‘It’s About Changing the Paradigm’ On ‘A Day Without a Woman,’ the Department of Urban Planning creates space for reflection and dialogue about women’s history, gender and equality

By Stan Paul

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

A century ago, the great-grandmother of UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris faced raising and educating her children alone. She and her family had been expelled from Russia following the 1917 revolution, losing their property, and Loukaitou-Sideris told those gathered at an open forum to mark “A Day Without a Woman” that her great-grandfather died on the journey to Greece.

Her great-grandmother persevered, raising one of the first women in the labor force in Greece, Loukaitou-Sideris’ grandmother, who soon was “climbing the ladder” on her way to becoming a manager in the Greek railway system.

Loukaitou-Sideris credits her family, especially her father, with supporting her decision as a young woman to find her own path in the United States, where her academic and professional aspirations led to her becoming a professor of urban planning at UCLA and also the university’s associate provost for academic planning.

“I was a lucky one,” said Loukaitou-Sideris at the March 9, 2017, dialogue for students, faculty and staff at the Luskin School in observance of International Women’s Day.

Other participants shared their own perspectives, recognizing women who had influenced their lives. Attendees also talked about ongoing equality issues and how to break down gender barriers that continue to exist. With gratitude, they recognized the strength, struggle, and perseverance of female role models in advancing women’s rights in society and the workplace.

“I’m here to show solidarity with my fellow women and celebrate the role we play in society,” said Leilah Moeinsadeh, a first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student.

Michael Lens

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, added, “I think of … things that women have to deal with that I don’t have to deal with, things my position and status as a man have exempted me from. So, it’s important to reflect on how to treat people, particularly women, with the respect they deserve.”

Lens said much of his life and career have been shaped disproportionately by women in positive ways, explaining that he grew up with his mother in a single-parent household. Mentors, advisers and supervisors in and out of academia — many of them women – “have shaped my career in ways I never expected,” he said.

Joan Ling, lecturer in urban planning, pointed out that challenges remain. “Today reminds me of all the work ahead of us,” she said. “It’s not enough, because it’s not about women being equal to men. It’s about changing the paradigm about how we look at power and influence.”

Ling, a graduate of the urban planning master’s program, added, “And, [it’s about] using different metrics to measure our ability to have control over our lives and live a just life.”

Day Without a Woman from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

Ling’s grandmother — raised in China during a time when young girls’ feet were bound to stunt growth — was “crippled because her feet were bound into 4-inch stumps when she was a child.” Ling’s mother didn’t go to school because at that time it was not considered important for a girl to be educated. “I want those things to change,” Ling said. “But beyond that — equality and education and opportunities — it’s really redefining how we run the world.”

The discussion also covered political issues such as gender-neutral restroom legislation across the nation and the day-to-day challenges of being a mother and keeping up with the requirements of a Ph.D. program. Other topics included the logic of planning buildings to include lactation rooms in the workplace, as well as discussion of housing, jobs, women of color, transgender women and the role of students in dismantling barriers.

“An international day of recognition is a great way to ignite conversation, but something as important as gender equality should not be designated to a discussion once a year, it must be ongoing,” said Alexis Oberlander, urban planning graduate adviser, who helped organize the event and served as moderator. “I was excited by the ideas the students presented, and I hope those ideas invigorate more dialogue and action.”

Luskin Lecture Peers Into Future of an Aging America AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins urges society to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population — and how society must change as a result

By Les Dunseith

The number of Americans age 85 and older now constitutes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

The second-fastest growing age group? Those age 100 and older.

The impact on society of increased longevity thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles was a centerpiece of a presentation by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series held Feb. 7, 2017.

Jenkins, whose bestselling book “Disrupt Aging” also served as the title for her lecture, talked about the necessity to rethink how we view the aging process in the years ahead.

“It’s not just about adding years to the end of life. It’s about changing the way we live throughout our lives,” Jenkins told a crowd of more than 200 people at Skirball Cultural Center. “Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. And yet we don’t see it that way. We often view it as a problem rather than an accomplishment.”

