‘A Different Los Angeles’: The City Moves to Alter Its Sprawling Image

By Lauren Herstik | The New York Times

Los Angeles conjures a particular image in the popular imagination: sprawling and spacious, dotted with single-family homes and riddled with traffic. But Angelenos have signaled that they are ready for a change, most recently by voting down a measure that would have slowed new construction for two years.

The effort to slow construction, known as Measure S or the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, was financed mainly by Michael Weinstein, the president of the Hollywood-based AIDS Health Foundation. Mr. Weinstein’s office is on the 21st floor of a Hollywood skyscraper with a view of the hills, next to the future site of two 28-story mixed-use residential towers.

Mr. Weinstein said that kind of development was out of character for the neighborhood. He and other supporters of Measure S have contended that new luxury developments can contribute to rising rents.

The Measure S campaign pitted slow-growth factions, who called the city’s planning process corrupt, against a coalition of public officials, developers, labor groups and others who conceded that while reform was necessary, so was growth.

Now that the pro-growth group has prevailed, the question is: How does the city move forward? Can it overhaul the planning process, allow innovation and still please the disparate stakeholders within its 503 square miles?

Measure S, which was defeated last month, was the third in a trio of transformative local ballot measures. In November, Angelenos approved a $1.2 billion bond to build affordable housing, along with a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for mass transit.

Taken together, the votes are “a very clear statement from the voters that they’re interested in a different Los Angeles,” said Christopher Hawthorne, who teaches urban and environmental policy at Occidental University and is the architecture critic for The Los Angeles Times.

The city’s mayor, Eric M. Garcetti, who was swept into a second five-and-a-half-year term last month by 80 percent of the voters, heard the statement. He is empowered by these votes, with billions of dollars at the city’s disposal to address homelessness and improve infrastructure. But the vocal minority who fought to curtail development with Measure S still remains and he cannot ignore them.

“That’s L.A.’s biggest and most exciting challenge: How do you harness the momentum, the investment and even the disruption in a way that still addresses social needs?” Mr. Garcetti said.

Mr. Hawthorne has put forth the notion of a “Third L.A.,” a redefined vision of the city. The “First L.A.” was marked by the arrival of water in the 1880s and the city’s first population and real estate booms; it was a city of great civic ambition, public architecture and great experimental multifamily housing.

But it is the “Second L.A.” that is most enduring: the post-World War Two modernist mecca, a patchwork of single-family homes crossed by freeways and defined by the car. It is the city of Julius Shulman’s iconic photos of glass Case Study Houses overlooking suburban sprawl, and David Hockney’s paintings of backyard swimming pools.

“The dream or ambition embodied by the Second L.A. begins to break down into the ’80s and ’90s,” Mr. Hawthorne said.

The city began to fracture along racial and economic lines, leading to the 1992 Rodney King riots, which decimated much of South Los Angeles and Koreatown.

It is those neighborhoods that are now the focal point of the emerging Third L.A.

Koreatown is well served by mass transit: Three metro stops along Wilshire Boulevard link it to downtown Los Angeles.

“It’s denser and people are choosing to live there because they want to give up some square footage in exchange for more,” Mr. Hawthorne said. That’s more time, access to transit and a pedestrian culture.

Successful development in Koreatown has, in turn, increased interest nearby, said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, councilman for South Los Angeles.

“In a place like South L.A., which investors have systematically avoided, the red lines are just now falling away,” Mr. Harris-Dawson said. “Investors are enthusiastic, bullish, excited about mass transit coming through South L.A., about the opportunities along the main corridor, and excited about the untapped potential.”

Had it passed, the Measure S two-year building moratorium threatened to shut down new opportunity for South Los Angeles and neighborhoods like it. But in simply running the campaign, “S” proponents may have expanded that opportunity, by effectively starting the conversation about how to make Los Angeles’ planning process more transparent and effective.

The mayor signed an executive directive on March 9 establishing a planning task force, banning closed-door communications between planning commissioners and developers, and setting up programs at City Hall to guide development around transit and affordability.

