ITS, Lewis Center Win Research Awards to Help Shape California’s Future UCLA Luskin-based centers join an ambitious initiative aimed at forging strategies for the state's long-term success

Two centers housed at UCLA Luskin have received research awards from California 100, an ambitious statewide initiative to envision and shape the long-term success of the state.

The Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies will evaluate current facts, origins and future trends in housing and community development, while the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies will look into transportation and urban planning. In total, researchers from four UCLA organizations will spearhead three of the 13 California 100 research areas.

The Lewis Center will summarize California’s housing market and outline a vision for how policy changes could lead to a brighter future for the state’s residents, with a particular focus on increased equity and housing production. Working alongside cityLAB UCLA and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, the Lewis Center team will also create a visualization of this future through creative techniques of diagramming, drawing and rendering to help readers picture the possibilities for California’s communities.

UCLA ITS will delve into transportation policy contradictions: California has invested substantially in public transit, while other public policies encourage driving and work against transit. As the state looks to meet its climate and equity goals, transportation systems — and the land use context surrounding them — will play a key role.

Research for both projects is slated to begin over the summer and be complete by December 2021, and will lead to a set of policy alternatives for the future of California. The policy alternatives will be developed in conjunction with research teams from the other California 100 issue areas.

The California 100 Commission is a multi-generational advisory body that will develop recommendations for the state’s future and test those recommendations across a broad set of policy areas by directly engaging Californians.

“From climate change to aging populations and rapid changes in industry, California will face enormous challenges in the years ahead,” said Kathrick Ramakrishnan, California 100 executive director. “We are fortunate to be able to draw on the deep talent of researchers in California to produce evidence and recommendations that will inform robust public engagement and set the state on a strong, long-term trajectory for success.”

About the California 100 Research Grants

California 100 is a new statewide initiative being incubated at the University of California and Stanford University focused on inspiring a vision and strategy for California’s next century that is innovative, sustainable and equitable. The initiative will harness the talent of a diverse array of leaders through research, policy innovation, advanced technology and stakeholder engagement. As part of its research stream of work, California 100 is sponsoring 13 research projects focused on the following issue areas:

  • Advanced technology and basic research
  • Arts, culture and entertainment
  • Education and workforce, from cradle to career and retirement
  • Economic mobility and inequality
  • Energy, environment and natural resources
  • Federalism and foreign policy
  • Fiscal reform
  • Governance, media and civil society
  • Health and wellness
  • Housing and community development
  • Immigrant integration
  • Public safety and criminal justice reform
  • Transportation and urban planning

Study Identifies Regional Patterns in COVID-Related Food Insecurity

During the COVID-19 pandemic, disadvantaged households in the San Francisco Bay Area were at higher risk of food insufficiency compared with similar households in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire regions, according to new UCLA research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. The study was conducted by Professor Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin; Professor May Wang of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; and doctoral students Miriam Pinski and Lilly Nhan. The researchers evaluated U.S. Census Bureau survey data to understand regional differences in the determinants of food insufficiency, defined simply as not having enough food to eat. The team focused on three metropolitan areas: San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley; Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim; and Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario. Overall, the rate of food insufficiency was lowest in the Bay Area, one of the state’s most affluent regions. However, the Bay Area’s disadvantaged households fared worse than their counterparts in Southern California. “Income and educational levels are higher, but income inequality and cost of living are also higher” in the Bay Area, the researchers explained. The study pointed to Los Angeles as a region where an active food distribution network was already in place, enabling governments, schools and community organizations to respond more effectively to the sudden increases in food insecurity brought about by the pandemic. The study was designed to guide the development of economic relief programs and increase the reach of federal assistance programs to address widening health disparities.


 

Blumenberg on Lack of Equity in Transportation Sector

Evelyn Blumenberg, urban planning professor and director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, was cited in a Bloomberg Government article about President Biden’s efforts to promote equity in his administration. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged to consider the needs of minority communities when evaluating old projects or considering new ones, but he has also acknowledged the hurdles that exist — including in the Transportation Department itself. The department’s employees are 74% male and 70% white, and these demographic trends have been consistent for at least 20 years, if not longer. Many transportation projects have negatively impacted lower-income people and communities of color, an issue that has been exacerbated by the lack of diversity in transportation policy officials. Blumenberg commented that the transportation needs of low-income communities have only been “sporadically addressed” on the national level. 