She urged the audience to think about a youngster they know today, perhaps a child or grandchild around 10 years old. Current research thinking predicts that child will have about a 50/50 chance of living to be 100.

She also noted that gerontology experts speculate that the first person who will live to be age 150 has already been born. “In this audience,” she joked, and the room erupted in laughter.

Her point, of course, is that increased longevity for a significant portion of the population not only impacts healthcare and public policy and the infrastructure of communities, but also the way people deal with the aging process and its impacts on their loved ones and themselves.

“The way people are aging is changing, but our attitudes and our stereotypes have not changed,” Jenkins said in an interview prior to the lecture. “I would like for us to be this ageless society. So that regardless of your age, you are judged on the quality of your mind and what you bring to the workplace, or what you bring into the environment. And that it’s not about being a particular age.”

Coping with the societal impact of the demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies and approaches are needed to successfully adjust to an aging population. “Older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has about 38 million members over age 50.

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins was also an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” Torres-Gil said in advance of the lecture. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA and its research, educational and planning capabilities. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

People at UCLA in fields of study such as medicine, gerontology, public policy and urban planning “have an enormous opportunity to rethink the course of life,” Jenkins said. “If we are going to live to be 100, how might that change the way we educate — not only the youth, but all of us — throughout the lifespan?”

California and Los Angeles, in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents, particularly those in minority populations.

In a question and answer session that followed the lecture and was moderated by Torres-Gil, he asked for Jenkins’ perspective on diversity given the fact that so many of those entering old age are from ethnic minority populations.

“We at AARP have a huge role to play in showing how nonprofit organizations ought to be community partners at the local level,” Jenkins responded. “Our goal at AARP is to be in your life every day, concerned about the issues that are important to you, not just necessarily about what’s important to AARP. And that absolutely includes diverse communities all across this country.”

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of rethinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of “Disrupt Aging.”

“We ought to accept our age and feel good about where we are in life,” Jenkins said. “Among our members, many of them are not retiring. They might be leaving a particular job, but it’s to do something different.”

Still, she noted, American society is obsessed with age. When people are asked what they are most likely to lie about, age is the top answer. “But what if we could eliminate our preoccupation with a number? For example, what if we decided that middle age started at 65? What would that do to your own preconceptions?” Jenkins asked.

“It’s not our own aging that we need to fight against,” Jenkins said during the lecture. “It’s the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate society and play such a huge role in our culture.”

She acknowledged that aging does create challenges that older Americans wrestle with every day. “As we get older, many of us find things that we have always taken for granted more difficult to achieve,” she said. “Our wants and our needs change, but our environment does not always adapt to address those changes.”

In her view, the capacity to deal successfully with that reality is an issue that impacts individuals, governments and businesses in equal measure. “We blame ourselves. Instead of changing our environment to fit our needs, we bemoan getting older,” she said.

Efforts by AARP and by researchers such as Loukaitou-Sideris seek ways to make communities more livable for an aging population. Jenkins cited a research example that focuses on the fact that many older people have trouble getting in and out of a car.

“We attribute it to the weakening of the leg muscles and the loss of sense of balance rather than considering the inadequacies of a car seat that does not swivel and allow us to emerge straight forward rather than trying to slide out of the car sideways,” Jenkins said. “Car seats were not made with a 75-year-old in mind.”

The idea of refocusing our thinking to better accommodate an aging population also applies to communities and housing. Today, more people are living into their 80s and 90s and want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

“Basic access should be built into the homes, just like wiring and plumbing,” Jenkins said. “Living in a community with services nearby and having a home that accommodates our needs are tremendous assets for those of us who want to age in place.”

Luskin Lecture to Peer Into Future of an Aging America Speaker Jo Ann Jenkins seeks to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population – and how society will change as a result

By Les Dunseith

Thanks to advances in medicine, the number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to double in the next 25 years, and the oldest of the old – those 85 and older – now constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Coping with the societal impact of this demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies will be needed to successfully adjust to an aging population, and a key player in helping to shape those policies is the next Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture speaker, AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has more than 37 million members over age 50.

