January 30, 1995 - From the January, 1995 issue

Martin/Avila: Los Angeles Government Center Planning Scenarios Demystified

Although dormant for many years, the Los Angeles Civic Center is at the center of a new master planning effort to consolidate the long-term planning and development needs of City, County, State and Federal agencies through a reactivated Civic Center Authority. In December, City Councilwoman Rita Walters and County Supervisor Gloria Molina introduced a joint motion to reconvene the Civic Center Authority including both the state and federal government. 

The Planning Report presents a joint-interview with Chris Martin, managing partner of A.C. Martin & Associates and Ed Avila, former Administrator for the LA/CRA and current Senior Policy Advisor to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works on various planning scenarios likely to move forward in 1995 for the Los Angeles Government Center. 

After several years of inactivity in downtown real estate development, word is spreading that the Los Angeles Government Center planning effort is gaining momentum. What is the foundation for such optimism, and is it tied into the Downtown Strategic Plan (DSP)? 

Chris Martin: The origin of the Los Angeles Government Center report came from the State of California wanting to complete an asset management plan for its own needs. AB 447, the enabling legislation for the Stale consolidation plan, passed the Legislature by unanimous vote in 1991 and A.C. Martin & Associates was selected to work on the plan for the State; as part of our effort we began to interface with the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (LA/CRA) which was in the process of completing the Downtown Strategic Plan. The work of the Downtown Strategic Plan became a guide document for the State's asset management plan. 

Ed Avila: Even before the A.C. Martin report, the LA/CRA was concerned about the State plan because the original State asset management plan called for a new State building across the street from the Ronald Reagan Building on Main Street. Of course, one of the charges of LA/ CRA is to revitalize the historic core, utilizing the existing building stock along Spring Street, Broadway and Main Street We began discussions regarding that possibility with Dan Rosenfeld, who at the time was directing the State Consolidation Plan, and then Chris Martin began looking at alternative ways to revitalize the neighborhoods. 

Chris, what does your firm’s report show and what are the options for the State looking to reduce its office costs? 

Chris Martin: We found that if the State were to consolidate their existing facilities, per the eight scenarios we examined, every one of the planning scenarios made economic sense. The status quo would cost $500 million to maintain the existing buildings over a forty year period of time. So the benchmark was set at $500 million. 

The eight different planning scenarios clearly demonstrate the State could save significant dollars measured against the benchmark. The bottom line of our recommendation would save the State of California a minimum of $60 million prorated for the 40 year period, and it would also be in compliance with the community's vision embodied in theDowntown Strategic Plan. Thus, it's a win from both an urban planning and an economic analysis perspective. 

Regarding the goals of the Downtown Strategic Plan, explain why the State office consolidation is a win for downtown? 

Ed Avila: The strategic plan calls for the restoration of the historic core, but the historic core is not capable of delivering all of the needs of the various governments. However, the Los Angeles Government Center that Chris Martin has designed essentially plans for the utilization of buildings in the historic core to create a neighborhood moving towards the Civic Center, continuing from City Hall to the Federal Building complex, to the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration building, and also to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which I believe is an additional player in a new government center. 

Thus, this concept of a government center is terribly important for downtown and the implementation of the Downtown Strategic Plan that the LA/CRA is trying to achieve. I think you'll also see activity at Cathedral Square in the near future. I think it would be fantastic to create pedestrian linkages that would move people from one end of downtown to another. It's an unprecedented planning effort for downtown. 

Chris, one of the driving forces behind the push for a government center plan is the Central City Association (CCA). Share with our readers the specific goals of CCA's Asset Management Coordinating Council. 

Chris Martin: As we were working with the LA/CRA, some of your readers may remember that the Central City Association in May, 1993 put together a forum called, "Government - The Wild Card in Los Angeles Development". We had a panel discussion with all of the government entities, including the LAUSD, and it really helped to identify a real need for a coordinated government assets strategy, and the efforts of a consolidation plan could be very well received by all levels of government. For the first time, Ed and the LA/CRA were causing a meeting among the city, county, state and federal governments. 

