Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the BBC about the growing trend of parks designed for older adults. Inspired by Chinese parks with machines for gentle stretching and strength training, governments around the world have started building playgrounds to improve health among older populations. Loukaitou-Sideris stressed the importance of accessible design. “Often older adults feel not welcome in parks that are primarily designed for younger populations,” she said. “In other words, parks are not psychologically accessible to them.” After studying park use among older adults across different countries, Loukaitou-Sideris found that “park location, design and amenities most influence use among senior citizens.” Senior playgrounds encourage exercise, social connection and time spent in nature, improving health and effectively reducing the cost of public healthcare. Golden Age Park, the first park designed for seniors in Los Angeles, was created using guidelines set forth in Loukaitou-Sideris’ research and will open Saturday, Nov. 2.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the Washington Post about the rancorous fight over sidewalk space in the age of electric scooters. Citing “Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space,” co-authored by Loukaitou-Sideris, the article noted that turf wars between “sidewalk-grabbers” have evolved since 2000 B.C. until the “scooter hell” of today. “But is it a hell made by scooters, or just made apparent by them?” the article’s author asks. “I see this conflict more as an outcome of bad decisions and bad design,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “Cities kept widening the streets and narrowing the sidewalks, and downgrading activities to accommodate only walking. … I don’t mean to say sometimes scooter drivers are not obnoxious. But I’d say it’s a less obnoxious use than cars.”
“The New Companion to Urban Design,” the sequel to an authoritative anthology on urban form and design co-edited by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, has just been published. The new book reflects current thinking across several disciplines, including urban studies, design, planning and geography, and widens its scope to include perspectives from the Global South. Migration, rapid urbanization, climate change and the explosive growth of digital technology are among the many trends changing the landscape of cities. Essays in the latest volume explore the new economic order fueling these trends, the search for solutions to the conflicts they create, and the role of urban design in bringing about justice, sustainability and other aspirational goals. Loukaitou-Sideris and co-editor Tridib Banerjee, chair of urban and regional planning at USC, assembled contributors from diverse backgrounds to offer original perspectives on the contemporary urban experience. The “New Companion” is a sequel to 2011’s “Companion to Urban Design,” a sourcebook for students, scholars and practitioners. “Urban design scholarship is interested not only with aesthetic issues but also with the social, political, cultural and economic forces that affect the built environment and its residents, as well as the human and environmental consequences of design interventions,” the editors wrote. Loukaitou-Sideris’ research focuses on the public environment of the city, its physical representation, aesthetics, social meaning and impact on the urban resident. The urban planning professor also serves as associate dean of academic affairs at UCLA Luskin and associate provost for academic planning for UCLA.
By Mary Braswell
A deep exploration of social justice as a guiding principle behind urban design will evolve into a book conceived by the UCLA Luskin faculty.
Over spring quarter, Urban Planning brought 10 prominent scholars to campus to shed light on public space in all its complexity. They spoke about the market forces, political calculations, environmental concerns and lifestyle trends that are transforming cities in Southern California and around the world, pushing some citizens to the fringe. And they offered frameworks for putting inclusion back at the center of urban design.
The speakers’ insights will become chapters in a book that shares the same name as the lecture series: “Just Urban Design: The Struggle for a Public City.”
“Cities are very much theaters of inequality, an inequality that has been increasing in the last decade,” said Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who organized the project with Chair Vinit Mukhija and Assistant Professor Kian Goh.
“The larger question that motivates this series is whether there is anything we can do through physical planning and urban design to create more just cities.”
The speakers who came to UCLA as part of the Harvey S. Perloff Lecture Series and Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series brought decades of experience both in scholarly settings and on the front lines of urban upheaval.
They included Setha Low, described by Loukaitou-Sideris as “one of the most prominent anthropologists and ethnographers of our time.” A professor at City University of New York’s Graduate Center, Low has worked with U.N. Habitat and other institutions to develop global social justice indicators for urban design.
