Policy vs. Political Reality Former Michigan Congressman Bob Carr shares his insights with UCLA Luskin students, faculty and fellows during a week as a Regents Lecturer

By Zev Hurwitz and Stan Paul

Public policy students at UCLA frequently study the goings-on in Congress as a matter of historical fact, but the learning really comes to life when a Capitol Hill veteran makes his way to the Public Affairs Building in person.

That’s exactly what happened when M. Robert “Bob” Carr, a former longtime congressman from Michigan, spent several days at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, lecturing and meeting with Public Policy students. Carr, a former Luskin Senior Fellow, visited Luskin May 15-19, 2017, as a Regents Lecturer — part of the University of California’s Regents Professors and Lecturers Program.

During a busy week at UCLA Luskin, Carr spoke to public policy graduate students over lunch, participated in a Senior Fellows conversation, lectured to intimate groups of students and faculty, spoke to students in a first-year public policy course, and held a series of one-on-one office meetings with Luskin students.

Carr served 18 years in Congress between 1975 and 1995 in a district that includes Michigan’s capital, Lansing. He currently serves as adjunct professor of ethics and congress at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Public Policy Department Chair and Professor Mark Peterson introduced Carr during a May 17 lecture, noting that the former congressman was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat in an otherwise heavily Republican district in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

“As we know, Congress goes on to experience all kinds of periods of time, including the current one,” Peterson said. “Few people have more insight on that than Bob Carr.”

Wednesday’s talk was titled “Congress: A Political Institution, Not a Policy Shop” and focused on the nuances of policy pursuits in a highly politically charged governmental body.

“In most languages, ‘policy’ and ‘politics’ are the same word,” Carr said. “I’ve wondered out loud how this affects our thinking about these areas. We tend to categorize — that’s how we communicate. In English, ‘politics’ and ‘policy’ are related, but have two very different meanings.”

Carr discussed how different branches of the government interact with policy, noting that the rules of the House of Representatives tend to mandate a focus on procedure over policy-formation.

“If I have all the right arguments, I’ve got the best policy prescription, I’ve done critical thinking, and everyone agrees with me — but I don’t know the rule book — I’m not going to win,” he said. “Procedure will win every time over policy and politics.”

In the Senate, however, policy and procedure are secondary to the political environment.

“Senators are very important people. If you don’t know that, just ask them,” he joked.

Because the Senate places less emphasis on rules, every Senator has the ability to hold up legislation. “Every Senator, regardless of where they’re from or their party, is essentially equal, and they cling to that equality,” he said.

Because both chambers of Congress vary on their priorities and operations, policymaking is strained when the two chambers need to work together to pass bills, that arise from differing priorities. The executive branch, by contrast, lays out a policy agenda but is powerless to act unilaterally to introduce new laws.

A more productive form of government, he said, is one where the executive branch is not operating in a manner inherently at odds with the legislature.

“It’s relatively efficient,” he said of parliamentary democracies such as in the United Kingdom. “Parliamentary systems are designed to make things happen.”

Carr’s talk to UCLA Luskin Senior Fellows, “Can This Divided Congress Govern?” was moderated by Bill Parent, lecturer in the Department of Public Policy.

Carr provided a bit of U.S. history, discussing the political environment of the late 1700s. Carr said that at that time the framers of the Constitution did not want another Parliament, which he said was making life in the colonies “miserable,” citing the passage of the Stamp Act as one example.

In addition to making laws, budgets and playing a key role in the balance of power, “what’s the job of Congress?” Carr asked the audience. “Congress is about politics. Congress is about the struggle, not the policy,” he said.

“Can you have democracy in America if you don’t have democracy in the House?” he asked. “No, you can’t. And we don’t have democracy in the House today.”

Asked what a run for Congress in a state like Michigan would look like in today’s environment, Carr said it would not consist of a single message. Considering the makeup of the state, “It just wouldn’t work. You have to make a connection, find out what their story is. The message has to speak to the people’s story.”

