Image of Royce Hall in the early evening

Roy on Decolonizing the University

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Next City about the institute’s efforts to link the university’s research and resources with social movements and racial justice activism. “We call this decolonizing the university. Turning the university inside out,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning and social welfare. Roy said the institute is not a movement itself but stands in solidarity with community residents and organizers. “They’re telling us where the gaps in knowledge are and how our research should address those gaps,” Roy said. The article mentioned the Housing Justice in Unequal Cities network launched by the institute and the Activist-in-Residence program, which creates space for activists, artists and public intellectuals.


 

Students Tackle Climate Change in Visit to L.A. City Hall

Climate change — and what Los Angeles leaders and planners can do about it — was the topic of this year’s UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall held Feb. 15, 2019. Now in its 15th year, the event sees UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Public Policy students traveling to the iconic City Hall to discuss and debate a current policy issue with policymakers, officials from government agencies and community leaders. This year’s topic, “How Can Planning Combat Climate Change?” came from Councilmember Paul Koretz of District 5. Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), served as program adviser for group of 18 students. Koretz wanted “outside-the-box ideas for addressing climate change through planning and policy solutions,” Callahan said, “and how to leverage what the city is already doing and build on new opportunities.” First-year MPP student Noreen Ahmed said, “I thought it was really valuable because the people we interviewed went straight into talking about what the issues were, what they cared about, how climate change is involved in what they are doing.” Ahmed also had the opportunity to interview Los Angeles city planners. Koretz will receive a written memorandum of findings and policy recommendations from the students, according to organizer VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services. “What happens here in Los Angeles doesn’t stay in Los Angeles,” Koretz told the visiting group. “We are one of the most watched cities in the world. We take action and it spreads statewide — sometimes nationally, sometimes globally. We hope that what we do here in Los Angeles can literally help save the world in terms of dealing with climate change.” The annual trip is co-sponsored by UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations—Stan Paul

View photos from the day on Flickr.

UCLA Luskin Day at LA City Hall


 

Manville’s Research on Universal Auto Access Published

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville’s research on “The Poverty of the Carless: Toward Universal Auto Access” was published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Manville and co-authors David King and Michael Smart investigated how vehicle access inequity affects low-income American households. In a society where vehicle access is becoming increasingly necessary, “anyone who can acquire a vehicle will, even if doing so is financially burdensome,” the study explained, noting that “only the most disadvantaged people [are] unable to afford cars.” The research found that “U.S. households without access to a vehicle have steadily lost income, both in absolute terms and compared to those with cars, as the landscapes around them were increasingly shaped to favor the automobile.” Facing objections to universal auto access due to factors such as carbon emissions, the study argued that, “like water and heat, access to cars should be guaranteed and perhaps subsidized for low-income households.” While the long-term goal should be to decrease driving overall, the status quo is comprised of a “small group of people who need vehicles and lack them and a large group who have vehicles and use them needlessly.” Manville and his co-authors recommended treating vehicles as essential infrastructure and working to close gaps in vehicle access for poorer Americans while aiming to decrease overall consumption by the more affluent in the long term. The research was featured a recent Planetizen article and in a Q&A with co-author King. — Zoe Day

Monkkonen on Housing Affordability Near UCLA

Urban Planning Vice Chair Paavo Monkkonen spoke to Los Angeles Magazine about the formation of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. For decades, single-family homeowners in neighborhoods surrounding UCLA worked against the interests of students, said Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Before the new council was formed, the Westwood Neighborhood Council was the voice of the area and would often object to housing construction. “West L.A. has extremely high rents, and there is not enough housing for students. In the extreme, we have students sleeping in cars but, more commonly, they just have to commute very far,” he said. As Monkkonen concluded in a paper for the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, “The vocal advocacy of a handful of neighbors is often framed as local democracy, but many of these processes exclude the majority of a neighborhood’s residents and explicitly favor those with more money and time.”


 

Loukaitou-Sideris on Viability of Central Valley Bullet Train

Professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was featured on KPCC’s AirTalk discussing the viability of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised plan to build a bullet train from Bakersfield to Merced. In his State of the State address, Newsom declared that the original plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost too much and take too long, and surprised the audience by announcing the curtailed Central Valley line. Transportation experts including Loukaitou-Sideris have stressed the importance of having enough passenger demand to make the 160-mile line worthwhile. Loukaitou-Sideris expressed her “dismay at cost overruns and lack of efficient management,” arguing that “high-speed transit needs to connect high concentrations of people in centers at the origin and at the destination.” She said it is not necessary to stop the project completely but recommended “better planning, more transparency, and increased involvement from local stakeholders and the private sector.”


