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Meet Sandra Kulli

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Kulli.

Sandra, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in LA in 1947. My dad was born in Highland Park in 1919. I grew up here, went away (college, work), then came back and fell in love all over again its “wackiness and embodiment of the experimental”, observations Reyner Banham noted in his classic 1970’s book, Los Angeles, The Architecture of Four Ecologies.

I was young and idealistic, and I wanted to help change the world. The funny thing is, I still do. Back then, when I was a teacher in LAUSD, I rode my bike to school. People would ask, “Is your car in the shop?” That wouldn’t happen today. The city has changed, people now commute by bike and I still ride. LA retains its “wackiness” and optimism.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Kind of like riding a bike in LA, my work life journey hasn’t been completely smooth – or in a direct line. While in Cambridge, I worked for two guys who started a store called Import Cargo – and that store became Pier One. Retail was fun, but teaching was my passion, and I followed it. First, it took me to Dorchester, and then to East Palo Alto, Watts, Glassell Park, and El Sereno. I lived in Hollywood and Silver Lake and Echo Park, and along the way (knowing that I couldn’t live on idealism alone) I got my real estate license. I sold houses, got fired from a job at 38 and then decided to start my own business.

Combining my experience in real estate with my immersion in cultural anthropology, I began working as a consultant for clients from LA to Boston to Stockholm and New Zealand. My business continues to take me to all corners of the map. And, along the way, closer to home, my volunteer work with KCRW and CicLAvia continues to introduce me to some remarkable Angelenos – together with their places and stories. I love these two organizations, and I’m proud to support them. They inspire me, and challenge me to stay curious.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into your story. Tell us more about your work.
As a cultural anthropologist, I am fascinated by the idea of place. And community. What makes some good for a long time, and others doomed to decline? I work on teams to create vibrant communities.

All great places have two things in them: one foot in memory and one foot in prophecy. And a big part of my work is based on the idea of placekeeping. We can amplify the stories that highlight the localness of places. We can celebrate their unique individuality, anchored in memory and tradition. And we can build on that – to ensure that the place doesn’t feel stuck in the past, but alive and ready for the future.
Five things make for a great community… and they’re all free. Together they make up the Happy Planet Index, contributing to the health of all of us:
1. Connect… with people around you.
2. Be active… Step Outside. Play a game. Garden. Dance.
3. Take notice… be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual.
4. Keep Learning… try something new. Sign up for the course. Fix a bike.
5. Give… thank someone. Link to the wider community. Smile.

With my office in the Clean Tech Incubator in the Arts District, I’m surrounded by fresh ideas, young idealists and entrepreneurs, inventing the future. It’s a joy to be working with the designers of the future. Like on a busy two-way street, where the ideas go back and forth at a hundred miles an hour. It’s never boring.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I was going to say it’s not luck but hard work that has characterized my life and business. Making connections. Being open to possibilities. But then I started to think about a bike – how important riding has been in my life – and, really, I have to say that a bike has been something like a lucky charm. Or a good luck catalyst.

From my childhood to the present day, bike riding has been a big part of my life. Since way before it was cool. It has been the thread that has woven throughout my life and business. And in a very real way it has influenced my worldview.

Exploring “at the speed of a bike” allows for random connections that bring unexpected joy: Food. People. Work. Architecture. Art. Music. Stories. It lets me see things that I might have missed. All kinds of good things can come from that – and they have. As you can probably see in the photos.

It’s been a great ride.

Contact Info:

  • Address: LACI
    525 S. Hewitt Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90013
  • Website: sandrakulli.com
  • Phone: 310 994 2777
  • Email: kulli@mac.com

Downtown LA with CicLAvia board members

CicLAvia Leimert Park with Gerard McCallum

The Happy Place, pop-up in Arts District

One hot afternoon at Hauser & Wirth

Aprons at Hedley & Bennett, Vernon

Best Made axes and archery on La Brea

With Jennifer Ferro at The Broad – Yayoi Kusama

Highland Park, 1948

High Line Network at the LA River

Grand Central Market 100th Birthday with Chris Pomeroy

Cleantech Incubator in the Arts District

Hollywood Park – The Stadium!

Dance Party in the Arts District

Kayaking the river with Secret Agent

CicLAvia Pacoima, Danny Trejo

Arts District – Industrial Street alleyway

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please let us know here.

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