When asked what things he would like to see change, Carr listed:

  • Gerrymandering, especially in an age of computers and big data. “Members of Congress are selecting their constituency and not the other way around,” he said.
  • Campaign finance, which he said is a corrupted system, citing super PACS and the “terrorism of money.”
  • And getting rid of the filibuster and a “return to a majoritarian body,” Carr said. “I know people on my side of the aisle go nuts about that, but long-term we have to transact with the American people.”

 

Community Choice Is Transforming the California Energy Industry Report by UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation researchers finds that Community Choice Aggregators provide a competitive alternative for electricity consumers

By George Foulsham

J.R. DeShazo

After decades of dominance by electricity monopolies, California is experiencing the emergence of community choice aggregators, a new type of utility that provides cities and counties the opportunity to choose what kinds of energy to purchase for their needs.

Community choice aggregation allows cities and counties in California (and other states that have enacted it) to group individual customers’ purchasing power within a defined jurisdiction to buy energy. In California, community choice aggregators are legally defined by state law as electric service providers.

These aggregators, or CCAs, have introduced competition into historically protected, investor-owned utility territories. In doing so, they have given eligible California customers a choice of retail energy providers. Since 2010, California communities have established eight CCAs. More than a dozen additional communities are making strides toward switching to CCAs.

“California is headed toward transformation with this rapid development of community choice aggregation programs,” said J.R. DeShazo, principal investigator for a new report by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, part of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Our report highlights the benefits of CCAs while identifying unresolved policy questions that must be addressed by state regulators.”

According to the report, CCAs in California generally offer a larger share of renewable energy — up to 25 percent more — compared to the investor-owned utility in the same area. “We estimate that these efforts resulted in a total reduction of approximately 600,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2016 — the equivalent of $7.5 million in reductions at the 2016 carbon price of $12.73 per metric ton on the statewide carbon market,” DeShazo said.

CCAs offer greener energy at a competitive price, according to Julien Gattaciecca, Luskin Center researcher and lead author of the study.

“CCAs have recently entered the energy market, allowing them to benefit from a long decline of falling wholesale renewable energy costs,” Gattaciecca said. “Some CCAs also offer larger incentives than their local investor-owned utility to households and businesses that self-generate energy through rooftop solar programs, and some have made the commitment to source energy from local renewable facilities, and directly own local solar facilities.”

DeShazo, who is a professor of public policy at the Luskin School, added: “Community choice aggregation is currently the best policy tool available to cities and counties who want to tailor energy procurement to their community’s preferences. The stakes are high. Regulators are grappling with important policy decisions that could affect the future of the energy market as well as the pocketbooks of Californians.”

With investor-owned utilities facing increasing competition, the study concludes that more choices can only benefit consumers, with the right regulations in place.

“Currently, an important part of the load in California is looking at CCAs,” Gattaciecca said. “The three major investor-owned utilities could see between 50 and 80 percent of their load departing for CCAs or direct access providers by 2025 or 2030.”

The eight operational California CCAs are Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power, Lancaster Choice Energy, CleanPower San Francisco, Peninsula Clean Energy in San Mateo County, Apple Valley Choice Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Redwood Coast Energy Authority. Other CCAs expected to launch this year are East Bay Community Energy in Alameda County, Los Angeles Community Choice Energy and Valley Clean Energy Alliance in Yolo County and Davis.

UCLA Team in Carbon XPRIZE Competition Receives $1.5 Million Donation Gift from Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation will support researchers, including a team from the Luskin Center for Innovation, working to convert carbon dioxide into building material

A more recent example of CO2NCRETE being produced by the UCLA researchers. Photo by George Foulsham

UCLA has received a generous $1.5 million gift from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation to support faculty members competing for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The funds will support the team’s efforts to develop a process for capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into a material that can be used in building and construction.

The international competition, which began in 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in 2020, was launched to encourage the development of breakthrough technologies that power plants and other industrial facilities can use to fight climate change. It will award a total of $20 million to finalists and winners.

