Greetings from Sunny California!

Now is an ideal moment to take stock of our performance, and reorient ourselves in the direction of peace, renewal, introspection, and togetherness.

However challenging this past year may have been for you or your business, we hope that the net effect has been a positive one, not only to your bottom line, but to your and your colleagues’ personal sense of wellbeing. We work to live, and may we all live to make our world a little better – whether through art, commerce, social service, or whatever pursuit gets you out of bed at the beginning of your day!

As always, our firm’s marker for success is how much we were able to learn and grow, in any given year. 2019 was no exception, though it had some unforeseen moments!

Our recent engagements have taken us into a variety of new markets and fields, for which I am grateful. Whether working with the UN Foundation on their “Girl Up” initiative, restructuring a nationally syndicated radio talk show for the podcast era, or celebrating the opening of a new local business venture. Our company’s focus remains on people, sustainability (environmental and fiscal), and innovation.

 

 

Grand Opening of Los Angeles’ Artesano Tamaleria

 

Attendees at the UN Foundation Girl Up Summit

 

Personal commitments prevented me from spending my usual couple of months with our London and Lisbon teams, but more time in the Los Angeles area allowed for greater participation in some local initiatives.

We continue to enjoy supporting the great work done by the film and TV industry’s Green Production Guide team, and I enjoyed spending a day at the Produced By Conference in early June, roaming the Warner Bros lot, challenging the thousands of industry professionals in attendance to rethink and upgrade their approach to sustainable production. Personal engagement remains the foundation stone upon which fruitful change is built.

 

Leaders of the Producers Guild of America Green Initiative

 

Our firm continues to work with and advise a variety of political and educational initiatives and organizations, including the City of Burbank, where we are based. We are passionate about improving the transportation infrastructures and community health of this beautiful city – no small undertaking in an area so slavishly devoted to the automobile! We were thrilled to participate this year in some milestone events and initiatives, including the groundbreaking ceremonies for a bikeway we’ve been working on for a number of years, the continued development of a regional rapid transit system (BRT), and ongoing improvements to the intersections between our regional and local traffic infrastructures (more access for bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation!). There has been a lot of success in 2019, but, as with all such projects, the movement is glacial and there remains much to be done!

This was a great year for improving the city’s fiscal and functional health, and it’s been a pleasure to welcome new City Manager Justin Hess, while thanking outgoing City Manager Ron Davis for his service. Each person, though cut from different cloth, brings a standard of excellence and service worthy of appreciation. The inimitable Emily Gabel-Luddy, nearing the close of her term, will shortly be succeeded as the City’s Mayor by our other admirable friend Sharon Springer, and I look forward to a period wherein her infectious enthusiasm, love of community, and intelligence will continue to inspire and uplift not only City Staff, residents, and businesses, but the municipalities around us, as California continues to lead the way in facing the challenges and opportunities of our myriad communities.

 

Burbank City Council and Community Leaders at Los Angeles Bikeway Groundbreaking Ceremony

 

A summer opportunity to travel back to Seattle, Washington allowed me to catch up with a previous client, OneRedmond, and the numerous technology and entertainment companies with whom we collaborated during our most recent project in the area. Some very interesting progress has been made, including the establishment of a very promising Public/Private partnership serving the Greater Seattle Economic Development area. This region includes not only Seattle itself, but also the wonderful cities of Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue. We were also able to spend a good amount of time with another cherished client, one of the Northwest’s top event and hospitality firms with whom we are developing a growth strategy, as they expand into more strategic and global ventures relating to their already impressive core capabilities.

The Northwest region remains a favorite one, and I’m excited to see its continued growth as a hub of innovation and workforce development. The area’s renowned commitment to sustainability and community makes it an excellent breeding ground for the next generation of purpose-driven enterprises.

 

Back in Los Angeles, I was recently invited to participate in a long-overdue Mobile World Congress workshop session entitled “Women4Tech”. It was inspiring to see and talk with such a diversity of women leaders in the fields of tech, marketing, engineering, government, and creative production. Some of next year’s most compelling innovations from around the world will be coming from women-led enterprises, and we can only benefit from their contributions, guidance, and insights.

