The Real Market With Chris Rising – Ep. 47 Nelson Rising Part I
The Real Market With Chris Rising – Ep. 47 Nelson Rising Part I
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Chris Rising (00:02): Welcome to the Real Market with Chris Rising, the only podcast that brings the real estate conference panel to your headphones. You’ll hear from superstars from every realm of commercial real estate, the biggest brokers, the most well-known architects, the largest investors and the most visionary developers. You’ll learn what they do, how they do it, and what drives their success. We’ll discuss the latest trends across regional markets, capital flows, both national and global, and we’ll explore technology’s role in shaping all of it.
Chris Rising (00:32): We’ll take a clear-eyed look at where we’ve been, where we are now, and what’s to come. Real conversations, real experts, real insights. This is the Real Market. Welcome to the Real Market with Chris Rising. I’m really excited to start the first of our legend series, and I’m quite fortunate to have the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Rising Realty Partners, Nelson Rising, my father here on our podcast. Dad, welcome to the podcast.
Nelson Rising (01:09): Well, thank you. Nice to be here.
Chris Rising (01:11): Well, I’m excited. We’re going to do a three or four part series with you and the whole purpose is to talk about some of the biggest deals that you’ve been involved in, in your career. And I don’t know if a lot of our listeners know, but as I kid you often, when they are sitting at home at night watching Bravo and watching the Real Housewives of Orange County, all of that takes place in Coto de Caza, and so you are either the one to thank or blame because without you, there would be no Real Housewives of Coto de Caza.
Nelson Rising (01:47): Well, that’s a heavy burden to have to carry for the rest of my life.
Chris Rising (01:53): That it is. So I don’t know if a lot of people know the history of Coto de Caza and how you might have gotten involved and kind of the career choices you made that would have led you to being named President of Coto de Caza, so why don’t you start with telling us a little bit about what Coto de Caza was, and the year I think was ’72 when you-
Nelson Rising (02:14): Yeah, something like that, yeah.
Chris Rising (02:15):
So tell everybody about what Coto de Caza was in 1972.
Nelson Rising (02:21): Well, Coto de Caza was a 5,000 acre ranch in Southern Orange County. A beautiful piece of property. It was located next to the Star Ranch and it was a property owned by the Pennsylvania Company. And so-
Chris Rising (02:44): Was it Pennsylvania Railroad?
Nelson Rising (02:45): Yes, Pennsylvania Railroad, yes. And Victor Palmieri had been in charge of the railroad assets of the Pennsylvania Company and one of which was Coto de Caza. And it was 14 miles off the freeway, which was a problem, but it was a beautiful piece of property and Coto de Caza’s retreat of the hunt, so we are into this days’ [inaudible 00:03:16] to think about that place as a place where people would go out and shoot pigeons and shoot all kinds of fowl. And so-
Chris Rising (03:29): How old were you when you were doing this?
Nelson Rising (03:31): I think I was…
Chris Rising (03:36): Early 30s?
Nelson Rising (03:38): No. Late 20s.
Chris Rising (03:40): Late 20s? Wow. How does a guy in their late 20s strike a relationship with Victor Palmieri who was one of the more well known bankruptcy work-out people in the country. Where did that relationship develop?
Nelson Rising (03:56): Well, it started off, I was a young summer clerk at O’Melveny & Myers at 433 South Spring Street.
Chris Rising (04:04): The Trust Building, which we’re very proud to own today.
Nelson Rising (04:07): The [inaudible 00:04:08] Trust Building, and Warren Christopher, when I was a summer clerk, the first day, he called me and said, “Let’s go to lunch at the [Cal 00:04:18] Club.” And so we walked from 433 South Spring to the Cal Club and had a extraordinarily good conversation in which I expressed an interest in politics, and Warren Christopher was a managing partner of the firm and was Secretary of State under President-
Chris Rising (04:43): Bill Clinton.
Nelson Rising (04:44): Bill Clinton, and was a mentor to me all the way through my life until he passed on at the age of 84, and so I got to know Victor Palmieri because of the relationship with Chris. And Victor had this property, he didn’t know what to do with it, about it, and so lo and behold, there I was out there at Coto de Caza trying to make sense out of this. It had two major problems. The old saying about water in California is whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting. And here we were at Coto de Caza, there was the Santa Margarita Water District, number One, and then there was Santa Margarita Water District, number two, and we were in, didn’t exist, but I was able to get the water district to expand it to district three.
