illustration showing bullets in shape of U.S. map

When Gun Violence Erupts, Social Workers Are First Responders, Advocates and Educators

UCLA Luskin’s Ron Avi Astor spoke to Social Work Advocates for an article on the role of social workers when gun violence erupts on America’s streets and in schools, churches and homes. Social workers are both first responders and providers of continuing care. They also conduct research, lobby Congress and promote education on the responsible use of firearms. Astor, professor of social welfare and education, shared his research on strategies to prevent school shootings, including a study on the effectiveness of interventions implemented in California. “To our surprise, the numbers showed that there was a dramatic reduction, a huge, huge reduction in day-to-day victimization of kids in California over this 20-year period,” Astor said. “That’s an important story to get out there. What social workers are doing actually matters to kids in their day-to-day lives.”

Wind turbines at sunset

Mullin on ‘Glimmers of Possibility’ on Climate Action

News outlets including Ethnic Media Services, The Hill, La Opinión and Peninsula 360 Press covered research by UCLA Luskin’s Megan Mullin about the entrenched political divide that has impeded action on climate change — as well as signals that the logjam is starting to break. “I am seeing glimmers of possibility that climate action may yet be underway even as American climate politics remains firmly in the grip of polarization,” said Mullin, professor of public policy and faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, at a briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services. Not only are Republican-led states seeing growing levels of clean-energy production, she said, but many heavily Republican areas of the country are at high risk for the worst effects of climate change. Mullin also cited the climate change literacy of younger generations, which is “leaps and bounds beyond the literacy of older generations, and that translates into smaller divides, even among young Republicans.” 

crush of cars on city street

If You Want to Reform Parking, Don’t Mention the Word ‘Parking’

The influence of UCLA Luskin’s Donald Shoup, the renowned advocate for parking reforms designed to make cities more livable, is taking hold across the country and around the world. In an extensive interview with the Hindustan Times, Shoup explained how India could build public support for eliminating free parking, the cause of gridlock and pollution, by using revenues to benefit the community. “If you want to reform parking, don’t mention the word ‘parking,’” Shoup advised. “Just ask people what public services are lacking in their neighborhood. Once you find out, tell them you don’t have money to pay for that. But one way that other cities have done it is to charge market prices for curb parking and spend that revenue to pay for services that people want. … It’s the neighborhood that decides.” Shoup added, “India is the country that will benefit most from parking reforms. One city does it right, and other cities will do it too.”

aerial view of homes under construction

Housing Shortage Persists Despite Population Decline

UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens spoke to the Los Angeles Times for an article explaining why California housing prices have defied the laws of supply and demand, with mortgages and rents remaining stubbornly high even though the state’s population has declined in recent years. One reason is that, for decades, the pace of housing production did not keep up with demand, creating a backlog made even more enormous by the surge of Millennials now seeking to enter the housing market. “The cost of living in California and Los Angeles is so high … that we know a lot of people can’t move here and we know a lot of people can’t remain here, because they are priced out,” said Lens, a professor of urban planning and public policy.

affluent neighborhood of single-family homes

Storper on Tug-of-War Over Senate Bill 9

A Planetizen article on actions taken by municipalities opposed to Senate Bill 9, the California law allowing property owners to build additional units on lots zoned for single-family housing, cited research by Michael Storper, distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin. Four Southern California cities have filed suit against the state, arguing that permitting the subdivision of single-family lots violates the California Constitution by taking away the rights of charter cities to have control over local land-use decisions. Storper issued a declaration in support of the plaintiffs that included a copy of a journal article he co-authored in 2019 that challenged the theoretical underpinnings that led to SB 9, which is intended to provide affordable housing options for Californians. “Blanket changes in zoning are unlikely to increase domestic migration or to improve affordability for lower-income households in prosperous areas,” the authors wrote. “They would, however, increase gentrification within metropolitan areas and would not appreciably decrease income inequality.”

Child outdoors pouring water on self.