The genesis of Ed's work at the LA/CRA then led to the CCA taking the leadership in developing the Asset Management Coordinating Council which was an informal gathering of multi-governmental entities. The group answered four questions: l) what is the square footage each government entity needs today? 2) what is the square footage they need tomorrow? 3) which assets could be rehabilitated?; and, 4) were any of the assets potentially surplus land? 

Next, we began to informally put together an urban plan that worked with the Downtown Strategic Plan to accommodate all four government consolidation plans. As we moved forward, we realized that we may eventually need to have a joint powers authority to address the question of shared-use facilities, which amounted to approximately 15-20 percent of the plan. 

The State Consolidation plan has been out for over one year. What impedes efforts to move forward with consolidation? 

Chris Martin: The Governor's Office, through the efforts of Jo Ann Kozberg, State Secretary of Consumer Services needs to move forward with the State Consolidation Plan, utilizing the powers of the Los Angeles State Building Authority. 


After the Northridge earthquake there was a delay regarding SB 747, which was to provide $40 million in earthquake bonds from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake into Southern California for the communication needs in some of the state office buildings. However, there was some confusion regarding the financing of these improvements. The Secretary of Commerce's office and the Secretary of Consumer Services felt that these weren't expenses which should be paid by the various Southern California state tenants, but should be considered a general cost to the state, and merited financing through the Loma Prieta funds. The status of SB 747 is still unresolved, however, the decision has been made to press on with implementation of the plan and resolve the communications facility later. 

Ed, what other intergovernmental decisions are we awaiting? 

Ed Avila: I think that getting Mayor Riordan to call all the parties to the table is an important step. Everyone must first agree to the position that a new Los Angeles Government Center is a worthwhile goal. Getting a "yes" from all the parties is really the next important step. 

Chris Martin: Council member Rita Walters and County Supervisor Gloria Molina recently co-authored a joint City/County motion to revive the joint powers authority — the Civic Center Authority — which was originally established in the 1940s. Certainly, Rita Walters has been leading this effort. 

Mayor Riordan's office is also part of the effort, and with the recent addition of Dan Rosenfeld to lead the City's consolidation plan, I think that we now have available manpower within the City to move these plans forward. Mayor Riordan has taken the lead in involving Senators Boxer and Feinstein in order to have them participate in a meaningful and direct role as participants in the planning process. 

To take Los Angeles, the purported second-largest government center in the United States, and turn its government center into a managed asset is a worthwhile goal for all of Los Angeles, but first there needs to be a willingness by all four levels of government to make it happen — in partnership

Ed Avila: Much of this work has been done already both formally and informally in meetings at City Hall and the LA/CRA, including the work done on the State consolidation plan. I believe that the County is moving forward, and I think you'll see real momentum for this new authority. 

In order for our readers to assess whether progress is being made, what are the three or four catalyst projects we should monitor? 

Ed Avila: First of all, the Luby Building is so important because, as you know, it's a barrier on Broadway; it's depressing to the entire neighborhood. Once Luby is energized, the whole neighborhood will start to take shape from Angels Flight to Pershing Square to Ira Yellin's Grand Central Square Development.

Chris Martin: I agree with Ed. The Luby Building is a major catalyst, the first domino to fall. It's very difficult with a project such as this that has so many dominos because any number of events could stop the process, but in this case it is the right place and the right time in the history of Los Angeles. There has been a twenty year lack of planning for Los Angeles' government center and there is a lot of pent-up demand. After the Luby building, I would say Parker Center is the next domino to fall; then I think you'll see other projects move forward. 

One year from now, what would constitute progress towards the development of a revitalized Los Angeles Government Center? 

Ed Avila: I think you'll see negotiations complete for the State's acquisition of the Luby building. I think it is really in the State's interest to get moving on that project.

Chris Martin: Caltrans will likely be in the planning phase for their facility needs. Also, you may see design work for a new Parker Center, and LAUSD could be articulating plans relative to their needs.


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