Nelson Rising (05:49): We had a quarter cubic foot per second, which is not much to grow anything or to have any development. We were able to get that expanded to 14 cubic feet per second, and that gave us a solution to the water problem. We didn’t have a solution, however, to the 14 mile drive on a Caribbean road to get to the property. The property was surrounded by the O’Neil Ranch, and Uncle Richard, Rick O’Neil, who owned the property, was a friend of mine from my experience with the Tunney campaign.
Nelson Rising (06:31): And so I went to him one day and said, “I’d like to just get a right of way on your property to get more direct.” He said, “Well, Nelson, I’m not going to do that.” So I got back to him, and I said, “Look, you got all this cattle there on the property, and I think I’ve got a solution. I’d be willing to part with 1000 acres of Wagon Wheel Canyon, which would be a good place for you to keep your cattle.” And if I did that, would you give me the right of way? And he said yes. So we solved the water problem, we solved the right of way problem, and it was complicated. It was a very interesting time in Orange County.
Chris Rising (07:24): Well let’s step back a second. You mentioned that you got to know Dick O’Neil through the Tunney campaign, so you were a young associate in 1967, ’68 at O’Melveny & Myers, and then we kind of jumped ahead to ’72 to talk about Coto de Caza, but what happened between ’68 and ’72 that would put a guy from basically Glendale, born in Queens but basically Glendale, in the throws of talking to some of the biggest hitters in the state of California?
Nelson Rising (07:55): Well, again, it goes back to Warren Christopher. Warren Christopher was the chairman of John Tunney’s campaign for the senate, and John had been elected three to three terms in the district in the eastern part of the state that had consisted of… Chris Rising (08:16): Riverside.
Nelson Rising (08:17): Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties, and John was a terrific congressman. Warren Christopher had sponsored him, and then John decided to run for the Senate, and at the time he did. In the primary, he had his brother running the campaign, and it was not going very well, and so Warren Christopher suggested that Nelson Rising, at the ripe old age of 27, become his state wide campaign manager. That was a very interesting experience and we put together a really good team. Those of you who watch Morning Joe, Michael Barnicle was our speech writer. I had John call Mayor Alioto and ask him if I could-
Chris Rising (09:07): He was the mayor of San Francisco?
Nelson Rising (09:10): Mayor of San Francisco. If I could get Hadley Roth, who was his chief of staff and become our press secretary, and Hadley was described in many articles as the pear shaped, disheveled [garmon 00:09:24], and so the combination of Barnicle and Hadley, we had a very good [inaudible 00:09:34] point there. And in those days, it was 1970, the two major issues were the war in Vietnam and civil rights, and we were able to put together a terrific group of people, and John was running against the incumbent Republican senator, George Murphy. Ronald Reagan, on election day, beat Pat Brown by 1300000 votes. Chris Rising (10:05): This was 1970?
Nelson Rising (10:08):
And John Tunney beat the incumbent Republican senator by 850000 votes.
Chris Rising (10:14): Now for those who might follow boxing, they might recognize the name Tunney. John’s father was the heavyweight champion of the world and the first boxer ever to get a million dollar payday. Nelson Rising (10:24): Yes, he was.
Chris Rising (10:25): But was John well known in the state outside of his father?
Nelson Rising (10:29): He was well known and we had an extraordinary campaign. We hired David Garth in New York who was one of the real gurus of TV commercials, and then we had a terrific team. [Chuck Benett 00:10:48] was my deputy campaign manager. Chuck was a major force in democratic politics. We had such luminaries as Gray Davis and [Burt Pines 00:11:00] and so many people who went on to the important political figures in the state.
Chris Rising (11:09): So had a bit of a surprising victory. I know you thought you were going to win all along, but when you see someone like Ronald Reagan who goes on to become president; win with a million votes and John Tunney, who’s in the other party, win with 800,000 votes. What do you think the similarities and differences were at that time for those two people from two different parties to be elected on the same night?
