Rawson Talks Future of Hollywood

Rawson Talks Future of Hollywood

Kathleen Rawson serves as the president and chief executive of The Hollywood Partnership, a nonprofit organization funded by property owners within the district. It provides enhanced services to promote the cleanliness, safety, beautification and economic vitality of the neighborhood. Before joining The Hollywood Partnership two years ago, Rawson served as the long-time chief executive of Downtown Santa Monica Inc. 

What interests you about Hollywood?

This is a very unique community – and I have the juxtaposition from leaving Santa Monica and coming here – that the people who are working here, who own property here, who own businesses here, have a sense of community that is extraordinarily unique for such a large metropolitan area.

Despite any myriad of issues that Los Angeles faces as a major metropolitan area, folks are all in from a perspective of civic pride. In Hollywood, there are new leases. There’s development moving forward. There’re cranes everywhere. The theaters are filled with the most amazing shows. We’ve got music on almost every street corner. People don’t invest money in areas they think will not earn a return. There’s a lot of investment happening here.

In your opinion, how has Hollywood evolved over time?

Hollywood’s not immune to the economic cycles. It’s not immune to political discord. It’s not immune to homelessness. All of those things are real. What I would say is that the resilience of this neighborhood outshines almost any neighborhood that I’ve ever seen.

Tell me about the current development happening in Hollywood. What asset types are you seeing being developed the most, and why?

Hollywood is sort of in a moment of renaissance. There are many projects in the pipeline, the vast majority of them being residential. Hollywood is a very desirable ZIP code for people to live in. Our population is very dense. We have more than 20,000 people per square mile, and that rivals cities like the boroughs of New York. 

Hollywood has always had a lot of housing and the area itself draws a great deal of interest and desirability. We have more than 70 (residential) projects in the pipeline in Hollywood, and that’s important because we’re a central hub. We’re close to transit. We’re close to job centers. We have an amazing infrastructure with public schools. There’re a lot of reasons why residential is successful here.

Are there any key projects that have your eye or you think the neighborhood is especially excited about?

We’re always very interested in new housing, period. We’re seeing a lot of the housing that’s being developed, because of the costs of construction and the length of time it takes to get entitlements, a lot of that product is luxury or top market. However, the affordable requirement that the city of Los Angeles imposes is also extremely important here. 

Kathleen Rawson (Photo by Thom Wasper)

What about studio development?

Yes, we have some really interesting ones being done by Bardas (Investment Group). It just doubles down on the fact that Hollywood is in this renaissance moment. The great thing about studio work, of course, is that you have to work at the studio. You can’t work from home, and so this kind of investment in Hollywood is so good for the local economy. The creative class is really strong in Hollywood. You always think it is, but it really is. And the number of people who work in the creative industry here in terms of our residential (occupancy) is also an extremely high number. 

How do you think Hollywood compares to other submarkets of Los Angeles from a development standpoint?

Every neighborhood has its charm and its benefits. What really centers on Hollywood is the fact that we’ve got two Metro lines that service this neighborhood. We’ve got that infrastructure that’s extraordinarily important. We’re centrally located. Hollywood’s tourism industry also sets it apart. I would say we attract millions of visitors annually from all over the world. If one talks about Los Angeles, in Tokyo, in Belgium, in Iceland, the person normally thinks of Hollywood. We are the brand for Los Angeles. It’s steeped in this cinematic and music history that is so quintessential to Americana. And the fact that we have held on to that creative industry here, not just the old stuff, but the stuff that is produced every single day, that happens here. And you can’t get that anywhere else.

How does The Hollywood Partnership work to support new development?

A lot of the work that we do is one-on-one conversations. Relationships with the city leadership, the county leadership, state and federal to make sure that Hollywood is always top of mind as resources are being deployed or to make sure that we get the attention that we deserve. If someone is working on a development project, or if a business is trying to open, or a landlord is trying to renew a lease, The Hollywood Partnership is there. We’re there with the data that we have to justify in numbers why the millions of people that are walking past this front door are making a good investment. If a developer is working on getting their entitlements, we’ll help make introductions. We’ll make sure that if they’re having trouble getting an inspection, we will nudge to help get that to happen. We’re the bridge between the public sector and the private sector in a way that is very unique.

How do you think Hollywood could be improved?

We have so much to do. That’s what’s exciting about this job. If we were dreaming here, we want Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard to be a really pleasant experience when you’re walking down the street. That means we need more shade trees. We need more cleaning. We want a better variety of tenants. We do have a homeless population. We have a very broken mental health system and people are suffering on the streets. And all of those things we (The Hollywood Partnership) work on on a daily basis, and we make such great strides, but it is a community effort.

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