Gregory Pierce, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, wrote an article for The Conversation to discuss how desalination may not be the most viable option for creating a more sustainable water supply. In an effort to combat California’s record-setting drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced an $8 billion plan to increase the state’s water supply. The plan includes methods like water conservation, storage, recycling and ocean desalination. Pierce explains how desalination creates more consequences than solutions as it kills aquatic life, pollutes ecosystems with brine and wastewater that can end up in the ocean, and poses a very high cost. He instead suggests conserving water, reusing treated wastewater which is cheaper than desalination, and increasing storage capacity even in places with infrequent rain to capture stormwater. “Even cleaning up polluted local groundwater supplies and purchasing water from nearby agricultural users, although these are costly and politically difficult strategies, may be prudent to consider before ocean desalination,” said Pierce.
A Los Angeles Times article on rising concern about Angelenos’ mental health cited the work of Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. In the last few years, residents have endured skyrocketing inflation, extreme heat and drought, an alarming rise in hate crimes and the lingering effects of a devastating global pandemic. This year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, which measures Los Angeles County residents’ satisfaction with their lives, found the lowest score since the survey was launched in 2016. “What it said to us is that county residents aren’t happy. There is an anxiety level here that is unprecedented in my lifetime,” said Yaroslavsky, director of the survey and a longtime public servant in Los Angeles. He noted that one-quarter of respondents said they go to bed each night worrying they will end up living on the street — all part of a “perfect storm” of mental health stressors afflicting Angelenos today.
Wesley Yin, associate professor of public policy and economics, spoke to USA Today about the rapid growth in “buy now, pay later” credit, which has come under the scrutiny of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The loans are especially appealing to young shoppers and people with low income or poor credit, and the federal agency found that borrowers may be unaware of late fees and other consumer risks. Yin drew a parallel to the easy credit of the pre-2008 mortgage industry, which helped trigger the Great Recession, but said the macroeconomic implications of the “buy now, pay later” programs are less worrisome. He noted that the growing popularity of this form of credit may be a symptom of a deeper problem in the economy. “Is it a luxury to want an iPhone, or is it a luxury to want a new sofa?” he said. “The fact that people can’t pay for it, I think, is the issue.”
A story by The 19th about strategies used on college campuses to reduce the spread of monkeypox cited the work of Social Welfare Professor Ian Holloway. In addition to leading UCLA’s Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice and Gay Sexuality and Social Policy Initiative, Holloway serves on the scientific advisory committee to the California Department of Public Health. As monkeypox cases began to rise over the spring and summer, Holloway’s team quickly launched a multipronged campaign focused on science and messaging. This outreach provided accurate information about monkeypox to gay and bisexual men while noting that anyone can contract the virus, to avoid the stigmatizing language used to discuss HIV in past decades. In partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the team created an infographic explaining monkeypox transmission, symptoms and interventions. Holloway has emphasized that monkeypox outreach to men who have sex with men should be equitable, with a focus on queer men of color.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about California’s new law barring local governments from mandating parking spaces as part of most development near transit stops. “This is one of the biggest land-use reforms in the country,” Manville said after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2097 into law. “Parking requirements have been an absolutely slow-moving disaster,” Manville said. “We are turning the ship around.” News outlets including StreetsBlog, Bloomberg CityLab and Mother Jones credited research by Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, with laying the groundwork for AB 2097. Shoup’s decades of scholarship pointed out the faulty and arbitrary reasoning behind parking requirements, whose unintended consequences have included raising the cost of of housing and commercial development, creating incentives to drive instead of using transit, and increasing emissions.
A Los Angeles Times op-ed about the Rick Caruso mayoral campaign’s outreach to Latino communities cited Sonja Diaz, executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute. Running as an outsider, Caruso is courting segments of the Latino vote that include moderate Democrats, independents, Catholics and others, raising the question of whether L.A.’s established political class understands that Latinos have a variety of political viewpoints. “We know Latinos are not a monolith,” Diaz said, “but does the California Democratic Party know the difference between Latinos in Sun Valley, Pacoima, Van Nuys, west of the 110 or east of the 110, Northeast and East L.A.?” Around the country, Republicans have made inroads with Latino voters while Democrats have missed opportunities to build the national profile of top elected leaders, Diaz noted in an Elle profile of Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the only Latina in the U.S. Senate.
An article in Spectrum, the online magazine of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, showcased research co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan showing that suicide deaths involving heavy alcohol use have increased significantly among women in the United States in recent years. The study included data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, in which 115,202 suicides of adults 18 and older were reported between 2003 and 2018. Suicides among people who had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater were considered alcohol-involved. During the study period, the proportion of alcohol-involved suicides significantly increased each year for women of all age groups, with the greatest increase among women over age 65. In contrast, only middle-aged men had a significant yearly increase in alcohol-involved suicides. The findings point to a need for more education and awareness of the relationship between heavy alcohol use and suicide, as well as improved screening and intervention strategies.
LAist spoke with Urban Planning Professor Adam Millard-Ball for a report on the history and future of the electric car. California’s plan to end the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 is expected to spur electric vehicle sales across the nation. “We’re not going to be able to resolve the climate crisis without electric vehicles,” Millard-Ball said. “And that’s mainly because transportation is such a big part of the climate problem.” The move toward emission-free cars is part of progression of automotive technology dating to the Clean Air Act of 1970, but it’s only part of the solution, Millard-Ball said. In addition to making individual vehicles more climate friendly, he called for “getting more people walking and biking and better buses, … a transit system that is a real competitor to the private car.”
