Event Blog

Southern California Development Forum brings value through educational, networking and philanthropic events around current developments in the A/E/C world.  Read all about our recent events here.

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  • 11/03/2020 11:54 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion in late September about opportunities for social change in our industry.  While the conversation wasn’t real estate related, racial injustice does affect the industry. SCDF invited several members of the Los Angeles business community to share their views on how positive change can be advanced and what some businesses are doing to champion this cause.

    Tre Borden, principal of Tre Borden Co., a company focused on building creative communities, served as a moderator for panelists from LA Mas, 2nd Call, Homeboy Industries and ACE Mentor Program LA/OC. Borden began the conversation by asking how panelists have adapted their organizations to support racial justice over the last six months.  

    Feeding and Healing So Cal

    Homeboy Industries is considered one of the front runners in an organization that is committed to pushing social change. The organization continues to rehabilitate former gang members and felons which has been its mission for the last 30 years. In fact, fifty percent of its staff are former clients, which lends a great deal of credibility to its mission.

    “We can't rely on government programs or any of the foundations. The business community needs to take on this responsibility of creating jobs and providing good jobs because that's how we make long term structural change,” said Thomas Vozzo, Homeboy’s CEO.

    The organization is also providing food for those struggling during the pandemic. The food program, which has served thousands of seniors, now has a city contract.

    “So not only are we keeping people working but we're also feeding people at the same time,” Vozzo said.

    In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, LA Mas, an organization that designs initiatives to promote neighborhood resilience, has narrowed its mission to support individuals living in Long Beach, South LA and East LA rather than the entire LA Region. LA Mas has a diverse leadership team and supports working-class communities of color, explained Elizabeth Timme, co-executive director.

    “We have started feeding 700 residents of northeast Los Angeles, most explicitly in Elysian Valley,” she said, adding that her staff will complete anti-racist training in the next few weeks.

    Skipp Townsend, executive director for 2nd Call, an organization that offers parenting, anger management, domestic violence and re-entry programs, also began food distribution in South Los Angeles. 2nd call hopes the program will began the healing process between Black and Brown residents of the area.

    Backing the Next Generation

    The ACE Mentor Program LA/OC supports youth with after-school classes and scholarships because it believes that higher education is a strategic way of changing the lives of the next generation. Ricardo Zendejas, mentor and board member for the organization, said they were able to adapt their program into a virtual environment during the pandemic. ACE annually serves about 10,000 students of which about two-thirds are minorities. The program has awarded approximately $20 million in renewable scholarships over the course of 26 years.

    “I went through the program back in 2003 as a senior in high school and I've got the program to thank for staying with me throughout college,” Zendejas said. “I got my undergraduate degree at UCLA, my master's at Stanford, and throughout the whole program the sponsor companies provided internships.” 

    In summary, you can make Southern California a more prosperous place by supporting scholarship programs, donating food to those in need or creating jobs that will provide long-term structural change.

  • 06/25/2020 2:07 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    Like so many other business sectors, higher education has had to make massive adjustments to remain sustainable during the pandemic. For many of us going virtual and working remotely is relatively seamless. In the higher education field, going remote is nothing new. Online education has been offered for at least twenty years. However, it was rarely offered as the sole method of learning. The conundrum for higher education going completely online is that there are so many facets of college life that must take place in the real world, not a virtual one. This is especially true for the many facilities that comprise a university campus in order to create synergy among students, faculty, athletes, alumni and more. For the month of June, we spoke with designers and construction planners from three California universities, as well as a member of the California State University Chancellor’s Office, for some inside information regarding the adjustment of our university system to the new normal.

    New Normal, New Budgets

    Paul Gannoe, chief of facilities planning and design at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, opened the conversation with a reminder that many of these decisions are often, or perhaps always, a direct result of a budget.

    “The CSU was slated to get a little less than what we had asked for, but it was manageable,” he said. “Then when COVID-19 came, we had to make revisions to accommodate for the changes.”

    Gannoe also mentioned the difference is that if the CSU takes the budget cuts up front, then the cuts can be restored at a later time when federal funding potentially arrives in October. In regards to budgets and financing, the CSU has also sold about $600 million worth of debt and is working on allocating that funding toward projects already in the pipeline at several universities. The Chancellor’s Office is also working with the Department of Finance on approvals for those projects, while also seeking up to $650 million worth of new construction. From a capital funding standpoint, the CSU is currently in good standing due to favorable interest rates, and a forecasted softening in construction market pricing.

    Project Delays

    Mark Zakhour, CASp, director of design and construction at Cal State Long Beach, pivoted from the stable funding of projects, to point out that many of these projects will be delayed.

    “Fortunately, we were able to keep our active projects moving forward,” he said. “We didn’t have to stop anything due to COVID-19, which was a primary concern.”

    While none of the active projects at Cal State Long Beach were delayed, Zakhour did say that many of the projects in a planning or design phase are taking a pause. Among these projects is a new student union, which took a pause in the middle of a fee referendum. The university was looking into ways to navigate additional fees for students, in order to help pay for the project. Then all the students went away. Some of those projects have to take a pause, especially the student housing projects.