UCLA’s Carbon Upcycling team is one of 25 that has advanced to the semifinals by demonstrating a process for capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plant smokestacks, the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. The trapped emissions will be used to create a carbon dioxide–neutral building material called CO2NCRETE, which can replace traditional concrete. The binding component of traditional concrete is responsible for nearly 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“The Carbon Upcycling team is working on an innovative technology to address a primary source of carbon dioxide emissions, and I want to thank the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation for their vision and generous support of this UCLA initiative,” said Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The team is led by Gaurav Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science, and J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and professor of public policy in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Among other team members are Laurent Pilon, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Richard Kaner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and of materials science; and Mathieu Bauchy, professor of civil engineering.

“The next step involves scaling up the reactors, processes and systems required to produce CO2NCRETE,” Sant said. “This will help us overcome the challenges of producing CO2NCRETE in industrial quantities, while ensuring the rapid capture of carbon dioxide and its benefits.”

A total of up to 10 teams will advance to the Carbon XPRIZE finals, with up to five teams in each of two parallel tracks — one will test technologies at a coal power plant, and the other at a natural gas power plant. The teams in the finals will split a $2.5 million purse, and the winning team in each track will receive $7.5 million.

The gift from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation is part of the $4.2 billion UCLA Centennial Campaign, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2019 during UCLA’s 100th anniversary year.

Save Every Drop While We Still Can International water expert Brian Richter joins California government officials for a panel at UCLA Luskin that stresses urgent need to conserve in an increasingly drought-plagued world

By Aaron Julian

“Every Californian should think about water the same way they think about electricity — you just don’t waste it.”

This sentiment expressed by Debbie Franco of the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is typical of the conservation advice offered by a panel of water experts during a Feb. 22, 2017, presentation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Spearheading the discussion was Brian Richter, an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Chasing Water.” Richter outlined the historical relationship between humanity and water. He also explained his ideas to formulate a “water market” that would monetarily encourage responsible water usage on the personal, industrial and governmental levels.

“Disruption needs to happen more on the governmental level,” said Richter about the best approach to lessen overuse and foster more cooperation between city, local and state governments regarding an ongoing world water crisis. An example of intergovernmental partnerships is San Diego’s annual $60-million investment to encourage smarter water use by farmers in the Imperial Irrigation District in return for access to a third of the city’s water supply.

The Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce led a question and answer session with the panelists regarding water conservation policy. Photo by Les Dunseith

Water is especially important for California governments and residents in light of the historic drought affecting the region. During a question and answer session led by the Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce MA U.P. ’11 UP PhD ’15, panelists discussed how to keep momentum toward sustainable water systems despite recent downpours estimated at about 19 total inches of rain — equal to about 27 billion gallons of water.

Franco argued that the solution to the water issue needs to go beyond collaborative government — it has to become a way of life.

“One of the key elements that we are missing in California are folks that understand water,” she said. “We need people to feel like they are water managers in their own home. That’s an important first step toward a thriving and active participation in local government.”

She said such participation helps propel effective action at all levels. Richter added that “77 percent of all Americans have absolutely no idea where their water comes from.”

He noted a core argument of his book, that in order to have a fully active and informed citizenry, the science and policy communities need to fully understand water themselves.

Panelist Liz Crosson from the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office told the large crowd that attended the session that Los Angeles has instituted a Save the Drop campaign in partnership with the mayor’s fund, working to reach a 20 percent reduction from the 103 gallon per day of water usage per capita in the city. Even if successful, that mark is well short of Australia’s average of 50 gallons per day as noted by Richter in his book and lecture.

The city’s plan involves combating water illiteracy in combination with incentives and restrictions on water use. The city has also updated its rate structure to be more compatible with different socioeconomic brackets.

Still, Crosson warned, “Here in L.A., just because it is raining does not mean our water supply is in much better shape. We are trying to change that, but that’s a long time coming. This is now about a Californian way of life.”

Panelist Angela George of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works said she believes the most effective methodology would be a campaign to instill in children the techniques and habits of water conservation. “It is important to get into our schools and educate where our water comes from — a local perspective.”

Amid a crowd that included UCLA Luskin students and faculty as well as interested members of the community, passions sometimes ran high, with some questioning whether current efforts and ideas are sufficient to truly improve water conservation.