L.A. Landscape Organized Around Cars, Manville Explains

In a Curbed Los Angeles article, associate professor of urban planning Michael Manville explained the obstacles to improving public transit in Los Angeles, as found in a new UCLA study. Recognizing “the extent to which we’ve organized the landscape around the car” is key to implementing a successful transit program, he argued. “Seeing that 70 percent of people support a sales tax for more transit might create a false impression that there’s a lot of consensus about building a transit-oriented city,” he said. Many voters supported the Measure M sales tax in hopes of reducing their own drive time but haven’t displayed interest in actually riding public transportation. The UCLA study concluded that transit systems thrive in places where it’s difficult or expensive to drive. In a city built for cars, Los Angeles may have to make it harder to drive in order to make public transit work.


‘Unequal Cities’ Conference Highlights Housing Research The multiday event in Los Angeles launches a global research network supported by the National Science Foundation that will unite scholars concerned with housing justice

By Les Dunseith

UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy opened a multiple-day conference convened by the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin by stressing a desire to shift people’s thinking beyond the pragmatic concerns of a “housing crisis” to the broader theme of “housing justice” and what that means to society on a global scale.

“Our present historical conjuncture is marked by visible manifestations of the obscene social inequality that is today’s housing crisis, the juxtaposition of the $238-million New York penthouse recently purchased by a hedge fund manager for occasional use, to the tent cities in which the houseless must find durable shelter,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute.

The setting for those remarks on Jan. 31, 2019, was particularly poignant — just outside, homeless people huddled on a cold and damp evening in tents lining the Skid Row streets surrounding the headquarters of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN). Inside, a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 students, scholars, community organizers, housing experts and other stakeholders gathered to hear Roy and other speakers talk about the inadequate supply of affordable housing in California and around the world, and the cultural, political and economic barriers that undermine solutions.

“The fault lines have shifted,” Pete White, executive director and founder of LA CAN, told the audience. “We are now fighting the wholesale financialization of housing.”

The event in downtown Los Angeles and a full day of presentations that followed the next day on the UCLA campus was titled “Housing Justice in Unequal Cities,” and it signified the launch of a global research network of the same name supported by the National Science Foundation. With partners from India, Brazil, South Africa, Spain and across the United States, the network aims to bring together organizations, individuals and ideas around the creation of housing access and housing justice through legal frameworks, cooperative models of land and housing, and community organizing.

Roy said the Institute on Inequality and Democracy views the network as “exemplifying our commitment to address the displacements and dispossessions — what we call the urban color-lines — of our times.”

By partnering with community-based organizations such as LA CAN, “we situate housing justice in the long struggle for freedom on occupied, colonized, stolen land,” Roy told attendees.

The Housing Justice in Unequal Cities Network will bring together research and curriculum collaborations, data working groups, summer institutes, publishing projects and more. Roy said the network will unite movement-based and university-based scholars concerned with housing justice.

The effort also will build upon “an extraordinary proliferation of housing movements, policy experiments and alternative housing models,” Roy said. “This energy crackles all around us here in Los Angeles and it animates the work of the speakers at this conference.”

Over the course of the first evening and the full day of programming that followed, conference participants heard from a variety of speakers from UCLA, across the country and around the world — several of whom traveled from their home countries to be in attendance. The opening night included talks by James DeFilippis of Rutgers University, Maria Kaïka of University of Amsterdam, Erin McElroy of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Keisha-Khan Y. Perry of Brown University.

Kickoff event attendees also were treated to music, with UCLA Luskin’s urban planning student Caroline Calderon serving as DJ, and listened to a riveting spoken-word performance by poet Taalam Acey.

“A man is judged by what’s in his soul and what is in his heart … not just what is in his pocket,” Acey said.

The second day of the event attracted a crowd of about 250 people and focused primarily on current research related to housing justice. Speakers pointed out that housing equity goes well beyond the extremes of homeownership and homelessness to include the experience of renters as well.

“Renters are powerful contributors and creators of their communities,” noted Sarah Treuhaft of PolicyLink.

According to Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, “We don’t have a housing crisis, we have a tenants’ rights crisis.”

