Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan was featured in an Alabama Media Group article about a shooting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. The attack left three people dead, but it is not considered a “mass shooting” since that term technically refers to shootings with four or more victims. Experts have noted that gun violence is on the rise in Alabama and across the United States, and the entire community of Vestavia Hills was rocked by the shooting. “When we hear about shootings in schools, churches, grocery stores, that does send shockwaves across the citizens,” said Kaplan, an authority on gun violence.
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor spoke about competing approaches to curbing gun violence in an extended interview on the Slate podcast “What Next.” Astor cautioned against plans that would “make schools into little prisons” with metal detectors, steel doors, armed teachers and other strategies to “harden” campuses, which can deepen students’ anxiety, according to research. He called for vigilance to detect a constellation of risk factors displayed by potential school shooters, including suicidal thoughts, a hunger for attention and an extreme obsession with firearms, prior shooters and conspiracy theories that focus on harming others. Several other media outlets have also called on Astor to share his expertise on the most effective strategies to create a safe campus environment; current legislation to curb gun violence; and an eight-point call to action put forth by a nationwide coalition of scholars. They include Time, ABC News, the New York Times, EdWeek and K-12 Dive.
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a KCET article about the misleading language surrounding extreme weather events. In recent years, harmful events including heat waves, wildfires and floods have been called “climate disasters,” and many politicians have pointed to them as proof of the dire need for urgent action to address climate change. However, some experts have argued that the focus on climate in the phrase “climate disasters” fails to acknowledge the role of policies that make certain communities more vulnerable to disasters in the first place. Goh explained that many disasters are “completely intertwined” with how cities are planned and governed, down to where neighborhoods were built in the first place. The international “No Natural Disasters” campaign rejects the idea that natural hazards are the sole cause of disasters and seeks to reframe the conversation around social and political factors.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Courthouse News about the Oakland A’s stadium proposal for the Port of Oakland. At a public hearing, the proposed $12 billion ballpark project at California’s third largest port in Oakland sparked significant controversy. Many industry workers are concerned about losing the Port’s Howard Terminal to a huge development, and the proposal has already prompted three lawsuits in opposition. According to Manville, such large projects are “magnets for controversy” which can deter developers who have to fend off lawsuits. He explained that many urban planners advise against using valuable land for stadiums. “If the value comes from building housing and commercial, then just build housing and commercial,” Manville said. “Oakland has a lot of needs. Certainly there’s many things they could put that money into that could be a better use of those funds.”
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor was featured in a New York Times article about the disturbing increase in school shooting threats across the country. Social media has made it increasingly easy to craft violent threats that clog up one of the few avenues law enforcement has to police them. These hoax threats have increased in prevalence following deadly mass shootings, including the killing of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. New York City has fielded an average of two school shooting threats per day this year, and an average of six per day in the week following the May 24 Uvalde shooting. Law enforcement officials are concerned that the increase in hoax threats will make it more difficult to identify real threats. “If the system becomes overwhelmed by false alarms, some could slip through,” Astor said. “It takes away a big tool.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in an Orange County Register article about a recent study on the relationship among affordable housing, property value and crime. Research by the Livable Cities Lab at UC Irvine examined the impact of affordable developments in Orange County and found that affordable housing did not increase crime or drag down housing values. In many cases, there was a positive impact on property values after affordable housing was built. Manville explained that affordable housing is highly regulated and “we put it in places where lower-income people are already likely to live.” He said that while the addition of affordable housing can bring down property values in affluent, exclusive areas, it is rarely allowed to do so. But he added, “The purpose of public policy is not to keep your home value high.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about decisions awaiting the city’s next top prosecutor after the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. During his time in office, Boudin changed policies relating to cash bail, charging minors as adults and California’s “three strikes” law, among other reforms. Leap, an expert on gangs, criminal justice and prison reform, pointed to research on the effectiveness of different approaches to deterring crime. For example, there is little research to back up the claim that cash bail provides an incentive for people to return to court so they don’t forfeit what they paid. In addition, the use of gang enhancements, which can add time to defendants’ sentences if they are proven to have been motivated by gang ties, are ineffective and do nothing to address the causes of crime, she said. “We have no accountability for how this is done — no research studies, no nothing,” Leap said.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Mark Vestal spoke to the Los Angeles Times about ways to prevent homelessness in Los Angeles instead of simply reacting to it. According to Vestal, one of the core problems in addressing the issue of homelessness is lack of political power among unhoused individuals. The House California Challenge Program, or AB 2817, aims to provide $5 billion over five years in rental subsidies for people who are homeless or on the brink of it, many of them families and people of color. Latinos are estimated to make up 35% of the homeless population in Los Angeles, but many prefer to stay in overcrowded housing with other families instead of going to traditional homeless shelters and encampments. “They chose the places where they want to live, even if they’re outdoors, because they have communities that are holding them together,” Vestal said.
A New York Times article on key takeaways from this week’s nationwide primary elections turned to Zev Yaroslavsky for his insights on the California races. Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who is now on the UCLA Luskin faculty, said voters were more interested in effective government than ideology. “People want solutions,” he said. “They don’t give a damn about left or right. It’s the common-sense problem-solving they seem to be missing. Government is supposed to take care of the basics, and the public believes the government hasn’t been doing that.” Yaroslavsky directs the Luskin School’s Los Angeles Initiative, which produces the annual UCLA Quality of Life Index to measure residents’ satisfaction with life in L.A. County. In its election coverage, the Los Angeles Times cited the index’s findings that Angelenos are deeply disillusioned with the status quo, particularly inflation, public safety and housing.
