Breaking Ground on the Lucas Museum

Lucas Museum cofounders Mellody Hobson and George Lucas, flanked by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Curren Price, architect Ma Yansong, and other dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Filmmaker George Lucas and Mellody Hobson led the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park, joined by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Curren Price. It is slated for completion in late 2021.

“The focus of the Museum is to open up people’s imaginations and inspire them to dream beyond what is considered possible,” said Lucas. “Narrative art and storytelling stirs our emotions, shapes our aspirations as a society, and is the glue that binds us together around our common beliefs.”

“Our goal is to create the world’s most inclusive and accessible art museum — a place that brings together people from every walk of life,” added Hobson. “We are excited to call Exposition Park home, surrounded by more than 100 elementary and high schools, one of the country’s leading universities, as well as three other world-class museums.”

Designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, the Lucas Museum will celebrate the art of visual storytelling and enable people of diverse backgrounds to experience the power of narrative art across all mediums, including painting, illustration, comic art, photography, film, animation and digital art. Co-founders Lucas and Hobson intend for it to be a place where visitors feel comfortable and welcomed by engaging with art forms they may already recognize and love.

The 300,000 sq. ft. nonprofit museum will feature collection galleries and exhibition spaces displaying original works of art from world-renowned artists, cutting-edge digital technologies and daily film screenings in two state-of-the-art theaters. It will also offer extraordinary educational opportunities with hands-on and digital classrooms and a free public research library for educators, scholars and students. Education will be a centerpiece of the Museum’s programming to provide diverse students of all ages the skills to voice their own stories and spark creativity.

The project will transform a series of asphalt parking lots into a museum surrounded by 11 acres of new parkland and gardens designed by Los Angeles-based landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA. Thousands of jobs will be created directly and indirectly as a result of the Museum.

“Today is a momentous occasion, as we break ground on what will surely become one of Los Angeles County’s most popular and beloved landmarks,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The Lucas Museum will not only display brilliant works of art, but also teach countless children the science and technological skills needed for careers in the film, animation and design industries. It will cement Exposition Park‘s reputation as a world-class destination for arts and entertainment.”

A High Point for LA’s Newest Biotech Hub

The construction of Los Angeles County’s newest biotech hub hit a high point with the ceremonial topping off of LA BioMed’s $63-million research building and incubator.

Expected to open in December 2018, LA BioMed’s 78,000-sq. ft. facility will be an integral component of the biotech hub envisioned next to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with LA BioMed President and CEO David Meyer, Richard Lundquist and other dignitaries at the topping off ceremony. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

The County and philanthropists Melanie and Richard Lundquist split the $6-million cost to build out the incubator, where scientists can receive technical support and business services to help them advance promising new biomedical discoveries to the next stage of commercialization. The 18,000-sq. ft. incubator would house about 25 LA BioMed spinoff and outside startup companies.

“This is a major milestone in Los Angeles County’s ongoing efforts to promote the bioscience industry,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This new bioscience incubator will help start-ups become successful companies, bringing new medical breakthroughs to market while creating well-paying jobs throughout the County.”

LA BioMed President and CEO David Meyer at the topping off ceremony. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

“Our mission of generating social impact through breakthrough therapies for orphan diseases has taken a huge step forward with this topping off ceremony as we move closer to becoming an essential hub of bioscience with a global reputation and impact, all in the name of changing, and saving, lives,“ said LA BioMed President and CEO David Meyer.

In addition to the incubator, the four-story facility is currently slated to include:

  • A wet lab where research teams will work on new diagnostics and therapeutics;
  • A dry lab that will be used for computational biology and medical informatics – allowing re-searchers to process the massive amounts of data that comes from precision/personalized medicine and telemedicine; and
  • A 160-seat lecture hall, conference rooms, a data center, numerous offices and a freezer farm for bio-banking of tissue samples.

The County and LA BioMed are also exploring the development of a 15 to 20-acre biotech park on County property adjacent to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus and LA BioMed’s research campus.

LA BioMed is a nonprofit biomedical research institute founded in 1952 that has pioneered lifesaving treatments and technology, including heart scans, cholesterol testing to preventing blindness in newborns, enabling premature newborns with fragile lungs to breathe, and testing newborns for thyroid deficiency.

Based in Torrance, LA BioMed has more than 100 principal investigators — PhDs, MDs and MD/PhDs — working on more than 600 research studies. Last year, one of its research efforts, Endari, became the first treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pediatric patients with sickle cell disease, and the first new treatment approved by FDA in nearly 20 years for adult patients.

A 2014 study by the Battelle Memorial Institute concluded the Los Angeles regional economy could support three to five bioscience hubs, which could be located on the County’s medical campuses. Aside from partnering with LA BioMed, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is also looking at opportunities to accommodate bioscience at the former Martin Luther King Hospital in Willowbrook, in partnership with Charles Drew University.