Panelists noted the importance of individuals working closely with local government in order to push for reforms they want to see.

“You have to find out how to mobilize the political wherewithal,” Franco said. “Show up and know what’s going on, and keep telling what you want.”

The lecture and panel discussion were put together by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in partnership with Island Press as part of a speaker series known as Luskin Innovators.

Angelenos On Track to Meet 2017 Water Conservation Goals New study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation reinforces importance of turf removal

Two years after Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 5 (ED 5), putting in place strong, emergency drought response measures for the City of Los Angeles, water customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) remain ahead of schedule in meeting citywide water conservation goals.

Water use by LADWP customers remains down approximately 20 percent from 2014 levels, meeting the goal for 2017 as set forth in ED 5 and the LA’s Sustainable City pLAn ahead of schedule. LADWP water officials attribute much of the success to Angelenos’ continued actions to reduce outdoor watering and replace water-thirsty turf with drought tolerant landscapes. Approximately 50 percent of residential water use in Los Angeles is attributed to uses outdoors and LADWP’s turf replacement rebate program has resulted in 37 million square feet of turf being removed in the City of Los Angeles, saving 1.6 billion gallons of water each year.  That’s enough water to supply 15,000 LA households each year. LADWP currently provides participating customers a rebate of $1.75 per square foot to rip out turf and replace it with California friendly landscaping. The rebate level has been maintained by LADWP even after the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) eliminated its additional $2.00 per square foot rebate in 2015.

A new study by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation shows that $1.75 per square foot is a reasonable amount that pays off for both residential households who utilize the rebate and LADWP ratepayers.

The Luskin Center’s report, Turf Replacement Program Impacts on Households and Ratepayers: An Analysis for the City of Los Angeles, answers two questions: Under what conditions does participation in the turf replacement program provide financial benefits to households? And is the turf replacement program a reasonably cost effective investment for utilities and ratepayers?

In order to assess the economics of lawn replacement from the household perspective the report measures the impact of different rebate levels, turf replacement costs, climate zones (determined by different evapotranspiration rates across the city), and future expected water pricing on household financial benefits. The report calculates the payback periods for ratepayers based on varying levels of household participation in the turf replacement program and different levels of rebates. Rebates offered at $1.75 result in a payback period for typical households and ratepayers of approximately 10 years, comparable to other investments like solar.

“Angelenos are the water heroes of California — we’ve pulled up 37 million square feet of thirsty turf, more than two-thirds of the state’s target, and reduced our water use 20 percent,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We have made amazing progress in the two years since I signed an executive directive to respond to our drought, and the study released Monday shows that our incentives are working. But we can always do more, and I’m proud of our Department of Water and Power for making sensible, effective improvements to our turf rebate program.”

“Turf replacement programs, when well designed, are an essential conservation tool for communities to become more drought and climate resilient,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

To further the benefits of its turf rebate program, LADWP recently updated the program guidelines. The amended terms and conditions will continue to promote the installation of native and California Friendly low water-use plants while ensuring each project incorporates sustainable design elements that benefit the customer and help contribute to the City’s future water conservation goals.

Changes to the turf rebate program include:

No longer providing rebates for the installation of synthetic turf;

Increasing California Friendly plant coverage required from 40% to 50%;

Limiting the amount of rock, gravel, or decomposed granite to 25% of the total project;

Incorporating rainfall capture techniques in project designs;

No longer permitting the use of synthetic or chemically treated mulch;

And recommending the use of biodegradable (natural/organic) weed barriers (instead of synthetic weed barriers).

“These turf rebate guideline changes allow LADWP to push an already positive sustainability program for our environment to an even higher, healthier standard,” LADWP General Manager David Wright said.

The program changes will assist LADWP customers in better capturing, conserving, and reusing water to prevent runoff on their property and reduce water demand. In addition to these water-saving benefits, by requiring program participants to minimize the use of materials such as gravel, pavers, decomposed granite, and synthetic turf – materials that often create a “heat island” effect on properties by absorbing the sun’s heat – LADWP aims to lower surface and temperatures on properties. This added benefit may assist customers in limiting energy use by reducing the need for air conditioning.