Nelson Rising (11:30): Well, I think that the issues for the Senate were different than the issues for the gubernatorial. As I said earlier, the war in Vietnam and civil rights were the two major issues, and we were able to motivate and get a tremendous amount of political activity I haven’t seen since.
Chris Rising (11:54): Amazing, so you go from being a first, second year attorney sitting in a small office reading securities law, and then you go run a statewide campaign. Must have been culture shock going back to O’Melveny & Myers being a young attorney again?
Nelson Rising (12:13): Yes, it was, and I did not stay long after I got back, and Victor Palmieri approached me and wanted to know if I would like to join him, and so that’s how I got involved with Coto de Caza.
Chris Rising (12:33): And when you moved from being an attorney to working with Palmieri and associates, who else was there? Were there any other names who you might know working there?
Nelson Rising (12:46): Not that you would think of. Of course, [Bob Blow 00:12:50] was there. Bob was a very close, a friend of Victor Palmieri. He developed a reserve in Palm Desert and Bob’s a terrific guy. He and I have been on the board together at the real estate round table, and I was chairman of the real estate round table for three years, and he followed me for three years as chairman of the real estate round table.
Chris Rising (13:21): So when you were in the small office working with Victor and the assignments came out, and he gave you Coto de Caza, what did that mean you in terms of, you didn’t have a background in real estate, this was a large, it seems from the outside, a large real estate deal, but was it a real estate deal or was it much more connected to politics? Was it both? How did it launch you into a real estate career?
Nelson Rising (13:43): Well, it basically-
Chris Rising (13:48): Wait. [inaudible 00:13:48]. We can edit from there. Just start.
Nelson Rising (13:48): The…
Chris Rising (14:00): So you go from being a lawyer and now you’re working with Palmieri. The first deal that you get is, asked to work on is a rather large real estate deal. But was it real estate, was it politics? How did that project, Coto de Caza, launch you into a real estate career?
Nelson Rising (14:16): Well, first of all, entitlements. We have to get entitled, and second, water, and we recruited a team of outstanding professionals in the Orange County Real Estate Consulting Business. And my success in that project was because of the people and the firms we used to support us and the effort.
Chris Rising (14:45): And when you got the water deal done, you got the right of way to build the road, you still had to have a project because it didn’t start off as houses and golf courses. Talk a little bit about the early days of Coto de Caza once you had the water rights and the right of way.
Nelson Rising (15:00): Well, there was a series of small units there, and it was called the retreat of the hunt, and they had a place to house people for the retreat of the hunt. And so there was the bird shooting and planting birds and so forth. Something was really quite interesting, we were right next to the Audubon society.
Chris Rising (15:25): Made for some fertile hunting ground.
Nelson Rising (15:26): One hill over from us, and so it was a very rustic place, beautiful in all regards, and so it turned out very well.
Chris Rising (15:42): And you had some characters there. People were kind of legendary in Orange County. Bob Sanchez, who was very legendary as the hunt director.
Nelson Rising (15:51): Yes.
Chris Rising (15:51): And then at one point, can you talk a little bit about bringing Vic Braden’s tennis college to Coto de Caza?
Nelson Rising (15:56): Well, that’s… Vic Palmieri had supported the Vic Braden Tennis College and it was one of his investments. And so Vic Braden moved his tennis college to Coto de Caza. He made me be wear a T-shirt, [inaudible 00:16:15] I’ve never had a lesson from Vic Braden. And so, but it was great and it was a wonderful for our family; [inaudible 00:16:25] for the family to be down there in the weekends and so forth, and most of my family was pretty good tennis player, other than me.
Chris Rising (16:35): So, you brought Vic Braden’s tennis college to get things going and then they built the golf course, which you were kind of part of. And then, but tell us how you… What happened to Coto de Caza, and how did you move on? And tell us a little of that story.
Nelson Rising (16:52): Well, it became clear, at the point where we had gotten Coto de Caza to where it was, and the concept was that we were to get it to that point and then we were to sell it. And I had the opportunity, I thought to sell the property, and when I brought in buyers, [inaudible 00:17:20] didn’t want to sell.
Chris Rising (17:23): And so-
Nelson Rising (17:24): So I thought I should move on. We met very amicably.
Chris Rising (17:27): Yep.