“This is a really important moment in time,” Low said during her April 23 visit to UCLA. “There is a push to create a society, at a moment of great divisiveness, that is much more open and accessible and let’s say free. We need places to come together.”
She said one of her greatest challenges is communicating these ideals to the general public.
“We need to really explain how public space creates flourishing societies,” she said. “We need to really reach outside of ourselves and reach a much broader public so that they understand why it matters.”
The April 25 lecture by Harvard Professor Diane E. Davis was moderated by Goh, who noted, “The things that I learned from her, mostly to do with politics and scale, really informed the work that I do now.”
Davis, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA and now serves as the chair of urban planning and design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, raised foundational questions such as “What makes a city public?” and “What gives a city a robust democratic public sphere?”
“I’m really interested in the politics of how people and states interact or don’t interact with each other,” she said. “I think that is a really important framing for thinking about the best urban design.”
The notion that public space transcends national boundaries guided a May 1 talk by Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, professors at UC San Diego and partners in a studio specializing in urbanism, architecture and political science.
“We believe that the convergence of geopolitical borders, climate justice and poverty is ultimately the challenge of our time,” said Cruz, explaining a project the two had created for the U.S. Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Called “MEXUS: A Geography of Interdependence,” the presentation cast the border region as a shared space interwoven with environmental, economic and cultural connections.
Forman sounded an alarm about the “nativist mentality” that is moving into the mainstream, “legitimizing open racism that we haven’t seen since the middle of the 20th Century.”
“We see the San Diego-Tijuana border region as a microcosm of all of the injustices that neoliberal globalization has inflicted on the world’s most vulnerable people: poverty, climate change, accelerated migration, gender violence, human trafficking, slow suburbanization, privatization and so on,” she said.
Forman said that she and Cruz want to tell a very different story about life on the border.
“Our work reimagines the U.S.-Mexico border as a tissue of social and spatial ecologies, an amazing laboratory for political, urban and architectural creativity. For us, conflict is a creative tool.”
These other speakers also contributed to the series: Rachel Berney and Jeff Hou of the University of Washington, Alison Hirsch of USC, Kimberley Kinder of the University of Michigan, Matt Miller of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Rios of UC Davis.
Loukaitou-Sideris, Mukhija and Goh will join the “Just Urban Design” lecturers in contributing chapters to the planned book, which has sparked interest from several publishers.
Collecting the insights of guest speakers in a single book is a model that UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has successfully used before. In 2014, Loukaitou-Sideris and Mukhija invited lecturers to contribute essays examining urban activities such as street vending, garage sales and unpermitted housing to create the book “The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor,” published by MIT Press.
Stan Paul contributed to this article.
An Agence France-Presse story featured comments by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning, and Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, on the status of California’s high-speed rail project. The original plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco was revised by Gov. Gavin Newsom in February to link Merced and Bakersfield instead, a distance only a third of the originally planned route. Construction delays and unexpected budget increases have prompted criticism of the “train to nowhere.” Loukaitou-Sideris weighed in on the curtailed route. “It absolutely does not make sense,” she said. “Any transit project needs big [urban] centers as origins and destinations, and so to have something like that … all but kills the project.” Wachs agreed, arguing that “California should have capitalized on its existing rail network, including that currently dedicated to freight.” The AFP story was picked up by several news outlets, including Yahoo! News and Daily Mail.
