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Nelson Rising, Developer of U.S. Bank Tower and Playa Vista, Dies at 81

81 year-old political strategist and real estate magnate passes away from Alzheimer’s disease

By Dolores Quintana

Developer and CEO Nelson Rising was responsible for the creation of such properties as the U.S. Bank Tower, one of Downtown Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks, and the development of the city of Playa Vista, an area famous for being the home of Howard Hughes aviation company died on February 9 at his home in Pasadena from complications of Alzheimer’s disease as reported by The Los Angeles Times. He was 81 years old. 

Rising is survived by his wife Sharon, who had been married for 59 years and their sons Christopher and Matthew. He was predeceased by his daughter Corinne and also has three grandchildren and a sister Charlotte Conway. 

Rising was also involved in politics and ran the campaigns of Tom Bradley, former mayor of Los Angeles, starting with his first successful campaign in 1973 and Bradley’s unsuccessful run for Governor in 1982 after graduating from UCLA’s Law School after securing a scholarship in football. He was born in Queens, New York and his family moved to Glendale. Rising served in the Marine Corps after college for three years. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom said, as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, “From Mission Bay to projects that helped revitalize downtown Los Angeles, Nelson Rising spearheaded iconic developments that transformed neighborhoods across California. Nelson cared deeply about California and Californians, and his dynamic leadership and problem-solving brought together stakeholders from across the board to accomplish monumental feats.”

He was mentored by former Secretary of State and diplomat Warren Christopher. His specialty as a developer was bringing together multiple government agencies and individual stakeholders to create huge projects in urban areas. Rising said in a podcast, “Christopher was a mentor to me all … through my life.” as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, and named one of his sons Christopher in honor of his mentor. The redevelopment of Mission Bay in San Francisco was yet another large project that Rising brought to fruition. 

The city of Playa Vista is now the home of the Westside’s famous Silicon Beach, one of the hottest real estate areas for tech companies in Southern California. 

John Cushman, chairman of global transactions at real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield said, as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, “He made stuff happen that was extremely complicated.” Rising was also gifted with being about to work with people who had passionate opinions on his projects. Cushman added, as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, “People get very fired up. Nelson could bring calm. He could take confusion and chaos and translate it into common sense and bring people back to the table who were yelling. He was a genius in terms of dealing with people”

Rising started in politics by running the successful campaign of John Tunney for the U.S. Senate at only 36 years old. The Los Angeles Times called Rising an“enthusiastic amateur” and described him as“pleasant but tough.” at the time. After the campaign, Rising was brought on as a producer on the film “The Candidate” which was a satire of politics centering on a young and charismatic candidate with similarities to John Tunney and his campaign. 

Nelson Rising served on the Federal Reserve Bank’s board of directors and was chairman for three years.

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