During her lecture at Skirball Cultural Center at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, Jenkins will talk about the transformation of AARP into a leader in social change, dedicated to enhancing quality of life for people as they age.

“She will convey very clearly that older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. But her presentation about AARP will also be of interest to staff, faculty and students in many other departments on campus.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins is an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Torres-Gil over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

California, and Los Angeles in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents.

For example, because of a lack of public transit options, many elderly people are reluctant to give up driving their cars even when continuing to do so presents a safety concern for themselves and others.

“The truth of the matter is that American cities, and especially West Coast cities that have built so much around the automobile, are not age-friendly cities,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of re-thinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of the bestselling book, “Disrupt Aging,” that will also serve as the topic for her UCLA lecture at Skirball Cultural Center.

In Jenkins’ view, people need to challenge the negative stories often associated with getting older. Her book chronicles Jenkins’ own journey, as well as those of other individuals who are working to change what it means to age in America.

Jenkins has been described as a visionary and thought leader, a catalyst for breakthrough results, accelerating progress and contribution while fostering positive relationships inside and outside her organization, according to Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events.

The societal evolution that Jenkins and AARP envision cannot be accomplished through words alone, of course. “You want to disrupt aging – this can be your desire – but you really need to have design, planning and policy in place to do that,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “And that’s where UCLA Luskin comes in.”

Jenkins’ UCLA Luskin Lecture is free and open to all, but an advance RSVP is required for admittance. Details can be found here.

Shaping the Future of Education at UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, the newly appointed UCLA Associate Provost for Academic Planning, will lead and coordinate the academic components of campuswide strategic planning

By Stan Paul

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has spent a career researching the city of Los Angeles — from its physical aspects and aesthetics to its meaning and impact on those who live there.

The professor of Urban Planning and associate dean at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will now help lead and plan the future of education for graduate and undergraduate students at UCLA. Loukaitou-Sideris, a UCLA Luskin faculty member since 1990, has been named UCLA’s Associate Provost for Academic Planning by Scott Waugh, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost.

“Her administrative experience, expertise in planning and understanding of communities and complex organizations will make her a tremendous resource in this position,” said Waugh, who cited Loukaitou-Sideris’ vast experience as an academic leader and as a consultant to several organizations including the Transportation Research Board, the Federal Transit Administration, the Southern California Association of Governments, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and the Greek Ministry of Education.

For Loukaitou Sideris, the new post is both a privilege and a challenge.

“UCLA is a very big and complex organization, with many different parts doing many interesting things that the other parts do not necessarily know about,” she said. “Finding the right synergies and coordinating these different pieces towards some common goals is certainly challenging.”

One of her major tasks will be the development of a strategic plan for the whole campus for the next five to 10 years, Loukaitou-Sideris said. “We are going to establish task forces on certain issues and themes, and, these should be very inclusive in the sense they are going to have members from not only faculty and administration but staff and students,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris said the challenge would be to make sure that the process represents the aspirations of these groups as well as alumni.

Another significant effort that she will lead will be looking at instructional space at UCLA: “What the needs are, what do we need to do to bring the University into the 21st century in regards to classrooms and labs, but also in terms of what developments in online education may mean in terms of space. Basically, how could UCLA provide the best possible space to accommodate the changing educational and teaching needs?” A committee of deans, vice chancellors, students and staff has already been created to study this issue, she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris explained that a first-tier university like UCLA — a top 10 university in the world — should have a plan for its future.

“We do need to have a guide, for everyone who is a part of this community, as to what we want to focus on in order to have educational impact, research impact, global and social impacts and how these relate to innovation,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris said she plans to meet with every dean on campus as well as key administrators and academic leaders to hear their thoughts and to review and build on their unit’s strategic plans.

“The idea is that we are in this together, and what is good for UCLA is good for all of us,” she said. “So that is the spirit that we want to convey.”