Nelson Rising (17:28): [crosstalk 00:17:28].
Chris Rising (17:29): Met all the goals for it and moved on. Where was Irvine Company at this point or the Irvine Ranch process? And did you participate in giving them the knowledge you had about Coto de Caza? Was that something that caught your attention?
Nelson Rising (17:42): Well, clearly the Irvine Company was a giant there, and I’m very pleased to be on the board, have been on the board and am on the board, the Irvine Company for 14 years. Donald runs that company. It’s not just Orange County. They’re the largest owner of office buildings in downtown San Diego. They are now very big in Silicon Valley, and I must say I really enjoy being on that board.
Chris Rising (18:17): But is there anything you can tell us about, I mean, there’s a lot of rumors and legends about the blind pool bid that the Irvine Ranch went through that [Mr. Brandon 00:18:27] ended up winning. But is that, did you participate in that at all? Did you look at trying to bring equity to buy that?
Nelson Rising (18:34): Well, we did look at it, but it became very clear to me that it was beyond our ability to raise that kind of capital. And as I said earlier, Donald is a great real estate expert and he runs it, probably the best run real estate company in the country.
Chris Rising (18:57): So after you left Coto de Caza, we’re still here in the early seventies, what was the next move for you?
Nelson Rising (19:05): Well, I met a wonderful friend of Victor. His name was [Miles Rubin 00:19:13] and Miles and Victor were at Stanford together; Stanford Law School together, and Miles was an advisor to a fellow in New York who was the owner of Puritan Fashions, and Carl Rosen. And Carl had a partner who had purchased 3000 acres outside of Tampa. And so Victor showed up from my doorstep with Carl one day and said, “I think you’re the perfect person to help us with this 3000 acre parcel.” It was called, well, we named it as Trout Creek properties. We got the freeway to go by it, through it; [inaudible 00:20:11] University of Central Florida is, and so during that period of time, I was back and forth to Florida, to New York and back, and on a regular basis.
Nelson Rising (20:26): And I met a friend through John Tunney named Bob Ginsburg. He was the Allen company, and the Allen company in New York had access to certain major real estate transactions, and so this was a transaction with a company who had 1,760 residential units, apartment units in Florida, Tampa, Orlando, Melbourne and [inaudible 00:21:01].
Chris Rising (21:03): In Orlando, yup.
Nelson Rising (21:04): Yeah, and so we had a very, very, interesting time doing that, but what I was in the process of doing that for the Trout Creek properties, Bob Ginsburg and I… No, the broker that we hired for Trout Creek properties also was very knowledgeable about real estate in Florida. And so we bought 51 Island Way, and it was this time when interest rates were high, and they went higher. And prime was 10 when we signed on to this deal.
Chris Rising (21:52): And this was going to be a condo conversion, right? Take the apartments and turn them into condos?
Nelson Rising (21:56): Yeah. And it was mostly one-bedrooms, which many people thought was a bad thing, but given the empty nester market, [inaudible 00:22:05] very positive. So we went out and we managed to tie the property up and then I brought in Bob Ginsburg as the investor and his group from Allen Company. And we have managed to, in that [inaudible 00:22:28] 21, and we’re playing two over prime. I had a lot of sleepless nights,
Chris Rising (22:35): I bet, especially because with prime that high, getting a mortgage was not an easy thing.
Nelson Rising (22:40): Nope, it’s not.
Chris Rising (22:41): So, how did you sell out the property? What did you do that, when everybody else has given back keys, how were you guys able to sell the units?
Nelson Rising (22:51): Well, what I did was I recognized that it wouldn’t get better and bad news doesn’t get better with age, and so that we were able to put together financing on one of the major properties, and we’re able to sell because we had financing.
Chris Rising (23:17): So you basically were able to buy down mortgages for buyers?
Nelson Rising (23:20): Yep.
Chris Rising (23:20): So you went and took five points off what they could get as a mortgage and get out of it. Yeah, I remember a lot of Friday evenings in the jacuzzi, when you would be back and talk about how you’re going to get out of this. And I think it’s one of the great stories for any developer wannabes that it takes a lot more guts to sign those guarantees and those non-recourse carve-outs and all those other kinds of things. And when you see the interest rates skyrocket and you’re responsible.
