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Nelson Rising Passes at 81


Nelson Rising, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer and political and civic leader who helped shape the built and political environment of leading California cities, died yesterday, February 9, 2023 at his home in Pasadena. He was 81 years old. Rising died of Alzheimer’s, his family said.

“Nelson Rising has left a lasting mark on our city's skyline and on our city's history. Whether you're looking up to see the US Bank Tower, or you're looking around to see the impact of Mayor Tom Bradley, Nelson's work is very much a part of L.A. I extend my condolences to his family and friends during this tough time for them and for our city,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

During a career spanning more than five decades, the companies Rising led crafted iconic projects, such as Los Angeles’ 72-story Library Tower – now the U.S. Bank Tower – which for 28 years was the tallest skyscraper west of Chicago; Playa Vista, a from-scratch residential neighborhood and commercial tech hub on Los Angeles’ westside; and Mission Bay, the largest mixed-use development in San Francisco history, home to pro sports, research centers, housing, public transit, and coastal greenways. Rising was also an advocate and player in the recent rebirth of Downtown Los Angeles, restoring dilapidated historic core commercial spaces to past glory while upgrading infrastructure to meet creative class needs.

At the time of his death, Rising served as Chairman Emeritus of Rising Realty Partners, an environmentally conscious real estate investment and operating company headquartered in LA. Rising co-founded the firm with his son Christopher, who is CEO. The company, along with partner Scott McMullin who is Chair & CIO, owns or manages more than 5 msf in buildings in California, Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, and Texas.

Before launching Rising Realty Partners in 2011, Nelson Rising led some of the West Coast’s most prominent public and private development enterprises. In 1972, he headed the building of Coto de Caza, a prominent suburban neighborhood in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. From 1983-1994, Rising was a senior partner of Maguire Thomas Partners, where his to-do list included creating Playa Vista in a way that would satisfy myriad community stakeholders – including by insuring a riparian corridor and preserving some of the wetlands in this Pacific Ocean-adjacent location; and building Library Tower – so named because Rising had innovatively acquired the air rights to build the skyscraper by swapping the rights to do the same over the nearby Los Angeles Central Library.

In 1994, Rising became CEO of Catellus Development Corporation, where the transformative Mission Bay project in San Francisco became arguably his crowning achievement, even resulting in a street being named in his honor. When Nelson took over Catellus in 1994 its market cap was $400 mil, in 2005, the company was sold to ProLogis for $5.2 bil. In 2008, Rising took a new position as President & CEO of MPG Office Trust Inc, owners of a significant amount of LA office space. After two years, he left as the company prepared a sale to Brookfield.

In addition to his leadership positions at the 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 LA Riots, Chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee – a Downtown LA revitalization project – and a board member of the Irvine Company.

Earlier in his career, Rising played an active, behind-the-scenes role in California politics, including as campaign manager for successful 1970 U.S. Senate run by John Tunney. In 1980, Rising was the statewide Finance Director for Senator Ted Kennedy’s bid to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Rising was also a producer of the 1972 Oscar-winning movie, "The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford.

Rising attended UCLA on a football scholarship, graduating with honors and an economics degree. Rising graduated in 1967 from UCLA School of Law, where he was managing editor of the UCLA Law Review. In 1960 and 1961, Rising attended The United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. He then served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1963 to 1966.

Nelson Rising is survived by his wife Sharon, their two sons, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren and his sister Charlotte Conway. A private memorial service will be held in the near future.

Donations can be made in honor of Rising to the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to protect, preserve, and enhance the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium. For more information or to make a donation: or by mailing to 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103.

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