Opportunities and Obstacles for Rental Housing Registries

Rental housing registries require landlords to register and report basic information about their units, assisting with building inspections and enforcement of tenant protections. Roughly a dozen California cities already have rental housing registries, including Los Angeles, and the state legislature has considered establishing a statewide registry each of the past two years. On January 20, join a slate of panelists including Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, author of recent bills to expand registries statewide, to discuss the role of rental housing registries, obstacles to their adoption, and their potential to improve our understanding of the housing market and better protect California’s renter households.

Themes: 

  1. What are rental housing registries being used for today? Who benefits from them?
  2. What do opponents have to say about these registries, or what other hurdles exist to their creation? In particular, how are privacy concerns being addressed?
  3. What untapped potential do rental housing registries have? What could they do that they’re not currently being used for?

Panelists: 

  • Assembly member Buffy Wicks, California Assembly District 15
  • Catherine Bracy, Executive Director, TechEquity Collaborative

Blumenberg on Pandemic’s Impact on Transit Riders

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to Time about mass transit systems across the country that are floundering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sinking ridership has fueled extreme budget shortfalls, forcing transit authorities to slash routes and delay scheduled expansions, the article said. Blumenberg, director of UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, said diminished transit services will severely impact Americans on the bottom rung of the income ladder. “Transit ridership has always been disproportionately low-income, non-white riders, immigrant riders,” Blumenberg said. “That composition is even more disproportionately poor, non-white and immigrants during the pandemic.” Congress is considering a new coronavirus relief package that is likely to include limited assistance for U.S. transit systems, the article noted, but it added that additional investments are needed to spur economic recovery and address inequality. 

Blumenberg Discusses Inequity of Flat Rate Auto Insurance

Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and professor of urban planning, answers a question on WalletHub about the different types of rates charged to California drivers. She notes that lower-income drivers tend to benefit from pay-per-mile auto insurance because they travel fewer miles, on average. But, when charged a flat rate for insurance, “their rates are significantly higher per mile than those of higher-income drivers.” Blumenberg has also answered questions previously on the consumer-oriented website.


 

Blumenberg and Brozen on Inaccessibility of COVID Testing Locations

Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies Director Evelyn Blumenberg and Deputy Director Madeline Brozen co-authored an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times about the accessibility of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 testing sites, most of which are drive-through locations. Public health officials have stressed the importance of testing to combat the pandemic’s spread, but the locations of testing sites are inaccessible for many Angelenos who don’t own cars. Many neighborhoods do not have a walk-in location within walking distance, and borrowing a car or taking public transit to a testing location increases risk of exposure. “If you live in a household without a car in Los Angeles County, you are much more likely to be poor, 65 or older, Black, a recent immigrant, living with a disability or uninsured,” they explained. “These same households also face higher risks of contracting COVID-19, so making sure they have access to testing is paramount.”


Low-Income Workers Still Rely on Public Transit, Blumenberg Says

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to USA Today about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low-income households and workers. While transit ridership has dropped across the country since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, millions of Americans must continue riding public buses and trains to commute to work, go to the grocery store or visit the doctor. Experts say most of the people who have stopped riding public transit are white-collar workers who can work from home and who tend to be white; those who still rely on public transit, possibly putting themselves and those they encounter at risk, include many of the country’s poorest workers. “As always, higher-income households have more choices,” said Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. “For low-income workers who have to take transit, they’re in a confined place, in close proximity to other people. Their problems are compounded. They have no other option.”


For 30 Years, Lewis Center Has Responded to L.A. Issues With Ideas All six current and former directors gather to recall the challenges and successes they experienced while leading regional policy research at UCLA

By Lauren Hiller

During a gathering March 5 at its first home on the UCLA campus, the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies commemorated 30 years of scholarship, public advocacy and leadership on campus and in the community.

All five former Lewis Center directors — a who’s who of distinguished scholars — joined the current director, Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg, at DeCafe Perloff Hall to discuss the milestones and issues facing the region during each person’s tenure. As each director spoke, it was evident that the center’s longevity is rooted in interdisciplinary scholarship and fostering the next generation of scholars.

