Building Their Moxy

On the Jobsite with IBEW 11 at Dual Downtown Hotel Development

By Robert Fulton

Downtown L.A.’s famed skyline will welcome a new addition – one with plenty of “moxy” -thanks to the talented electricians who are hard at work on a major project at the intersection of Figueroa and Pico.

“So far so good,” said Scott Kuykendall, the superintendent of the 37-story Fig + Pico hotel going up adjacent to the Convention Center in Downtown Los Angeles. “It’s moving right along.”

The construction of the dual-branded hotel – it will be part Moxy Los Angeles Downtown and part AC Hotel Los Angeles Downtown – began approximately 18 months ago. The construction was originally scheduled for completion this July, but Kuykendall thinks that Thanksgiving is a more realistic timeline.

The two hotels will occupy a 37-story tower that will also include 65,000 square feet of meeting space, restaurants, bars, and other gathering spaces.  A podium structure containing 300 parking spaces will also include a landscaped pool deck.  Plans also call for a sky lobby with a bar on the 34th floor of the tower.

The AC and Moxy hotels represent the first phase of the larger Fig + Pico development that will also feature an adjoining parking lot at Pico and Flower Street.  The real estate investment firm, Lightstone, has received approvals to build a smaller 27-story tower containing 378 guest rooms.

The same disruptions in the global supply chain that have made it difficult for consumers to find certain automobiles, consumer electronics and pet food are having the same effect on the construction industry.

Kuykendall and project General Manager Ryan Doherty said that anything relating to gear manufacturers, light fixtures, conductors and medium voltage cables can be difficult to obtain. Designers making changes to the project only exacerbate the supply chain headache.

“When design changes occur or there’s a shortage of something, it has a cascading effect on the duration of the project and meeting scheduled deadlines,” Doherty said.

“Luckily we were able to order everything at the beginning, but if you have to get replacements for anything it takes a while,” Kuykendall added. “For everything, the lead time is extremely long now.”

The COVID-19 pandemic surprisingly hasn’t been the biggest impediment to getting the work done on the jobsite. Safety measures such as masks and the use of vaccinations have helped stem the tide, though the Omicron variant did cause some issues.

“[COVID-19] wasn’t [an issue] through the beginning of the project, but once this Omicron hit, we were having two or three guys a week [miss work],” Kuykendall said. “It’s hard to project your manpower when you’ve got guys who come down sick and they’re out for a week.”

Kuykendall started work at the Fig + Pico project as its general foreman before his promotion to superintendent. He has been a member of IBEW Local 11 for 11 years and turned out of the apprenticeship program as an Inside Wireman in 2017. He was a regular attendee of District 5 meetings before the pandemic, and now that things are easing up, he plans to go back.

While working for his father as a non-union carpenter many years ago, Kuykendall was inspired by what he saw on a jobsite.

“I did windows and doors for my dad’s company,” he said. “We were working on a house one day and I saw these electricians twisting wire nuts when I’m lifting a 300-pound entry door and I said, ‘I want to do that instead.’”

A friend told him about IBEW 11, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Between the pay and the benefits, it’s allowed me to purchase a house. It’s allowed me to be financially stable,” Kuykendall said. “We just had our first child last year, so I was able to not have a bill when he was born because of our benefits. It’s amazing what it’s done for me compared to my other friends that are all non-union and I hear what they have to go through.”

Doherty has been with IBEW 11 for 10 years and turned out of the apprenticeship program in 2016, also as an Inside Wireman.

“I worked for a non-union electrical contractor for five years,” Doherty said. “The whole time I was trying to get into the union, the timing wasn’t on my side.”

Doherty said being a union member has given him “everything I hoped it would give me and everything that they promised.”

“As long as you walk into it like any other industry and profession – with a good attitude and ready to work your ass off – then all the rewards are there,” he said.

Doherty said the money is good and the benefits are outstanding. He hasn’t missed a day of work unless he wanted to.

“I’ve walked into two childbirths and never had to pay a dime and every prescription I’ve ever needed has been free and so on and so forth,” Doherty said.

Doherty has been on the job at Fig + Pico for a little more than a year, and he will soon move on to his next project: the largest homeless housing development in Los Angeles history in Skid Row. The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX had been the biggest job he’s worked on to date, but Fig + Pico is the largest one on which he has served as a manager.

Kuykendall said this is the biggest job he’s managed by far. He has approximately 30 electricians on the job at any given moment.

“It’s been a challenge,” Kuykendall said. “Luckily I have a lot of help between my field team and my office, so it helps having a good team behind you.”

Hear from some of the electricians working at Fig + Pico in our member voices section and be sure to check out the video featuring Local 11 Business Manager Joël Barton’s visit to the job site on the Local 11 website and YouTube page.

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