 

Women4Tech Conference at Mobile World Congress USA

At the end of last year, I was invited by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader, helping to inform and inspire communities to become more actively engaged in combating the undeniable climate crisis we all face. In addition to giving presentations to schools, local governments, corporations, and community organizations, it was an honor to be asked to establish and chair one of the newest Chapters of the global Climate Reality Project. This proved a mighty and worthwhile challenge! During the course of this past year, we recruited more than 40 passionate advocates for responsible stewardship, and together we have made a marked impact on local, state, regional, and national policy and action. We look forward to helping the organization further consolidate and maximize the energy, knowledge, and commitment of these leaders.

 

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a favorite organization, ever since I was a student at Duke University, helping to set up a chapter of the Center’s then-new “Teaching Tolerance” initiative. I’ve long enjoyed supporting the great work done by this laudable organization, and this year we were offered a marvelous opportunity to spend some time with co-founder Joe Levin, as we reviewed the extraordinary efforts undertaken by the SPLC, on behalf of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed members of our nation’s family. I remain in awe of their passionate zeal and commitment.

 

With SPLC Co-founder, Joe Levin

 

While 2019 provided a diversity of opportunities and discoveries, it also unhappily took away important treasures. I was greatly saddened this year to participate in memorial and funeral services for some great people, including my friend, Blake Byrne; an important mentor, David Picker; a previous boss, Michael Lynne; and former colleague and icon, Cokie Roberts. It would be pitiful to attempt here any sort of In Memoriam for such admirable people, so we will instead commit ourselves anew to conducting our professional business in a manner reflecting their integrity, passion, and service. We are sure that each of our friends, colleagues, and clients has experienced the pain of loss this year, in their own unique but equally important way, and we offer each our sympathy. Life is indeed a fleeting gift, the value of which we seem to fail to take full measure, until we find ourselves being ushered toward the exit. To borrow the latest aphorism: KonMari the year ahead, and share the joy you keep!

 

 

The future must always be seen with optimism. We are looking forward to continuing our work with our newest client: an exciting tech & creative startup venture focused on increasing access for the visually impaired to content otherwise out of reach. We’re eager to see what other opportunities and innovations present themselves next year, in markets and industries that will assuredly teach us new lessons and show us new wonders!

My thanks go not only to my colleagues, but to clients and friends alike who have welcomed us this year into their offices and labs, as well as onto the many studio lots and sets! The opportunity to learn from and watch you invent inspires me on a regular basis!

 

 

Wishing you the peace, renewal, and togetherness to which I alluded at the beginning of my post, I close, grateful for a year where the positives outweighed the negatives, and in the hope that this trend continues robustly in the year to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicholas de Wolff

 

13 years ago, I gave a small talk at the Cannes Film Festival, evangelizing for more measured creative and business growth. I had been working with several startups and noticed a trend toward accelerated scaling that I found worrisome. I encouraged my audience (mostly independent filmmakers) to give themselves time to develop their properties, instead of desperately rushing to sell their idea, fearful that it would be illicitly co-opted by some unknown competitor.

In 2005, I joined a large multinational corporation and noticed that this trend was reflected in the sense of urgency with which budgets and projects were managed throughout business units, and even at the corporate level (usually in response to shareholder demands for the semblance of repetitive short term gains).

Instead of engaging in careful long-term strategic planning and consistent scaling at a manageable pace, enterprises large and small were increasingly (and often retroactively) chasing mythical goals. Business ventures want to convince investors, shareholders, and others that their offering is worth obscene valuation, yet they don’t want to “waste” time actually doing the work of conceptualizing, developing, testing, productizing, marketing, selling, and supporting any tangible offering. It takes less time to make a PowerPoint, it would seem, than it does to make a product. The collateral damage from this mentality continues to be ignored today, by too many people who ought to know better.

