De León on Gun Control and Right-Leaning Courts

Kevin de León, policymaker-in-residence and senior analyst at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Associated Press about the impact that an increasingly conservative federal judiciary will have on gun restrictions in Democratic-leaning states. California, in particular, has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, including a ban on the type of high-capacity ammunition magazines used in some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings. Gun control advocates are concerned that right-leaning courts may overturn strict gun control laws, especially if President Trump wins a second term. “This would be one of the lasting legacies of Donald Trump,” said de León , former leader of the California state Senate. “When Trump is gone, they will be there for lifetime appointments.”

The Traffic Bogeyman Is Us, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to LAist about a study examining the impact that Uber and Lyft have on road congestion. The study, which was commissioned by the rideshare services, found that they accounted for 2 to 3 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in Los Angeles County in September 2018. “If [Lyft and Uber] have confessed to slowing you down while you are in traffic, then they have confessed to sharing in the crime that you are also committing,” said Manville, a faculty fellow with UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Manville said his colleagues like to joke that a more interesting study would be to look at how much Ford and Toyota contribute to traffic congestion. “It’s fun to blame tech companies for things — they’re really easy to dislike — but congestion is something that we all cause,” he said.

Taylor on Nationwide Trend of Declining Bus Ridership

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with the Naples Daily News about declining ridership on public buses, a nationwide trend that has caused alarm among transit managers. In Florida’s Collier County, ridership on public transit increased for 10 years until 2013. Since then, it has steadily declined. In vehicle-friendly areas like Collier County, public transit offers a social service for people who can’t afford a car or access other transportation options, Taylor said. “Very few people make up the most transit trips,” he said, noting that the success of a program often depends on a small group of frequent riders.

Callahan on Small-Scale ‘Green New Deal’ Debate

Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about an L.A. City Council runoff election that highlights the debate over the “Green New Deal.” John Lee and Loraine Lundquist are vying for the seat representing the northwest San Fernando Valley — site of the massive Aliso Canyon methane leak that pushed thousands of people out of their homes. Lundquist has endorsed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s package of environmental proposals; Lee says the mayor’s plan is too costly, and his supporters have called Lundquist’s agenda “extremist.” The Valley campaign is “a little bit of a microcosm of what’s happening on the national stage around the Green New Deal,” Callahan said.


Yaroslavsky and Newton on Power of Endorsements

A Long Beach Post article on upcoming local elections called on two UCLA Luskin experts to weigh in on the power of political endorsements. The public is thirsty for authenticity, and that can be more meaningful than prominent backers, Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky said. “The landscape is littered with insurgent candidacies that have prevailed and surprised a lot of people,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles city councilman and county supervisor. Unions that offer endorsements often mobilize their members to campaign for candidates, which could make a difference in a low-turnout area, public policy lecturer Jim Newton added. But the impact of endorsements is limited, he said. “It really is an instance where voters have the last word,” Newton said. “In the end, voters can say ‘no’ to that.”


Matute on the Next ‘Micro-Mobility’ Wave

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the Twin Cities’ love-hate relationship with electric scooters. Transportation experts say the scooters are just the beginning of a wave of shared “micro-mobility” devices. “As the scooter market gets saturated, we’ll see different devices with this business model,” Matute predicted. “Companies are working on new and niche products like electric tricycles and three-wheeled scooters. They will be more accessible and appealing to people who are over 30 and want more stability than a scooter.” He added that a two-passenger electric bike is also in the works, and Los Angeles riders are currently testing non-pedal e-bikes, a sort of bike-and-scooter hybrid that has a seat and a throttle.

Taylor on New Freeways, Same Old Congestion

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCRW’s Greater L.A. program about several freeway expansion plans in the region. For motorists hoping the projects would bring lighter traffic, Taylor tempered expectations. As the region grows, more people and goods will need to move around and the expanded freeways will eventually clog up again, he said. The key to relieving congestion is charging for the use of the road, which is “wildly unpopular” among motorists and elected officials, he said. The urban planning professor also linked the planned High Desert Freeway project, which would connect Palmdale and Lancaster with the Victorville area, to the affordable housing debate in the L.A. Basin. With resistance to higher-density housing near L.A.’s transit corridors, “we end up building out on the fringe, and then we have to accommodate the demand for the traffic out there,” he said.


Manville on the ‘Unmitigated Disaster’ of Parking Requirements

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke with Curbed LA about a proposal to eliminate parking requirements for newly constructed apartment and condo buildings in downtown Los Angeles. Parking minimums have been “an unmitigated disaster,” Manville said. “Right now, it’s illegal to build for a tenant who doesn’t care if their car is in the same building with them” or who doesn’t own a car at all, he said.  The requirement to include parking spots in residential buildings has been blamed for higher housing costs, the construction of unsightly garages and the exacerbation of climate change. “When you require parking, you really do encourage driving,” Manville said. Removing the parking requirement is an “absolutely necessary” step, one of many needed to help Angelenos drive less, he said.