Additional speakers at the conference included UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy; UCLA Luskin graduate students Terra Graziani and Hilary Malson; Gautam Bhan of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Nicholas Blomley of Simon Fraser University; Nik Heynen of University of Georgia; Toussaint Losier of University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Sophie Oldfield of University of Cape Town; Laura Pulido of University of Oregon; Raquel Rolnik of University of São Paulo (via video); Tony Roshan Samara of Urban Habitat; Desiree Fields of University of Sheffield; and former UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty member Gilda Haas of LA Co-op Lab.

Those interested in finding out more and getting involved in the effort are encouraged to sign up to receive housing justice reports and updates about community action and events: join the network.

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr.

Institute on Inequality & Democracy - Housing Justice in #UnequalCities

Image of black Tesla car

Blumenberg on Cars, Jobs and Low-Income Communities

Professor of Urban Planning Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to Wired about how cars are the best way to connect low-income people to jobs. The article noted that the progressive agenda known as the Green New Deal focuses on public transit and clean vehicles but does not account for widespread inequities in mobility. Blumenberg’s work studied the effect cars have on a person’s ability to get and keep a job. The research showed that low-income people with cars were able to move into better neighborhoods, were less exposed to poverty, and were more likely to find and keep a job. She said this is particularly true for women and caregivers. “Trying to balance unpaid responsibilities and unpaid work is just really really hard while ‘trip chaining’ on public transit, or while the kids are on the back of your bike,” Blumenberg said.


 

Forging a Career Path in the Foreign Service Students intrigued by diplomacy and international development hear from State Department, USAID and Peace Corps experts

By Zoe Day

Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin hosted an informational session for students wanting to learn more about career paths and opportunities in U.S. government and international development. The Feb. 7 event featured guest speakers Cecilia Choi from the State Department, Alfred Nakatsuma of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Jeffrey Janis from the Peace Corps. The three shared personal experiences, answered questions about their respective sectors, and advised students how to pursue futures in international development and government.

Choi, U.S. State Department diplomat in residence, discussed the availability of careers in diplomacy, stressing the benefits of combining humanities and writing skills with technical backgrounds in IT or STEM. 

“You have one life to do something meaningful,” said Choi, who has served as the director of trade and investment at the National Security Council, deputy director in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and food safety advisor at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Now a visiting fellow at UCLA recruiting talent for careers in public service and global affairs, Choi is a valuable resource for students interested in learning more about diplomacy and government careers.

As a USAID diplomat in residence who has served in Asia, Latin America and Washington, D.C.,  Nakatsuma highlighted the development side of foreign policy. The agency aims to lift lives and build communities through development assistance abroad, he said, adding “[USAID] isn’t a job. It’s a life.”

Nakatsuma said the plethora of specialties within international development include humanitarian assistance, female empowerment, energy access, global health, education, innovation and technology, clean water and more. For undergraduates interested in international development, Nakatsuma recommended, “Figure out what you love to do and what pulls you. Figure out what kind of thing you’d like to do in a developing country. Develop skills, take classes, expose yourself to real-world applications, learn how development works.”

Nakatsuma will be returning to UCLA during spring quarter.

Janis is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who currently works as the UCLA Peace Corps campus recruiter. The Peace Corps requires a 27-month commitment to work abroad, during which volunteers are strongly encouraged to “live at the local level,” Janis said. With 70% of Peace Corps volunteers in their 20s, many returnees go on to pursue careers in foreign service, including with the State Department and USAID.

Volunteering for the Peace Corps demonstrates “capacity to work with other cultures,” which is essential to careers in international development, said Janis, who also spent years in the nonprofit sector. 

His time in Ukraine with the Peace Corps was “the best experience of [his] life” despite the difficulties, Janis said. It’s “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

Janis is available in the UCLA Career Center to help students interested in volunteering for the Peace Corps through the application process.

Choi, Nakatsuma and Janis also discussed scholarship and fellowship opportunities within their respective organizations. They included the State Department’s Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which offers financial support for recipients in graduate school, guarantees two internships in Washington, D.C., and at an embassy overseas, and includes a five-year employment contract as a Foreign Service Officer. Among the students attending the Global Public Affairs event was Ankhet Holmes, a second-year Public Policy student at UCLA and 2016 Pickering Fellow.

The Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship also supports graduate students interested in pursuing a career in the State Department’s Foreign Service Office. USAID offers the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship for graduate students interested in working in international development, and the Peace Corps offers scholarships of up to $70,000 for volunteers who attend graduate school.

Choi also had advice for undergraduates, urging them to gain work, leadership and volunteer experience in preparation for careers in government and international development.

View more photos from the GPA session on Flickr.