Nelson Rising (23:51): Well, Bob Ginsburg was a very, very wise person in this regard because his family during the great depression had been in real trouble. And he would say his father came home and said, “I don’t know how we’re going to get through the week, but I can’t wait till Friday to see how we did, so.”
Chris Rising (24:18): Well, what we were just talking about, it’s like this from like ’73 into the late seventies, but we missed something that you were doing with your free time at the time. So in 1969 era, you were the campaign manager for John Tunney; ran for Senate. But there was also a very big election in California, in Los Angeles that year where the mayor Sam Yorty already was running against a Councilman, Tom Bradley, in the year-
Nelson Rising (24:45): 1969.
Chris Rising (24:45): In ’69. In the era, that it was extraordinarily racially divisive, and while you’re out there trying to raise money, I mean, you’re a kid from Glendale whose dad was the engineer; chief engineer at the Statler Hotel, not wealthy by any means. So you were making your money, but then you got a phone call from Tom Bradley, and when he said, I’m going to run for mayor again in ’73. And Nelson, you did such a good job with John Tunney, I’d like you to help me. Well, that’s a big thing to say to a young person who has aspirations to create wealth and to do things to say, I’d like you to put your neck on the line for a former cop, who sits on the city council in South central, and I’d like you to be my right hand person to run for mayor. So tell us about that.
Nelson Rising (25:39): Well, I said, “Tom, I can’t afford to be the full-time person on this, but I’ll put the campaign together.” So I was Tom Bradley’s campaign chairman in his four successful reelection terms, and, three successful reelection terms. And we put together a wonderful group of people. Tom was just an unbelievable person. He was a sharecropper’s son, came out here to Los Angeles. Was student body president of LA High. He was a student body president at UCLA, and then he was a police officer for 21 years, city councilman for 12, and he and I were extremely close. And so, then he decided to run for governor.
Chris Rising (26:32): Well, before we get to 1982, let’s talk a little bit what it meant for you. Los Angeles was a very… The business interest was a very republican town. The Chandlers and the LA Times were very prominent, and you’re trying to raise money to do real estate deals and I mean, I have to imagine the doors of the California Club and the Jonathan Club weren’t wide open to you. What was it that that drove you to want to help Tom become the first African-American mayor of a major city?
Nelson Rising (27:04): Well, first of all, he was the best person for the job, and the city needed something like a leadership in Tom Bradley, because Yorty was not a good mirror. And
Chris Rising (27:16): [crosstalk 00:27:16] in the late sixties, the civil rights and Vietnam War; a lot of a lot of stuff happening here in Los Angeles.
Nelson Rising (27:24): Yeah. And the relationship with Tom was, we would get together at the Yorkshire grill, we were both early risers, at 6:30 or seven in the morning once a week, and we’d go through all the things that he was concerned about and wanted to do like a healthy one. And again, we had the ability because of his charisma to attract a wonderful team of, there were interested young professionals.
Chris Rising (27:57): Well, they often talk about the Bradley coalition and how unique it was and how even Dick Riordan when he ran, really tried to access that. How would you describe what the Bradley coalition was?
Nelson Rising (28:08): Well, it was complete mix of the population of Los Angeles, and we had a very close relationship with the Jewish community, and they were predominantly conservative, liberal in their donations and so forth. And so that was a very, very helpful ingredient to Tom’s success in raising money. But he also, Tom was, he would go everywhere, and went to every ethnic group in this city. And he did a very good job of dealing with the conservatives.
Chris Rising (28:52): In fact, when you read through the history of Tom putting and you and the team putting together that coalition, one of the things they make a point of is there were some very prominent conservative business people who felt Tom was the right person, and you were obviously a conduit to that. Can you talk about what some of the more prominent conservatives and republicans who supported Tom really saw in Tom, as it relates to business in Los Angeles?
Nelson Rising (29:17): Well, they felt that Tom could bring the city together and one of the first things Tom Bradley said he wanted to do was have mass transit, and you can imagine what the fossil fuel industry thought about that. But he said, he made it very clear, our air resources and our transportation resources demand we have mass transit. And so we went about doing that and we were able to get started on the first step of that. Now, in those days, you build a parking drive garage, and then you pay $20 to park your car there.