Mr. Garcetti said he planned to eliminate regulations that stymie innovation, “whether it’s the size of units, or the connectivity of transportation modes.”

“We’re writing the rules as we go,” the mayor said, acknowledging “that can be very disruptive to people.” But, he added, “We need to get with it.”

All of this signals a move toward building that Third L.A.

“I see a series of many urban centers along the transportation corridors,” said Nelson Rising, chief executive of Rising Realty Partners, which has worked extensively in downtown Los Angeles.

“Anything near a transit stop will become viable and attractive,” Mr. Rising said. He pointed to specific hubs of density along the purple line, which currently links downtown to Koreatown and is set to extend all the way to Santa Monica with the passage of the transit measure. He also pointed to the Expo Line, which runs parallel to Interstate 10 and connected downtown to Santa Monica in May 2016.

The city planning department has laid the groundwork for these changes. Last year it enacted a mobility plan to diversify transportation modes by 2035, and created a new industrial live-work zone in response to demand from commercial and residential sectors for that kind of multiuse development.

Mr. Hawthorne speculated that the Third L.A. might be a city in which pockets of the First and Second L.A. peek through.

Mayor Garcetti is thinking hard about the look of the city.

“People entrust and elect leaders to take some risks and to be big and bold about the projects we do,” he said.

He said he hoped to turn an eye to the streetscape, to engage Angelenos at street level in a way the city never had to when the car was king.

It is why he has pursued large projects like a stretch of the Los Angeles River planned by the local “starchitect” Frank Gehry, the visually stunning Broad Museum and a forthcoming $1 billion museum by the filmmaker George Lucas. It is also why he is considering bringing in a chief design officer.

Mr. Garcetti said he envisions “a guru who can marshal the forces of the city and look at every bus stop, curb, utility box, every facade, every subway portal: These are moments to inspire and connect.” He added, “We should seize that moment.”

Glimpses into the Future of Workplace Culture with Chris Rising

There's no doubt about it - big changes are coming.

New technologies like artificial intelligence and automation will fundamentally alter the way we work. But what will that look like, and how should companies adapt?

This week on the show co-host Sean Spear interviews Chris Rising, the Founder and President of Rising Realty. Chris is a 19-year veteran of the real estate business, and someone who’s always been ahead of the curve in terms of building spaces that support how the most innovative companies work.

We loved this conversation because it brought together so many of the big ideas that we care about on this show - everything from office space and its relationship to culture, to personal habits and productivity, to the big technological changes poised to transform our economy and the workplace.

Sean met with Chris at Rising’s dramatic HQ in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. In this episode, Chris dives into his personal journey - including the lessons learned from his Jesuit education and his experience as a college football standout at Duke University - shares his daily habits, and explains why he thinks offices aren’t going away anytime soon.

This one runs a littler longer than most, but be sure to listen to the end to hear a challenge that should have a big impact on your energy and performance.

Recommended Reading

Links


Read more at Awesome Office

Nelson Rising's Economic Outlook February 2017

Nelson Rising's Economic Outlook February 2017

There is a Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times”. Whether it is the consistent drip of 140 character tweets from our new President or the ever changing rumors of how the Republican-led Congress will deal with a change in tax code, there is no doubt that we are now living in interesting times. However, as a veteran of over 40 years of investing and operating real estate, there are some things that I look to consistently which help me feel like I have a little more control over our investment decisions. In the spirit of trying to use facts as we know them, rather than conjecture and hyperbole, I outline sources that I look to for information and give you my take in this quarterly Economic Outlook.

Rising Rebrands One Bunker Hill

LOS ANGELES—The iconic Downtown Los Angeles office building will now be called CalEdison DTLA to follow Rising Realty Partners major redevelopment of the property.

Old 'One Bunker Hill' Gets a New Look and Name: CalEdison

By Eddie Kim | Downtown News

TheCalEdison

Sandwiched in the shadows between the soaring U.S. Bank and Gas Company towers, the 14-story One Bunker Hill cuts an unassuming figure.

In recent years it was the equally unassuming home of law offices, real estate firms and the Torrey Pines Bank. The bones of the beautiful 1931 structure remained cloaked in drop ceilings, restrictive hallways and lots and lots of drywall, artifacts of a 1980s renovation.