To learn more about LADWP’s turf rebate and other water conservation programs, please visit myLADWP.com.

UCLA’s Carbon Upcycling Team Advances to Semifinals of Carbon XPRIZE Competition

By Stan Paul

An interdisciplinary team of UCLA researchers has advanced to the semifinal round of a global competition to reduce greenhouse gases through groundbreaking scientific and technological innovation.

The UCLA team, Carbon Upcycling — representing a campuswide collaboration of chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, economics, public policy and engineering (mechanical, civil and environmental) researchers — is among 27 teams moving one step closer to a share of the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

“Advancing to the next round of the Carbon XPRIZE confirms the potential of our carbon upcycling technology, and further motivates the team toward its end goal, that is the realization of a carbon-neutral cementation solution at scale,” said Gaurav Sant, one of five UCLA faculty members leading the 13-member team. Sant is an associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and a professor of Public Policy in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is one of the leaders of the project. “The XPRIZE competition not only inspires innovation, but also provides an opportunity to showcase the talent at UCLA and the incredible power of collaboration,” DeShazo said. “We look forward to the next stage of discovery and development.”

The competition, which was launched in 2015, “addresses global CO2 emissions by incentivizing innovative solutions to convert CO2 from a liability into an asset,” according to a Carbon XPRIZE press release announcing the selection of teams moving forward in the competition.

Carbon Upcycling uses CO2 emissions from power plants and turns them into a replacement material for cement called CO2NCRETE. Common concrete, which is produced in countries around the globe, is responsible for nearly 5 percent of emissions worldwide. The UCLA team is among six teams vying in both competition tracks: Track A — coal, and Track B — natural gas. Other semifinal teams from the United States, Canada, China, India, Switzerland and Scotland have focused on turning the climate-changing gas into products ranging from toothpaste to fish food.

According to the Carbon XPRIZE announcement, the semifinals will work as follows:

  • Teams will demonstrate their innovative technology at pilot scale at a location of their own choosing, using either real flue gas or simulated flue gas stream.
  • Over a 10-month period, teams must meet minimum requirements and will be scored on how much CO2 they convert and the net value of their products.
  • Following judging scheduled for November and December 2017, up to five teams in each track that score the highest will share a $2.5-million milestone purse and move onto the finals of the competition, demonstrating their technology at real-world power plants.

Read the full Carbon XPRIZE release online at:
http://carbon.xprize.org/press-release/27-teams-advancing-20m-nrg-cosia-carbon-xprize

For more information about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, visit carbon.xprize.org

For more information about UCLA Carbon Upcycling team, please visit: http://www.co2upcycling.com/members/

Read the earlier UCLA story: http://luskin.ucla.edu/2016/03/14/carbon-upcycling-turning-co2-into-a-new-sustainable-co2ncrete/

A Guide to Turn the L.A. River Green UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation creates a toolkit to help communities navigate paths to improving the river’s greenbelt

By George Foulsham

If you’re looking for an example of what communities can do to take advantage of the land that adjoins the Los Angeles River, look no further than Marsh Park — 3.9 acres of greenway in the Elysian Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, not far from downtown.

The park features trees, green infrastructure, play and fitness equipment, a walking path, picnic tables and an open-air pavilion, all built around a large industrial building that houses a company that takes modular shipping containers and turns them into residences for the homeless.

The park also serves as a gateway to the L.A. River and is one of the case studies used by researchers from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in preparing a new Los Angeles River Greenway Guide. The guide is now available online.

“The L.A. River Greenway Guide consists of 14 case studies that highlight different parks, pathways, access points and bridges that have been constructed along the river,” J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, said. “What we have tried to do is to identify successful examples of improvements in the river greenway and then identify the challenges and the obstacles that those improvements faced so that other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and, sometimes, their failures.”

