Blog: Updates on Urbanology

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...

A Year in Urbanology: In 2015 Our Friends Set the Trends

The Toast of Bunker Hill: JSPR partnered with The Related Group on The Emerson, DTLA’s finest for-lease residences. Just a year after launching, The Emerson was filled with “cultural creatives" -- entertainers, gallery owners, entrepreneurs who are the essence of urban vibrancy. A host of sommeliers makes The Emerson their home. At the center of this cool clique is Elizabeth Heuttinger of friendly-chic Otium restaurant, between the Emerson tower and the new Broad museum.The

 

Home Sweet Work: Ehrlich Architects was firm of the year. American Institute of Architects said so, noting Ehrlich’s approach to “classic California Modernist style.” Its latest design is a creative office environment that looks and feels like a residence. At elevon at Campus El Segundo, there are lofty studios, rooftop conferences, outdoor fireplace/TV rooms. Bring your dog. The office condominium project is nearly 100% sold out. Retail too. Next door to the new L.A. Lakers Practice Facility.

 

Preservation Development:40 years in the making, Marblehead is finally a thing. Sea Summit at Marblehead in San Clemente opened in November. “These inspiring homes, trails and nature preserve reflect decades of careful planning – one of the longest development periods for a coastal project in California,” said Taylor Morrison Division President Phil Bodem. The Wall Street Journal depicted Sea Summit’s 116 acres of protected habitat, preserving views and creating public trails.

 

China and Climate Change: Climate breakthroughs included the Paris treaty and U.S. and China agreeing to lower carbon emissions. The design world was ahead of them with an historic commitment among 52 design firms working in China to design to low carbon standards. Cuningham Group Architecture has long been a leader here, organizing the Themed Entertainment Sustainability Summit among the top theme park developers working in China.
 

Largest New Community, Fastest Internet:Ontario unveiled SoCal’s first masterplan with ultra-high bandwidth data. As with the Google Fiber cities outside of Cali, gigabit living means lightning-fast downloads and future-proofed homes. Homeowners pay directly through their HOA (at reduced rates). The L.A.Times wrote about it. CBS2 broadcast it. Ontario Ranch is built by some of the country’s best homebuilders, including Brookfield Residential.

 

 

    

 

 

Silicon Beach Waves: Urban coolness inundated Playa Vista: Mayor Garcetti trumpeted the new Runway retail. Yahoo moved into its new HQ. Google planned its own move. Maltzan Architecture designed the new Brickyard creative space. Gensler hacked an older building, which nabbed new tenants (including Jessica Alba’s Honest Company). Culver City expanded transit service and connected with Expo Rail. And Brookfield Residential opened two stunning, vertically sleek neighborhoods

 

Props to Pardee Properties: Tami Pardee is #1 in Los Angeles, selling over $2 billion of residential and commercial properties. And #17 in the U.S., says Real Trends/Wall Street Journal. But forget the haughty stereotype of celebri-brokers. Tami is about community commitment. Pardee Properties’ Giving Back program directs 10% net sale proceeds to essential charities: Over $750,000 has gone primarily to needy neighborhoods. JSPR worked with CBS2 on two stories “Tami’s Tips” for renters, and "When is the Right Time to Buy?"

 

Huge Explosion in the Arts District: Investor’s Business Daily covered it: $2 billion of institutional funds blowing-up the east end of DTLA. The boom included “curated” retail (as in ABC7’s Eye on L.A.) at the Michael Maltzan-designed One Santa Fe community. The Arts District became L.A.’s art and architecture center: Hennessey & Ingalls bookstore moves to OSF from Santa Monica. Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel museum opens in March a block away. Did we mention One Santa Fe took top honors in AIA-LA’s 2015 Design Awards, and launched L.A.'s largest private bike share program

 

Foodie Districts: Anaheim now claims the world stage for more than Disney. The delicious urbanism of the Packing House food hall and nearby Center Street and their creators – City of Anaheim and LAB Holding – transformed the city’s downtown and were huge hits in the Wall Street Journal and at Urban Land Institute's international Fall Meeting. 

 

At the Center of Real Estate Trends: Led by Director Stuart Gabriel, UCLA Ziman for Real Estate is the voice of knowledge in scores of media stories per year. Through its Economic Letter, the Ziman Center released groundbreaking research and analysi. Most recently, “Will Airbnb Go the Way of Napster?” detailed how the home-rental company can shift from a “disruptor” to a partner. Meanwhile, CBS2 featured Gabriel discussing when is the best time to refinance.

 

KFA: The Next 40 Years: Killefer Flammang Architects' adaptive-reuse work reshaped Los Angeles, including historic landmarks Eastern Columbia building and Ace HotelAnd yet, 75% of KFA’s work is new-construction, including in the fast-moving worlds of hospitality, residential, transit-oriented development and creative office. The firm celebrated its 40th anniversary and will soon announce bold 2016 news.

 

JSPR is grateful to its friends for an abundantly exciting year. We have the joy of working with the best creative partners in SoCal, including Urban Land Institute, InterCommunications, Greenhaus, Air Condition, Polaris Pacific, Hayes Martin & Associates, Hexa, Alexandria Abramian, Gunn Jerkins, Kulli Marketing, Salt&PR, Downtown Breakfast Club, White Oak Communications, Casey & Sayre, Mike Hoye Public Relations, Rachel Forman, Urbana, Balcony Press, Michelle Moreno and many more. Forgive us if we neglected any of you. But thank you all!