Having turned (and sold) the aging PacMutual complex in the Financial District into modern creative office space a few blocks away, Downtown-based Rising Realty Partners bought One Bunker Hill in October 2015.

TheCalEdisonLobby

The company and its partners, Lionstone Investments and Hermes Investment Management of London, saw an opportunity to follow the PacMutual formula, opening up ceiling heights and unveiling raw concrete walls and floors. The aim is to draw more tech, media and innovation companies, said Christopher Rising, founder and president of Rising Realty.

“We have an incredible lobby with detail people don’t even craft anymore. We want to activate the space with food and drink, see people working here,” Rising said during a recent tour of the structure at 601 W. Fifth St. “There are outdoor patios that we’re restoring, and we’re just making the building a more modern one, inside and out.”

The work starts with a new name: the CalEdison. It’s a nod to the structure’s original role as the headquarters of the Southern California Edison Company. It was one of the first all-electrically heated and cooled structures in the Western United States, according to the L.A. Conservancy.

Rising Realty, also helmed by Christopher Rising’s father, Chairman and CEO Nelson Rising, has created four new suites (14,000 square feet total) with open floor plans and the raw-concrete aesthetic, and will build out more spaces as tenants leave and new ones arrive.

Additionally, a patio on the fourth floor that was glassed-in during the 1980s will be restored, while a third-floor space will be converted into a second patio. Heavy work is expected to start in the coming months.

TheCalEdisonRendering
TheCalEdisonRendering2

There are under-the-skin improvements, too, including the installation of Internet infrastructure that allows people to work on their protected networks anywhere in the building. Additionally, the property was certified LEED Platinum in December — a particularly difficult achievement for historic buildings — by cutting carbon emissions, meeting strict standards for air and light quality, and tweaking workplace behaviors, Rising said.

“Earlier in my career, the mindset was that tenants did what they wanted. Now we’re creating value as a landlord not just with a renovation, but by changing how tenants work, whether it’s using fewer parking spaces or not using bottled water,” Rising added.

Occupancy has risen to 72% from a low of 53% shortly after the sale. New tenants include real estate investment firm General Growth Properties and architecture firm Torti Gallas.

Rising Realty’s Downtown roster also includes the already-reworked Park DTLA at Third and Figueroa streets and the Title Insurance Building at 433 S. Spring St., which it acquired last June.

The Nine Lives of Nelson Rising

The office of 75-year-old developer Nelson Rising has a decidedly un-septuagenarian feel. The space, inside the Beaux-Arts PacMutual building in Downtown Los Angeles, is teeming with millennial energy, as evidenced by the generation’s typical accoutrements, including a Ping-Pong table and open plan layout featuring cement floors.

The latest projects overseen by the chairman and CEO of Rising Realty Partners seem to echo the relationship the developer has to the office — they all involve taking something old and making it feel young again. PacMutual is a case in point. Rising bought it for $60 million in 2012, then stripped it of decades-old drywall, got rid of the dropped ceilings and replaced the carpeting. The redeveloped creative office building attracted “#Girlboss” Sophia Amoruso’s Nasty Gal as a major tenant. The hype allowed Rising to sell it for $200 million in 2015 to Ivanhoe Cambridge and Callahan Capital Properties, though he retains his office there.

Although Rising is among the elder statesmen of Downtown development, he only formed his eponymous real estate investment and operating company in 2011. He has reinvented himself over the years, wearing such varied hats as lawyer, campaign manager and Hollywood movie producer. He has also contributed to the DTLA skyline  with structures such as the U.S. Bank Tower.

“His mark is all over Downtown,” said former U.S. Senator John Tunney, who has remained Rising’s friend since Rising ran the senator’s successful 1970 campaign. “With his character, and with his grace, he is able to raise money for all of these projects because people trust him.”

Today, Rising is back where it all began for him — redeveloping the very building where he started his career as a young lawyer in 1970 — the Title Insurance Building at 433 South Spring Street.

