Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, spoke to Politifact for an article on claims supporting and opposing controversial Senate Bill 50. The bill would require cities and counties to allow higher-density housing near job and transit centers. Proponents say it would ease the state’s affordable housing crisis; opponents say it would spur gentrification and overcrowd suburban neighborhoods. Storper said SB 50 is based on a “deeply flawed” analysis of what it would take to solve the state’s housing crisis. He said there is some truth to claims that SB 50 would create more luxury housing units. Existing zoning laws in California already permit millions of potential new housing units, but developers choose to build where they know they can make a profit, he said. Under SB 50, he said, developers would be inclined to target wealthy areas and “produce housing at price points that are only accessible to higher-income people.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Boston Globe article discussing the efficacy of congestion pricing as a potential solution to the traffic in Boston. A panel of transportation experts gathered to discuss the issue after Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack remarked that traffic will always be a feature in and around Boston due to the city’s density. Manville argued that, while other strategies can help boost public transit usage, faster drives can best be achieved by implementing some form of toll on drivers. “Traffic congestion is caused by the road not being priced,” he explained, “and the only thing we’ve ever found that reliably makes a dent in that sort of problem is pricing the road.” According to Manville, creating “managed lanes,” where one or more road lanes charge tolls and others remain free, could be “a good stepping stone toward congestion pricing.”
Ian Holloway, associate professor of social welfare, spoke to the infectious disease news site Contagion about legislation in California that could help curb HIV transmission. Senate Bill 159, which was enacted on Jan. 1, is expected to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication taken before coming into possible contact with HIV to reduce the risk of infection. The law is intended to increase the availability of the regimen at pharmacies and through Medi-Cal providers. Holloway pointed to research showing significant gaps in access among populations including the state’s Hispanic residents, the group with the largest numbers of new HIV diagnoses, and people between ages 16 and 24. “We expect SB159 to reduce many of the barriers to PrEP uptake,” said Holloway, who has conducted extensive research on health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. “We hope other states will look to California and see the success of these programs and try to replicate them.”
An article in the Hechinger Report highlighted Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research findings on the relationship between heat and student test performance. Air pollution and heat are becoming increasing concerns as a result of climate change, and research indicates that these factors may inhibit student performance in classrooms. In a study conducted in New York City, Park found that hot testing days reduced students’ performance on Regents exams, which are required for graduation in New York, thus decreasing the probability of a student graduating from high school. He found that students are 10% more likely to fail an exam when the temperature is 90 degrees than when it’s 72 degrees. Park also co-authored a study that examined PSAT scores across the country and found that students “had lower scores if they experienced hotter school days in the years preceding the test, with extreme heat being particularly damaging.”
Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, was cited in a Los Angeles Daily News report on the city’s crime rate and gang interventions. Leap attended a meeting between South Los Angeles community members and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore about an investigation finding that some officers falsified data about the city’s gangs. At least 20 officers have been accused of portraying innocent people as gang members in information submitted to the state’s CalGang database. At the meeting, Moore spoke about steps the department will take in light of the investigation. Leap commented that, given its history of brutality in the area, the LAPD struggles to maintain its credibility with the people of South Los Angeles. “Many residents still don’t trust LAPD,” Leap said. “This seems to confirm their worst feelings.”
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Marketplace about the downsizing of e-scooter company Lime. Lime is reportedly pulling out of 12 cities worldwide and laying off 14% of its workforce. Since their first appearance, Lime scooters have been prevalent in many major cities. However, high maintenance costs have prompted Lime and other e-scooter companies to find ways to improve profitability. Matute noted that the U.S. cities Lime is pulling out of share a common physical obstacle to a sweeping adoption of e-scooters. He noted they are all Sunbelt cities where cars are widely used for transportation. “That makes integrating bikes, scooters and other lower-speed mobility options very challenging,” he said.
UCLA Luskin was spotlighted as one of four North American schools that excel in equipping students with the practical skills to confront national policy challenges. “The future policy experts from these universities will save the world,” said the article by Study International, which cited the Luskin School’s environment of academic cross-collaboration and leadership programs that develop students’ professional skills. “This merging of education and practice result in UCLA Luskin graduates who are ready to become agents of change as practitioners, researchers and policymakers in the public, private and non-governmental sectors,” the article noted. Public policy, it emphasized, is “more than just a theoretical exercise.”
