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Work begins on transformative condo and hotel development in Beverly Hills

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Work begins on transformative condo and hotel development in Beverly Hills

Construction has begun on One Beverly Hills, a nearly $5-billion condominium and hotel complex that promises to transform the Beverly Hills skyline and be a commanding presence on its western edge.

With tall greenery-laden towers standing over a sprawling garden, the complex set to open by early 2028 is expected to house some of the priciest condos and hotel suites in the country, as developers seek to capitalize on the city’s international reputation for luxury and celebrity.

Owners of the property at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards ceremonially broke ground Thursday on what they call a 17.5-acre “urban resort” that will unify the neighboring Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria hotels with condo high-rises, 8.5 acres of botanical gardens and the first ultra-deluxe Aman hotel on the West Coast.

A rendering of an entrance to One Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Boulevard near the retail portion of the complex.

(Foster + Partners)

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The scope of the complex, which will have by far the two tallest towers in Beverly Hills, marks a departure from years past when the city made a point of keeping its commercial buildings small scale compared with next-door neighbors Los Angeles and West Hollywood.

“Candidly, I think it marks a new generation of Beverly Hills,” Mayor Julian Gold said. “Cities need to grow just like people grow. They can’t be stagnant, they cannot stay only the way they were.”

One Beverly Hills will be “new and fresh in a big way,” he said. “The investment is enormous. It will redefine luxury in Beverly Hills.”

The Beverly Hills City Council approved the project in 2021 over the objection of Councilmember John Mirisch, who called the proposed development “elitist, exclusive and exclusionary.”

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“Without affordable housing, the project has turned into a castle-fortress of exclusion,” Mirisch told the other four council members.

Gold said tax revenue from One Beverly Hills will be used to fund affordable housing in other parts of the city. He estimated that the complex will generate tens of millions of dollars in annual taxes for the city.

The two towers — 26 and 32 stories — will have a combined total of fewer than 200 condos. The number is variable because people may buy more than one unit and combine them, developer Jonathan Goldstein, chief executive of Cain International, said.

Prices have not yet been set, but Beverly Hills is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country and units can be expected to cost tens of millions of dollars. Recent top-tier luxury condo listings in the Los Angeles area range from $20 million to $50 million.

The tower residences will be branded and serviced by Aman, a Swiss company owned by Russian-born real estate developer Vlad Doronin that was described by Forbes as “the world’s most preeminent resort brand” and attracts such affluent guests as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and George and Amal Clooney.

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Aman is best known for its small resorts in tropical locales or historically significant properties such as a 16th century palazzo in Venice, but also has urban outposts in Tokyo and New York, where suites start at about $1,800 a night.

The Aman in Beverly Hills will have 75 suites in a 10-story building. It will also have a club that people can join for a price. Its New York club made news in 2022 by charging an initiation fee of as much as $200,000 while receiving mixed reviews in local publications. Residents of the Beverly Hills condos may receive Aman services such as housekeeping and room service.

The most public aspect of One Beverly Hills will be the gardens designed by Los Angeles architecture firm Rios, which also designed the 12-acre Gloria Molina Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles and created a new master plan for Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.

Rios’ plan for One Beverly Hills calls for distinct sets of botanical gardens intended to reflect the diverse landscape of Southern California with mostly drought-resistant native plants living on recycled water. The gardens will have more than 200 species of plants and trees, including palms, oaks, sycamores, succulents and olives.

The Beverly Hilton hotel will receive renovations as part of the project.

The Beverly Hilton hotel will receive renovations as part of the project.

(Foster + Partners)

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“I am really interested in pursuing what a botanical environment is for the 21st century,” firm founder Mark Rios said when the project was first announced. It will consume tons of carbon dioxide while “teaching people that drought-quality planting doesn’t mean cactus.”

About half the gardens will be for the exclusive use of residents, Aman club members and hotel guests. The rest of the gardens will be open to the public.

One Beverly Hills is “one of the biggest projects in North America,” with a total cost of $4 billion to $5 billion, Goldstein said. The London investment firm is overseeing the development with OKO Group, an international real estate development firm created by Doronin, who called Beverly Hills “the natural next step for Aman as we continue our strategic growth into the world’s finest urban centers.”