A Slate article on California legislation to prohibit minimum parking requirements in areas near public transit called on two land use experts on UCLA Luskin’s Urban Planning faculty: Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The bill, AB 2097, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would preempt local parking rules statewide and promises to bring down the cost of new construction. “The way you really get affordable housing is to get rid of parking requirements,” Shoup said. “That reduces the price of housing for everybody, not just low-income residents.” Experts cautioned against overnight changes if the bill becomes law. “There’s very particular circumstances in California that allow you to pull the trigger on a building with no parking, and some of those places are already free from parking rules, like San Francisco,” Manville said. Manville also co-authored a San Francisco Chronicle commentary about lessons Los Angeles can learn from San Francisco’s parking reforms.
The Associated Press spoke with Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor for a story about the possibility of parole for the shooter who killed three classmates at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1997. Michael Carneal, 14 at the time of the shooting, became eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison. His case has illuminated the debate about the age at which children should be held strictly accountable for their actions, Astor said, noting that the lack of consensus has led to a patchwork of laws across the country. Astor recently provided context to school safety issues including strategies to deter bullying and acts of violence, as reported in the San Jose Spotlight and the podcast Schoolutions. He is also part of an American Psychological Association task force that measured the impact of the COVID-19 era on teachers and other school staff, many of whom reported frequent threats and harassment and a desire to leave their jobs.
The New York Times and NewsNation spoke to Urban Planning chair Chris Tilly for an article about immigrants who found steady work and a fresh start after being moved from Texas, Florida and Arizona to Democratic strongholds. While the high-profile relocation of thousands of migrants has created a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, straining the resources of cities trying to provide social services, it has also cast light on the economics of supply and demand. Many of the migrants are Venezuelans who have applied for asylum, allowing them to receive employment permits while their cases are pending. Others remain in the shadows, trying to find work without legal documentation. Many have found jobs in construction, hospitality, retail, trucking and other sectors facing worker shortages in an economy still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In most big cities, including the ones where governors are shipping migrants, employers are scrambling to find workers,” Tilly said. “They are meeting a need.”
News outlets covering the effects of extreme heat on California communities have put a spotlight on UCLA Luskin’s wide-ranging research on climate change. CapRadio and the Sacramento Bee spoke with V. Kelly Turner, who studies the intersection of extreme heat and urban planning and has witnessed the inequitable impact of dangerously high temperatures on low-income communities. The Los Angeles Times spoke to Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, about the lack of shade provided at thousands of bus stops across Los Angeles County. He urged officials to follow the lead of desert cities that use trees, street furniture and shade canopies to protect transit riders from the harsh climate. And the Southern California Association of Governments shared a live demonstration of the California Healthy Places Index: Extreme Heat Edition, developed through a partnership including the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to teach communities about heat vulnerability and resources available to them.
Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke with the Associated Press about new U.S. Census survey results that provide detailed data on how life in the United States changed during the COVID-19 era. During the first two years of the pandemic, the number of people working from home tripled, the share of unmarried couples living together rose, and Americans became more wired, the article noted. In addition, the percentage of people who identify as multiracial grew significantly — strong evidence of shifting self-identity, Ong said. “Other research has shown that racial or ethnic identity can change even over a short time period. For many, it is contextual and situational,” he explained. “This is particularly true for individuals with a multiracial background.”
A Governing article on California’s move away from policies that promote car-oriented communities cited Donald Shoup, the distinguished research professor of urban planning who has spent his career studying the social, economic and environmental impact of parking policies. Shoup, author of the seminal 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” has long argued that rules mandating excess parking in new development projects add to the overlapping crises of housing affordability, urban sprawl and climate change. Influenced by Shoup’s work, cities from Buffalo to Minneapolis to San Diego have begun reducing or eliminating some of their minimum parking requirements. A new bill in California, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would be a substantial acceleration of that trend — and a remarkable capstone to Shoup’s academic career, the article noted. “It’s only been 50 years,” Shoup said. “It makes me feel grateful for longevity.”
A Project Syndicate commentary by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier assessed Germany’s effectiveness in managing an array of crises made urgent by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. “Germany faces no shortage of challenges, from the Russian security threat and political instability among Western allies to democratic backsliding and a looming economic crisis within the European Union,” Anheier wrote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced some of the most drastic policy reversals in postwar German history, including increased investment in the military, a radical overhaul of the nation’s energy policy and a review of trade policies with autocratic regimes, especially China. Progress has been halting but, overall, the current government has proven surprisingly adept at managing the situation, Anheier wrote. “With a relatively sound economy, a strong commitment to the liberal order and the EU, and a functioning government, Germany may be Europe’s best hope in the current crises, provided that American support for Ukraine remains strong.”
A Los Angeles Times column about equity issues surrounding “congestion pricing” as a strategy to manage traffic and cut emissions cited Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. Discouraging driving while encouraging mass transit use is the right thing to do, the column noted, but it asked whether charging for access to the roads creates a burden on lower-income communities. Manville argues that it is possible to put a price on driving while also maintaining a commitment to economic fairness. “The fact that pricing could create equity problems doesn’t mean it must. Nor does it mean that, for the sake of equity, all roads should be free,” he wrote in Transfers magazine. “Few equity agendas in other areas of social policy, after all, demand that all goods be free. Almost no one, for example, suggests that all food be free because some people are poor. Society instead identifies poor people and helps them buy food.”