack Skelley

Los Angeles Major Eric Garcetti joined international change-makers of the built envirornment at the recent FutureBuild Sessions produced by ULI Los Angeles with VerdeXchange. The annual event, which attracts designers, developers, civic leaders, and environmental stakeholders, explored urgent urban issues, including: transforming the Los Angeles River; the world’s greenest buildings; how transportation tech is transforming cities; places built to withstand quakes, droughts and climate change, and more.

Garcetti’s keynote address trumpeted ambitious efforts to restore the Los Angeles River. A recent agreement with Army Corps of Engineers allocatoes $1.3 billion for the effort – which Garcetti deemed “the largest urban ecosystem restoration the Army Corps has ever seen.” Stakeholders have not yet approved plans, which include a proposal by architect Frank Gehry. Garcetti nonetheless was upbeat, saying, “I look forward to hearing the music of the River.”


Made to Last: Getting to Resiliency

Resiliency panel, left to right: Rick Cole, Frank Bush, Marissa Aho and Ann Gray. photo by Dlugolecki Photography

Resiliency panel, left to right: Rick Cole, Frank Bush, Marissa Aho and Ann Gray. photo by Dlugolecki Photography

Made to Last, a panel on resiliency (including seismic and infrastructure challenges) was moderated by Ann Gray, Principal of GRAY Real Estate Advisors. Contributors were Marissa Aho, Chief Resiliency Officer, City of Los Angeles, Frank Bush, Executive Officer, Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and Rick Cole, Santa Monica City Manager. Gray launched the discussion with a compelling video, “Our Changing World,” produced by RICS and dramatizing trends reshaping the planet.

 The conversation quickly got local. Saying, “There is simply not enough money to go around,” Cole noted that before Los Angeles can address drastic resilience issues, the city faces approximately $100 billion in infrastructure needs. Bush cited the approximately 13,000 buildings in the city that require seismic retrofits. Aho offered some solace, reporting that L.A. is among the 100 Resilient Cities funded by Rockefeller Foundation, and that the city is implementing 18 recommendations of seimologist Dr. Lucy Jones, the influential “earthquake lady.”

 Challenges remain huge. Cole blasted the “immature poltical culture” that fixates on the click-bait of fear and hysteria, rather than on real solutions.

 “We have to get back to the basics” of fixing the city, he said. “Otherwise we willhave a third-world infrastructure trying to govern a first-world economy.”

 Cole had the ear-catching quote of the day: “The best cities in Italy are run by communists. The best cities in the Southern California are run by renters,” (namely, Santa Monica and West Hollywood).


The Evolution of Energy

Panel on the most sustainable buildings in the world, left to right: David Kramer, Harlan Kelly, Frances Anderton and David Martin. photo by Dlugolecki photography

Panel on the most sustainable buildings in the world, left to right: David Kramer, Harlan Kelly, Frances Anderton and David Martin. photo by Dlugolecki photography

 Another compelling panel was The Most Sustainable Buildings in the World, with moderator Frances Anderton, host of  "DnA: Design and Architecture," KCRW; joined by David Martin, FAIA, Design Principal, AC Martin, who is designing the the 73-story Wilshire Grand tower;  David Kramer, President, Hudson Companies, creating Manhattan’s Riverwalk on Roosevelt Island, considered one of the most energy-efficient developments in the world; and Harlan Kelly, General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

 The Riverwalk technologies are advanced, responding to New York’s extremes of heat, cold, and even inundating storm surges. In some ways, the mission for Los Angeles buildings is simpler: to unlearn unnecessary design habits. Martin says his team will “fine-tune” the Wilshire Grand to Downtown L.A.’s micro-climate.

 Approaches include breathable skin, and smaller and smarter air-conditioning, so that the building’s HVAC system is not working overtime. The skyscraper will include hundreds of openable windows, which, for some reason, are still rare in L.A. high-rises.

 “In New York City you want to insulate the client from the climate,” Martin said. “ In L.A. we want to connect with the outside where it’s beautiful outside right now!”


Hyperloop and Healthy Communities

 With panels jointly produced by ULI Los Angeles and VerdeXchange, the cross-polination was fertile. Next Generation Sustainable Development had moderator Richard Katz, Founder, Katz Consulting, Inc. asking questions of Randall Lewis, Owner, Lewis Group of Companies; Quay Hays, CEO, GROW Holdings; and Michael Dieden, Founder, Creative Housing Associates. These are three of California’s most visionary developers.

 Hays is creating Quay Valley, a sustainable town planned in Central California that will also house the first test-track for the revolutionary hyperloop transportation technology. Dieden is a pioneer of transit-oriented developments who is passionate about creating human-scaled environments. And Lewis is a constant innovator whose latest communities – many on Ontario Ranch in California’s Inland Empire – include emerging concepts

 He listed them in rapid-fire: healthy design (in coordination with ULI’s Building Healthy Places initiative); education-centered communities with schools and joint-use facilities at the center; “Harvest” branded developments with edible landscaping and outdoor dining; and, with heathcare a growing industry in the Inland Empire, an ambitious coordination with local colleges and medical educators.

 Many of them fall under the Healthy Ontario banner, which emphasizes prevention and wellness, access to healthcare, education and lifelong learning, and safe and complete neighborhoods.