The development will produce more than 2,700 direct construction jobs, Cain International said. It estimated that One Beverly Hills will generate about $40 billion in total local spending over 30 years, $9 billion of which will be new.

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One Beverly Hills was master planned by Foster + Partners, with Aman designs by KHA (Kerry Hill Architects) of Australia and Singapore. London-based Foster + Partners is led by Norman Foster, an English lord perhaps best known for designing a landmark lipstick-like skyscraper in London known as the Gherkin and the hoop-shaped Apple Inc. headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Significant upgrades and restorations to the historic Beverly Hilton will also take place as part of the project, Cain International said. The Beverly Hilton was hotelier Conrad Hilton’s most luxurious property when it opened in 1955 and has been the home of the annual Golden Globe Awards since 1961.

One Beverly Hills will include shops and restaurants intended to complement the city’s upscale retail areas, Goldstein said.

Most of the early interest in buying condos is from local residents looking to leave their large homes, he said, along with international buyers familiar with Aman hotels.

Although the neighborhood is dominated by single-family homes, Beverly Hills real estate agent Bret Parsons of Compass said interest in condos has grown in recent years.

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“We have an aging population in Southern California who need to downsize, and we don’t have enough one-level homes for this affluent population to move to,” Parsons said. “Condos are very appealing for an older person because they can be very, very luxurious, on one level, and you get all the services you can imagine.”

The One Beverly Hills property includes vacant land formerly occupied by a famed Robinsons-May department store that sits west of the hotels. The site was considered one of the most desirable real estate development sites in the country but has lain fallow for years as previous plans to develop it failed to materialize. Cain International was able to secure control of the vacant land and existing hotel property and unite them in the new project designed by Foster.

A guest suite with a private pool at the Aman

A guest suite with a private pool at the Aman.

(Kerry Hill Architects)

Merv Griffin Way, which cuts between the two parcels, will be covered by a new level that supports the gardens but remain a pass-through between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards. The garden will also cover an underground garage for 1,800 vehicles.

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“This is our western gateway,” the mayor said. “As you enter Beverly hills, it will be amazing.”

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LADWP and Edison rates are rising. What you can do to lower your bill

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LADWP and Edison rates are rising. What you can do to lower your bill

If you are a Los Angeles County resident who gets electricity through the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power or Southern California Edison, you have probably been shocked by a recent increase in your monthly bill.

Even more frustrating, your bill probably went up even if you haven’t changed how much power you use.

The reason: The LADWP approved a budget in June that included a rate increase to help fund the maintenance of the utility‘s infrastructure, including replacing poles, cross arms, transformers and transmission lines, said Ann Santilli, chief financial officer for the LADWP.

“It’s really to ensure that we have reliable service throughout the city,” Santilli said.

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That’s reflected on bills by an increase that can go as high as 1.1% in your total consumption charge. But the increase isn’t consistently applied, as the LADWP only hikes the rate when it spends to fund maintenance or repairs on existing infrastructure projects.

For Edison customers, an increase approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2022 hiked rates by 17%, with further increases going into effect Jan. 1.

The average monthly residential electric bill was set to jump from $174.70 to $178.34, a 2% increase, after Jan. 1, Edison said.

The utility says the rate increases are needed to cover the rising cost of purchased power and ongoing grid maintenance and repair.

There are changes you can make to your lifestyle to reduce your electricity use — and your bill. There are also programs to help with payment plans.

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How can you reduce your electricity use?

If you are an LADWP customer, you can take a closer look at your energy consumption with the online Energy Advisor Tool. After answering a series of questions, you’ll be given tips to reduce your energy consumption.

The tool offers a home energy calculator, bill analysis, energy forecasting, rebate recommendations and savings tips.

There are also several steps you can take to reduce energy use around your house, such as changing the way you use wall outlets.

Edison suggests that, rather than directly into a wall outlet, you plug your your appliances, TVs and device chargers into power strips that you can turn off when the equipment isn’t in use, reducing your power consumption.

The California Public Utilities Commission suggests you charge your laptop, cellphone or tablets before 3 p.m. or after 9 p.m. when electricity rates are lower.

