How Will LA Look in 2028? A Look at the City's Plan To Embrace Transformational Tech

How Will LA Look in 2028? A Look at the City's Plan To Embrace Transformational Tech

S.C. Stuart
S.C. Stuart is a foreign correspondent (ELLE China, Esquire Latin America), Contributing Writer at Ziff Davis PCMag, and consults as a futurist for Hollywood Studios. Previously, S.C. was the head of digital at Hearst Magazines International while serving as a Non-Executive Director, UK Trade & Investment (US) and Digital Advisor at The Smithsonian.

It’s 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. I wave at the contact-free traffic sensor and the cars stop so I can cross. A delivery robot zooms past bringing cold brew and breakfast burritos to neighbors, while someone activates a micromobility electric scooter and glides off down a side street. An autonomous vehicle on a trial run pauses at the stop sign, guided by Global Positioning System satellites more than 12,000 miles overhead. A smart pole tracks air quality at the intersection and reports back to the data science team at City Hall.

At the “smart” bus stop I press a button and an AI swiftly triangulates incoming Metro Los Angeles GIS (Geographic Information System) data before a synthesized voice reads out wait times. I jump on the bus when it arrives, using my Tap card to pay the fare and grab a seat, plugging my charger into the (under seat) USB port. Thanks to the bus’s persistent WiFi signal en route, I pull up the latest technology report from the Harvard Business Review, courtesy of the L.A. Public Library, and start making notes.

Twenty minutes later and I'm the first one walking into my co-working space. As soon as I swipe my entry card the centralized system detects a change in the motion sensor network. It then turns on the lights, ambient music, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and AC) , ensuring the building remains energy efficient and to code when unoccupied.


The 2028 Plan

In December 2020, when the SmartLA 2028 city plan was released by (the now former) Mayor Garcetti’s office, this sort of scenario felt far-off.

But it’s all there in the document: a plan to turn L.A. from reliance on fossil fuels and cars and into a data-driven connected city, which addresses the digital divide and brings fresh ideas, including telehealth, clean tech and a switch to mass transit.

What no one knew, when they started working on this plan back in 2019, was a global pandemic was on its way. It took that pandemic to throw everyone into a digital-ready future earlier than (everyone) expected. But here we are.

“Throughout the crisis, digital tools have emerged as a critical lifeline for our society,” notes the SmartLA 2028 city plan. “Enabling contact-free essential services, accelerated medical solutions, artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted policy making, protest coordination through social media, real-time community engagement and a scale and pace of innovation previously unthinkable.”

LA and the Future of Everything

Let’s back up a moment, to the 1950s when L.A. first looked like The Future to the rest of the world.

Post-war industries flourished here. The Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956) ushered in the freeway system and cars poured off the manufacturing lots. Cold War NASA missions heralded an aerospace boom. The Case Study House Program showcased prefabricated components and modern appliances. Bold sci-fi style buildings such as The Chemosphere House (1960) and LAX’s Theme Building (1961) materialized on the landscape. L.A. County’s population tripled between 1940 (2.7 million) to over 6 million by 1960.

In 2023, our population is now north of 10 million and, as a result, this new L.A. Future plan is less about appearances, and more about a skillful cloud-based hyper-connectivity providing a vast mesh of advanced technologies which aim to make this city sustainable, livable and equitable for all.

Sure, we’ve got Big Tech from Up North on our doorstep. The FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple etc.) have carved out nearly 6 million square footage of L.A. westside alone, and obviously they contribute massively to our economy. But a fairer L.A. will depend less on unicorns (startups with a $1 billion valuation before public listing) and more on a needs-based cohesive approach to innovation, drawing on the best resources from academic institutions, updating local government departments across the board, and bringing both the venture capital community and its well-funded startups into alliance with real-world requirements.

Along these lines, Miki Reynolds, CEO and co-founder of Grid110, the L.A. tech hub, wants to ensure a spirit of egalitarianism is carried through into L.A.’s startups.

"The L.A. startup scene is more than just Venice and Santa Monica," says Reynolds, who prefers a cityscape and initially headquartered Grid110 in DTLA as a result. "Since our inception, we've supported 250 companies who have raised over $90M in investment capital. But I'm even more proud to say 70 % of our portfolio companies have founders who are women and 75% are founders of color. L.A. is an incredibly rich and diverse city - we need to reflect that in our emerging technology."