Astor on Schools’ Role in Preventing Gun Violence

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor spoke to Education Week about the role schools can play in preventing gun violence. Some states have enacted “red flag laws,” which allow authorities to restrict people’s access to weapons if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others. Many school safety researchers say such laws should be considered just one part of a broader effort that includes improving school climate, enacting tougher federal gun laws, providing support staffing for students, and putting federal dollars toward research into the causes of gun violence. Astor said schools should also encourage students to share reports of troubling behavior — to view violence prevention as a collective responsibility — and to tackle issues such as racism, hatred and violence at an early age. “The purpose of a school becomes to have a better society,” Astor said. “I think the schools have to re-own that whole piece.”


Newton on Subdivisions, Strip Malls and Sprawl

Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton commented on suburban sprawl in a New York Times article about the demonization of developers. Homebuilders, who once personified progress and opportunity in the United States, are now often vilified as unscrupulous characters driven by greed, the article said. In many cities, developers are blamed for the shortage of affordable housing; the irony is that remedying the shortage will probably require yet more development. Newton weighed in on the trend toward housing subdivisions and mass production to save time and money. “If you drive through the San Fernando Valley, you wouldn’t feel like someone did all of that because they were driven by a desire to create community, or that they were really modeling their housing on aesthetics,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of houses and strip malls.”


Kaplan on Complex Epidemic of Gun Violence

In the wake of mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California, Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan shared his expertise on gun violence with KNX InDepth. About 300 people are shot, 100 fatally, each day in the United States, and two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides, not homicides, he said. “The gun violence epidemic is not just one epidemic. It’s multiple epidemics,” he said. Limiting access to weapons could protect victims from catastrophic harm, Kaplan argued. The presence of guns “lethalize” violence and “that’s the central problem that we face today,” he said. Kaplan noted that “California is light-years ahead of most other states in terms of gun legislation” but that has not shielded it from weapons brought in across state lines. The state-by-state approach, with 50 often conflicting policies, is futile, he said. “It’s time that we begin thinking about a national approach to this problem, to this major, urgent public health problem,” he said on the program, beginning at minute 9:25.


Peterson on Proposals to Eliminate Private Health Insurance

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about the potential repercussions of eliminating private health insurance, a point of debate among those vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. The candidates disagree on whether to allow private insurers to coexist, and compete, with a government-run insurance system. Peterson noted that most other countries with state-run health-care systems allow private insurers to fill gaps in coverage or, for those willing to pay, receive speedier care. He added that eliminating private health insurance could cost millions of jobs. “Whether you think the private insurance industry and health care realm is evil or good, there are a lot of people employed,” he said. Peterson also noted that many Americans prefer that their health care needs be met through the private sector.  “For a lot of people in the United States there is a deep skepticism of government,” he said.


Matute on Carbon Footprint of Electric Scooters

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about a study attempting to tally the carbon footprint of electric scooters. The research measured several factors: the energy-intensive materials that go into making the vehicles; the driving required to collect, charge and redistribute them; and the shortened lifespan of scooters battered by use on urban streets or attacked by vandals. The study concluded that e-scooters aren’t as eco-friendly as they may seem. While traveling a mile by scooter is better than driving the same distance by car, it’s worse than biking, walking or taking a bus — the modes of transportation that scooters most often replace, the researchers from North Carolina State University found. “That actual trip somebody’s taking on the scooter — that’s pretty green,” Matute said. “What’s not green is everything you don’t see.”


Lens Weighs In on Rent Control Bill

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to Curbed LA about Assembly Bill 1482, which would bar most property owners in California from increasing rent more than 7 percent, plus the cost of inflation, in one year. The bill would also require landlords to have just cause, such as failure to pay rent, when terminating a lease. “We’re definitely at a time more tenant protection in California generally — and especially L.A., San Francisco and other hot markets — is necessary,” Lens said. Advocates say the bill, if enacted, would protect up to 4 million Californians from rent gouging and arbitrary eviction. Opponents say it could deter developers from building at all. Lens pointed out that the 7 percent cap on rent hikes may be too high to have significant impact. “There’s a really small number of homes in which a landlord in a given year is even mulling a 10 percent hike,” he said.


Monkkonen on Bringing All of L.A. Into the Housing Effort

Curbed LA spoke with UCLA Luskin’s Paavo Monkkonen about efforts to provide affordable housing in every part of Los Angeles. City planners have been instructed to develop recommendations that require all neighborhoods to help meet L.A.’s affordable housing goals.  One option is “inclusionary zoning,” which would require new residential developments to include units that low-income renters can afford. Some developers argue that this policy would dissuade them from building new housing in the city. Monkonnen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, said inclusionary zoning would be a good start. But he added that it would not have much impact on single-family neighborhoods with little land zoned for multi-family buildings. “A better idea would also be to rezone a lot of land for multi-family and combine it with inclusionary zoning,” Monkonnen said.


Manville on Lessons From the Measure M Campaign

An article on Streetsblog USA featured a report authored by Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville on the transit funding initiative Measure M. Voters approved the measure overwhelmingly in 2016, largely due to a political campaign that focused on boosting the economy and easing traffic, but not on transforming the region’s car culture, the report noted. “Voters were expressly not offered a vision of a more multimodal or environmentally sustainable Los Angeles; they were mostly offered instead a vision of more jobs, better roads and easier driving,” Manville wrote. The transportation investments ushered in by Measure M have not led to higher use of public transit. “Los Angeles has a hard road in front of it in making the vision of Measure M a reality,” the report said. “An electoral victory is the end of a political process, but only the beginning of a policy process.”