    “We know that our revenue is tied to enrollment, and I know that's going to be something else that will cause us to expect less revenue,” said Zakhour. “Housing reserves have taken a huge hit because housing and dining plans are basically stopped. Some housing may be assessed for renovations, depending on what next year looks like.”

    Most panelists agreed that probably around October, is when their campuses will begin to initiate new developments again.

    New Designs for a New Normal

    Catherine Kniazewycz, campus architect and director of design and construction at CSU Northridge added that on top of the proposed budget cuts to campus facilities, there may also be new design standards moving forward.

    “In addition to the likelihood of new design standards which comply with social distancing, there is also an additional need for cleaning inspections, sanitizing, and other precautionary measures,” she said.

    Jill Anthes, executive director of planning and design at San Francisco State University alluded to a different approach to the possibility of new designs. At SFSU, they have an architecture team working in conjunction with their campus, as well as with Cal State East Bay and Cal State Chico. However, she did add that the architecture team informed her not every campus is modifying their design. Some campuses are using a different schedule or longer cost estimates or more insurance to accommodate social distancing. Once there has been more collective experience with distance learning, the CSU will be able to take a more wholistic approach. All panelists agreed that future planning is a bit premature at this stage, as it is really too soon for anyone to make any serious long-term decisions.

  • 03/24/2020 3:47 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    The incorporation of density to the suburban-style sprawl that is Southern California’s cityscape is a topic that has been debated on repeatedly in the last year or so. With bills like SB50, SB4, and a push for transit-oriented developments, all of which seek to incentivize pro-density development at the forefront of the housing crisis, it’s hard to imagine how much longer the battle will continue. Nevertheless, opposition by NIMBYism and neighborhood groups, often seems to prevail. Those in favor of density wonder how much longer this can last. The urban landscapes of Southern California have long since run out of room to build out – when will we collectively decide to build up? 

    Real Estate as an Economic Driver

    Moderator Edgar Khalatian, of Mayer Brown, LLP introduced the panel and opened the discussion, which kicked off by John Keisler, economic development director at the city of Long Beach pointing out that real estate development is often an economic driving force, not only for private businesses, but also for the state and local governments. John pointed out that real estate development, business development, and workforce development all work in tandem to push the economy forward. Of course, without a surplus of raw land, the development has nowhere to go but up. Keisler noted how the city of Long Beach has extensively reviewed various ways to grow GDP overall, which consists of ways to maximize every space, person and asset. This has a ripple effect of creating opportunities for workers, investors, and entrepreneurs. 

    Wells Lawson, senior director at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), noted that Metro is also taking more of a community-based approach in maximizing space, but to the liking of area residents. In contrast to previous years, Metro has examined the concept of “transit-oriented communities” as a way to mitigate pressures of gentrification and evaluate what kinds of economic opportunities transit brings to a neighborhood in the context of the local workforce. Metro involves the community in new projects, by taking into account any feedback from residents that is gathered during community outreach. This feedback is incorporated into proposals and development guidelines to ensure the project facilitates economic development and stability within the community, rather than becoming detrimental, such as in the case of gentrification. What this boils down to is that communities often are in need of more affordable housing. Khalatian posed the question whether or not involving the community has resulted in less housing, or less affordable housing. Lawson informed that as a result of increased community involvement, Metro has revised it’s housing policy to ensure transit agencies are held to a level of accountability in providing affordable housing.


    Preservation in the Face of Progress

    In the effort to densify what was once a sea of single-family homes, opposition parties often note the preservation of the “classic California” look as a concern. Ken Bernstein, principal city planner at city of Los Angeles noted that creating places that contribute to density and economic development, while retaining the classic design, is a key factor in the effort to cohesively densify our city in a way that works for everyone. As we shift to higher transit usage, pedestrian-friendly design with active street frontage and 360-degree design takes priority, but not at the expense of how the project relates to longtime neighbors. Another concern of any new development in Southern California, whether it is pro-density or not, is the climate impact and the projected response to the unique climate of Southern California. Bernstein noted that if all of these design and sustainability guidelines can be met, the chances of a pro-density, transit-oriented development receiving community approval are much greater.  

    As of now, the city is operating on an outdated 1946 zoning code. Most of these updates are being rolled out through the city, while simultaneously reshaping the quality of the new design. In addition to updating the zoning code, many of the new projects in development, are able to pass through the transit-oriented community design guidelines. Bernstein also added that most new developments are using TOC housing incentives and 42% of new housing is going along new transit routes – which is exactly where the city wants to see new housing built. 


    Density Where it Belongs

    As the sole developer on the panel, Greg Ames, managing director of Trammell Crow Company Los Angeles brought a “purist” view of development in the context of transit and density. Because Trammell Crow Company does not carry its own portfolios, but rather develops into the portfolios of its investors. Developers like Trammell Crow Company are largely concerned with the long-term feasibility of projects, and how they might stand up to the many “what-if” scenarios that loom over construction. Ames noted that transit-oriented development is especially interesting to Trammell Crow because of the versatility of these projects, but also because of the opportunity to truly shape a district in a way that is beneficial to the community. Ames cited the developments taking place in North Hollywood, in partnership with Metro, as exactly the type of neighborhood where density belongs. 