A welcome sign is that many L.A. technology companies have joined PledgeLA, an industry-wide initiative to make the tech sector accountable to its communities, establishing goals around diversity and social impact, and recording their progress.


Technology For Good

So how will L.A. ensure its tech-enabled future is providing value for all? The SmartLA 2028 city plan laid out some bold objectives, with measurable outcomes including a 10% reduction in travel time by utilizing data from 40,000 loop detectors across 4,500 connected intersections and annual savings of $3 million through converting over 165,000 street lamps to LED and connecting them to a dashboard to streamline maintenance and track outages.

The MyLA311 site and mobile app allow Angelenos a simple-to-use interface to city services. It's relatively unsophisticated in terms of UX (user experience) and design, but it works because it was created with equity in mind so everyone can use it. If you need to report a pothole, civic safety issue, schedule pick-up of bulky items or find the nearest municipal building or park, it’s all there - and available in English, Spanish, Korean, Armenian and Chinese (simplified and traditional) to reflect our diverse communities.

MyLA311 would not have been possible, however, without the Los Angeles Open Data project. This is the result of over 7 years of capturing, standardizing, centralizing and then analyzing vast amounts of city data - from almost every department - transportation, sanitation, public safety (crime stats), housing, infrastructure and health (most notably COVID-19 transmission data).

The Los Angeles Open Data’s main function is to provide data and analysis support to city programs which aim to realize high-value community outcomes by providing policy recommendations. Simply put - if you don’t know where you’re starting from (base line), how will you know if a program is a success?

But it’s also entirely open and accountable to the public too. As a result, Angelenos can now drill down to find out more on hyperlocal data sets which provide meaning to them. For example, a team scraped data on Black-owned businesses in L.A. and compiled a “story map” here, so people can choose to spend money within their communities and support causes most meaningful to them.

This data also powers ideas which have emerged from the Innovation and Performance Commission (IPC), an open forum for city employees to propose pilot projects which can receive allocations from a $1 million fund. According to the SmartLA 2028 report, “Since its inception in 2016, over 40 projects have been funded, including a mobile nurse practitioner unit that reduces emergency room visits, employee payroll app that reduces paper and staff resources, and 3D printers for rapid prototyping of public works projects.”

Connectivity Access

All these initiatives are vital to the running of a “smart city” - but what’s the use if a significant proportion of the population doesn’t have access to digital connectivity?

This situation was exacerbated by the pandemic and many agencies stepped up to close up the digital divide, including Get Connected Los Angeles, where the city partnered with the California Emerging Technology Fund and EveryoneOn to help Angelenos get access to computers, digital literary services and low-cost internet connectivity.

The Los Angeles County Library extended their Wi-Fi service to over 60 of its local branch parking structures so locals could “park and connect” (or “sit and connect” at nearby outdoor seating) to pick up email, do homework, or carry out job searches. While the Los Angeles Public Library rolled out its Tech2go Hotspot Loan to library card holders in good standing and re-trained staff to act as “cybernauts” and offer technology assistance.

Imagining the Future

With all these tech-future equitable concepts in place, what will L.A. look like in 2028 when the world arrives on our doorstep for the Olympics?

At first glance - and this is no bad thing - it might not look that different at all, because no new construction/venues will be built, according to the official Games Plan. We have enough facilities to host the Games. In a bid for sustainability and imaginative adaptive reuse, the plan is clear on that score.

But what will be entirely revolutionary is the technologically-based infrastructure enabling everyone to get around, connect, find out what’s going on, and enjoy the sporting and cultural events. As 15,000 athletes arrive at LAX they’ll take the automated people mover to the Metro and end up at the Olympic Village (UCLA) in no time. With the smart city layer in place, anything is possible - augmented reality glasses overlaying real-time sports scores, holograms of athletes participating in community-led training sessions, multi-lingual robots acting as guides and scanning tickets at turnstiles.

It all starts with the data - and L.A. is already way ahead of the game on that score.

How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms
Evan Xie

If you can believe it, it’s been more than a decade since rapper Macklemore extolled the virtues of thrift shopping in a viral music video. But while scouring the ranks of vintage clothing stores looking for the ultimate come-up may have waned in popularity since 2012, the online version of this activity is apparently thriving.

