By George Foulsham
You’ve lived in your community for about 20 years. You care about what’s going on in your neighborhood, and you’ve noticed it’s changing — but you’re not sure why. More importantly, you’d like to have a voice in the process of change, but you need more facts to participate with an informed voice.
Or, you’re a city planner who is contemplating adding a new neighborhood, or an in-fill commercial development. You have many factors to consider, including
reducing greenhouse gas emissions, access to employment, bringing people out of poverty.
Now, thanks to REVISION, a new web application created by the UCLA Lewis Center, part of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, anyone can aggregate data from various public and private sources to create a complete picture of neighborhood change. And they can do it with just a few clicks.
“We’ve built a tool that allows a great number of people, way more than just the professional planners who already have access to this data, the ability to go in and answer questions that they might have about this regional growth phenomenon,” said Juan Matute, associate director of the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies. “To answer these questions before REVISION, it would have taken someone months of technical training and at least a day to gather the relevant information. Now, even people without technical expertise can get a great deal of insight in less than 20 minutes. So, REVISION makes big data on regional growth readily available at people’s fingertips.”
REVISION, created with the assistance of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), is dedicated to understanding community change in Southern California. With a range of metrics related to accessibility, livability, employment and health, REVISION helps both professional planners and stakeholders without a technical background monitor the progress of the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a plan to improve environmental sustainability, social equity and public health. Users can use the site to answer hundreds of questions about regional and neighborhood change.
“We have created a web application that anybody can access with their web browser, to, with just a couple of clicks and in a couple of minutes, figure out if poverty is getting better or worse in this neighborhood,” Matute said. “Are people from this neighborhood using mass transit or bicycles to commute to work? Are we building new housing where there are a lot of bike lanes and frequent transit service or are we adding a lot of housing out in Lancaster or far-flung suburbs where people have longer distance commutes to access jobs? Or maybe there’s substantial job growth in Palmdale or Lancaster and their commutes are getting shorter. With a few clicks someone can answer these and other questions.”
The UCLA Lewis Center and SCAG worked together to launch the REVISION application with funding from California’s Strategic Growth Council. Four integrated tools comprise the application:
Users can visualize differences between neighborhoods using the Map Tool.
The Trends Tool helps users identify statistically significant change over time.
The Area Report presents location-specific details from multiple sources: the just-released 2014 American Community Survey, CalEnviroScreen, planning data, Zillow real estate values and Walkscore.com.
The Property Report provides information from the County Assessor and other sources.
REVISION’s area reports have downloadable charts for many sustainability and livability metrics for over 10,000 census block groups in Southern California. The application combines metrics and data from over a dozen private and public sources to provide a dashboard view of community and regional sustainability planning information.
“You can do over a hundred different things with the application,” Matute said. “Somebody could go to the map, go to the various views on neighborhoods and use it to understand neighborhood change that’s associated with gentrification. Maybe people can educate themselves on the issues and come to their own conclusions.”
The REVISION application is currently available for Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, though Matute says that the site could be rolled out to a wider area in the future. It can be found on the web at http://revision.lewis.ucla.edu.
“At UCLA, we typically produce research findings” Matute said. “REVISION is more of a public education tool in the spirit of the University’s service mission. It’s making the ability to answer questions about neighborhoods and the region a lot easier for a lot more people.”