    Ames also mentioned the fact that adding density to a neighborhood also makes the area more of a destination – further cementing the concept of real estate development as an economic driver. Adding density brings homes and jobs, but entertainment uses are also relevant. Shopping, dining and other entertainment can create a destination for residents living in a more traditionally zoned area of single-family homes. In any case, development is necessary to further propel the economic engines of Southern California in this time when the only way we have to go, is up. 

  • 02/26/2020 12:37 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    For residents of the Los Angeles Metro Area, the recent developments at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have been notable.  The increase in construction corresponds to a surge in growth in the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that the number of passengers transported by airlines will reach 8.2 billion in 2037, up from a projected 7.8 billion in 2036. The updated forecast is based on a 3.5% compound annual growth rate for the industry. When looking at the hard numbers, the actual annual growth in air travel has grown considerably more than 3.5% annually. According to Statista.com, the year 2017 saw a whopping 8.1% increase in passenger demand. As consumer demands rise for air travel, so do their standards as well as the need for speed and efficiency. Moderated by Matt Ross, senior vice president of AvAirPros, our February aviation panel explored ways in which designers and developers are harnessing technology and modernizing infrastructure in order to accommodate growing numbers.

    One challenge, from a design perspective, is very similar to the challenges met on other project sites. Robert Schultz, P.E., A.A.E., and chief airport planner for Los Angeles World Airports highlight the need to design spaces for flexibility. This was noted by multiple panelists as an obstacle in aviation facilities across the spectrum. He added that in general, the focus moving forward is to add flexibility, but to also create more positive travel experience while enhancing how the airport staff interacts with customers. Designers are leveraging technology, as well as the data acquired from technology in order to curate these experiences and spaces. Patrick Lammerding, deputy executive director of Hollywood Burbank Airport added that the observation of airport visitors has been paramount the evolution of airport design. This is done by accounting for the entire experience from entering the terminal to boarding the plane. Designers use data points such as what concessions are frequently visited, how long the customer spends at a concession or dining location, what additional amenities are used and more. All of these factors shape how airports are designed.

    The use of space and the efficiency of a facility is also crucial to passenger flow – important for both safety and a positive customer experience. All panelists noted that each Southern California airport has its own unique limitations, many of them involving space, or a lack thereof, for our region’s many travelers. Stephanine Gunawan-Piraner, senior civil engineer at Long Beach Airport, pointed to new ticketing lobbies, which include self-service kiosks and common-use ticketing space. These allows airlines to expand and contract service as needed and allows airports to use space more efficiently. An airline that has a large number of passengers will need more of these kiosks and can use them in order to move through the airport more quickly. For off-peak traffic times, these systems are not so urgently required, and the space can be utilized for other airlines as needed. Another development is the evolution from multiple, individual terminals serving one concourse. The direction is shifting to terminal processors serving multiple concourses. This can be done through real-time traffic monitoring by consolidating and connecting terminals to provide more operational flexibility.

    Other innovations include investment into biometric identification systems, automated bag drop systems and overall improvements to security screenings and digital passenger services. A common theme across all panelists was the need to save time. Don Ostler, program manager for Southwest Airlines at LAX gave a startling statistic regarding time. He shared with the audience that major airlines such as Southwest, can save over 70 operating hours per day across their fleet by simply shaving one second off of each flight turnaround. Kaveh Dabiran, west region director for United Airlines also noted the extreme priority placed on time by larger airlines – every second counts in this industry. As demand continues to rise, the innovations in technology will no doubt continually see integration into the aviation world.

  • 01/23/2020 4:52 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    Kicking off the new year, SCDF hosted a panel focused on a widely-discussed topic – the state of the local economy. More specifically, members of our community have been concerned with how the factors at play internationally, will affect our local industry. Architects, general contractors, engineers and more, all joined us last week for a full house of development community professionals eager for a variety of opinions regarding the 2020 economic outlook. This particular panel differed from others in that it was smaller, and did not have any members of our community speaking. Instead, we opted for a localized view from expert sources. Joining our panel discussion was Dr. Monica Morlacco, assistant professor of economics at University of Southern California, as well as Eric Hayes, associate economist at Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s Institute for Applied Economics. Both panelists presented the audience with different ways global impacts translate into local effects.   

    Global Forces at Work in the United States

    Among the key points made by Dr. Morlacco was that big, multinational business is only getting bigger, and this has many different side effects. Unfortunately, the majority of these effects are not so great for the average consumer or worker. Morlacco pointed out that since 1980, there has been a steady increase in the average markup – which is the amount companies typically charge over and above their costs, to sell their goods at retail. This is largely the case for U.S.-based corporations, where the average markup now hovers around 61 percent, compared to 21 percent in 1980. Since 1980, much of the increase in markups has come from large firms. Their growing influence and increase in size is concurrent with the diminishing power of antitrust laws in the United States, as well as the increased costs of simply doing business. Logistics, litigation, and administrative costs have seen substantial cost increases which may not be as easily absorbed by smaller firms. However, it is important to note the other cultural and geographic factors which play a role.

