Measure S and the Future of Los Angeles

Michael Rotondi, FAIA – 2009 AIA|LA Gold Medal Winner

on Measure S 

Once again, we are in a period of rapid growth in LA, some think too fast without any reflection. Others might say, not fast enough.

Once again, what seems to be a grass roots movement, has placed another referendum on the ballot to development stop for a while. 

Those that are on either side are asking us to takes sides. 

Why do we have to take sides?

Things move too fast, according to some, and the response is to stop for a while to cool down the system, usually without ways to remedy the problem, which exists at a grander scale than any of the slow to no growth measures past and present, take into account.

Those in favor of growth at any pace, want to be left alone. 


“Is it possible to have a long term vision in a short cycle world?”

The long-term vision is a social and environmental model and the short term cycle is the financial model. 

The long term is about endurance. 

The short cycle is about abundance. 

The issue at hand is scale. 

The scale of a development or a particular project, is in proportion to the scale of money that can be moved.

Projects keep getting bigger as it becomes easier to add zeros and move currency around. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with this except when we suspend the need to reflect, listen and learn, from our past deeds. 

Memory and action move within the same nerve fiber in the human body. They are constantly informing each other in an improvisational duet.

They do not compete. They are in symbiotic love. Survival, our most fundamental imprint, is their objective.

This is not the case in anything electronic or digital. 

Memory is the backstory of our current actions, augmenting our stored cellular intelligence, to overcome our ignorance and to give us constant feedback with every movement trying to eliminate fatal mistakes.

What have we learned from each other and from our own prior experiences, and from the city itself?

It is good to ask questions that are unanswerable. 

When I re-read the Federalist Papers 5 years ago, one essay stayed with me. 

James Madison wrote about what it meant to live in a cooperative Society.

He intuited what we now know, cooperation is biological necessity and an evolutionary imperative.

We have rights and responsibilities, he wrote.  

Society works for everyone when both concepts are given equal standing and are in dynamic equilibrium. 

This equation is central to any and all debates about land development. 

If we flip, and are not vested in a community, no concern, we have rights.

If we retain ownership and are vested in a community for the long term, every concern, we have responsibilities. 

In recent years scientists have been probing time intervals in ecological systems:  How do they manage to change, and how do they absorb and incorporate shocks?  

The answer appears to lie in the relationship between components in a system that have different change rates and different scales of size. 

Various elements in a system work together in ways that increase overall resilience – fast and slow time intervals are coordinated.  

Instead of breaking under stress like something brittle these systems yield as if they were malleable.  

Some parts respond quickly to the shock, allowing slower parts to ignore the shock and maintain their steady duties of system continuity.  

The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient, along with the way the differently paced parts affect each other.  

Fast learns, slow remembers.  

Fast proposes, slow disposes.  

Fast is discontinuous, slow is continuous. 

I was the youngest in my family and benefited from sitting quietly to the side of others who seemed to always be negotiating one thing or another, often into an argument.

I did not want to spend time in disagreement with others because it was a time sink, uneconomical spending time getting a relationship back to zero. 

Also, over the years from my front row seat, I realized that both family members were right………………from their unique point of view. 

The problem at hand was where to find the courage to search for common ground. 

So much could have been learned and so much time could have been saved and most significantly, they could have ‘leveled up’ on consciousness.    


As you may already know, Measure S is on the ballot on March 7th and it is an issue that deeply effects the future of the City of Los Angeles, the built environment and the architecture profession.

AIA|LA reached out several AIA|LA Past-Presidents and Gold Medalists to share their individual thoughts.  We will be sharing those thoughts over the course of the next few weeks.

The AIA|LA Board of Director’s voted to oppose Measure S in January 2016 back when it was referred to as the 'Neighborhood Integrity Initiative'. The Board voted to re-iterate that opposition at the January 2017 board meeting and instructed staff to communicate that opposition in a constructive manner and to elevate the architect’s role as the bridge builder between developers who are investing rapidly in the transformation of Los Angeles and communities who may feel uncomfortable with the intensity of our current development boom.

Yes, the AIA|LA opposes Measure S - but we also want to share with the public our pro-active ideas for how we can ensure Los Angeles evolves as a more beautiful, equitable and prosperous place and yet preserves its authentic character.  For well over the past twelve years, we’ve been strong advocates encouraging City Council to invest more robustly in an inclusive community outreach process to update community plans.  However, that investment has never occurred at the scale we’d like to see - hence the community backlash that is manifested in the Measure S initiative.

We’ve noticed how divisive Measure S has become between professionals (architects, developers, city planners) and the community-at-large.  Therefore, rather than inflame that division, we’d like to deliver a carefully crafted article that captures the voices of a diverse set of design professionals and offer that blended perspective as a bridge that connects the two camps so that we can underscore the role of the architect to serve clients AND communities with a thoughtful approach to inclusive community outreach.

To read the Measure S initiative in its entirety, please CLICK HERE

For more information, please contact:

Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

Director, Government & Public Affairs, 


American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles Chapter

3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 800

Los Angeles, CA 90010

tel: (213) 639-0764


Last updated: 14-Feb-2017 04:23 PM
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