According to a new trend story from CNBC, interest in “reselling” platforms like Etsy-owned Depop and Poshmark has exploded in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In an article that spends a frankly surprising amount of time focused on sellers receiving death threats before concluding that they’re “not the norm,” the network cites the usual belt-tightening ecommerce suspects – housebound individuals doing more of their shopping online coupled with inflation woes and recession fears – as the causes behind the uptick.

As for data, there’s a survey from Depop themselves, finding that 53% of respondents in the UK are more inclined to shop secondhand as living costs continue to rise. Additional research from Advance Market Analytics confirms the trend, citing not just increased demand for cheap clothes but the pressing need for a sustainable alternative to recycling clothing materials at its core.

The major popularity of “thrift haul” videos across social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok has also boosted the visibility of vintage clothes shopping and hunting for buried treasures. Teenage TikToker Jacklyn Wells scores millions of views on her thrift haul videos, only to get routinely mass-accused of greed for ratching up the Depop resell prices for her coolest finds and discoveries. Nonetheless, viral clips like Wells’ have helped to embed secondhand shopping apps more generally within online fashion culture. Fashion and beauty magazine Hunger now features a regular list of the hottest items on the re-sale market, with a focus on how to use them to recreate hot runway looks.

As with a lot of consumer and technology trends, the sudden surge of interest in second-hand clothing retailers was only partly organic. According to The Drum, ecommerce apps Vinted, eBay, and Depop have collectively spent around $120 million on advertising throughout the last few years, promoting the recent vintage shopping boom and helping to normalize second-hand shopping. This includes conventional advertising, of course, but also deals with online influencers to post content like “thrift haul” videos, along with shoutouts for where to track down the best finds.

Reselling platforms have naturally responded to the increase in visibility with new features (as well as a predictable hike in transaction fees). Poshmark recently introduced livestreamed “Posh Shows” during which sellers can host auctions or provide deeper insight into their inventory. Depop, meanwhile, has introduced a “Make Offer” option to fully integrate the bartering and negotiation process into the app, rather than forcing buyers and sellers to text or Direct Message one another elsewhere. (The platform formerly had a comments section on product pages, but shut this option down after finding that it led to arguments, and wasn’t particularly helpful in making purchase decisions.)

Now that it’s clear there’s money to be made in online thrift stores, larger and more established brands and retailers are also pushing their way into the space. H&M and Target have both partnered with online thrift store ThredUp on featured collections of previously-worn clothing. A new “curated” resale collection from Tommy Hilfiger – featuring minorly damaged items that were returned to its retail stores – was developed and promoted through a partnership with Depop, which has also teamed with Kellogg’s on a line of Pop-Tarts-inspired wear. J.Crew is even bringing back its classic ‘80s Rollneck Sweater in a nod to the renewed interest in all things vintage.

Still, with any surge of popularity and visibility, there must also come an accompanying backlash. In a sharp editorial this week for Arizona University’s Daily Wildcat, thrift shopping enthusiast Luke Lawson makes the case that sites like Depop are “gentrifying fashion,” stripping communities of local thrift stores that provide a valuable public service, particularly for members of low-income communities. As well, UK tabloids are routinely filled with secondhand shopping horror stories these days, another evidence point as to their increased visibility among British consumers specifically, not to mention the general dangers of buying personal items from strangers you met over the internet.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Numbers don’t lie, but often they don’t tell the whole story. If you look at the facts and figures alone, launching a startup seems like a daunting enterprise. It seems like a miracle anyone makes it out the other side.

  • 90% of startups around the world fail.
  • On average, it takes startups 2-3 years to turn a profit. (Venture funded startups take far longer.)
  • Post-seed round, fewer than 10% of startups go on to successfully raise a Series A investment.
  • Less than 1% of startups go public.
  • A startup only has a .00006% chance of becoming a unicorn.


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From The Vault: VC Legend Bill Gurley On Startups, Venture Capital and Scaling

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Bill Gurley in a blue suit
Bill Gurley

This interview was originally published on December of 2020, and was recorded at the inaugural dot.LA Summit held October 27th & 28th.

One of my longtime favorite episodes of Office Hours was a few years ago when famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley and I talked about marketplace-based companies, how work-from-home will continue to accelerate business opportunities and his thoughts on big tech and antitrust.

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