Hamid Behdad

Born: Iran, 1956
Position: Former Director of Adaptive Reuse Projects for City of Los Angeles
Accomplishments: Behdad shepherded downtown projects through city bureaucracy, working with developers in the early years of adaptive reuse legislation
Quote: "With all politics aside, the opportunity given to me by intention or accident to allow me to work on what I did is one of the best things done in the City of L.A. America must be a land of opportunity."

Downtown players call him the "Adaptive Reuse Czar."

It's an informal title, but one that speaks to Hamid Behdad's role in the downtown renaissance.

For Behdad, an Iranian immigrant who came to the United States in 1985 unable to speak English, his seven-year stint working on adaptive reuse began by chance. A pioneering downtown developer was moving forward with a project and the city needed a point person.

"When (developer) Tom Gilmore came with the San Fernando building there was nobody to take the lead. I was at the right place at the right time and pretty much they gave the assignment to me and I liked it," said Behdad, who ultimately was given the title of Director of Adaptive Reuse Projects. "I took it from there. It wasn't like it was planned."

Behdad arrived in Seattle in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in structural engineering from Iran's Arya Mehr University of Technology. After a brief stint at Eastern Washington University, Behdad's further study options were limited by his language skill. He enrolled at the one school that accepted him to its master's program in civil and structural engineering South Dakota State University.

He then headed west and landed a job with the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, where he stayed for 10 years before joining Mayor Richard Riordan's office in January 1999. As a project manager on the executive side, Behdad worked on development in the San Fernando Valley, but a few months after the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance was passed he began working on those projects. The role stuck for two more mayoral administrations.

Behdad worked with city leaders and developers to make the ordinance more than a piece of legislation. He said he worked to make it a "program." This involved promoting the citywide adoption of the ordinance.

Behdad also worked to coordinate efforts between the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Department of City Planning and the Fire Department the various bodies that need to sign off on adaptive reuse projects.

At the end of 2006, Behdad ended his tenure with the city to start his own development company, Central City Development Group, which he established in January.

"I wanted to experiment with some different excitement," he said. "I hope I can pull it off, too."

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