Nelson Rising (30:04): Just imagine what Uber has done now so that you no longer have to have [inaudible 00:30:09] garage. And so we’re now, we’re almost complete. I gave a talk about a year ago in an organization where you give a talk, you don’t tell the audience what you’re going to talk about, but you hint at it. And so my title was, it’s almost complete. And I went through the entire LA County and region transportation system and it is almost complete with the purple line now when it gets over to UCLA and beyond. And Tom was such a visionary that to think about that at a time when all the economic forces were, more or less, not interested.
Chris Rising (30:58): Well, one of the other things that’s amazing, is here we’re looking at 2028 having the Olympics come back to Los Angeles for the third time. People often say 1984 was one of the highlights in the history of the city of Los Angeles, the success of the Olympics and [inaudible 00:31:15] leadership. But the seeds of that were really sewn in the ’73 campaign and the time after that. Can you talk about why Tom Bradley felt so strongly that Los Angeles needed to have the Olympics come back in 1984?
Nelson Rising (31:31): Well, he felt that we are the perfect city to have the Olympics and it would bring international and national focus on how great the city Los Angeles was. So that was one of his major drive that drove him. And I remember that when the Olympics were announced, the articles in the LA Time; the [inaudible 00:32:04] pages, it’d be a disaster. It would shut the city down, and everybody who lived through that said that it was a highlight of Los Angeles.
Chris Rising (32:16): So let’s weave it back to real estate. You were doing your time, kind of your charitable time with Tom in ’73 and then in ’77, you were part of the chairman of John’s unsuccessful reelection campaign in ’76. You were spending a lot of time in Florida doing real estate deals. We talked a little bit about interest rates going up at the end of the seventies and all of that, but what was it, when you were looking at real estate opportunities in the state of California around then, what did you see, kind of vision of what you were going to be focusing on as we headed into the eighties? What were you seeing in the late seventies with inflation is high and interest rates are high, what opportunities were you looking at then?
Nelson Rising (33:06): Well, those were unsettled times. You really didn’t have a handle on it, for sure, but clearly, the population based in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles were all very, very important possibilities. And so I looked at all of those markets and I became chairman of Catellus.
Chris Rising (33:49): Well, we’re going to get to Catellus later and we’re going to get to wire it. Just, what I was trying to get at is when did you transition from Florida and started looking at opportunities back here in Los Angeles and then ultimately to your partnership with Rob Maguire and Jim Thomas. But what was going on for you after the ’77 election, reelection of Bradley. John had lost his Senate race and you were spending a lot of time in Florida. What was bringing you back to Los Angeles on your career path?
Nelson Rising (34:25): Well, it just seemed to me I’d rather be here than there. And so there were such opportunities in the great state of California.
Chris Rising (34:44): So, I think we’re going to do our next episode and spend a lot of time talking about library tower and gas company and Playa Vista, but this was a transition period for you; going away from doing really serious entitlement work in Florida and condo conversions. But when was the first time you met Rob Maguire?
Nelson Rising (35:06): Well, I knew him socially. And Maguire, Thomas partners had been successful on a few projects. They went after Cal Plaza and they didn’t [inaudible 00:35:26] the success on that. They didn’t get that reward
Chris Rising (35:28): At the time, that was the CRA putting together parcels of land on bunker Hill. Rob had been successful building what was known as Crocker Center across the street on Grand.
Nelson Rising (35:39): Yes.
Chris Rising (35:40): And the city, the CRA goes out for an RFP and who won it? Was it [Olympia 00:35:47] and New York, who won that?
Nelson Rising (35:48): Yup, yes. [crosstalk 00:35:51].
Chris Rising (35:51): Yup. And so you had known Rob and Rob was a little bit frustrated by how that all went, and then, but was there a point where you reconnected because it’s one thing to know someone socially and it’s another thing to say we’re going to become partners.
Nelson Rising (36:03): Well, he called me, and he and Jim Thomas and I had lunch and he said that they owned a piece of property on the other side of the library; North side of the library. And that gave them kind of an inkling of how we would put the properties together. And so we ended up getting the library tower, gas company tower projects approved.
