Urban Planning Professor and Alumna Honored

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

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.


 

Loukaitou-Sideris Provides Insight on Rideshare Safety for Women

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.


Loukaitou-Sideris Co-Authors New Book on Transit-Oriented Development

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.”


 

Loukaitou-Sideris Featured on List of Must-Read Books About Cities

“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.


Image of high-speed rail train

Loukaitou-Sideris on Challenges Facing California’s High-Speed Rail

Professor of Urban Planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke with the Your Call’s One Planet Series podcast about the challenges facing California’s high-speed rail project. Litigation and the lack of regional planning in California contributed to the project’s delay, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who added that it is a mistake that the private sector is not more involved. Loukaitou-Sideris argued that bringing in more local and municipal actors to gauge their interest in developing the land surrounding the rail could lead to economic development for the cities the rail travels through. She also advised looking at European countries for inspiration for the high-speed rail. “With good planning, with good involvement and good management, things can happen,” said Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning.


 

Loukaitou-Sideris on Viability of Central Valley Bullet Train

Professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was featured on KPCC’s AirTalk discussing the viability of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised plan to build a bullet train from Bakersfield to Merced. In his State of the State address, Newsom declared that the original plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost too much and take too long, and surprised the audience by announcing the curtailed Central Valley line. Transportation experts including Loukaitou-Sideris have stressed the importance of having enough passenger demand to make the 160-mile line worthwhile. Loukaitou-Sideris expressed her “dismay at cost overruns and lack of efficient management,” arguing that “high-speed transit needs to connect high concentrations of people in centers at the origin and at the destination.” She said it is not necessary to stop the project completely but recommended “better planning, more transparency, and increased involvement from local stakeholders and the private sector.”


Loukaitou-Sideris Comments on Making Public Transit Safer for Women

Women have good reason to be concerned for their safety and fear harassment on public transportation, according to UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who has studied women’s use of transit around the world for decades. “We know that women are much more afraid than men,” commented the UCLA urban planning professor in a Wired story about new research on the overall experiences of riders, especially women, on public transportation. “As expected, many more women are sexually harassed, and it is a big concern and extremely under-reported,” Loukaitou-Sideris said, suggesting that better strategies — like more lighting at and around stations and more working staff nearby — be implemented so that riders feel safer when using public transportation. Loukaitou-Sideris also commented on KPCC 89.3 radio’s “Air Talk” regarding ways to increase ridership and make transit safer for women.


 

Transportation and Isolation: Serious Challenges for Diverse, Older Angelenos Research conducted by UCLA Luskin and USC Leonard Davis — and supported by AARP — examines travel, technology and mobility issues

In an effort to identify solutions to improve the lives of older adults and people of all ages and abilities, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, with the support of AARP, recently conducted surveys of diverse, older Angelenos, exploring their travel patterns, use of technology, and the mobility problems they face.

“We united on one common goal, the importance for understanding community needs, opportunities, and barriers that can support, create and sustain livable and age-friendly communities in Los Angeles,” said Nancy McPherson, State Director of AARP. “We know that the more connected and engaged people are with their community, the more likely they are to age successfully and remain living in their homes for as long as possible, as the vast majority wish to do.”

The UCLA research team focused on identifying mobility and travel patterns by conducting focus groups and interviews with 81 older adults in the neighborhoods of Koreatown, Westlake and East Hollywood, including adults visiting St. Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS), a local organization that provides health and social services. The UCLA report, “Bolstering Mobility and Transportation Options for Low-Income Older Adults,” found that:

  • Participants expressed difficulty in getting around, often endure long transit trips and uncomfortable or scary walking environments and social hazards that could cause them to trip and fall, significantly reducing their independence and quality of life.
  • For many, walking around their neighborhoods is the primary mode of transportation; however, there are significant physical and social impediments that constrain mobility.
  • A small number own cars and many rely on family and friends to drive them. Use of point-to-point travel services (e.g., taxis, ride-hailing services) is rare and constrained by finances.
  • Many lack competency with technology to order ride-hailing services.
  • Mobility constraints affect the number and frequency of trips.
  • Differences exist among study participants in regard to the numbers of social and recreational trips. Older adults visiting SBSS take a larger number of daily trips and have a higher likelihood of making social and recreational trips than those who are not visiting SBSS.

“Mobility affects the quality of life. Decreased mobility means also decreased access to city amenities or jobs, and socialization opportunities, as well as a higher risk for social isolation. Our findings suggest that certain improvements both in the physical environment and in the transit and paratransit services can help increase the mobility of low-income, older adults, and we articulate these improvements in our report,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Associate Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “We are welcoming the opportunity to join forces with the AARP and our USC colleagues and advocate for more age-friendly California cities.”

For more information on the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies report, “Bolstering Mobility and Transportation Options for Low-Income Older Adults,” click here.

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on the consequences of loneliness and isolation, especially among older adults. While adoption of technology and social media has the potential to reduce isolation, issues such as cost, disinterest and lack of the skills needed to use various devices may hinder older adults’ adoption. Los Angeles’ ethnically, linguistically and geographically diverse population of older adults made it an ideal location for the USC Leonard School of Gerontology to explore how this population uses technology and the extent to which they believe it can improve connectivity and reduce isolation.