    Technology, which has disrupted almost everything to some degree, has skewed consumer preferences toward big business as well. The effects of e-commerce and online networks tend to keep customers locked in to a specific platform or brand. A tendency for consumers to remain brand-loyal and static in their choices can translate into difficulties entering the business marketplace. This metric is referred to as turnover, or the rate at which new businesses establish entry, and conversely, old businesses exit the marketplace. Dr. Morlacco also highlighted the fact that there has been a broad decrease in turnover and a broad increase in concentration across most industries in the United States.

    In addition to technology, the largest corporations are also able to establish global value chains in order to optimize business functions, and these large conglomerates quite simply have the resources to do so. These global value chains are best defined as a network of production, trade, and investments where different stages the product cycle span multiple countries. A great example of this would be shoes and apparel. The product may be designed in the United States, materials sourced in South America, manufactured in Asia, and then distributed worldwide. Many everyday consumer goods are likely the product of a global value chain.

    Effects on Our Local Economy

    In light of the recent trade wars, residents of Southern California are forecasted to see an increase in consumer prices across most product types – this includes housing. However, the most pertinent information to our region has to do with shifting demographics and unemployment rate. Currently, our state, and the nation, have unemployment rate of 3.7 and 3.9 percent, respectively. The national unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in over 50 years. However, all economic cycles are subject to disruption, and for California, our population may be a deciding factor. What may surprise many of us in Southern California, is the fact that our population has actually been decreasing this past year. For a continually robust economy, a steady population growth is required as it is an essential component of a strong labor force. Not only has Southern California, particularly Los Angeles, been losing residents to outward migration, but the birth rate has also dropped. Birth rate is an important metric to economists as it is an indicator of the future working population who will not only spur additional economic growth, but pay into social service programs.

    A more peripheral effect of the birth rate might be the tendency for parents to become homeowners, an increasingly inaccessible milestone for Southern California families. To put this into perspective, the minimum qualifying income for a home in Los Angeles County is $127,200. The median household income in Los Angeles County is $68,093 – which is vastly less than what is required to own a home. This leaves the average renter spending approximately $31,000 in rent annually. Still, low rates of homeownership in Los Angeles are also attributed to other outside factors, such as a scarcity of housing permits issued by local governments.

    Despite all of this, California is likely to continue on a path of moderate, but sustained growth throughout the year. Venture capital investments to large tech and media companies that call our state home will prevail. Lastly, the tendency for our state to be an incubator for innovative ideas and a pool for great talent will likely keep the California afloat throughout the year and many more to come.

  • 12/18/2019 9:01 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    Southern California Development Forum capped off 2019 with an exceptional awards luncheon where we recognized some of the greatest local achievements in the areas of design and philanthropy. This was truly the icing on the cake for a wonderful 2019, and leaves us excited for what’s to come in 2020. SCDF prides itself in bringing members of the development community together, while also honoring local charities who do their best to make Southern California an even better place to live. From architects to developers to business executives, and more, our events serve as a way to connect passionate and visionary individuals to one another.

    This year’s 2019 Design & Philanthropy Awards were held at a local landmark, the beautiful and historic California Club in downtown Los Angeles. While many development projects took home awards, we also recognized two philanthropies, School on Wheels, and Students4Students. Both philanthropic organizations are dedicated to fighting homelessness across Southern California. SCDF awarded each organization with a $22,500 check to aid in the furthering of their charitable missions. We also recognized Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, as this year’s winner of the William Feathers Award of Distinction.

    School on Wheels

    Schools on Wheels is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded by a retired schoolteacher who witnessed firsthand the unique challenges faced by homeless students. At the time of it’s founding, up until current day, Schools on Wheels is the only organization in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the educational needs of this marginalized population. The driving force behind Schools on Wheels’ are the volunteer tutors who come from all backgrounds and professions. The common goal of all tutors is to reach out to a child, to teach, mentor, or otherwise assist in their educational life. The services provided by volunteers is intended to enhance educational opportunities for children from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

    Students4Students

    Students 4 Students, also a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) serves a similar cause, but for college students. This organization is devoted to the establishment and promotion of collaborative shelters for college students. Each shelter is also run by college students who wish to support their peers that might be experiencing homelessness. The model is also shared with institutions of higher learning, student groups, and faith-based organizations who want to participate in the cause. The program aims to empower student volunteers to become the next generation of philanthropists and community service leaders. For those receiving services, the goal of the program is to assist homeless students in determining their own path by way of their ambition and education, rather than their unfortunate circumstances.