Rendering of the LA Biomed research facility and bioscience incubator.


Early Action Projects for the 710 Freeway

Statement by  Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas

“As a member of the Metro Board, representing a district adjacent to portions of the 710 Freeway and many constituents who use it every day, it’s clear that we need immediate relief along this corridor. It’s one of our most antiquated freeways and the freight traffic on it has unquestionably affected air quality and safety in the surrounding communities.

“I am driven by the opportunity to transparently, thoughtfully and immediately proceed with available resources to complete ‘early action’ projects on the 710 Freeway that would address priority safety needs while also improving functionality. Afterwards, the Metro Board can do a reassessment.

“In many ways, Metro has become an ‘instigator for innovation’ throughout the region. That is the case here, as we are compelled to coordinate not just a policy but also a financing agenda to facilitate the transition of freight infrastructure towards zero-emission technology.

“We have our work cut out for us in facilitating meaningful and much needed improvements to this corridor, but I am pleased that we are inching closer to providing that long-awaited relief.”

Vermont and Manchester: A Blighted Reminder of How Difficult It Has Been to Rebuild the Spirit of South LA



On Feb. 13, 2018, a fire demolished the last standing structure at the corner of 84th and Vermont. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but this was far from the first time this lot owned by Sassony Commercial Development has been a public nuisance. Blighted for 26 years, it has been an ongoing source of embarrassment for residents and a daily reminder of how difficult it has been to rebuild the spirit and wealth of South Los Angeles since the Civil Unrest.

I serve as Pastor of the 88th Street Temple Church, just a few blocks south of 84th and Vermont. We have been property owners and contributing members of this community since the early 1980s. From operating a food bank to hosting neighborhood meetings, our congregation has always sought to uplift the Vermont-Manchester community.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has long been our partner in this effort. We have collaborated with him on several community projects over the years, including tree plantings, cleanups, façade improvements for small businesses, even exploring how to redevelop our church property.

For these reasons, it is unsettling for us to hear Sassony and its cohorts allege that there hasn’t been enough community engagement around the County’s intent to acquire the property. On December 5, 2017, many members of the Vermont-Manchester community and Sassony representatives shared their views in an open forum. I, along with many other local stakeholders, spoke in support of taking immediate possession through eminent domain. We expressed our heartfelt gratitude that the County has taken a firm leadership position on this issue and utilized the only public tool available to end the dilapidation of this prominent location in our community, so that we can have much needed public amenities.

As the Supervisor himself stated, we must all be committed to elevating the quality of life in this neighborhood if we are to see any change. Sassony has not gotten the job done for the last 26 years. Let’s give the County a chance to bring the services that this community is long overdue.

A recent article, written by a media consultant hired by Sassony, offered excuses for why the property has sat vacant all this time, but the residents of South Los Angeles know better than to accept the assurances of a developer who promises “The Grove” tomorrow, but gives us the ghetto today.

(Pastor Anthony L. Williams, a well-known community leader, serves the88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Guest Commentary reposted with permission from CityWatch.

The Vermont Manchester site as it currently stands

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site



A Vision for Vermont Manchester

New renderings capture the vision for a proposed development at the corner of Vermont and Manchester Avenues in southwest Los Angeles, transforming it into a bustling hub for the community.

Spanning two city blocks, the project will include retail shops, 180 affordable housing units, a public transit plaza and parking lot, and a public college preparatory boarding school designed to serve 400 youth currently served by Los Angeles County’s social safety net.

About 50,000 square feet would be dedicated to providing other critical needs within the community, such as retail and social services, as well as job training.

“This property is uniquely suited, sufficiently sized, and optimally assembled for this type of public investment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This community wants and deserves better, and the County strives to deliver better than the cycle of despair that the property has come to symbolize.”

“This project is real, and not the fantasy of a non-performing developer who has held the community hostage for two and a half decades,” he added.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in December to acquire ownership of the property, which has remained mostly undeveloped since being decimated during the civil unrest of 1992. It has received more than three dozen notices of violations from the City of Los Angeles.

The County has filed for immediate possession of the property and currently has a mid-April court date for the matter to be considered. The acquisition is expected to cause only minimal disruption, as the site is already vacant. The elements of the proposed project reflect the priorities of the recently adopted South Los Angeles Community Plan, as well as surveys by the Public Health Department and local community organizations.

Testifying before the Board in December, Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “Having spent the last 25 years in and around this particular set of parcels, this proposal comes as a great relief to me and thousands of other folks.” In a letter to the Board, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass wrote, “the County proposes to meet multiple needs here and serve the broader community.”

“We need development there, and I think this program that the Supervisor’s putting forth is what we need,” longtime resident Pastor Anthony Williams said in December. “I wholeheartedly support it, and all those that want to partner (with us) to make our community better.”

The Vermont Manchester site as it currently stands

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site