Loukaitou-Sideris, who will continue as associate dean at Luskin as well as continue to teach and conduct research, said, “It is a real privilege to be able to work with a wide spectrum of the UCLA community to plan the University’s future. For me it is very important that the plan’s suggestions are followed by action and implementation.”

Loukaitou-Sideris, a core faculty member of the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative, has published more than 100 articles and chapters, and has co-authored or co-edited five books, most recently “The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor.” Her research has been funded by the California Department of Transportation, the California Air Resources Board, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes Foundation, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Archstone Foundation, the Mineta Transportation Institute and the AARP.

She has also conducted academic reviews of units at several universities, including UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Toronto, University of Auckland New Zealand and National Technical University of Athens.

Gentrification and Displacement in Southern California UCLA urban planners release online mapping tool to help analyze impact of developments near Los Angeles area transit projects. The goal? ‘Progress that is fair and just’

By Stan Paul

A team of researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has created an interactive mapping tool to help community leaders better understand the effects of new light-rail and subway projects and related developments — especially on low-income communities.

Researchers view the project as a resource to help communities and policymakers identify the pressures associated with development and figure out how to take more effective action to ensure that new construction isn’t always accompanied by current residents being priced out of their neighborhoods.

The Southern California portion of the joint UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project on gentrification and displacement in urban communities is available online.

“There has been a strong interest in neighborhoods around subway stations and light-rail stops,” said Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a professor of Urban Planning. “These locations have the potential for extensive private investments because transit gives people an alternative to using cars. This is particularly attractive to today’s young professionals.”

However, according to Ong, the downside to this “upscaling” is that changing the character of a neighborhood with additional transportation options can lead to lower-income disadvantaged households being pushed out.

“Sometimes, landlords aggressively — and perhaps illegally — force them out,” said Ong, who is also a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Higher rents make it difficult for low-income households to move into the neighborhood, so we see a net decline in their numbers. They are replaced by those who can afford the higher housing cost — people referred to as ‘gentrifiers.’”

Ong said that most of those who can afford higher housing costs do not purposefully want to displace people living in poorer households, “but, nonetheless, gentrifiers are a part of the larger socioeconomic process.” The goal of the Urban Displacement Project, according to the researchers, is not to stop neighborhood change because many people can benefit from these developments. “The challenge,” Ong said, “is ensuring that progress is fair and just.”

The UCLA team, funded in part by the California Air Resources Board, created a database for the Los Angeles County region that included information on demographics, socio-economic and housing characteristics in neighborhoods that are near transit projects and those that are not.

Key findings by UCLA researchers for L.A. County include:

  • Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification.
  • Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households.
  • The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods.

Users of the mapping tool can examine neighborhood-level data on racial/ethnic composition, which areas have seen upscaling, gentrification, population density, percentage of people living in poverty, median household income and level of education. More specific data is also available, including the number of households with a Section 8 housing voucher and low-income housing tax credits.

“Our goal is that local and state governments will use the information to guide decisions regarding public investments that are just; community groups will use the information to help tell their stories of preserving the best parts of their neighborhood; and engaged citizens will become more aware of critical issues facing society,” Ong said.

As part of the study, the Bay Area team analyzed nine case studies and the UCLA team looked at six more in L.A. County to capture geographic diversity and to examine different stages of the gentrification and displacement process.

“Also, we want to focus in more detail on the phenomenon of commercial gentrification, which leads to the closing down of mom-and-pop stores and ethnic small businesses in some neighborhoods,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, principal investigator on the Los Angeles team. Most of the existing studies focus only on residential gentrification said Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean of the Luskin School.

For example, the UCLA team looked at studies based on the “live experiences of real communities” such as six disadvantaged neighborhoods located near Los Angeles Metro Rail stations. The also examined the impacts on Asian-American businesses near transit-oriented developments, as well as the impact of new outlets such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks on ethnic small businesses in L.A.’s Chinatown.