    Homeboy Industries – William Feathers Award of Distinction

    Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. Father Boyle formed Homeboy after witnessing the ravaging effects of gang violence and mass incarceration while serving at Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the peak of Los Angeles gang activity. Father Boyle began implementing what would later come to be known as Homeboy Industries in 1988. Through this organization, he oversees the employment, training and social services for former gang members as they reintegrate into society. Father Boyle has authored a 2010 New York Times bestseller, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. He also published a second book in 2017, “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.” In addition, Boyle has received the California Peace Prize and has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

    And last but not least, we also recognized a number of stunning projects which serve as exemplary models of design across Southern California. See the full list of winning projects and their categories below.


    2019 Project Winners

    Adaptive Reuse / Renovation / Preservation

    1.    RCH Studios for The Music Center Plaza Renovation (Merit)
    2.    Lehrer Architects LA for the Studio-MLA Office and Plaza (Merit)
    3.   KFA Architecture for NoMad Hotel Los Angeles (Honor)


    Civic

    1.    RADAR, Inc. for Libros Schmibros Lending Library (Honor)

    2.    KFA Architecture for Los Angeles LGBT Center, Anita May Rosenstein Campus (Merit)


    Commercial Mixed Use

    1.    RCH Studios for FLIGHT at Tustin (Honor)

    2.    Gensler/AECOM Hunt for LAFC Performance Center (Merit)

    Education

    1.    CO Architects for Cal Poly Pomona Student Services Building (Honor)


    Interior Architecture

    1.    Belzberg Architects for USC Shoah Foundation, The Institute for Visual History and Education Global Headquarters (Merit) 

    2.    Rottet Studio, LLC for Paradigm Talent Agency (Honor)


    Multifamily Residence

    1.    KFA Architecture for Blue Hibiscus (Merit)

    2.    KFA Architecture for Pico Eleven (Honor)


    Single Family Residence

    1.    Clive Wilkinson Architects for West Los Angeles Residence (Honor)

    2.    Assembledge+ for Laurel Hills House (Merit)


    Technological Innovation

    1.    Structural Focus for May Company Façade Rehabilitation, Academy of Motion Pictures (Merit)

    2.    C.W. Driver and Integral Group for Cal Poly Pomona Student Services Building (Merit)


    Unbuilt/Concept

    1.    Lehrer Architects LA for Los Angeles – Glendale Water Reclamation Facility (Merit)

    2.    HDR, Inc. for West Los Angeles District Power Year (Merit)

    3.    Moore Rubell Yudell and HED for Santa Monica High School Discovery Building (Merit)

    4.    HDR, Inc. for Orange County Sanitation District Headquarters Complex (Honor)


    Urban Design/Planning

    1.    Wolcott Architecture for Von Karman Creative Campus (Merit)

  • 11/22/2019 12:01 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    It is no secret that the retail sector has undergone significant changes in the last decade, with no end in sight. As e-commerce becomes increasingly sophisticated, more consumers opt for shopping online and having the goods delivered to their home. As a result, restaurants will continue to move toward out-of-the-box experiences becoming part of people’s lifestyles. Our November panel discussed how this new focus on food and dining experiences is changing the face of retail across Southern California.

    Our panel was moderated by Rachael Zanetos, Leasing Director of Mixed-Use Retail at Brookfield Properties retail group. Rachael’s 15 years of commercial real estate experience give her a comprehensive understanding of the Los Angeles market. Currently, she is responsible for overseeing notable downtown projects such as FIGat7th, Halo at Wells Fargo Center, and California Market Center. Rachael led a panel of three additional speakers, all in various roles within the restaurant and design industries. Panelists included: Mike Simms, founder of Simmzy’s and Tin Roof Bistro; Ziba Ghassemi, Vice President of Design - Airports at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a global developer focused on making positive contributions to users and communities; and Sam Polk, co-founder and CEO of Everytable, a fresh-prepared food concept aimed at making healthy food affordable for everyone. All panelists came from different arenas of the restaurant and retail sectors, but many overlapping similarities were found in a topic that seems to unite everyone – food and dining.

    What is Your Most Impactful Meal?

    As each panelist introduced themselves, moderator Rachael Zanetos asked the icebreaker question “what was your most impactful meal?” Each panelist had completely different responses, but they all shared a common thread. The most impactful meal for each panelist had not only to do with an exceptional food choice, but also with the location. Panelists noted the city, restaurant space, setting and even ritual as characteristics that made their choice stand out as their most recent impactful meal. This common denominator of what makes a meal impactful was the core of the panel discussion. As retailers are turning to food to fill spaces, there is more competition than ever. Each restaurant must have a unique concept and sense of place in order to deliver a multisensory experience to remain competitive and keep customers coming back. Now more than ever, food is just a starting point. Making a meal or a dining experience truly impactful requires exceptional design, a welcoming location, and for multi-venue concepts, a robust supply chain that can replicate dishes consistently.

    What Drives Consumer Demand?

