LA Mayor Bass taps real estate executive for major position
Rachel Freeman moves from Tejon Ranch Company to economic development job
During her successful election campaign, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass emphasized the city’s notoriously slow entitlement process as a hindrance to solving the city’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis.
Now she has appointed a major commercial development player to one of the city’s top posts, naming Rachel Freeman, a senior executive at the Tejon Ranch Company, as the administration’s deputy mayor for business and economic development.
It’s unclear if Bass tapped Freeman, who oversaw development at the Lebec, California-based firm, specifically because of her land use and entitlement experience. The Bass administration did not respond to an interview request, and in a press release the mayor offered only vague platitudes, saying “the success of our business community is key to the success of our city.”
But the appointment, one of the most important in the administration, sends a clear signal that Bass is open to engaging the help of real estate veterans even as many industry players — particularly landlords and luxury brokers — continue railing against city political leaders over issues including a prolonged eviction moratorium and the impending implementation of a major transfer tax.
“The real issue is that this was not thought out by rational businesspeople, and it defies common sense and basic logic,” luxury broker Stephen Shapiro wrote in an email last fall, referring to Measure ULA, the new tax on property deals above $5 million that’s set to take effect in April. “Let’s call it the ‘Let’s get the rich movement.’”
In her new post Freeman, who has worked in real estate for the better part of two decades, will act as the mayor’s top business and economic official and oversee land use, tourism and other sectors.
Freeman joined the Tejon Ranch Company in May 2021, just weeks after an L.A. County judge had blocked construction of the firm’s signature project: a 12,000-acre, 19,000-home planned community in northern L.A. County, on environmental grounds. Later that year, after it extended a carbon-neutral promise, the company reached an agreement with an environmental group, which ended a decades-long development battle and allowed Tejon Ranch to proceed. The firm says its “sustainably crafted mixed-use master planned community” will be built over approximately 20 years.
The project, called Centennial at Tejon Ranch, was approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2019.
Freeman previously had a top development job at the SoCal firm Capri Retail Services and senior real estate roles at Sears Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Tejon Ranch Company did not respond to an interview request.