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Instead of running your clothes dryer, line dry your clothes if you have the space in your home.

Older appliances that are plugged in all day might be using a lot more energy than you realize, Santilli said.

For example, some customers have multiple refrigerators, including an older, energy-gobbling refrigerator in the garage. It might be time to consider whether the second appliance is necessary.

Another update you can do is to replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. It helps cut power costs and is an inevitable switch due to the Energy Department’s efficiency rules that went into effect in 2022 taking most incandescent bulbs off the market.

That tip applies to outdoor lighting as well, Santilli said, suggesting customers look for outdoor lighting that is low voltage and uses less power.

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Need assistance paying your electricity bill?

Learning what repayment programs or discounts you qualify for is a phone call away for LADWP customers.

You can talk to an expert who will help you determine what you can afford to pay each month as well as whether you qualify for any discounts, said Ellen Cheng, media relations manager for the LADWP.

“If [the customer] needs help spreading out those payments, we’re here to help and we’re actually very accommodating and eager to work with our customers,” Cheng said.

Cheng points to two programs for customers having trouble paying their bills, though they don’t provide discounts:

  • Level Pay assesses your annual energy usage and then calculates a monthly average so you pay roughly the same amount every month. That lowers your bill in months when you use the most electricity (typically the summer) and raises it in months when you use the least (typically the winter).
  • Extended payment arrangements give EZ-SAVE and Lifeline customers up to 48 months to pay their overdue balances with no interest charges or fees.

To enroll in either program, call (800) 342-5397 or, for TDD service, (800) 432-7397.

Edison’s Lifeline Rate Program offers seniors and disabled customers a discount on their electric and other utility bills.

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Eligible customers can also sign up for a payment program where charges are divided into equal installments and billed separately each month apart from your current bill. See eligibility rules online.

Edison also has two programs to help qualifying families lower their monthly bills:

Call (800) 798-5723 for more information or to apply. Applications can also be submitted by mail or online.

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Column: They say San Francisco is coming back as a tech hub, but it never really left

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Column: They say San Francisco is coming back as a tech hub, but it never really left

Michael Suswal’s first eye-opening encounter with the vibrancy of San Francisco came in 2017.

That’s when he and his fellow co-founders of Standard AI, an artificial intelligence startup funded by the incubator Y Combinator, moved from New York to San Francisco for the summer.

“Initially we planned on going back to New York,” says Suswal, 44. “But after living in the Bay Area for two or three months, between us we had way more network contacts than we had had in our combined 50 years living in New York.”

Where else would you go that would have more support, more connections, the right type of environment and the right investors?

— Michael Suswal, Generation Lab

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When COVID hit, Suswal told me, he moved to Seattle and worked from home. Last year, when he and a partner opted to co-found a new company, they pondered the best place to start.

“We thought, where else would you go that would have more support, more connections, the right type of environment and the right investors? Building a company is hard. It takes everything you’ve got, and even then there’s an 80% chance of failure. So why would you stack the deck against yourself? It was a no-brainer to come back here.”

Generation Lab, which Suswal co-founded with longevity expert Alina Su and UC Berkeley bioengineering professor Irina Conboy, aims to market a technology that can help customers identify and manage long-term medical conditions.

Suswal’s take is different from what you might have heard from the news media and red-state politicians over the last few years. They spin a narrative of a region — indeed, the entire state of California — in secular decline. Of a Silicon Valley whose best days are behind it. Of wholesale flight of money and talent to new, welcoming places such as Miami and Austin.

But there has never been much truth to that narrative generally, and it’s more dubious than ever today, when the Bay Area has emerged as a center of artificial intelligence investing.

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There is no shortage of newsy nuggets to illustrate the “doom loop” narrative about San Francisco.

On Tuesday, for instance, Macy’s announced that it would close its gigantic store overlooking Union Square sometime in the next three years. But the closure is part of a major corporate retrenchment involving the closings of 150 stores nationwide, 30% of the total.

Nor is there anything historically new about San Francisco-bashing. The practice dates back to the Gold Rush, when the city’s powerful attraction as a jumping-off place for Forty-Niners seeking their fortunes in the nearby hills generated an equally potent counter-narrative.