    Panelists noted that food culture has become more relevant than ever. The advent of social media with consumers photographing and sharing their food and restaurant experiences has not only created traffic and demand, but also shifted trends. Simms noted that his team now considers social media when making decisions about lighting design and table settings.  Design is noted as a key factor in what will drive a consumer to go from a first-time visitor to a repeat customer. Beyond design or marketing strategies, panelists all seemed to share the sentiment that the most important factor in determining long-term success is to know your customer. This will take some research to not only identify who your customer is, but also their preferences and how to target them. Understanding demographics to this degree is important not only for restaurants in the mixed-use retail environment of today’s economy, but in any business across all industries. Certain “homegrown” restaurant concepts may be established with the local preferences in mind and have a keener sense of who their customer is. Once the correct customer profile has been identified, creating a sense of place is the next most important strategy in a successful restaurant concept within a mixed-use setting. 

    Strategizing design and curation of a restaurant concept must take into consideration the location and what the customer will be doing there. For example, in an airport, where food offerings are becoming more sophisticated, customers still want to be able to maintain contact with their gate. This requires open spaces, clear lines of sight, and the infrastructure to produce fresh, high quality meals that can be eaten on location or on the go. Other restaurant concepts might be more dependent on the leisure aspect of dining or an adjacency to a destination like the beach. The customer’s route should be taken into consideration when choosing a site, for example a location on a street that runs from parking areas to the beach ensures higher visibility via foot traffic. Despite the tendency for today’s consumers to be digitally connected, prime real estate is still heavily influenced by pedestrian foot traffic.

    With new restaurant concepts becoming an ever more important part of our culture, there is a push on owners to be authentic and experiential. The potential of a restaurant lies largely in the ability to get customers to come in and to come back – that characteristic has not changed. What has changed is that great food and exceptional customer service are really just the first step into having a successful restaurant in today’s market of imaginative concepts.


  • 11/13/2019 4:19 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    During SCDF’s October breakfast panel event, we explored the connection between college sports facilities, the success of sports programs, and the overall image of the university as it relates to these concepts. Moderated by Chris Nations, president of the Nations Group, our panel consisted of five different collegiate sports professionals, all of which provided a different perspective from the usual panel made up of development and design professionals.

    Speakers on our panel included: Paula Smith, director of intercollegiate athletics at University of California, Irvine; Craig Pintens, athletic director at Loyola Marymount University; Rich Mylin, director of recreation at University of California, San Diego; Andy Fee, athletic director at Long Beach State University; and Dr. Lindy Fenex, director of recreation at University of California, Riverside. The panel discussed various strategies and tactics for sport & fitness-related complexes, as well as challenges associated with not only developing these new facilities – but also with funding them. A common theme throughout the discussion was the sense of pride that athletics and their corresponding facilities create for students and alumni, as well as the manner in which athletics are a critical financial driver for universities.

    Health and Wellness

    Another common theme across all panelists was the versatility in their positions, almost all of them had worked at a number of different universities across the nation. Regardless of where each panelist had worked, whether past of present, they all noted the push for health and wellness-focused common areas across each and every campus. While athletics are a primary driver of the campus, athletic directors are also seeing an increase in demand from all students for health and wellness-related amenities. This is in addition to the facilities used for university spectator sports. Multiple panelists cited the demand for students of all types – not just student athletes – to have robust access to gyms and exercise equipment. Many students are seeing this as a requirement of their student housing hall, instead of utilizing a more centrally-located student gym. The old model for university gyms is changing to embrace both physical and mental wellbeing of their student body. Nap pods, massage chairs and other amenities are also finding their way into what panelists referred to as “rejuvenation spaces.” Most students – athletes or not – are coming to campus with much greater expectations for robust amenities in all spaces throughout the campus. Items such as nap pods and massage chairs are finding their way not only into recreation centers and gyms, but into more mainstream and highly trafficked areas of today’s college campus.

    Mental health-related amenities are an additional item which panelists noted as having been on the wish list of students. Quiet spaces for yoga, meditation and counseling are among the biggest drivers. In order to maximize space and profitability, many of these quiet spaces reserved for mental health and relaxation uses are also intended to be multipurpose spaces. Mental health-driven amenities are not seen as desirable by today’s student population, but expected and necessary, in today’s climate of increased awareness on this topic. These program elements along with common public meeting spaces promote inclusivity, accessibility and comradery for students and athletes alike. While these spaces are essential, it is not always cost effective to devote an entire space to such a use. Today’s trend could very well be obsolete in a decade, so flexibility of uses in these spaces becomes the key factor. All panelists agreed, that regardless of whether the space is driven by a rejuvenation, mental health, or recreational use, we are more likely to see smaller spaces that are easily adaptable to suit multiple needs.

    The Showpiece of the University

    Athletic venues say a lot about a campus, something we can all agree on. While sports facilities are a source of pride for students and alumni, they are also a great source of pride for the surrounding community. When sports events are not taking place, these facilities create new revenue streams, serving as venues for local high school graduations, concerts, eSports tournaments, community events and more. Multiple panelists agreed with the statement that an exceptionally designed college sports facility is the showpiece of the entire campus. Another way these venues function as a “showpiece” is in the area of fundraising. Students, alumni, and other donors want to feel their dollars are well spent. Academic prestige will always remain important, but a sports venue is more external facing to the outside world. These venues are often the face of the university, the gathering place for generations of students to share a common ground.