On the Chronic, Day-to-Day Toll of Rising Temperatures

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, joined the podcast America Adapts for an expansive conversation on the effects of rising temperatures on public health. While record-setting heat has received widespread media coverage over the summer, Turner stressed that governments must develop not just climate emergency plans, but long-term resiliency strategies that protect people from the chronic day-to-day experience of elevated temperatures. “We talk a lot about extreme heat and we talk a lot about mortality and we talk about heat sickness, but what we don’t really talk about is the myriad ways that heat affects well-being in our daily lives. It affects your cognitive abilities, your emotional state. You’re more likely to be angry, unable to concentrate,” Turner said. “I think these are ways that the lived experience for many Americans is going to be degraded because they don’t have access to cool communities or cool infrastructure.”

hands turn faucet to run water into a glass

Safety of Tap Water Discussed by Pierce on NPR Broadcast

Gregory Pierce, director of the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, participated in a discussion about the safety of tap water in California organized by KQED, the NPR and PBS member station for Northern California. Pierce, who received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, spoke about findings in a recent study conducted in cooperation with the University of Texas at Austin that found social factors — such as low population density, high housing vacancy, disability and race — can have a stronger influence than median household income on whether a community’s municipal water supply is more likely to have health-based water-quality violations.

television news image of strikers

Tilly on Labor Actions Spreading Across State and Nation

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to CNBC about labor actions across California — 55 in 95 locations that commenced just since the beginning of 2023. In Los Angeles, striking Hollywood writers and actors have joined city employees and hotel and hospitality workers on the picket line in what some are calling a summer of solidarity. Union representatives in the state say they are being contacted by organizers from around the country who are seeking guidance on stepping up their own labor actions. “I think California is ahead of the country, but it’s pointing to a crisis that’s likely to happen nationwide,” Tilly said.

City skyline

Venture Capital Data Shows L.A. Struggling to Meet Diversity Goals

The Los Angeles Business Journal shared findings from a UCLA Luskin report that analyzed the diversity of venture capital investments in the Los Angeles region in 2022. While Greater L.A. leads the country for the amount of capital funded to entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, progress in meeting racial and gender equity goals is lagging, according to the report led by Jasmine Hill, assistant professor of public policy. Hill’s team produced the report in partnership with PledgeLA, the Annenberg Foundation’s coalition of Los Angeles-based tech and venture capital firms that have committed to prioritizing equitable access to capital. The researchers found that less than one-third of PledgeLA firms’ 2022 investments went to companies led by women, Black or Latino founders, and these companies received only 4.6% ($6.4 billion) of the $139 billion invested. “If we’re being honest, it’s still way below where any of us would want it to be,” one founding member of PledgeLA said.

Los Angeles skyline

Homeownership Becoming ‘Out of Reach’ for Most Angelenos, Manville Says

The median price of a home in Los Angeles is expected to soon hit $1 million, and UCLA Luskin’s Michael Manville recently told the Guardian that “homeownership for many people is now out of reach.” The professor of urban planning noted that most homebuyers do not have $400,000 for a typical 40% down payment, nor $4,000 a month to put toward mortgage payments. “The million-dollar home price is like the tip of a big iceberg” because soaring home prices also impact the cost of rental homes and apartments, contributing to the ongoing homelessness crisis in California, he explained. Manville also spoke to Bloomberg News about one approach to tackling the affordable housing crisis: building more duplexes, triplexes and similar “middle housing” options. Decades ago, when there was a lot more empty land, large areas were zoned for single-family homes. “There was always the next valley to go to,” Manville said. “Now, that’s much harder.”

crowd at Germany political gathering

A Far-Right Party Surges in Germany

Helmut K. Anheier, adjunct professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA Luskin, wrote a Project Syndicate commentary on the rising popularity of Germany’s largest far-right party. Once dismissed as a fringe group of radical nationalists, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has surged in the polls thanks to infighting and missteps by Germany’s political mainstream, as well as to the Ukraine war, which disrupted Germans’ sense of security as well as their energy supply. If the party’s popularity holds — it’s now polling at 21% support, up from 11% last year — it could position itself to becoming a coalition partner or leader in future elections, taking up the mantle of legitimacy that far-right parties in France, Italy and Sweden have adopted. The party has offered new clues about its agenda. Björn Höcke, a state party leader who has become a standard-bearer for the AfP, declared that “this EU must die, so that the real Europe can live.”