Hinton R. Helper, a visitor from North Carolina who would eventually gain notoriety as a white supremacist, reported in 1855 on the city’s “rottenness and its corruption, its squalor and its misery, its crime and its shame, its gold and its dross…. Degradation, profligacy and vice confront us at every step.”

It’s a short distance from Helper’s screed to the map that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displayed during a televised debate with Gov. Gavin Newsom in November, purportedly showing deposits of human waste around San Francisco. (That didn’t help DeSantis’ presidential campaign avert an early demise, any more than Helper’s critique stemmed the flow of fortune-seekers into California.)

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It’s true that the frenzy in artificial intelligence investing has brought a jolt of capital to the entrepreneurial economy of the Bay Area, but that’s merely the latest iteration of a story that dates back to the emergence of Silicon Valley in the late 1960s — or even to the founding of Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto in 1939.

The region has undergone a long sequence of technology booms and busts over the decades, but each bust has set the stage for the next boom. In the 1980s, the valley’s chipmakers lost their dominance in semiconductor memory to Japanese competitors.

But within a few years, as UC Berkeley economist and political scientist AnnaLee Saxenian observed in her definitive study of the region, “Regional Advantage,” in 1994, new semiconductor and computer startups such as Sun Microsystems had emerged and Silicon Valley had “regained its former vitality.” By 1990, Silicon Valley was home to “one-third of the 100 largest technology companies created in the United States since 1965,” Saxenian wrote.

The key to its enduring stature atop the innovation economy has been the Bay Area’s infrastructure of institutions (Stanford and UC Berkeley) and legal, technical and financial professionals, and its population of technology workers — all having created “dense social networks and open labor markets.”

By contrast, the Silicon wannabes tend to put all their eggs in one basket, and when that basket’s contents spill out, there’s little to fill it up again.

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Miami is a telling example. Its mayor, Francis X. Suarez, tried to establish the city as the center of cryptocurrency financing and innovation. The FTX crypto exchange bought naming rights to the arena where the NBA’s Miami Heat play. International conferences for bitcoin and crypto adherents filled the conference center in 2022.

Miami associated itself with the first “city coin,” a crypto token that Suarez claimed would help boost the municipal budget.

The effort hasn’t panned out. FTX collapsed as its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was indicted and subsequently convicted of fraud; the Heat’s arena now carries the name of Kaseya, a Miami software firm.

Attendance at crypto conferences has dwindled. MiamiCoin, which was valued at 5 cents when it came on the market in August 2021, now trades for about 16-thousandths of a cent, if anyone cares — there doesn’t seem to have been a trade in eight months. The city is searching for relevance in the modern technology landscape.

The same sources that talked up the flight of entrepreneurs from the Bay Area to Miami, Austin and other Silicon wannabes are now running articles about startup founders moving back; often the return is accompanied by complaints about the lack of a true innovation culture in their new homes, as well as traffic congestion and housing prices soaring out of reach — much the same as one would find in any large city.

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As my colleague Hannah Wiley reported recently, San Francisco’s adherents are trying to seize the narrative reins by reminding people that the city and region offer unique advantages to entrepreneurs, especially in technology-related fields.

One is Angela Hoover, 25, who launched her consumer-oriented AI search firm, Andi, in Miami with backing from Y Combinator. At first, Miami seemed inviting because it seemed to be host to a healthy startup community.

Attending AI events in San Francisco, however, made it “abundantly clear that the AI community was in San Francisco. It almost feels like you have a front-row seat to a play, and at the same time you’re in the play,” Hoover said.

“Despite what all the doom-and-gloom critics say, [the Bay Area] is still a hotbed of innovation,” Ali Diab, chief executive of Collective Health, told me. That’s what prompted the firm, which manages employer health plans, to return its headquarters to downtown San Francisco after allowing its workforce to disperse to a work-from-home system during the pandemic.

“Obviously, you have the AI revolution being driven from here,” Diab says, “but you also have powerhouse enterprise software companies like Salesforce and Slack.”

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Collective Health also discovered that the cost of office space in San Francisco was lower than elsewhere in the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley proper. About 120 of Collective Health’s 783 employees work in San Francisco, with the others distributed among offices in Chicago, Texas and Utah, or working remotely.