    Athletic facilities come in two forms, which is the competition venue, and then the combined form, which includes the competition venue paired with the training and recreation aspect of the building. Internally-facing training areas are all about recruitment and retention of athletes in addition to performance. Student-athletes and coaches“live” in these facilities.  Athletes and their parents have an expectation that universities will offer the best in training and care to help their children reach success beyond school as athletes or leaders in society beyond sport.  These spaces must demonstrate that, from branding and amenities to nutrition and performance technology.  Experiential spaces in these training complexes facilitate collaboration and socialization with other student-athletes. Many of these facilities include social areas for mingling with peers, building strong bonds between players that result in mental wellbeing, teamwork, and on-court success.

    This focus on experiential design in competition and performance venues, while a benefit for the student, has additional reach to the alumni and community users. Flexible, open spaces with comfortable seating and TVs are in demand by students but can be adapted on game-day.  This was noted as being especially important in the area of donors, because it is emblematic of the hospitality and camaraderie spaces that these VIP alumni expect as part of their event experience. Athletic entertainment is a crowded marketplace. The concept of a “pre-function” event space is becoming more popular, as it adds to the experiential quality of the facility. Experiential elements are gaining traction across all property types, college sports facilities are no exception. From big stadiums to small venues, experiential design has an effect on college sports, and in turn the potential finances generated.


  • 09/18/2019 4:14 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    September’s breakfast panel event hosted by SCDF was on the topic of an iconic natural feature of Southern California, our beloved waterfront. The conversation was thought provoking as it involved development industry leaders, each with unique waterfront development projects currently underway. SCDF President, Ann McLennan kicked off the discussion by introducing moderator David Waite, partner at Cox Castle Nicholson, LLP. As a land use and environmental lawyer with over 25 years of experience, Waite was able to seamlessly navigate the conversation with his knowledge of legislation such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and his role as former president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

    “The Coast is Never Saved, it’s Always Being Saved”

    In an environmentally-conscious state like California, one important distinction of this panel, is the fact that all panelists see themselves as stewards. Members of the development community are often face stringent environmental regulations as they further the progress, or even at the inception of their projects. Members of this panel are noted for balancing perseveration and responsible development with exceptional coastal access that is rich and unique for all Californians to enjoy. The precious coastline in California is publicly accessible to all citizens, with no private ownership under current law. Waite led the conversation by introducing the three panelists: Jenny Krusoe, founding executive director of AltaSea; Ryan Altoon, executive vice president of AndersonPacific, LLC; and Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Protea Waterfront Development.

    AltaSea at The Port of Los Angeles

    Jenny Krusoe introduced the audience to her latest development project, a 35-acre property at the Port of Los Angeles. Here, AltaSea is creating an urban, ocean-based campus where innovators from multiple fields can collaborate on furthering AltaSea’s mission – which Krusoe simply stated is people. By “people,” Kruose went on to elaborate that AltaSea’s goal is the acceleration of marine-related scientific research and job creation in the blue economy for the next generations. The blue economy is a term used to describe the economic activity that falls under the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth while maintaining or improving the overall health of oceanic ecosystems. In the bigger picture, AltaSea is focused on the creation of solutions to the planet’s most pressing challenges such as food security, ocean exploration, and energy.

    Currently, AltaSea has a 50-year agreement with the Port to develop and operate their campus on the man-made peninsula that was formerly utilized for Panama Canal cargo in 1914. The development is also the site of a World War I-era submarine base, and is located in a historic neighborhood. The future Phase 2 of project, is to further the identity of the campus as a center of innovation. This will largely be driven by the Southern California Marine Institute, which will host 23 university organizations for research and the discovery of solutions to environmental problems.  

    Shoreline Gateway in Long Beach, California

    Ryan Altoon, executive vice president of AndersonPacific, LLC introduced one of his latest projects, which is located in the booming city of Long Beach. The coastal city of approximately half a million residents has experienced a resurgence in recent years. As of 2018, there was more than $5 billion in both public and private development, the full figures from 2019 are expected to be comparable, or even higher. The project, is part of the Shoreline Gateway Master Plan and is a 35-story, 315 unit high-rise residential tower which will ultimately serve as the eastern gateway into Downtown Long Beach. Altoon noted that the tower’s strategic location, on the inland side of Ocean Boulevard, made for an easier approval process when dealing with the California Coastal Commission, one of the state’s most powerful regulatory groups.

    The residential towers will provide unobstructed views of the ocean, as well as the city. Ground floor retail will be accompanied by a lobby with community-focused amenities, in an effort to design for both residents and non-residents alike. The development will also incorporate a public space with the addition of a new 25,000 square foot urban plaza positioned between the two towers. This space will incorporate a 1% Arts component by artist team McCarren/Fine. Shoreline Gateway is on track to be the first LEED-ND project in the City of Long Beach.

    SeaPort San Diego

    A great example of waterfront development is seen in our neighbor to the south, San Diego. Our panelist, Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Protea Waterfront Development is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and has worked specifically in waterfront development for the majority of his career. In his latest project, which is scheduled to break ground in 2024, public spaces, nature, and ecology will all be combined into one venue to serve as an iconic landmark for the San Diego waterfront. When complete, over 70% of SeaPort San Diego will be composed of parks, urban open space, promenades, pedestrian walkways and other public spaces for people to gather.