multi-colored chewables on a white surface

Rowe Comments on Regulation of Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids

UCLA Luskin lecturer Brad Rowe commented in an NBC News story about government efforts to regulate a cannabinoid compound derived from hemp that, because of a legislative loophole, can be sold legally. The compound, delta-8 THC, is among hemp-derived cannabinoids that the FDA has urged Congress unsuccessfully to regulate, leading some states to restrict or ban the substance. An omission in the 2018 Farm Bill allows vendors to sell the compound legally provided it comes from hemp, not marijuana. But concerns have been raised about unregulated delta-8 THC products. “People are claiming it’s naturally derived, but a great amount is not naturally occurring, and that’s concerning,” said Rowe, an expert on drug and criminal justice policy who specializes in cannabis law. “When you stack it up against fentanyl or even a bad alcohol problem, it’s not as harmful. But it can cause distress if these products aren’t used and manufactured properly,” he said.

shovel with writing digs into dirt at project site

Avila on New Affordable Housing Project in South Los Angeles

UCLA urban scholar Eric Avila provided historical context for an LAist story about a new affordable housing project that recently broke ground in South Los Angeles. The property, formerly subject to a 1906 racially restrictive covenant, is being developed to address a shortage of affordable homes, including more than 100 new apartments for low-income renters. Avila, who holds appointments in history, Chicana/o studies and urban planning, explained that racial covenants were in common use throughout the early 20th century and used extensively, accompanying booming suburban development in L.A. and across the country. “They essentially created these walls that prevented Black, brown and Asian people from purchasing property in white neighborhoods,” Avila said. A landmark 1948 U.S. Supreme Court case, Shelley v. Kraemer, made such covenants illegal nationwide, but they continued to exist in property deeds. “It’s the lasting effects, or the legacy of these policies, that we live with today,” Avila said.

man with beard in front of UCLA backdrop

Shoup on Pasadena’s Proposed Prorated Parking Plan

UCLA Luskin’s Donald Shoup joined StreetsBlogLA’s SGVConnect podcast to discuss parking in Pasadena as the city nears approval of a new strategic parking plan. If approved, it calls for market-based prices on city and shopping district parking based on popularity, or demand. The plan also envisions longer parking durations. “It is an improvement,” said Shoup, author of the classic 2005 book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.” Shoup said of the report provided by consultants for the new plan: “They recommended just about everything I would recommend.”  He also noted Pasadena’s experience with implementing the latest technology. “I think that there are these two things that have helped in Pasadena … putting in the parking meters to manage the parking and two, spending the revenue with the right place,” he said.

Tilly Sees a Leadership Opportunity in California’s Population Decline

Chris Tilly, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, commented in a New York Times feature weighing whether the Golden State has lost its luster as population growth has leveled off in recent years — declining from its high of almost 40 million residents — in the midst and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article cites data from the state’s finance department that projects a possible population stagnation for decades to come. Tilly said America has always had a frontier mentality, but perhaps that should be reimagined.  “Maybe it’s time for us to grow up and realize we live in a world of limits,” he said. “That could be a level of maturity. If California is in a position to lead the country and come to terms with its limitations on growth, that could be a way California could still be in the lead. Which could really be an interesting twist.”

Lens on Housing Density Reforms in Los Angeles

Associate Professor Michael Lens wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times on housing and land use reform in Los Angeles. Lens argues that L.A.’s geographic sprawl can be beneficial in terms of balancing housing density “that works for Californians.” Land use laws that discourage building for density can be reformed to provide alternatives to single-family neighborhoods by re-framing planning for housing around job-rich, medium-density urban hubs. “This does not necessarily mean obliterating the urban forms and communities that have been built in the past century. But without some densification, we’ll keep pushing people and development into the Inland Empire and other outlying areas (which is already happening),” he wrote. The result is “more punishing commutes and, in all likelihood, still expensive housing.” Lens also was quoted in an L.A. Times article about landlords’ objections to a continuing rent freeze, saying the pandemic sent policymakers “reaching for the emergency button,” but now the city should look at policies like expanding housing subsidies rather than extending the freeze.