The USC research team conducted six focus groups in English, Spanish and Korean at SBSS with 48 older adults living in a low-income area of Los Angeles, home to a diverse, largely immigrant population. Key findings from this report, “Aging in Place in Los Angeles: Recognizing Challenges to Social Connectedness,” include:

  • A relatively high use of some technology among this engaged group, as well as a wide range in social connectivity with family, friends, and members of the community;
  • Although some older adults did not have the resources or the desire to use technology, others used mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, and computers – either in combination or alone – for purposes of contacting their family and friends, accessing health care information, getting the news, shopping, and watching television;
  • Cost, disinterest, and lack of the skills needed to use various devices hindered older adults’ adoption of technology and social media;
  • Many older adults indicated a reluctance to adopt newer technology because they preferred to communicate in-person and they expressed concerns that technology is too complicated or too expensive; others used it for entertainment, to plan local and long-distance travels, and to communicate with their loved ones.

“Our findings suggest that although technology isn’t a cure all for loneliness, it can be a tool in the tool box for addressing social isolation. Policy makers and tech developers need to consider how older adults currently use technology, how it can better suit their needs, and barriers that prevent them from using it effectively,” said Kate Wilber, USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology professor. “We are thankful that AARP and our UCLA collaborators recognize the importance of addressing social isolation and look forward to working toward solutions that benefit older adults in Los Angeles and beyond.”

For more information on USC’s “Disrupting Isolation in Housing for an Aging Population,” click here.

Luskin Center Leads the Way on SMART Parks

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation featured Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris in its Luskin Innovators Speaker Series on May 17, 2018. Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and Associate Provost for Academic Planning at UCLA, presented her team’s research on opportunities to use technology to make urban parks more efficient, environmentally sustainable and better able to serve visitors. A panel discussion, led by Norma Garcia MA UP ’99, chief deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, brought together representatives from the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, and Cisco Systems, Inc. The panelists discussed the challenges faced by park managers and designers, including funding gaps, underutilization and ongoing maintenance, and the ways that technology can help overcome these challenges. They also explored the many benefits technology can provide to park visitors, including broader engagement opportunities, free Wi-Fi access and renewed interest in parks. Finally, the group brainstormed ideas for innovative partnerships that could bring together technology companies, nonprofits and park managers. The Luskin Center for Innovation’s novel approach of using technology to address under-resourced urban parks resulted in SMART Parks: A Toolkit for park planners and managers. — Kelsey Jessup MPP ’15

Participating in the Luskin Center SMART Parks panel discussion were, from left, Robin Mark, with The Trust for Public Land; Tamika Butler, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust; Colin Martin, Cisco; and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Photo by Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08

A Smart Way to Make a SMART Park New toolkit produced by the Luskin Center for Innovation provides a guide for making parks more user-friendly and sustainable

By George Foulsham

The burgeoning world of smart technology includes everything from phones and televisions to thermostats and voice-activated home assistants. Now, thanks to the Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, you can add neighborhood parks to the “smart” category.

The Luskin Center has just released “SMART Parks: A Toolkit” to highlight how technology can enhance the efficiency of — and more comfortable access to — public spaces.

What makes a park smart?

“A smart park uses technology to achieve equitable access, enhanced health, safety, resilience, water and energy efficiency, and effective opera­tions and maintenance,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean at UCLA Luskin, who led a small team of researchers and UCLA students on the SMART Parks project.

The toolkit, which is intended for park managers, designers, landscape architects, advocates and anyone who wishes to learn how technology can be incorporated into parks, is a compilation of technologies that cities and counties can use to make parks smarter.

The 275-page guide is organized by pertinent chapters — activity spaces, digital landscapes, hardscapes, lighting, irrigation, softscapes, stormwater management and urban furniture.

The kit includes a wide range of technologies that can be utilized in parks to provide benefits:

  • Interactive play sets that increase park accessibility for children with physical and mental disabilities by providing language, game and noise settings that can be adjusted by park management to meet community needs.
  • Path pavement materials that are more comfortable for older adults, making them feel welcome in parks and encouraging them to walk, thus improving their health.
  • Energy-generating exercise equipment that charges cellphones while providing users with free access to physical activity.
  • Irrigation controllers that conserve water by optimizing watering patterns in each park area depending on microclimate and soil type.
  • Soils that improve groundwater infiltration and remove pollutants from stormwater runoff, thus improving local water quality.
  • Self-healing concrete that reduces maintenance and replacement needs by preventing and healing cracks in park infrastructure, thus reducing park management costs.

The toolkit also includes guidance on how to navigate the challenges associated with the park management process, such as staff training and cost constraints, and pro­vides an overview of potential funding strategies to help create SMART Parks.

“The toolkit’s aim is to address concerns about park underutilization, high maintenance costs, and water and energy waste by rethinking the neighborhood park so that it becomes ‘smart.’ Parks represent assets for cities, but in an era of limited municipal resources and concerns about energy and water usage, they have also been viewed as liabilities,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

The researchers emphasize that the toolkit is a starting point for park managers, landscape professionals, local government, nonprof­its and interested community members to gain information on technological innova­tions and their potential benefits for parks.

More research is needed, they add, to ensure that the technologies and their benefits are appropriate for specific parks.

A downloadable copy of the SMART Parks toolkit is now online.