 

 

Lots of awesome going on

The Vermont, street view

The Vermont, street view

For example, JSPR is excited to announce superb new clients:

The Vermont: Wow, here's L.A.’s largest, new luxury highrise, with 464 for-lease residences. The Vermont has astonishing views, sleek design by Jerde Partnership, in one of the city's most vibrant settings (above the Wilshire/Vermont subway, with a superior “walk score”). Opening in April.

Playa Vista: Home base to L.A.'s Silicon Beach, Playa Vista opens six Modern-styled neighborhoods on February 22. They signal the final phase of the advanced community that also houses YouTube, Facebook, 72andSunny and The Clippers. JSPR has developed stories with The Hollywood Reporter, and more.

We continue working with other exciting places and people. Stay tuned…

On February 19 I host an Urban Land Institute panel discussion: “Can L.A. Streets Be Great? Urban Activism, Mobility and Socially Engaging Places.” The event includes representatives of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and Downtown L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar. There will updates on new plans for Broadway, and on the “controversial” My Figueroa street plan. (I put controversial in quotes because this enlightened proposal really should be embraced by all!) It happens in the cool Gensler “jewel box” space on – where else? – Figueroa.

If you want to know how I really feel about the My Figueroa plan – and the need for public spaces designed for the 100% of us who walk – see my latest column in the Huffington Post.

As they sing in the new Lego movie: Everything Is Awesome!

Can Mayor Garcetti Make L.A.’s Streets Great?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

This story first appeared in the Huffington Post. It was my inaugural column for HuffPo.

 

In 2009, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made one of the biggest changes Manhattan had ever seen. It had nothing to do with Big Gulps. Bloomberg and his transportation czar Janette Sadik-Khan took a congested section of Times Square and closed it to traffic. They erected barriers, painted the asphalt, added beach chairs and – presto! – the street became a park.

These and other instant plazas reduced injuries to pedestrians and motorists while they boosted retail receipts. Most importantly, they returned the public realm to the people.

Can the same magic happen in L.A.? For his first act as new Mayor, Eric Garcetti unveiled the “Great Streets Initiative.” He plans to turn the main thoroughfares of up to 40 neighborhoods into lively, pedestrian-friendly places.

Of course, L.A. already has great streets. A few, anyway: Ventura Boulevard is teeming with energy. First Street in Boyle Heights is a real community gathering spot. Abbot Kinney Boulevard – anti-gentrification protests – has become a hipster haven. But greatness doesn’t happen by accident: These places are like stages set with wide sidewalks, tamed traffic and authentic retail so that daily social dramas can happen.

Then there are the duds. Lincoln Boulevard from Marina del Rey to Santa Monica should be great. Instead it’s a headache of auto-domination, cluttered signage and crummy landscaping. (My mother used to call it “Stinkin’ Lincoln.”)

As L.A. Times reporter Michael Finnegan noted, Garcetti has created a Great Streets Working Group, in which eight city agencies will collaborate (imagine that!) to create new medians, sidewalk repairs, bus stops, police patrols, bike corrals, business improvement districts and, yes, pocket parks.

"And while we're at it, let's add some sculptures and murals," Garcetti announced at an October transportation conference by the Urban Land Institute, Los Angeles.

"Their first priority will be to make sure street projects are coordinated.  No more Bureau of Street Services paving a street on Monday, DWP digging it up on Tuesday," said Garcetti.  "Let's also combine a DWP pipe project with some street furniture funds and with a sidewalk repair project all at the same time." (Here’s the video of his speech.)

But this “first priority” is a no-brainer. It doesn’t take an urban visionary to see that departments should work together.

What would really transform the landscape is a Times Square-like project. Something big and bold. The ideas are already floating out there… some of which Garcetti endorsed as a City Councilman from Hollywood. He could cover L.A.’s sub-surface freeways, such as the 101, and turn them into parks. He could join forces with L.A.’s uber-popular Cyclavia events and revive the dormant bike-share program, such as those successful in Chicago in New York.

And he could identify the streets at present designed only to flush traffic through town and instead give them a human dimension. These places constitute our meager public spaces. Let’s cede more of them to walkers, to runners, to bikers, to skaters, to moms with strollers. To us.

When Bloomberg’s transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan did this, there was opposition, naturally. But, according to Esquire magazine’s profile of “16 Geniuses Who Give Us Hope,” she created plazas in at Madison, Herald and Union Square. “A whole long stretch of Broadway — two hundred thousand square feet, the size of three and a half football fields — is a pedestrian parkland, tables and flowers and sweating tourists resting their eighty-pound Toys 'R' Us bags while billboards glint commercially above them.” (In her inspiring TED talk Sadik-Khan sums up these changes.)

Her changes were a huge success. Maybe the best move Garcetti could make is to hire her.

 

High-Speed Rail Panel: Mobility Corridors

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November 5-7, the U.S. High Speed Rail Association conference comes to Los Angeles. I have been asked to moderate a panel on Transit-Oriented Development -- specifically, "mobility corridors," and how smart planning around transit stations can uplift urban economies. Joining me on the panel -- titled TOD Transformations: From Stations to Corridors -- are Jonathan Watts, principal of Cuningham Group Architecture; Michael Dieden, president of Creative Housing Associates, and Gaurav Srivastava, Associate Principal, AECOM. My panel is Wednesday, Nov. 6, 3-4 p.m. and the entire conference runs through Thursday at MTA Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, next to Union Station in Downtown L.A. 

The concept of mobility corridors is gaining traction in urban planning circles. It dominated ULI Los Angeles' recent, very successful ToLA transit summit, where Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his Great Boulevards initiative. And it is was the focus of L.A. Business Council's 2013 Livable Communities Report, authored by Paul Habibi of UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

I will also be publishing an article on the topic in an upcoming edition of Urban Land magazine.