The Real Deal recently sat down with him in his hip headquarters to get his insights into DTLA, the challenges of redeveloping historic buildings, and why density is a good thing.

You spent your early childhood on the East Coast. What brought your family west?

I came to L.A. in 1951 because my father worked for the Statler Hotel in D.C. He was the building superintendent, and then he moved out here when the L.A. Statler Hotel, which became the Hilton Hotel, was built in 1951. That site is now the Wilshire Grand. You see it in the skyline. It is truly remarkable. So I am a big believer in Downtown.

How has Downtown changed in your lifetime?

When I was a young lawyer, I lived way out in the Valley. Now, being a young lawyer paid on that same basis, it might be better to live in an apartment Downtown. All of sudden, you gain two hours you would have spent commuting. You have more time to enjoy your life.

When you formed your company, you shifted from ground-up development to historical restorations. What influenced that?

We felt — and we were correct in feeling — that there were opportunities to take the wonderful historical buildings Downtown and bring them into this different time period. There was great demand for that.

What are some of the challenges of historic restorations, and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is the seismic stability. Some historic buildings can easily be restored, and others cannot. So you have to pick the right building, which we’ve done. You also have to hire the best people, which we do.

You are redeveloping the building where you began your law career. What are your plans for it?

Offices. And we’ll probably have a restaurant on top. I have fond memories there. I went to UCLA Law School, and through my second and third year, I was a clerk at O’Melveny & Myers, at 433 South Spring Street. Then I graduated and passed the bar and had a permanent office there.

Who was influential in your life during that time period?

My mentor at O’Melveny was Warren Christopher, a wonderful man. He was chairman of the John Tunney campaign for the Senate. The campaign wasn’t going in the right direction, and he called me one day and said, “Would you like to be my campaign manager?”

How did your campaign experience come into play when you were producing the movie “The Candidate”?

When the movie was over, Robert Redford said, “I want you to come up with a way to encourage Frank Wells and Ted Ashley at Warner Brothers to spend money on promoting the movie.” So I said, “We are going to run Senator-elect Bill McKay [Redford’s character in the film] for president. We are going to start with a whistle-stop train tour from Jacksonville to West Palm to Miami, where there will be a convention.”

You took a fake candidate to the actual Democratic Convention?

Yes. The Fontainebleau was the convention hotel. We had some of the most beautiful young ladies you have seen, as far as the eye could see. The movie did very well.

You recently bought the Garland Center, a fully leased data center. How does that play into your strategy? Are you trying to diversify beyond historic projects?

It is not quite that scientific. You have to be opportunistic. It came on the market and we felt we had the skill set to manage it and improve it. If we find things that are complicated, and we have a solution, we can probably pay less than somebody who couldn’t figure it out.

When you were building the U.S. Bank Tower, was there any sense of competition with Donald Trump, who was then trying to build the nation’s tallest building in L.A.?

Oh, no. We were ahead of the game. And also, the site [Trump was vying for] is a long way from Downtown. So it would have been a tower built with nothing around it, at the same density as Downtown.

There’s a lot of contention in L.A. about how much density we should have, and where we should have it. What’s your take?

Density is a good thing, if it is properly planned. It leads to civilized living. When L.A. was being developed, we built farther and farther out. So guess what? It took you longer and longer to get to work. Density is the way around that. There are those who say that there is too much density. Why? Well, traffic. And you don’t have to have traffic if you have transit. I’d argue that the density is better than urban sprawl.

What is your son Chris’ role in the company?

Chris is the president. He has a very hands-on and active role in managing the company an brings an innovative perspective towards unlocking the value in properties such as PacMutual.

If you had no obligations for a weekend, what would you do?

I’d be on the golf course, at the L.A. Country Club, or I’d be in the desert at the Vintage Club in Indian Wells.

Customer Satisfaction & The Rising Experience

The New Year typically brings many resolutions, many focused on “doing better at ______.” This is a natural time to discuss a primary goal of many enterprises: providing better customer service. Whatever you call it: satisfaction, experience, support, you know it when you experience it. Most strive to provide it, and everyone appreciates it when they receive it.