Loukaitou-Sideris said the researchers discovered one important difference between the strategies used by Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“We found that Bay Area municipalities have in their books many more anti-displacement policies than municipalities in L.A. County,” she said. “However, we do not know yet how effective these policies have been in limiting displacement.”

UCLA Luskin Researchers Receive Statewide Recognition Study on parks for senior citizens receives 2016 Academic Award of Merit from the American Planning Association’s California chapter

By Stan Paul

A team of UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty and student researchers has received statewide recognition for a project to foster and fulfill the need for senior-friendly parks in U.S. cities.

In June, the researchers, led by Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, received the Award of Excellence (Academic Award) at the 2016 American Planning Association’s Los Angeles Section Awards Gala. The long-term project, “Placemaking for an Aging Population: Guidelines for Senior-Friendly Parks,” was among the “best of planning” entries representing work from cities, nonprofits, consulting firms and individuals in APA’s Los Angeles chapter, one of eight sections in California. The project is funded by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and the Archstone Foundation.

The study has been selected for a 2016 Academic Award of Merit by APA’s California chapter. The award will be presented at the organization’s state conference in October.

In addition to providing evidence for the physical, mental and social needs that parks provide to seniors, the study includes case studies from the U.S. and around the world, as well as guidelines for planners and designers of senior-friendly spaces. The researchers also conducted focus groups as part of the study so that older inner-city residents could have their voices heard and share their firsthand information and perceptions.

“Seniors are a heterogeneous group in in terms of age, physical and cognitive capacities, and socio-cultural capacities,” the authors stated in their Design Guidelines Overview chapter. “Thus, prior to the creation of a senior-friendly park, the preferences and needs of the likely prominent users should be identified and addressed in the design.”

As a statewide award winner, the project is now eligible for consideration for the 2017 National Planning Awards.

The UCLA Luskin team also included Social Welfare professor Lené Levy-Storms and Madeline Brozen MA UP ’11, associate director for external relations for the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, and program manager of the Complete Streets Initiative. Luskin graduate student researchers, who have since graduated from Luskin, were Lynn Chen Ph.D. SW ’13 and Urban Planning Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) graduates Liz Devietti, Hannah Gustafson and Lucia Phan. Lia Marshall, a doctoral student in Social Welfare, also was a member of the research team.

Not a Walk in the Park In new study, UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and Social Welfare scholars recommend park planning with consideration for the needs of senior citizens of L.A. County

In new study, UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and Social Welfare scholars recommend park planning with consideration for the needs of senior citizens of L.A. County

Gentrification, Growth or Something in Between? UCLA Urban Planners’ report on the impact of cultural revitalization efforts on L.A.’s Gallery Row and adjacent Skid Row is named ‘Best Paper’ by Town Planning Review

By Stan Paul

In the early 2000s, author and urban theorist Richard Florida popularized the concept of the “creative class,” with its purported ability to revitalize cities. This notion has encouraged culture-based economic growth strategies and approaches — by public officials and private developers alike — in urban centers such as Los Angeles.

Looking back after a decade with an update and republication of his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida re-emphasized his point that creativity requires diversity and that “an openness to all kinds of people … was no private virtue but an economic necessity,” explaining that areas that are “most open-minded gain the deepest economic advantage.”

“Yet, as I write these words, all is far from well: The great promise of the Creative Age is not being met,” Florida said.

Consequently, two camps on the subject have emerged: one believes that cultural revitalization efforts accelerate growth, while the other says that gentrification and displacement are the outcome.

Urban planners at UCLA have taken a closer look at the effects of cultural revitalization by comparing two areas of Los Angeles known as Gallery Row and the adjacent Skid Row. Their report, “Skid Row, Gallery Row and the Space in Between: Cultural Revitalization and its Impacts on Two Los Angeles Neighborhoods,” was recently named “Best Paper” by Town Planning Review, a publication of Liverpool University Press.