In 1989, Ralph and Goldy Lewis donated $5 million to endow a research program at UCLA that studied regional policy issues. The following year, the Lewis Center opened its doors in Perloff Hall, the location of what was then known as the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, with founding director Allen J. Scott, distinguished research professor of geography and public policy. Scott was succeeded by Roger Waldinger, distinguished professor of sociology; followed in chronological order by Paul Ong, research professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; J.R. DeShazo, professor of public policy, urban planning and civil and environmental engineering; and Brian D. Taylor, professor of urban planning and public policy.

“My parents both went to UCLA and they believed in the power of public education and need to support the public system,” said Randall Lewis, whose parents were homebuilders and interested in issues of growth, transportation, housing and air quality. “They felt as they were building houses, building communities, that they didn’t want to create problems. They wanted to find solutions.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who joined the UCLA community the same year that Lewis Center was established and received one of its first grants, kicked off the event.

“The Lewis Center best exemplifies the role that we’re asking our research centers to play: push research forward, support the educational mission of the school and its students, and serve as a public forum that disseminates important research-based information and data to a larger public,” said Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate provost for academic planning.

Launched Amid Regional Turmoil
The early 1990s were a tumultuous time in Los Angeles. The aerospace industry, which was a backbone of the region’s economy, was collapsing. The 1994 Northridge earthquake killed 61 people and caused $6.7 million in damage, crippling major infrastructure like freeways. And civil disturbances fueled by racial injustices, police brutality, and poverty and social marginalization rocked the city.

“Los Angeles looked like, from some points of view, a basket case and getting worse,” Scott recalled. “And so we were, at a very early stage, involved in attempting to build responses to these problems and others.”

Scott and the Lewis Center published a series of working papers focusing on new industry (such as electric vehicles) to replace aerospace and an examination of the nature and causes of the crises in South Los Angeles.

By the time Waldinger took over in 1996, the immigrant population in the Los Angeles region had quadrupled within two decades. Yet, research on the impact of immigration on the Los Angeles region lagged behind frequently studied cities like Chicago and New York. The Lewis Center played an integral role in bringing Los Angeles to the forefront of regional studies with efforts such as Waldinger’s book “Ethnic Los Angeles.” Today, it’s hard to imagine a discussion of immigration and foreign-born individuals without considering L.A.

Waldinger said the center’s early research has transformed California policy. Although immigration policy is a federal issue, immigrant policy can be local, he noted, pointing to state measures that have aided California’s immigrant population.

Ong, the center’s third director, continued the multidisciplinary tradition of the Lewis Center and collaborated with scholars in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and the natural sciences. As director, he published a seminal report on the undercounting of low-income people and communities of color in the 2000 Census.

Ong’s work also highlighted a core strength of the Lewis Center — its focus on addressing social justice issues for marginalized communities. He said the center also partnered with the County of Los Angeles and L.A. Metro to understand the transit needs of underserved communities.

DeShazo oversaw the Lewis Center during a time when its focus turned to environmental issues. In 2006, California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), promoting ambitious climate solutions that even some legislators doubted could be achieved.

“Those were the days we didn’t even know where greenhouse gases were coming from,” DeShazo remembered. The first step was to identify sources and then to identify solutions to reduce emissions, including electric vehicles, rooftop solar energy and energy-efficient technology.

“Everything that we have today is what people thought was impossible to accomplish. The groundwork for that was laid in the 2006-2012 period,” DeShazo said.

The Lewis Center has also contributed to environmental justice scholarship, especially the designations of disadvantaged communities as a result of identifying where emissions were coming from and where populations vulnerable to those emissions are living.

Taylor next put the focus on housing affordability and transportation in light of large investments in public transit like Measure R, a sales tax that is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years.

He said the center’s regional lens has a built-in advantage when it comes to studying housing affordability, transportation and access, which play out across a diverse geography.

Taylor’s tenure also overlapped with his role as chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. It was a position that helped him to advocate for the addition of faculty members and scholars who could tackle these regional priorities.

“Housing affordability was not my area of research,” Taylor said. “All I did was try to support and catalyze the intellectual leaders that are helping shape the important debates on this.”