Permit me to jump to another topic, for reasons which will become apparent, I hope:

The C-130 Hercules remains the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. The first flight of the YC-130 prototype was made on this day (23 August) 1954 from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California. Burbank’s relationship with Lockheed was long and proud, but the city demonstrated a painful lack of strategic planning that left it in dire straits in the early 1990s, when Lockheed left town. The job losses and economic downturn were dramatic, to say the least. Burbank had relied too heavily on one industry, even though the signs of change in that industry had been evident for years. Today, the local economy in this charming SoCal city is once again relying heavily on an admirable and powerful industry. That industry is also showing signs of dramatic change, and Burbank must work proactively – in partnership with its resident businesses from the Media & Entertainment industries – to adapt and evolve, in order to stay aloft in turbulent times, economic, technological, and social.
Cities are growing, as populations increasingly urbanize. Too many of these cities rely on a very few large sources of tax inflow, instead of diversifying their portfolio of revenues. Given that 99.7% of businesses in the US are small businesses, and 48% of US employees are small-business employees, I continue to advocate (with increasing volume!) for municipalities to support sustainable small business incubation: providing for scalable workforce growth, complementary innovations within pre-existing business ecosystems, and more agile infrastructures, capable of adapting to the increasingly explosive nature of 21st century markets, without becoming unduly subject to that same volatility.

The window of opportunity narrows, the closer one comes to a point of inflection. Will Burbank adapt in time, so it is able to manage, rather than be subject to, dynamic market changes? Will the Media & Entertainment industries pull back (even just a little) from the precipice of quarterly performance, in deference to more long-term strategic measurements? Will business ventures invest more thoughtfully in smaller initiatives (subsidiary or autonomous), more capable of adapting to the creative, technological, and economic forces that wait around the corner?

In the words of my close personal friend, Dame Shirley:

“They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolution’s near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That’s it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”

My ideas and initiatives sometimes seem unconventional to many, but I have never been so vilified as when I first proposed a new streetscape redesign in the City of Burbank, California, back on September 21st, 2009. One member of the City Council actually accused me of being part of a United Nations conspiracy to rob US citizens of their rights! Thankfully, the party responsible for that particular point of view is no longer in a position of municipal authority.

I spent nearly 2 years vociferously campaigning for this redesign, supported by my fellow City Commissioners. It was an uphill battle, greatly aided by smart advice from my friend Janette Sadik-Khan, during her tenure as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

A number of city residents, reliable members of the NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) constituency, enthusiastically sought to paint (if you’ll forgive the pun) my initiative as an unrealistic and socialist land grab (I’m not making this up!). Groups such as the hard-working Walk Bike Burbank got involved, working diligently to educate citizens on the potential health, safety, and community benefits of our initiative.

Nearly 8 years later, we are vindicated, in the excellent article below. One street. 8 years. At this rate, a fully multimodal transportation infrastructure is still a long way off. I will, however, not surrender my firm belief that our cities need to be more accessible, inclusive, diverse, and community-oriented than they presently are. With more than 82% of citizens living in urban areas, it is more important than ever to ensure that we make our cities more livable, walkable, bikeable, workable, breathable, and affordable.

#NeverGiveUp

After 7 years of study, the new Verdugo Avenue redesign proves safer for everyone

By Patrick Dickson|Apr. 24th, 2017

Back in 2010, the City of Burbank began a pilot transportation safety-study by reconfiguring some of the traffic lanes on Verdugo Avenue to include a center turn lane and bicycle lanes.  Prior to this, Verdugo was a solid four-lane street with two lanes in each direction.  Verdugo was chosen because of its lower vehicle traffic relative to other parallel streets, its residential character, and because the street serves a number of locations attractive to bicyclists and pedestrians.  Indeed, the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station, the Olive Recreation Center, John Burroughs High School, Lincoln Park, the Buena Vista Library, the Mary Alice O’ Connor Family Center, and the Verdugo Recreation Center are all accessible and connected by Verdugo.

The new lane-reconfiguration was initially installed March 2010 and since then, every conceivable aspect of its new operations has been closely studied and monitored by the City.  Originally a four-lane arterial street with no center turn lane, Verdugo Avenue was reconfigured into a three-lane roadway that added a center turn lane, maintained two motor vehicle through lanes, and added bicycle lanes between Olive Avenue and Hollywood Way. The purpose of this reconfiguration was to reorient the street to match the two-lane segments on each side of the corridor, improve motor vehicle and pedestrian crossing safety, calm traffic, and add bicycle lanes as identified in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan.