Chris Rising (36:44): So you go to lunch with Rob and Jim, they tell you about this piece of property. There was another pretty legendary person in real estate who owned that piece of property with Rob. Who was that?
Nelson Rising (37:05): Well, John Cushman was the broker involved in this, and John had a foothold up there, and John and Jim had been doing a lot of things together. Crocker Center and so forth, John was the major broker on all those transactions. And what was a very interesting thing is that when we received the entitlements to do library tower and gas company tower, we transferred the air rights. Everything downtown is six to one
Chris Rising (37:39): So you have lunch with Rob Maguire and Jim Thomas. They start talking to you about how they’re frustrated that they lost to Olympia and New York and how they have a piece of property, but they feel like… What was the conversation? What were they expressing to you? And then what point did they say, “Nelson, we’d like you to be a partner.”
Nelson Rising (38:15): Well, it was basically because it was complicated; it was really complicated to do a density transfer and do all the things we had to do in order to accomplish that, and it was complicated. And so if we listen to our next episode, but it was a combination of somebody who knew development and who understood entitlements and understood the overall real estate business
Chris Rising (38:53): And the personalities in it. John Cushman was involved back then and I think he owned a piece of that property with Rob and Jim and brokering this out. Well, one of the things that we kind of jumped, we’ve talked about Tunney, we’ve talked about Bradley. You had the campaigns in ’77 for mayor and ’81 for mayor. You had Tunney’s reelection in ’76, but I don’t know if people know the part you played in the 1980 presidential election. So you’re still doing real estate in Florida. You’re just starting to come back and reassert yourself here, but there was a campaign for president you got involved in, and maybe you could tell our audience a little bit about that.
Nelson Rising (39:40): Well, Teddy Kennedy was running for president in ’80 and John Tunney and Teddy were roommates at [inaudible 00:39:50] Law School and very close friends. And so Ted had a very good chance to win that.
Chris Rising (40:02): To beat Carter for the democratic nomination.
Nelson Rising (40:05): To beat Carter, right.
Chris Rising (40:06): Carter had a difficult four years; interest rates were sky high, inflation was high.
Nelson Rising (40:11): And then they had [inaudible 00:40:14] quick.
Chris Rising (40:15): Well, that was in the seventies, so.
Nelson Rising (40:17): Yeah, that was there though. I mean, that had been there.
Chris Rising (40:21): Yeah.
Nelson Rising (40:21): Yeah, and so-
Chris Rising (40:23): That was a negative on Ted.
Nelson Rising (40:24): That was a negative on Ted, but he was a tremendous candidate.
Chris Rising (40:28): I, sorry, what made you say, rarely do challengers to an incumbent ever win. Outside of your friendship with John, what were the tea leaves that you saw that there was even a chance and what was your role in the campaign?
Nelson Rising (40:44): Well, my role was fully focused in California, and it was a bit on how do we win California?
Chris Rising (40:55): Yep. And I think your title was head of finance for the campaign for California, raising the money for Ted here in the state?
Nelson Rising (41:04): Yeah.
Chris Rising (41:04): And I still remember this day, I think my brother has it; a beautiful photo of Ted Kennedy against the US flag, and Ted wrote on it, Nelson, you always said we’d win California and we did. Nelson Rising (41:21): And you did.
Chris Rising (41:22): And you did. And so Teddy beat Carter in California for the democratic nomination in June of 1980.
Nelson Rising (41:29): Yes.
Chris Rising (41:31): And so that was another one of your charitable opportunities that you were doing. So, what did being involved, whether it was a state or a municipal or a presidential campaign, how did that change your life, those kind of experiences?
Nelson Rising (41:47): Well, all my adult life or even my college life, I’m very, very interested in the American history, and what a wonderful country we have and what it takes to keep it that way. And so I was drawn to that, and so to this day I’m very, very interested in what’s going on in politics. And, but I did have some very, very interesting opportunities and hopefully I made contributions that were worthwhile.
Chris Rising (42:27): When you look at the way people interacted, and I mean, it’s easy to look at the Trump and the 2018 version of politics, but talk a little bit about what it was like dealing with people in business who were Republican and you were well known in the Democratic party, and what was the tone and the tenor of how conversations went in the seventies and eighties as it related to politics?
