Ananya Roy, founding director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, was interviewed by the Planning Report on her thoughts about Senate Bill 50, which would have addressed the housing affordability crisis in California through blanket upzoning. The institute’s research has identified some of the underlying causes of housing unaffordability and homelessness in Los Angeles and California, including the “displacement of working-class communities of color from urban cores to the far peripheries of urban life” and the “broad state-driven processes of displacement, racial exclusion and resegregation.” Roy stressed the importance of “[recognizing] that different social classes experience [the housing] crisis in different ways.” According to Roy, policies like SB50 “solve the housing crisis for the upper-middle class—particularly for the white, entitled YIMBY movement—by grabbing the land of those who are truly on the front lines of the housing crisis.”
Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, shared his views on the future of housing in California during a livestreamed conversation hosted by 48 Hills, an alternative news site in San Francisco. The manifold roots of the affordable housing crisis include high construction costs, income inequality, cumbersome zoning and regulation, and ongoing discrimination, Storper said. He took issue with the approach behind Senate Bill 50, the now-tabled state legislation that would permit blanket upzoning to increase the housing supply. “Both academics and some housing activists have generated a master narrative that concentrates centrally on just one element of that broader puzzle, which is zoning and regulation, and very specifically on getting more housing built as the master solution to the multifaceted problem of housing,” Storper said. He added that he was not aware of any data or research showing that this “zoning shock therapy” would work.
A CityLab article on housing supply as a hot-button issue delved into the robust debate around the best strategies to make shelter affordable. Los Angeles is the epicenter of the housing crisis, and UCLA Luskin urban planning scholars have conducted extensive research on the issue, with varying conclusions. The article described arguments made for and against upzoning, which would increase the housing stock by lifting regulatory limits on density. In an earlier article, Professor Michael Storper cast doubt on the effectiveness of such policies. In rebuttal, three of his UCLA Luskin colleagues, Associate Professors Michael Manville, Michael Lens and Paavo Monkkonen, authored an essay pointing to studies that support upzoning. “When every neighborhood acts to preserve itself, soon the city is mired in regulation, and rents and prices rise,” they wrote. “Were regulations relaxed, these places would have more housing, and price increases would first slow and eventually fall.” They concluded, “The consequences of inaction also matter.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Transit California about a 2018 report he co-authored with other Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) scholars that found public transportation ridership in Southern California has declined. Manville confirmed this trend has continued with one difference. “What is different from then to now is that San Francisco has now joined the ranks of ridership in decline, which was not the case when we originally did the study,” Manville said. Despite political support for Measure M, which created a tax in Los Angeles to pay for transit improvements, ridership remains low. The measure appealed to voters — but not enough to change their travel behavior, Manville said. “We can’t depend or model transit ridership on low-income riders. That model falls apart today,” he said. “Instead, transit has to be built in a way that we expect people to ride it.” Urban Planning Professors Brian Taylor and Evelyn Blumenberg coauthored the 2018 report.
Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, evaluated proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including those put forward by Democratic presidential candidates. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have proposed offering tax credits to help tenants pay rent. Opponents argue that such vouchers will not change the number of housing units available and could even spur landlords to raise rents. On KCRW’s Left, Right & Center, Lens said tax credits are just one of a wide variety of tools and interventions needed to address the complex problem. These include stronger tenant protections and more publicly subsidized housing, he said. “This is not a problem that lends itself to an easy fix,” said Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The podcast segment featuring Lens begins at the 34-minute mark.
A UCLA Newsroom article celebrating transfer students featured Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor and UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow Tom Epstein, president of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, was a Long Beach City College transfer student before getting his bachelor’s in geography and Ph.D. in urban planning at UCLA. “It just so happens that I recently hosted my now retired LBCC economics professor for lunch at the UCLA Faculty Club to thank him for changing my life,” Taylor said. “At the time I was studying to be a travel agent, and he convinced me to transfer to UC to study geography and economics instead.” At UCLA, 92% of transfer students come from California community colleges. “Completing a degree helps students not just to succeed in the economy, but also to contribute more to their community by helping people who are less fortunate or participating in civic affairs,” Epstein said.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee wrote an op-ed for the Brookings Institution in which he argued that outdated immigration policies increase violence toward immigrant women and children. New research found that increased immigration enforcement has reduced the number of self-petitions for legal permanent residency. Akee argued that this essentially means that abused immigrant women and children have stopped seeking legal permanent resident status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as immigration enforcement has intensified. “In effect, victims of domestic violence are fearful of speaking up or seeking relief from their abusers; they are condemned to endure their abuse for fear of deportation or detention under increased immigration enforcement activities in the U.S.,” he said. Akee is currently a David M. Rubenstein fellow with the economic studies program at Brookings.
Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a KPCC Airtalk interview along with Gov. Gavin Newsom about the controversial SB50 upzoning proposal that was recently tabled. Ong agreed that “we need to move to denser, more efficient urban development” but pointed out the shortcomings of the trickle-down economic theory behind SB50. A “marginal increase in supply is not adequate,” he said, because housing will continue to be controlled by those with the “greatest demand and greatest income.” One of the biggest challenges is implementation, he added, noting that he wants to see greater protections for current tenants. Ong agreed that SB50 is a move forward that “makes development possible and levels the playing field” that has historically favored the privileged, but he stressed the importance of “listening to people’s fears about the uncertainty of change” and “collectively thinking about what is best for society as a whole.”