“The urban growth and cultural revitalization currently taking place in the historic core of downtown Los Angeles is unprecedented, and yet downtown is also home to Skid Row, one of the largest concentrations of homeless individuals in the U.S.,” said Brady Collins, lead author of the study. Collins, who recently completed his Ph.D. in Urban Planning at UCLA, worked with UCLA Luskin Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris on the report.

The authors describe cultural revitalization strategies as “promoting a neighborhood’s ethnic heritage, establishing a cultural or arts district or developing cultural and community centers or local museums.” Collins and Loukaitou-Sideris said the purpose of these strategies is to attract young urban professionals — the so-called Creative Class — as well as business growth and investment.

Collins said that, after conducting nearly a year of research, “I knew I had found something big, and something I thought was important to share.” The Boston native is currently a resident of Koreatown and has served as a member of the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council.

In comparing Gallery Row, characterized by the authors as a linear district consisting of new art galleries, bars and restaurants, to the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, Collins and Loukaitou-Sideris said they sought to answer questions such as how various groups — from local residents, advocates and community organizations to public and private developers, as well as investors and local, state and federal government — shape the process of revitalization and whether cultural revitalization actually benefits only “wealthy gentrifiers.”

“Gentrification is not always a zero-sum game where gentrifiers win,” said Collins. “By providing a snapshot of the efforts by individuals working on the ground and behind the scenes in Skid Row to shape the social and physical landscape, we show how marginalized groups can use art and culture as a means for resistance.”

In recognizing this, Collins said that the concept of “the space in between” was constructed as “a fraught space between the haves and have-nots, between revitalization and displacement, where human agency and community organizing can create real power.”

“With housing affordability at a historic low in L.A., gentrification and displacement represent real concerns for a number of neighborhoods,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “Our study, however, demonstrates that it may be mistaken to perceive even the most disadvantaged neighborhood as a powerless victim lacking agency and determination to prevent displacement.”

Nevertheless, Collins and Loukaitou-Sideris argue that local grassroots efforts cannot go it alone against “their own larger political interests and powerful real estate forces.” To ensure more equitable outcomes, the authors propose that public officials include affordable housing development, housing preservation and local economic development in planning considerations.

As “Best Paper” published in the June 2016 volume of Town Planning Review, the report will be free to access for three months at the Liverpool University Press website.

‘Once-in-a-Lifetime Academic Experience’ Luskin Urban Planning expands global reach with new Sciences Po exchange program in Paris

By Stan Paul

UCLA Urban Planning students now have the opportunity to spend an academic quarter studying in the heart of Paris, on the city’s historic Left Bank.

A new exchange program between the Urban School at Sciences Po and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning, will allow three Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students to study in Paris for a quarter, while three of their continental counterparts will study at Luskin, said Alexis Oberlander, Urban Planning graduate adviser.

The exchange program was initiated by Urban Planning faculty members Michael Storper and Steven Commins, and Luskin Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, in conjunction with faculty at Sciences Po’s Urban School.

Sciences Po is highly regarded internationally in social sciences and has produced nearly all of France’s presidents as well as numerous political and business leaders. It is located not far from the scenic and iconic views of the Seine River running through the middle of the city. But “Paris is more than its beautiful core,” said Storper. “It is also a diverse world city, with populations drawn from every continent. It is as much an urban laboratory as any great city, with all the opportunities, problems and challenges.”

Storper, who also teaches at Sciences Po, said that the Urban School was recently formed to bring together master’s and Ph.D. programs that focus on cities, urban politics and urban policy. He said the program will give students a comparative and international learning experience between Los Angeles and Paris — a “once-in-a-lifetime academic and urban experience.” In addition to studying with students from all over the world and building a new network of friends and colleagues, the quarter abroad will also count toward the Luskin students’ two-year MURP degree.

Participating students can apply for the program during the winter quarter of their first year at Luskin, and if selected, the students would enroll for the fall quarter of their second year at Sciences Po. The Urban School at Sciences Po are offered in English, so there is no language barrier, said Storper.

