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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
The Providential Scholar
Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
Good Fellows
The Perfect Storm
The Next Step
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Summer 2004
Good Fellows
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"The key is to pick a niche and be comfortable in it so that you can move on a dime," Soboroff tells his three apprentices over breakfast. A good example of a niche that has a promising future, he says, is medium-priced housing in downtown Los Angeles. "What will ultimately determine the success and greatness of our downtown is not the Walt Disney Concert Hall or Staples Center, which are wonderful," Soboroff notes, "but the return of middle- and upper-end housing, along with supermarkets and schools."

Soboroff also teaches his students something about dealing with difficult policy questions in the glare of public scrutiny. His own Playa Vista project, for example, has been the frequent target of environmentalists' barbs. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in June, UCLA anthropologist Peter Nabokov condemned the project as a "criminal chapter" in the city's history because Playa Vista is being built on Native-American burial grounds. Soboroff, however, looks beyond such criticism. "When I talk about Playa Vista as a public-policy project," he says, "I say these are the things that give heart to L.A.: creating housing for all, including policemen, firemen, teachers and nurses; creating jobs; creating a great park system at no cost to the taxpayer; fixing over 100 traffic bottlenecks that haven't been touched for 55 years; helping the public education system by adopting 15 schools; and being a great neighbor."

Soboroff's talks with the students are not focused exclusively on such policy issues or their future success; he offers concrete advice to help with immediate needs. De Forest, for example, faced possible layoff due to budget cuts at the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority, where he is an urban-projects specialist. But thanks in no small measure to Soboroff, De Forest has managed to hold on to his job. "Brainstorming with Steve has helped me refine and stay focused on both my short-term and long-term goals," he says. "It's been the opportunity of a lifetime."

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