In the Auto Club’s Corporate Archives, you will find a rich set of documentation on the Automobile Club of Southern California transportation history. The definitive collection paints a fascinating picture of the iconic Los Angeles area from 1892 to present day.
If you were a history buff taking stock of the archives, you would not be disappointed. The collection includes a selection of more than 5,000 historic strip maps illustrating the development of major Southern California routes; 40,000-plus photographs from the general photograph collection depicting buildings, businesses, streets and points of interest; and 650 photographs from engineering notebooks that features searchable transcriptions of the engineers’ notes documenting the conditions of streets, highways, bridges, railroads, and more.
Founded in 1900, the Automobile Club of Southern California and its archive provide a distinctive picture of life in the region during the 20th Century—documents and pictorial materials that not only define the Club’s history, but LA’s local and regional architecture, infrastructure, public policy, and cultural and recreational history.
As an interesting historical note, the club began to participate in deliberations about transportation policy in 1909. The activities include independent provision of planning studies as well as commentary on public policies, programs and proposals. In 1922, the club produced the first comprehensive traffic survey of Los Angeles. In 1937, engineers wrote the first detailed proposal for a region-wide freeway system (yes, that freeway system). The working files for these projects provide a rich source of materials in the region.
The Auto Club’s historic headquarters in Los Angeles aptly defines the organization’s evolution. It once housed a printing shop, branch office, cartography and photo studio as well as a fleet garage, highway engineering, publications and administrative offices. The Spanish Revival structure has been updated over the years to contain, among others, the archives, call center, automotive research center, insurance claims and ClubLabs, the digital business group.
To get an inside peek at the club, we sat down with Jason Sweeney, Supervisor of Facilities Planning and Construction for the AAA Club of Southern California.
Give us a snapshot of the brand?
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, its members benefit from its roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and traffic safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s website at www.AAA.com and on the AAA mobile app.
What type of consumers are you targeting?
We have multi-generational members—products and services that appeal to all ages. Our goal is to create members for life. We are with you when you need driver’s training; we are here to assist you with your first flat; and we are there to help you book your once in a lifetime honeymoon. “We’re always with you.”
Is there a location that really shows how the brand interacts with the community and your customers?
One of my favorite locations is our historic Los Angeles Headquarters facility, the original three-story Spanish Colonial Revival office building that was constructed in January 1923. It provides a glimpse of the rich tradition that has kept the brand relevant for all these years by providing traditional in-person service in the branch part of the building.
In another portion of the facility, we recently renovated a portion of the building to house our technology and design division called Club Labs. This business unit is responsible for interacting with members through the organization’s website and social media accounts. Upstairs there is a member service call center. So, steps away from each one another, under the same roof, this nearly 100-year old structure provides members with three methods of interaction with the Auto Club.
Take us through your construction and design strategy.
Our employees are the greatest asset to the organization. They respond to emergency roadside service calls and assist with DMV services. They are trusted with members’ dream vacation travels. They are the reason our members renew their membership each year.
In our design strategy, we seek to support and accommodate the needs of our employees. We still value member interaction and providing great customer service while looking for ways to accommodate changing consumer needs. Whether it is an administrative facility that houses a critical call center operation or our retail locations that services our members, we aim to provide our employees the tools to serve our members when they need us.
Can you add some detail on how you help provide your employees with the tools they need?
Providing functional and contemporary workspace goes beyond the obvious technological and ergonomic tools employees need to effectively do their jobs. We have to think about work-life balance in order to attract and retain the talent we normally associate with the Auto Club.
Our employees are the greatest asset to the organization. They are the reason our members renew their membership each year.
For example, we try to accommodate them with convenient, attractive and comfortable locations where they can grab a bite and enjoy some down-time. At our regional headquarters facility in Coppell, Texas, we built “social club” areas with couches, television sets, foosball and shuffleboard game sets near the grab-and-go food centers. We located these conveniently throughout the campus to facilitate the break time for the employees. At all of our locations, we have added call centers—comfortable quiet rooms where employees can take a moment to collect their thoughts and rest. Similarly, we place huddle tables throughout the workspace where staff may have impromptu meetings and collaboration sessions.
We recently renovated our cafeteria facility at our Administrative Office complex in Costa Mesa. This cafeteria is equipped to service over 2,000 employees per day, with a variety of indoor and outdoor seating styles—bars for people eating on the run, traditional tables and even booths for people who want to have lunch meetings.
The kitchen was re-designed to be more functional and adaptable to changing food tastes. Employees can actually see their food being prepared fresh to order. We also built a separate beverage bar with baristas serving custom coffee, tea and juice orders so staff can conveniently get their favorite specialty drink. We added a few game tables and remodeled the adjacent outdoor dining areas to better accommodate different sized groups.
Give us a rundown of your market’s layout.
Today, it is the single largest member of the AAA federation, serving more than 7.5 million members in Southern California and more than 16 million members throughout its enterprise across 21 states.
Tell us what makes your brand so unique?
Not many brands have the heritage of the Auto Club. We believe many of our products and services provide members with peace of mind. We are essentially your companion in all life’s travels.
Story by Michael J. Pallerino, editor of Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. Over the past 30-plus years, he has won numerous awards, including the “Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award,” recognized as the Pulitzer Prize for business-to-business magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Sweeney, Supervisor of Facilities Planning and Construction, AAA Club of Southern California
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Getting to see a project take shape from the initial concept through execution. Working closely with our executive leadership to assist with our strategic planning. Then, having the ability to execute with our team of construction professionals and valued vendors, which allows us to be successful in a diverse portfolio of projects. Our projects can vary between mission critical, retail or administrative improvements. We must assemble the right team that makes the project successful.
What was the best advice you ever received?
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” — Lou Holtz
What’s the best thing a client ever said to you?
At the end of any project, client satisfaction is critical. A successful construction project can be viewed negatively without a successful handoff to operations. Best thing a client has ever said is nothing. That means we have done our job and allowed the operations team to seamlessly get back to work to do what they do best.
How do you like to spend your down time?
Enjoy spending time with my wife (Ashley) and kids (Payton, Dawson, Rae). Usually you will find us on our boat in the summer and on the football fields in the fall.