Nelson Rising (42:52): Much more civilized than today. It wasn’t that if you were a Democrat or a Republican, you were enemies. It was a question of, we both will look at things differently and that, but we’re all Americans and we’ve lost that.
Chris Rising (43:12): Yeah. And, as you were, after ’80 and Teddy did lose the nomination to Carter, and you did get involved. I think maybe we’ll kind of wrap up talking about a pretty momentous thing when Tom Bradley in 1982 became the first African-American candidate for governor in the state of California. When you were leading the effort in 1982 for Tom as his campaign chairman for governor, it was a very, very close race. A lot of people thought Tom was going to win. He lost by a very small margin. Can you talk about that campaign and what happened and why Tom wasn’t able to win in 1982?
Nelson Rising (45:11): Well, he was highly favored for that race. The person he ran against was not a good candidate.
Chris Rising (45:22): George Deukmejian.
Nelson Rising (45:22): George Deukmejian.
Chris Rising (45:24): Good man. And we knew in person; very good man.
Nelson Rising (45:28): And, but there were major issues out there and one of which was gun control, and that my point was that if… Warren Christopher and I begged the gun control people to wait, to put it on the ballot later. And so what happened is that, there were 250,000 people registered in gun source from that mistake. We lost with 50,000 votes. The facts speak for themselves.
Chris Rising (46:06): And for those of us who are also pro football fans, a lot of people haven’t focused on why Tom didn’t do as well in Oakland and San Francisco as we had hoped. Can you enlighten us all on why that happened?
Nelson Rising (46:19): Well, everybody in Los Angeles loved Tom because of the Raiders.
Chris Rising (46:22): He brought the Raiders to the Coliseum after Rams had gone to Anaheim,
Nelson Rising (46:27): But the people in Alameda County weren’t too happy about that.
Chris Rising (46:31): Yeah.
Nelson Rising (46:32): And that was an area where there was a huge black turnout, and had it not been for the Raiders being in Los Angeles, there’s no question in my mind Tom would’ve won.
Chris Rising (46:42): Yeah. Well, I still have a vivid memory of being at the Biltmore Hotel in 1982 and about two in the morning, mom let me stay up with you and we were watching the returns. I was probably 12 years old at the time and Tom called you away and said, “Nelson, I’d like to talk to you.” What did he say to you that election night as the defeat looked like it might happen, even though it wasn’t a sure defeat until several weeks after, but what did he say to you?
Nelson Rising (47:13): What happened was we were going to be, going down at the Biltmore, and they get a call from David Garth in New York and he said, “Nelson, hold off going down there. It doesn’t look good based on what we’re seeing in the areas where we should be doing well, we’re not.” And so that’s basically, we just decided not to go down then. And it finally came out that he had lost by a very narrow margin,
Chris Rising (47:42): But what did Tom say to you about the loss.
Nelson Rising (47:46): He understood the reason.
Chris Rising (47:49): Well, the story as I remember is he said, “Nelson, you were right, but I stand on my principle.” That he was a cop for 21 years and he saw Saturday night specials caused so much damage in communities, and he just felt that if you could force people to have a driver’s license, you should be able to force people to have a license for a gun. And so we’re talking 1982, so the gun laws have changed a lot since then, but he certainly stood on principle.
Nelson Rising (48:14): He did indeed.
Chris Rising (48:15): Yeah. So we’re kind of 1982, we’re at the point where you’ve had lunch with Robin Maguire and Jim Thomas and you were ready to not be getting on an airplane to go to Florida every week and then New York as well. So I think maybe this is a good time to stop. I think our goal is to go through some of the big deals you’ve done, and we have yet to talk about the largest building West of the Mississippi and library tower and gas company.
Chris Rising (48:43): We haven’t talked about Playa Vista nor have we talked about Plaza Las Fuentes and Pasadena. So I think, in our net next episode, we’ll go through all of those and then after that we’ll talk about Catellus, and then we’ll kind of end up with all the things we’re doing here at [inaudible 00:48:59]. So, dad obviously as your son, it’s an honor and a pleasure to be able to interview you for this and we’ll pick it up on the next episode.
Nelson Rising (49:08): Terrific. Thank you.