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky presented an in-depth look at the findings and methodology of the fourth annual UCLA Luskin Quality of Life survey on ABC 7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers program. After surveying Los Angeles County residents about their satisfaction in nine different categories, Yaroslavsky’s initiative found that cost of living continues to be the No. 1 concern for the fourth consecutive year. Young people, renters and people in low-income brackets are at the greatest risk of being harmed by high housing costs, he told ABC 7 host Adrienne Alpert. Yaroslavsky also weighed in on the SB50 upzoning proposal, which he described as a “one-size-fits-all approach that wouldn’t actually solve the affordable housing problem.” Yaroslavsky said his opposition to SB50 was echoed by the survey results, in which a majority of both homeowners and renters preferred to have new apartment building built in multi-family zones only.
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the Guardian about the political climate surrounding the California Democratic Party Convention, a three-day gathering that took place in San Francisco. Fourteen Democratic presidential candidates for the 2020 election converged at the convention in hopes of securing support from California voters. Yaroslavsky described California as “the leader of the resistance to Trump,” where voters “care more about replacing Trump than about where someone fits ideologically.” Yaroslavsky predicted that California will play a critical role in the 2020 election, explaining that “whether it’s on healthcare, the environment or offshore drilling, disaster aid or a woman’s right to choose, from A to Z, [President Donald Trump] is always looking for ways to punish California. … There’s a lot at stake for California in this election.” According to Yaroslavsky, “California is up for grabs and it’s likely to be up for grabs for some time.”
Joan Ling, lecturer in urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the lack of soundproofing in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Inglewood. The Federal Aviation Administration and Los Angeles World Airports have given the city of Inglewood $400 million over the past few decades to purchase and demolish homes around the LAX flight path and soundproof others. Zoning rules, however, have prohibited home improvements in the neighborhood most affected by this noise pollution. Ling believes it is not practical to build new housing along the flight corridor, as some have suggested to alleviate the housing crisis, but she does not see any reason existing homes cannot be soundproofed. “What’s important is for the city to go out there and do some ground-up planning and figure out what the community members want,” she said.
Public Policy Professor John Villasenor spoke to NPR about the U.S. government’s security concerns regarding Chinese-manufactured drones. The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies pose a potential security risk, including that data gathered by these drones can be stolen. Villasenor said this is not the first time the U.S. government has been uneasy about drone security, referring to when the U.S. Army raised concerns about Chinese-made drones in 2017. “The concern is not new, although the fact that it has surfaced now may or may not be tied to these broader trade tensions which have flared up in recent months,” he said.
Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the impact of Chinatown’s most popular restaurant, Howlin’ Rays. While Chinatown locals have struggled to stay afloat as office and housing costs rise, the Nashville-style hot fried chicken restaurant has attracted masses of Los Angeles locals and visitors since it opened in 2016, resulting in lines up to five hours long. Ong explained that new businesses like Howlin’ Rays attract a specific clientele, prompting increased investment and property development in Chinatown that alienates locals. After realizing that many locals didn’t have the time or money to try Howlin’ Rays, L.A. Times reporter Frank Shyong waited two hours in line to buy chicken to distribute to nearby business owners. “The biggest challenge is understanding how we all play a role in a much larger dynamic,” Ong remarked. “More broadly, we have to talk about what we want our cities to look like.”
A Daily News article discussing the upcoming June vote on Measure EE included comments by Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Measure EE is a proposed 16-cents-per-square-foot parcel tax that pledges to pay for lower class sizes, attract high-quality teachers, and improve programs and services for students within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Yaroslavsky explained that “typically, when you have lower voter turnout, and there’s a campaign on both sides, it makes it more difficult for the yes side to get a two-thirds vote.” Proponents of the bills argue that the tax is necessary to make up for inadequate funding from the state, while opponents blame the district for mismanagement of funds. “My instincts tell me this is going to be close,” Yaroslavsky said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it won, nor would I be surprised if it lost.”
Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto spoke to the Chicago Tribune about third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans’ resurgent interest in the internment of their ancestors during World War II. Umemoto went on her own pilgrimage to what remains of Manzanar, the camp where her father was held. “Any Japanese American who saw and understands what our parents and grandparents went through is left with a feeling that they don’t want to see anyone else go through that experience,” said Umemoto, director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA. “So when there is talk of Muslim bans, deportations based on race or ethnicity, or just the overall racial hatred being sown against immigrants … well, we know what terrible things that can lead to.” Umemoto said her visit made her father’s experience more real. “You feel how it might have been for the families who were put behind barbed wire with armed guards, not knowing when they could leave or what would happen to them,” she said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about Elon Musk’s underground people-mover for the Las Vegas convention center’s expansion. Musk’s Boring Co. secured a $48.7-million contract after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board approved construction of the roughly mile-long transit loop. Manville was surprised to learn that an underground plan was more affordable than a proposed elevated rail because tunneling is often more expensive. Based on the few details released by the Boring Co., Manville said it would be difficult to assess the project. “This is kind of a market test for him. Can he now build something that is more commercially viable than what he’s done with his test tunnel in Hawthorne?” Manville said. “But there’s nothing intrinsically interesting about building a tunnel to move people around. That’s what a subway is, right?”