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate provost for academic planning at UCLA; Silvia R. González, a doctoral student and researcher at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge; and Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley conducted a study to analyze the relationship between gentrification, traffic safety and transit-oriented development (TOD). The study, “Transit Neighborhoods, Commercial, Gentrification, and Traffic Crashes: Exploring the Linkages in Los Angeles and the Bay Area,” analyzed the number of collisions near rail stations in L.A. County and the San Francisco Bay Area in both gentrified and non-gentrified areas. The authors had hypothesized that residential and/or commercial gentrification leads to more traffic collision due to increased traffic and increased use of two or more modes of transportation, but the study did not find a significant relationship between residential gentrification and traffic safety in Los Angeles County or the Bay Area. It did, however, find that pedestrians and cyclists are at a higher risk of collision around commercially gentrified stations. Loukaitou-Sideris, González and Chapple suggest that policymakers and urban planners pay special attention to commercially gentrified areas. They conclude that “complete street strategies, traffic calming measures, protected bike lanes, controlled intersections, and other traffic safety improvements and regulations can help respond to this threat” of traffic collisions around commercially gentrified TOD stations. The study is part of an ongoing research partnership with the Urban Displacement Project, a research and action initiative at UC Berkeley.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and alumna Carolina Martinez MA UP ’09 were honored for their work advocating for stronger, healthier communities during the American Planning Association’s recent national conference in San Francisco. Martinez, policy director at the Environmental Health Coalition, and the Paradise Creek Planning Partnership were awarded one of the highest honors, the 2019 National Planning Excellence Award in Advancing Diversity & Social Change. Martinez worked with low-income communities of color in National City, California, to create a comprehensive community plan to clean up the toxic environment near their homes and provide affordable housing near transit. The creation of the Paradise Creek apartments demonstrates that community-based planning can bring about environmental justice. As the principal investigator of UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation’s “SMART Parks: A Toolkit,” Loukaitou-Sideris was awarded the National Planning Achievement Award for Best Practice-Silver. The toolkit equips park managers, designers and advocates with a centralized guide to improve parks and shows that that good planning can increase efficiency that benefits the community overall. “I’m delighted by the department’s awards at the 2019 National Planning Conference,” Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija said. “They demonstrate the excellence of our students and faculty members and are a testament of the department’s commitment to the profession.” Mukhija led UCLA Luskin Urban Planning’s delegation at the conference, where nearly 6,500 experts from planning, government, higher education and allied professions shared their knowledge and insights.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris shed light on women’s interactions with transportation systems in a Rewire article explaining female riders’ frustrations with rideshare services. Loukaitou-Sideris said sexual harassment is incredibly common in transportation settings around the world. Incidents of sexual harassment and uncomfortable behavior with rideshare drivers have prompted requests for increased safety measures, especially for women. While nearly 45% of female rideshare users have expressed their preference for a female driver, only 20-30% of Lyft and Uber drivers are female, and neither rideshare service allows female riders to request a female driver. Loukaitou-Sideris’ research on women-only public transportation in other countries, such as women-only train cars, found that women worried such an arrangement would “perpetuate discrimination” by taking away the option to sit in other cars of the train. Many women express their desire to be able to safely use the same service as men, instead of needing a women-only solution.
A new book co-authored by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, takes a novel and critical look at the effects of compact development around urban transit systems. “Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities” (MIT Press), is the work of Loukaitou-Sideris and Karen Chapple, professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley, who studied the “realities on the ground” surrounding the question of who wins and who loses with the creation of new transit accessibility. “Gentrification — and the often ensuing displacement — are not stable but dynamic and changing processes that are not often well captured by the collection of census data that occurs every five or 10 years,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “We learned a lot about gentrification in specific neighborhoods — not readily obvious from census data — from interviews with community groups and from multiple visits to these neighborhoods,” she said. The authors note that, although gentrification does entail increasing land rents and housing prices, it is also about “losing the sense of place in a neighborhood that you grew up in and have lived for many years, that now looks different and serves different socio-demographic groups.” Loukaitou-Sideris said the intention of the book is not to “send the message that we need to stop building TODs and higher-density housing around transit stops, where appropriate. But we want to send a notice to planners and policymakers that they also need to enact or continue anti-displacement policies in these areas to protect existing residents from displacement.”
“Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space,” a book by professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and co-author Renia Ehrenfeucht, was featured in a Curbed article as one of the top 25 must-read books about cities written by women. The article highlights the importance of the female perspective in urbanist discourse. “Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space” is the first book to analyze sidewalks as a distinct public space. In the book, Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht examine the evolution of the urban sidewalk in the United States and the conflicts that have arisen over its competing uses, from the right to sit to the right to parade.