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UCLA

Greening the Center

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By Jack Feuer

Published Apr 1, 2008 8:00 AM


Pouria Abbassi '89 came to the United States from Iran in 1983 and quickly became immersed in Los Angeles the way a car-bound commuter rarely can be. The young student traveled to Beverly Hills Prep School by bus from his downtown home every day, and that, he recalls, is "what gives you an appreciation of this great city — how diverse it is, what a wealth of assets it has."

Though his brother, cousin and two uncles went to USC, Abbassi sought out an engineering education at UCLA. And in 1999, Abbassi became a U.S. citizen in a ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As fate would have it, Abbassi later joined the Convention Center as chief operations officer. He rose to executive assistant general manager and, in March 2007, was named general manager of a revitalized enterprise that hosts more than 2.5 million visitors and 400 events every year.

Under Abbassi, called "the wunderkind of environmentally friendly facilities" by Trade Show Executive magazine, the Convention Center will be a 100-percent green-powered facility by late 2008. Also imminent is another eco-milestone: becoming the only preexisting convention center of its size and age in the nation to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The center now generates more than 30 percent of its power from green sources. And in November, it announced that its 11 on-site public food outlets are now 100-percent green, and it upgraded its food waste diversion program to align with the city's Bureau of Sanitation Food Waste Collection program.

Abbassi has a Bruin-heavy team with him, including Assistant General Manager Phillip C. Hill M.B.A. '96 and Manager of Public Relations Felix I. Hernandez '00. And he reports to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa '77.

The Convention Center is a central player in the effort to reshape downtown Los Angeles. Along with Staples Center, the Nokia Theatre, and soon ESPN's West Coast headquarters, the Grammy museum, condominiums, lofts, apartments and an exclusive new Ritz-Carlton, the Convention Center will play a pivotal role in making the City of Angels a vibrant urban destination.

And that's something "Los Angeles has longed for going back decades," says Abbassi, "a center for people to come and enjoy themselves and participate in all the wonders that make L.A. a great city."

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