In an opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and law, explained why he does not allow his classes to be recorded. Villasenor acknowledged that recording a lecture could be beneficial for a number of legitimate reasons, including helping out students who miss class due to illness. However, he said he is more concerned with protecting his students’ privacy. “A highly interactive classroom should be a space beyond the reach of the digital panopticon,” Villasenor said. Recording can chill classroom discourse, with students perhaps choosing to speak more cautiously. This can rob students of “the opportunity to engage in dialogue with fellow students who hold perspectives that, while legitimate and valuable to consider, might not fit neatly with their own views.” Especially in smaller, highly engaged classrooms, the convenience of a recorded lecture is outweighed by the cost of a diminished learning environment, Villasenor argued.
Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate and visiting professor of public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling and its profound effects on American politics. It has been 10 years since the momentous Supreme Court ruling that declared corporations had the same rights as people under the First Amendment and therefore were exempt from restrictions on political spending. Dukakis said the concept of a corporation having First Amendment rights is “outrageous.” Since the ruling, campaign finance has changed and Dukakis believes it does not align with what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the country. “The Founders who wrote the Constitution would be astonished,” he said. “The right has been peddling this idea for years, and it’s nonsense.”
A new LA Stories episode on Spectrum News 1 highlighted the work of Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, who has changed the narrative surrounding gang members by sharing their stories. As a social worker in South Los Angeles, Leap earned the trust of many current and former gang members and forged bonds with people she now considers family. “I think if each person could hear the story of even one gang member, their views would change radically,” she said during the interview. Leap argued that these communities are worthy of investment and that the people in them deserve our help and attention. Leap has published two books sharing the stories of those she has come to know and is the co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, which provides community members with the resources to create positive change. “It’s not enough to understand. I had to take action,” she said.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.
Juan Matute, urban planning lecturer and deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to Streetsblog about the key obstacles to improving public transportation and bus infrastructure in cities. It can take years to build new bus routes, with funding and political opposition serving as obstacles along the way. According to Matute, “The key issue for the delay is funding with other people’s money such as state or federal discretionary apportionment and grant funds.” He also explained that “chasing funding also leads planners to create more ambitious, more costly projects with a more extensive planning process.” Planners are often tempted to create more elaborate and expensive projects beyond what is necessary for improving bus transit. Instead, transportation experts recommend introducing temporary pilot bus lanes, starting with “No Parking” signs and painting red bus lanes in order to quickly improve transit services at a low cost.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee’s views on the lack of diversity in the economics profession were featured in the Economist after the annual American Economic Association conference in San Diego. Conference attendees expressed concern that the lack of racial and gender diversity within the profession has limited the field by excluding certain perspectives. At the conference, Akee joined a panel on “How Can Economics Save Its Race Problem?” to speak about the pressures to be taken seriously as a scholar, not merely a race scholar. He explained his decision to postpone the research he wanted to do on indigenous people and work instead on other subjects, in order to be taken seriously as an economist. Akee argues that race should occupy a more central space within the portfolio of economic research. Despite efforts to increase diversity within the profession, many economists worry that this movement will stall before achieving long-term change.
In an interview with the Chilean publication MasDeco, Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris discussed design strategies necessary to make sidewalks safe for all users. Loukaitou-Sideris explained that, while sidewalks were originally designed with the sole purpose of accommodating foot traffic and separating pedestrians from fast-moving cars, these narrow corridors are now overwhelmed by bikes, scooters and pedestrians, all moving at different speeds within the same space. New laws require bikers in many cities to ride in the street instead of on the sidewalk, but Loukaitou-Sideris stressed the importance of creating a designated bike lane to protect bikers riding alongside cars. In the interview, published in Spanish, Loukaitou-Sideris said design should be informed by the demography of the area in order to create space for everyone, especially older adults and small children. She concluded that urban planning and design can minimize conflict by creating space for all types of sidewalk users.
Public policy lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Reuters news service about California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to leave the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter unfilled throughout 2020. Hunter submitted his resignation after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. His district, encompassing parts of San Diego and Riverside counties, will go without elected representation as Democrats and Republicans vie to win the seat in November elections. Newton said the governor had no particular political motive to rush a special election to fill Hunter’s seat. He said the yearlong vacancy probably gives Democrats a slight edge in providing more time to mount a campaign operation and raise money in a district that remains heavily Republican by registration but is, like much of California, moving to the left.
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the logic behind congestion pricing. While the idea of paying for freeway use has prompted backlash from drivers, transportation experts argue that congestion pricing is the only way to combat the traffic problem in California. “What happens on the 405 every day is what happens at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday,” Manville said. With the implementation of congestion pricing, “those who can afford to pay the fees are able to avoid congestion for a reliable daily commute, while presumably lessening traffic for those who don’t pay and use the general lane,” he said. Toll lane expansion is in the works across the state, including plans in Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Orange counties. “People who study congestion have known for a long time that the only thing [that will relieve congestion] is dynamic pricing,” Manville said.