The exchange program represents “a joining of forces between two elite institutions,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

“Urban Planning students will have the opportunity to study in one of Europe’s most prestigious universities … in a school with the most advanced curriculum on comparative urban governance in the world,” said Storper. “No other Urban Planning program in the U.S. can offer a similar opportunity to its students.”

Voting in California: Reimagining What’s Possible Panel Discussion Co-Sponsored by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Focuses on the Future of Voting in California

 

By Bijan White

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials brought together a group of distinguished figures from the public and private sectors, including California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, on January 14 to discuss the mechanisms and modernization of the voting process.

With the upcoming 2016 elections in sight, the implications of the vote and the voting process have once more come under question. Experts remind us of the near-sacred importance of the vote as an act of citizenship, as well as the logistical enterprise it represents. The voting process demands the highest level of anonymity, which becomes complicated when faced with the massive scale of the ballot registration and counting process.

Prior to the panel, Mark Peterson, chair of the Luskin Department of Public Policy, commented on the necessity of such discussions. “If there is one institution in American politics which demands clarity and transparency, it’s voting,” Peterson said, emphasizing how important this is in California, which represents such a vast voter base. “We’ve seen the consequences of logistical errors in the voting system in 2000. Democrats were voting for Buchanan in Florida because they could not interpret the layout of the ballot sheets.”

The panel began with opening remarks from Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, associate dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. While stressing the importance of the vote, Loukaitou-Sideris mourned its dwindling importance in the collective mind of the youth. “Nowadays, teens are more focused on when they can drive than when they can vote,” she said. However, its importance should not be overlooked, she added. “Many of the great issues our society faces are tackled through the process of voting within our democracy.”

Moderator Dave Bryant, political reporter for KCBS2 and KCAL9, broached the subject of the use of technology in the voter process. “We are looking to the future to modernize the voting process,” Bryant said. “In Los Angeles, for example, voter turnout is in the single digits.”

The need for reform within the voting process to boost voter turnout is rising, but many of the panelists urged caution. “While striving for improvement, the risk of taking one wrong step is great,” said Jeffrey Lewis, chair of the Department of Political Science at UCLA. “We should not be so harsh to judge slow progress.”

Data analyst expert Christopher Hetch stressed the logistical nightmare the voting process represents. “Relying on paper for communication is antiquated,” Hecht said. “We can create new ways to educate people, reach voters and increase turnout.” Reaching voters, providing and making the information needed for the voting process accessible, and providing convenient methods of casting ballots are all factors surrounding voter engagement, he said.

The concept of civic engagement was discussed by Conan Nolan, political reporter for KNBC-TV and host of NBC4’s News Conference, who criticized the lack of civic education in newer generations. “We have lost a sense of training citizens in public education.” Nolan said. “Most voters come from families who voted — they learned the importance of this process.”

Engaging the next generation of citizens, according to Nolan, is a responsibility that the state should embrace because “citizenship is learned.” However, Padilla noted the diverse demographics of the nation. “We can’t assume all families can teach their children about the importance of civic engagement,” Padilla said.

The concept of online voting was discussed and proved to be controversial. “Online voting is not something we are ready for because of security and privacy issues,” Padilla said. The ballot must have the highest degree of anonymity, he added. “The internet provides data, not secrecy.”

But, Hetch countered that “we need to build the trust needed for people to feel comfortable voting online,” arguing that there are currently ways to ensure the security needed for online voting. Others, such as Nolan, rejected the concept based on principle. “The spirit of our most sacred right is manifested in going to the voting center with your fellow citizens.” The concept of online voting degrades that ideal, Nolan said.

Despite the obstacles and disagreements presented by the panelists, many palpable solutions were presented, some of which are already underway. Padilla noted the establishment of Senate Bill 450, which will allow California counties to implement a new elections model that includes mailing every voter a ballot, expanding early voting and enabling voters to cast a ballot at any vote center within their county.

In conclusion, Lewis captured the essence of the debate: “We should strive to make it so that no one who desires to vote ends up unable to do so.”