A Legacy of Leadership
Acting as a consistent bridge to marginalized voices, the Lewis Center’s former directors see scholarship and professional development as their enduring legacy. Many onetime students have gone on to become academic leaders in their own right.

“I’m honored to follow in those footsteps,” said Blumenberg MA UP ’90, Ph.D. ’95. She became director in 2018 and has focused on how Angelenos live, move and work in L.A., with a particular interest in pathways out of poverty. The center recently launched the Randall Lewis Housing Initiative.

Has Los Angeles made progress over the last 30 years?

The answer is mixed, Ong said. A commitment to climate change initiatives and equity are highlights, but income inequality and social justice remain daunting issues.

“I’m proud of the fact that the Lewis Center continues to look at issues of inequality,” Ong said. “We’re dedicated to doing the research to find solutions, but it’s like swimming upstream.”

Still, Ong remains hopeful: “I know enough about [Blumenberg’s] history that there will continue to be a commitment from the Lewis Center to accomplish things that will bend us towards justice.”

UCLA Luskin Faculty Win Prestigious Transportation Award for 3rd Time Co-winner Martin Wachs receives the honor from the Transportation Research Board for a second time — four decades apart

By Lena Rogow

Professor Evelyn Blumenberg of Urban Planning and colleagues who include Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs have won the 2019 Pyke Johnson Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) for a recent paper about the mobility needs of aging adults, marking the third time someone from UCLA Luskin has won the prize since its inception.

Wachs has been studying transportation and aging for decades and won the same award more than 40 years ago, in 1976.

The award-winning paper, “Physical Accessibility and Employment Among Older Adults in California,” explores the relationship between car ownership, transit accessibility and older adults’ employment status. The paper found that adults age 60 and older are able to stay in the workforce longer when they have access to a car or to public transit — if they live in a dense urban area.

Blumenberg MA UP ’90, Ph.D. ’95 said that she and Wachs decided to collaborate on the winning paper after realizing they had not previously worked together on a research paper.

“This topic seemed to perfectly align our respective areas of research,” said Blumenberg whose work examines the effects of urban structure — the spatial location of residents, employment and services — on economic outcomes of low-income workers.

“I also knew that it was essential for us to shed light on this topic together,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to showcase an important transportation need to serve an aging population. I’m thrilled that TRB shares our opinion about the importance of this work and I’m honored to be included with a long list of former distinguished scholars who have also received this award.”

 

In addition to Blumenberg and Wachs, the paper’s other authors are Andrew Schouten Ph.D. ’19, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, and Miriam Pinksi, a doctoral student in urban planning.

Pinski said the paper’s focus on low-income adults and their particular access to jobs was notable. Many older adults continue to rely on employment as their main source of income, in part because pensions are becoming rarer in the United States.

“Without transportation, many of these adults would have no way to sustain their lives. I hope our paper has provided more insight into yet another reason why maintaining a functioning transportation infrastructure is critical for many populations,” Pinski said.

“For TRB to recognize our work with this prestigious award is an honor,” Schouten said. “I hope this will bring more attention to important issues that lie at the intersection of transportation, employment and aging.”

ABOUT THE AWARD

TRB established the Pyke Johnson Award in 1971 to give annual recognition to an outstanding paper published in the field of transportation systems planning and administration. It honors the 23rd chairman of the Highway Research Board, who was influential in TRB from its inception.

UCLA has won three times since the first award was given in 1971. Brian Taylor Ph.D. ’92, professor of urban planning and public policy, won in 2000. Wachs is one of three two-time winners and the only person to repeat as winner more than five years apart. The gap in his case was 43 years. In each instance, the research involved faculty and doctoral students.

When Wachs first heard the news, he burst out laughing, recalling how much his life has changed since he first won. His 1976 paper also dealt with mobility and older adults.

“At that time, I was simply writing about the topic from an academic perspective,” Wachs said.  “And now my work is coming true in my own personal life.”

“What’s different about this paper is I’m honored to now collaborate with young people,” he said. “This paper benefited from the combination of their sharp methodological skills with my longstanding focus on this topic. It has been an enormous pleasure collaborating with them, and I’m proud to share this honor with them.”

The presentation took place Jan. 13 at TRB’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.