    The design also features a tower, reminiscent of the Space Needle in Seattle. This iconic tower will feature multiple layers of retail, lodging, dining as well as SeaPort San Diego’s lifelong learning center. This center will house educational workshops focused on marine sciences, maritime logistics, as well as music. Both University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have contributed to the development of plans for the learning center.

    A Common Theme

    While all projects are unique in their own regard, they all have one thing in common – public access. In keeping with the tradition of California, all waterfront developments are at their core, public spaces for community members to gather. These new developments will perpetuate the ideal that the coast is for everyone, for many generations to come.


  • 08/20/2019 2:54 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

    For the month of August, SCDF hosted a panel event focused on a niche concept, seemingly losing its exclusivity – boutique hotels. The discussion was led by some of the industry’s leaders, all of whom work in various executive positions of the hospitality development sector. The event itself was heavily attended by hospitality development professionals from all sectors. The panel was moderated by Bruce Baltin, managing director, CBRE Hotels Advisory. Baltin has experience across the hospitality and tourism industries including market demand studies, valuations, leases, franchising and more. The breadth of his experience encompasses properties located in large resorts, restaurants, theme parks, and national and state parks.

    Panelists included: Ryan Bean, director of development for Sydell Group, a creator and manager of unique hotels with a special connection to their location and design. Bean’s portfolio includes NoMad, The LINE, Freehand and the Saguaros. Prior to Sydell Group, he spent five years as director of development for New Urban West, a residential and mixed-use urban infill builder. Amie Marben, director of development, Relevant Group, also joined the panel. Amie brings over 15 years of experience in hospitality design and development to Relevant Group’s development and construction teams. Some of Relevant Group’s most notable area projects include, Dream Hollywood, Thompson Hollywood, and Hotel Barclay. Margaux Rotter, also VP of development at BLVD Hospitality joined the panel. Rotter’s experience in hospitality development began while working on the construction team at ACE Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Other projects by BLVD include: Soho Warehouse, Hoxton Hotel, and CitizenM.

    Maintaining Exclusivity

    Ryan Bean began the conversation by stating that “we aren’t necessarily seeing boutique hotels becoming mainstream, but they are becoming more popular.” The rise of technology and social media has created a significantly more accessibility to information about places, things and concepts that were once considered niche or had some air of exclusivity, boutique hotels are just one example. Bean notes that when the boutique concept began in the 1980’s, it was largely unknown to the everyday traveler. Now, guests are more discerning in general and that is simply the way the market has gone, again, boutique hotels are just one of many examples of this trend. Boutique brands have become so popular, they are even popping up in some secondary, suburban markets. However, this doesn’t mean that the boutique concept is necessarily allowed to become “less boutique” in the midst of greater demand. Amie Marben notes that while the demand has grown, the challenge for developers and designers has shifted slightly. “A lot of what we do now involves how you keep that exclusivity and intrigue for the guest,” she said. All panelists agreed that while maintaining intrigue was a key concept related to keeping boutique hotels true to their form, a lot of this has to do with the placement of the hotel. Location is paramount in attracting the target market.

    Location and Form

    All panelists agreed that while boutique brands are popping up everywhere in terms of the type of submarket, a true boutique hotel tends to be urban. “We generally see these in more hip, or up-and-coming areas where our target market is likely to congregate,” said Margaux Rotter. The target market tends to be those who are design conscious and fashion forward. She went on to elaborate that the location is also important in giving guests a sense of locality. The boutique hotel guest tends to be a bit more discerning and will want to experience an authentic slice of the city in which they are staying. Local design, nature, shops, and restaurants all play heavily into the site selection and guest experience of a boutique hotel. As for the design, all panelists agreed that a key characteristic is that it “has a story to tell, it has a soul.”

    A lot of this “story and soul” is directly attributed to the aesthetics of the establishment. Generally, the guest rooms vary in their look, they are not uniform. Also, common areas tend to either be exquisite in design, or not exist at all. Boutique hotels with minimal to no common areas and limited amenities have come to be known as “select brands” and they cater more to crowds who intend on spending very little time in their hotel rooms. Other types of boutique brands include “soft brands,” which are essentially boutique hotels under the name of a chain. Soft brands can give some consumers the sense of security and familiarity of staying at a well-known and credible chain. However, the soft brands tend to be more individualistic, which is a direct result of their ability to be more liberal and unique with design standards. The design principles of boutique hotels have also caught on to traditional (not soft branded) chain hotel establishments, as they are increasingly open to considering design shifts. Although, soft brands, in a way, provide a certain consumer with the feeling they are getting “the best of both worlds.” Still, the chain establishments will inevitably have their corporate image and standards to maintain, part of what sets them so far apart from the boutique brands they have been competing with. With a rise in boutique hotels happening everywhere, even within chain hotels, we may see the whole industry shift, at least from a design standard.   


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