A Policies for Action article co-authored by UCLA Luskin faculty members Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens assessed California’s bumpy implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, part of the U.S. Fair Housing Act. The rule, which sets out a framework for local governments and agencies to take decisive steps to promote fair housing, was codified into California law in 2018. Research by Lens and Monkkonen, along with co-author Moira O’Neill of UC Berkeley, found a lack of political will to comply with the law in some jurisdictions and a lack of clarity on the state’s expectations. The authors write, “Is it enough to do ‘better’? Given the deeply entrenched segregation in U.S. land-use plans, the reforms we’ve observed are not sufficient to achieve the ‘integrated and balanced living patterns’ envisioned by the Fair Housing Act.” They called on the state to create binding minimum expectations, including the use of metrics to track progress toward the goal of desegregated cities.
A CNN analysis about the potential for a right-tilting backlash among California voters who are discontented with public disorder cited Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Yaroslavsky said the level of voter frustration is reminiscent of the late 1970s, an era of high inflation and soaring property tax bills that produced California’s Proposition 13 and helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. He cited this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, a poll of 1,400 residents that showed deep dissatisfaction with life in L.A. County. The region’s struggle to meet the basic housing needs of its people is “a billboard that says failure,” Yaroslavsky said. “I think homelessness is both a real issue but it’s also a metaphor for everything else that’s gone wrong in society and government’s ability to address something that is so visible and so ubiquitous in the county.”
Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a New York Times opinion piece about the hidden consequences of parking requirements. In his book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup explained that rules that require developers to include a minimum number of parking spaces increase real estate costs. Furthermore, building more parking lots creates more urban sprawl, making cities less walkable and more car-dependent. Parking lots also exacerbate the effects of global warming by creating urban heat islands that absorb and reflect heat. Shoup has also noted that parking requirements worsen inequality by forcing people who can’t afford to drive a car to still pay for parking infrastructure. “People who are too poor to own a car pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store,” Shoup wrote. Now, California is considering legislation that would eliminate or reform minimum parking regulations.
A Los Angeles Times article on the origins of developer Rick Caruso’s real estate empire included comments by Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. Caruso, who is running to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, has deployed his political instincts, force of personality and sizable resources to sway constituencies to support high-end shopping centers and residences, the article noted. Manville spoke about malls such as the Grove and Americana at Brand, manicured outdoor centers where visitors are enticed to hang out. From the inside,“this is a very nice urban environment, but from the outside, it’s not,” he said. “They’re often surrounded by vast quantities of parking, and that is bad urban planning in many ways.” Manville asked, “What would a Mayor Rick Caruso bring to the public realm? Would he bring what he has tried to do within his properties, or would he bring what his properties suggest to the city from the outside?”
Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was featured in a Marketplace report about the impact of air conditioning on student performance. Park has conducted several studies investigating how heat affects student performance in the classroom, and his research shows that students learn less overall when they experience more hot days. “It’s a slow, hidden burn,” Park explained. “These little disruptions to learning, maybe we don’t notice them on a day-to-day basis, but over time they appear to add up to something meaningful.” Many of America’s school buildings do not have air conditioning, and some have no cooling at all. “The Goldilocks zone seems to be somewhere in the mid-60s” to achieve optimal learning outcomes, Park said. Now, many public schools are choosing to use some of their federal COVID relief funds to upgrade air conditioning, which improves air quality and should also improve student academic and health outcomes.
News outlets covering the nation’s rash of mass shootings have called on Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor, an authority on the causes and prevention of school violence. Astor has weighed in on topics including mental health resources, the impact on grieving families, proposals to harden schools and arm teachers, and the potential for legislative change in a politically divided country. He also shared details of an eight-point plan for immediate government action, put forth by a coalition of scholars, with Spectrum News1, KTLA and NBC News. “We have decades of research, not just our research but research from all around the world, that actually shows we can do something about this,” said Astor, who has a joint appointment with the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. Other outlets citing Astor include the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, ABC News, WFYI, CNHI and the 19th. On India’s Mirror Now and Canada’s Global News, he has offered insights about U.S. gun culture to an international audience.
A Los Angeles Times story on L.A. Democrats’ failure to agree on a consensus candidate to back in the race for county sheriff cited results from this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, produced by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. The actions, policies and rhetoric of Sheriff Alex Villanueva have alienated local Democratic clubs and progressive advocacy groups, but infighting and indecision kept them from mounting a united campaign against the incumbent, the article said. The Quality of Life Index, directed by Zev Yaroslavsky and published in April, found that 37% of voters had a “very or somewhat favorable” view of Villanueva, 33% have a “very or somewhat unfavorable” view, and 30% have no opinion or are unfamiliar with him. The results suggest that Villanueva could have trouble getting 50% of the vote in the June 7 primary, needed to avoid a runoff. The index, a survey of 1,400 L.A. County residents, includes favorability ratings of local officials.