Famed LA skyscraper and Playa Vista developer Nelson Rising dies at 81

Nelson Rising, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer and political insider who helped shape the city’s skyline and history, has died at age 81, his family said on Friday, Feb. 10.

Rising died Thursday at his Pasadena home of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, his family said.

During a career spanning more than five decades, Rising led the development of such projects as Los Angeles’ U.S. Bank Tower — which for 28 years was the tallest skyscraper west of Chicago — and Playa Vista, a mixed-use neighborhood and commercial tech hub in the Westside area.

The Playa Vista development looking northeast from Lincoln Blvd., with Bluff Creek at right. 2006 photo. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Rising was also an advocate and player in the rebirth of Downtown Los Angeles, restoring dilapidated commercial spaces and upgrading the area’s infrastructure to meet high-tech needs.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that Rising “spearheaded iconic developments that transformed neighborhoods across California.”

His “dynamic leadership and problem-solving brought together stakeholders from across the board to accomplish monumental feats,” Newsom said. “I send my deepest sympathies to his loved ones and many friends.”

Rising was an important behind-the-scenes figure in California politics, perhaps best known in political circles for his longtime association with five-time Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Rising served as Bradley’s campaign chairman in each of his mayoral victories beginning in 1973, as well as in a tight gubernatorial defeat in 1982.

“Tom was an unbelievable person,” Rising said in a 2020 podcast episode recorded with his son, Christopher. “He and I were extremely close.”

At the time of his death, Rising served as chairman emeritus of Rising Realty Partners, a real estate investment and operating company headquartered in Los Angeles.


In addition to his real estate concerns, Rising served in a host of civic and philanthropic roles. He was chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, chair of The Real Estate Roundtable think tank, a California Institute of Technology trustee, and a W.M. Keck Foundation board member.

He was part of the Rebuild LA effort after the 1992 riots, chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee — a downtown revitalization project — and a board member of the Irvine Company.

Rising is survived by his wife, Sharon; sons, Christopher and Matthew; three grandchildren; and a sister, Charlotte Conway.

A private memorial service will take place in the near future, his family said.

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