Immediately after the new configuration was implemented, the City did not see a significant impact on travel times, but did see slightly reduced the number of collisions.

Then, after a prescribed 18-month review of this new lane configuration, further analysis confirmed the results of the first six-month review and further demonstrated the reconfiguration did not impact travel times, yet continued to reduce the number of collisions occurring there.  In order to expand the scope of this study to include further statistics on Verdugo – the City began collecting additional vehicle counts, bicycle counts, vehicle travel times, and safety statistics.

What has been revealed by this safety program is that westbound Verdugo travel times remain relatively constant, but eastbound travel times have increased slightly by a little less than two minutes overall.  It has also been shown that vehicle queue lengths increase at the peak hour at Buena Vista and Hollywood Way.

Yet, average daily traffic volumes on Verdugo Avenue continue to be consistent with the data collected in 2010 and 2011, and continue to support the observation that Verdugo carries the same number of cars with three lanes that it did previously with four lanes. Burbank’s observation supports the theory developed from many other cities where these reconfigurations have been done that reducing through lanes and adding a center turn lane does not affect roadway capacity on streets with volumes of 18,000 cars per day or less. Without a center turn lane, the innermost lanes of four lane streets must be used by both left turning and through vehicles; thus removing two inefficient through lanes and replacing them with a dedicated turn lane achieves a similar level of roadway capacity.

According to a recent Burbank public staff report, counts taken in March 2017 by the City confirm that cyclists indeed use the bicycle lanes on Verdugo Avenue, though the volumes continue to be lower than initially counted when the bicycle lanes were installed in March 2010. Bicycle count variability is due to a variety of factors including weather, time of year, and the activity of nearby schools and parks. Bicycle surveys for all periods were conducted while school was in session and weather was not inclement.

Biggest benefit proves to be dramatic drop in severe collisions

While decreasing travel times naturally appeals to motorists; decreasing serious injuries caused by collisions is every motorists’ need.  Now that the Verdugo Avenue reconfiguration has been in place for over six years, and because the facility has been operating for so long, the city has been able to take a comprehensive look at accident data that occurred six years before and six years after the reconfiguration. It becomes obvious to all residents that the changes in accidents are the most compelling reason for maintaining Verdugo Avenue in its current configuration. The number of accidents that occurred before and after the reconfiguration declined by about six percent. However, the types of crashes that occurred changed dramatically. The most severe crash types – head-on crashes, broadsides, and overturned vehicles – declined substantially. In particular, head-on collisions were reduced from nine collisions to zero, and broadsides were reduced 24 percent according to a recent Burbank staff report .

The City report also suggests the dramatic reduction in severe crashes may also be attributed to the installation of the two-way left turn lane and the reduction in travel lanes, which reduces the number of vehicle conflicts at each intersection along the corridor. While severe collision types decreased, rear-end and sideswipe collisions increased after the installation of the reconfiguration. Upon first glance, the reconfiguration should have decreased rear-end collisions due to the new center turn lane. The increase in these collisions is not believed to be directly related to the reconfiguration; instead, many experts believe these crashes could be due to the increase in distracted driving due to smartphone use. In 2010, it was estimated that 20% of people had smart phones. In 2016, this has climbed to 77%. The rise in rear-end and sideswipe collisions is likely attributed to distracted driving. If rear-end collisions are removed from the analysis, there were 62 crashes in the six years prior to the reconfiguration and 43 crashes after the reconfiguration, or a reduction of 31 percent.

Accomplished using previously approved Measure R funding

The City of Burbank is now poised to extend the bicycle and pedestrian friendly improvements on Verdugo Avenue.  Previously approved funding sources for this nearly $900,000 effort comes from a combination of grant funds, local match, Measure R Highway funds, and Transportation Development Act (TDA) Article 3 funds, if required, to construct the project without using any City General Fund dollars. This project is eligible for all of these funding sources, and will provide the following improvements:

    • Install left turn arrows at Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Way to reduce conflicts with pedestrians, including those walking to the Buena Vista Library, Lincoln Park, and the Mary Alice O’ Connor Family Center. This will also decrease left turn delays at the two busiest intersections on Verdugo Avenue. The left turn arrows will only be triggered when there are four or more vehicles waiting in the left turn lane.
    •  Upgrade the flasher at Virginia Avenue: to use button actuated rapid flashing beacons to enhance safety for pedestrians walking to Jordan Middle School and the Olive Recreation Center.
    •  Upgrade signals at Buena Vista Street, California Street, and Catalina Street: with new traffic poles, bicycle detection, countdown pedestrian signals, and pedestrian buttons to enhance safety for pedestrians.
    •  Install traffic cameras at California Street and Victory Boulevard: to monitor traffic congestion and operations.
    •  Install striped bicycle lanes between Clybourn Avenue and Cordova Street and between Virginia Avenue and Victory Boulevard.
    •  Install striped bicycle lanes between Olive Avenue and Victory Boulevard to connect to existing bicycle lanes at Main Street. A small four-block segment of this stretch will be marked as a signed bicycle route (no separate lanes) in the eastbound direction because the street here is narrower than the rest of Verdugo.

New Verdugo Avenue proven safer for everyone

Verdugo Avenue has been one of the most extensively monitored streets in the City, and updated data shows that the street continues to efficiently accommodate motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians without substantially increasing congestion or delay. More importantly, the reconfigured Verdugo Avenue has reduced collisions and increased the safety for all roadway users, particularly by significantly reducing severe crashes like head-on collisions and broadsides.

Given that the street continues to operate safely and efficiently for everyone, and is demonstrably much safer for motorists, Human-City Burbank recommends further expansion and increased application of these low-cost proven safety and humanizing-type transportation improvements throughout Burbank by adopting this successful, proven and time-tested, “Verdugo Avenue Reconfiguration Model” for many additional appropriate Burbank locations using new Measure M local return revenues as required.  This type of roadway reconfiguration has been thoroughly proven to dramatically improve safety by providing more inclusive and complete streets that more equitably benefit everyone in Burbank.

Director of Policy & Planning for Walk Bike Burbank, local chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Patrick is also a member of the Burbank Transportation Commission representing active transportation interests for the benefit of everyone.

Last night, I and my partners on the Transportation subcommittee of the Burbank Sustainability Task Force achieved our first two “victories”:

1. Helping to revise, update, and push through the City’s Bicycle Master Plan, and

2. Pushing through a resolution for the City of Burbank to restripe a healthy section of one of its main community arterials. Now, instead of a “two lane on each side with no turning lanes” highway cutting through a residential neighborhood (past a variety of single family homes, a high school, a public library, a daycare center, and other community landmarks), we will have one lane on each side, with an additional center turn “refuge” lane, and extra wide bike lanes on each side! I am thrilled. We even managed to add some automotive parking spaces!

It was not easy, though. Burbank is a city run under a laboriously democratic principle of governance, whereby even the simplest of decisions must undergo pre-qualification via a multitude of resident feedback open forums, council meetings, staff reports and surveys, and more.

Last night’s council meeting showed clearly the care taken over each aspect of the proposal:

1:45:00 – ADOPTION OF THE 2009 UPDATE OF THE CITY OF BURBANK BICYCLE MASTER PLAN

3:20:45 – RECONFIGURATION OF ROADWAY STRIPING ON VERDUGO AVENUE

4:37:00 – Staff Report on RECONFIGURATION OF ROADWAY STRIPING ON VERDUGO AVENUE

Burbank is like many small cities in the US, however, still somewhat stuck in a nearly 50-year old mindset: subservient to the automotive culture that was born and grew swiftly in the post-war years of the 20th Century. Helping to transform these municipalities into dynamic 21st Century communities is going to be a tough challenge, but well worth it!

I am inspired by the work done on a municipal level by the likes of Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of NYC Dept. of Transportation. I am further inspired by people such as MIT grad student Christine Outram, inventor of the Copenhagen Wheel:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7y3qIQu3Gc]

Here below is an interview with Christine, during the Climate Summit:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do3lxv_ekUo]

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Took my daughter trick or treating this evening for the first time (she was too young last year), and found an interesting diversity of setups in our neighborhood. This one wins the prize, severed hands down, for commitment to the cause!:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGTmhfmI-CM]