Diab was an early critic of the “doom loop” argument against San Francisco, observing in a mid-October op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle that “as a Bay Area native, I’ve had to listen to people predict the demise of my city for my entire life.” In truth, he wrote, “the oft-cited challenges San Francisco faces are no different from those experienced by any other major city in the United States.”

Housing is “prohibitively expensive in almost every major American city,” he added. “New York, Chicago and Los Angeles haven’t solved their homelessness problems and neither have many other large cities.”

The story of a Bay Area exodus always was overstated. The image of Texas’ attraction for entrepreneurs has never moved much beyond three major tech companies that moved their headquarters there from California — Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Houston and Oracle and Tesla in Austin.

And the significance of these moves may be more imagined than real. In 2020, when Oracle announced its move to Austin from Redwood City, south of San Francisco, it said it was building a campus for 10,000 employees; the company has 164,000 workers worldwide.

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When Elon Musk sought a location for Tesla’s “global engineering headquarters,” the seat of the company’s innovative brainpower, he found it in Hewlett Packard’s former corporate headquarters — not in Austin, but Palo Alto. He announced his decision to move into that space in February 2023 at a joint event with Gov. Newsom.

Other states have never come close to California in the volume of their venture investments. In 2022, according to the National Venture Capital Assn., California firms raised $78.3 billion in venture funding, more than 40% higher than second-ranked New York. Florida ranked fifth with only $2.6 billion, followed by Texas with $2.4 billion (and Texas’ total fell by about half from the previous year).

San Francisco companies attracted nearly $31 billion in venture funding in 2022, according to CBRE. The Bay Area all told attracted $61 billion, accounting for 35% of all venture funding in the U.S.

Venture investing fell appreciably in 2023, and venture-backed companies experienced a spike in “down rounds” — in which their valuations are lower than they were in the previous round of venture infusions — starting in late 2022. But those trends appeared across the entire venture funding universe, and were more likely related to the run-up in interest rates and fears of a recession than to any California-centric phenomena.

In any case, AI was a distinct bright spot, accounting for about 1 in 5 of all venture deals in 2023 and one-third of all venture dollars invested, according to the accounting firm EisnerAmper.

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No one doubts that San Francisco and the Bay Area present challenges. Suswal says he was concerned that recruiting staffers to come to the area would be difficult. When he himself was considering moving back to San Francisco from Seattle last October, he “bought into a lot of the negative aspects of the city that were being published at the time,” he says. “But the city is in better shape than it gets credit for. … All the best people come here, because it’s well worth it.”

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Northrop Grumman could eliminate as many as 1,000 jobs in Southern California

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Northrop Grumman could eliminate as many as 1,000 jobs in Southern California

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. has told its employees that it could cut as many as 1,000 jobs in Southern California.

The affected employees are part of the company’s space sector and work at facilities in Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Azusa. The company said it is working to match those employees with other, existing jobs within the company.

Although Northrop Grumman did not specify a reason for the cuts, the U.S. Space Force recently canceled a multibillion-dollar program to develop a classified military communications satellite with the company after cost overruns, a schedule delay and development difficulties, according to Bloomberg.

Recently, space has been a difficult place to do business. Earlier this month, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory laid off 530 employees, or 8% of its workforce, in anticipation of massive federal budget cuts.

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Northrop Grumman said it has notified the state’s Employment Development Department and filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice about the job cuts, as required by law.

“This is ongoing, and a higher number of employees will receive WARN notices than may ultimately be impacted,” the company said in a statement.

Although Northrop Grumman is based in Falls Church, Va., California is a major hub for the company. The defense contractor’s historic 110-acre Space Park facility in Redondo Beach was built at the height of the Cold War and is the birthplace of the intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as the rocket engines that lowered the first crew onto the moon and, more recently, the building of the James Webb Space Telescope.

The company also has a major aircraft facility in Palmdale, where it is building the new B-21 stealth bomber, the center fuselage for the F-35 fighter jet, the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone and the MQ-4C Triton drone.

Northrop Grumman also has facilities in San Diego, Sunnyvale, Northridge, Woodland Hills and Ventura County. In all, the company employs about 30,000 people across the state.

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