Marsh Park is one of the 14 case studies used by Luskin researchers to create the L.A. River Greenway Guide. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

The guide highlights four types of projects: bridges across the river, pathways along the river, community access points that connect communities to the river, and parks next to the river. It looks at the history of various efforts, identifies the challenges faced in each of those projects and spells out how those obstacles were overcome, leading to successful riverside gateways.

One example of useful information provided by the guide is a section on overcoming the hurdles associated with ownership and governance issues, with hints on how to deal with easement, maintenance and permit questions.

The guide will be unveiled at a free event, “A Night at the L.A. River,” on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., in Los Angeles. It is co-sponsored by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. The event will include a panel discussion on the “L.A. River Greenway Through Public-Private Partnership,” featuring Michael Affeldt of the L.A. mayor’s office.

The L.A. River, which starts in the Simi Hills and meanders 51 miles to the Port of Long Beach, has been called one of Los Angeles’ most ill-used natural treasures but also a neglected eyesore that looks more like a deserted freeway than a river.

In recent decades, concerted efforts have sought to revitalize and repurpose the river and its adjoining greenbelt. Graduate student researchers and scholars at the Luskin Center, part of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, are working with stakeholders, communities and organizations in an attempt to create a new future for the river and its environs.

The Luskin students, guided by DeShazo, deputy director Colleen Callahan and project manager Kelsey Jessup, produced the toolkit after receiving feedback at a workshop hosted by the Luskin Center earlier this year. Participants included staff, advocates and leaders from the communities, as well as nonprofits, government agencies, elected officials, policymakers, business and business associations, and academics, researchers and students.

The Luskin students have met with representatives from the communities that border the L.A. River, seeking their input and concerns. The new guide reflects the Luskin team’s research and recommendations.

“We think about the L.A. River greenway as an opportunity to enhance a 51-mile stretch adjacent to the L.A. River,” said Andrew Pasillas, a Luskin researcher who graduated in June with a master’s degree in urban planning. “In choosing a range of focus for the guide, we first held a lower L.A. River workshop which over 100 community residents and organizations attended. We heard from them what would be most beneficial in their efforts to develop projects, talking about these specific development processes and where they stumbled in the past.”

According to DeShazo, the researchers studied examples of successful projects — often near the northern part of the river — and “we thought about how those opportunities could be realized in the lower parts of the river where there are fewer river amenities and the greenway is more incomplete.”

The guide, Jessup said, is also a nod to what has already been accomplished.

“The Luskin Center’s Greenway Guide aims to do two important things,” Jessup said. “The first is to document the incredible work that has already happened along the river. Organizations have been implementing projects along all 51 miles and there is no real way for anyone to learn about all the projects, the details and the incredible work that has happened.

“Our second goal,” she added, “is to provide a resource for community members, government agencies and anyone who wants to do a project — to better understand the challenges that come with doing a project along the river and to come up with solutions to overcome those challenges.”

The researchers studied the history of the river — why it was ignored for so many years and what helped transform the region’s approach from what had been nothing more than a flood-control mechanism.

“Revitalizing the river has been challenging because there has been a long history of isolating it from the public,” Pasillas said. “Stretching back to the early 1930s and ’40s, there was a series of devastating floods that led to the thought process that we have to place concrete on the river itself to protect people.”

“There’s been a disconnect between the people of Los Angeles and the river,” Jessup said. “A lot of people don’t even know there is a river, and if they do, they think it’s this concrete channel that is in the way and dividing communities.

“But there’s been a shift over the past few decades and a lot of communities are seeing the river as a resource and an opportunity, especially along the greenway, for health, transportation, environmental and economic benefits,” she added. “The Luskin Center started this guide because we saw an opportunity to complement some of the other efforts that are being made to help connect the community to the river.”

According to the researchers, the guide is an example of how the Luskin Center can help communities in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California overcome obstacles.

“We hope that this guide can serve to empower communities by bringing forth the voices of river-adjacent communities that have never been heard before,” Jessup said. “The idea of a complete river greenway is the equitable distribution of different project types for different communities and residents to enjoy.”

UCLA and the Luskin Center chose to take on the guide because of the university’s expertise in urban planning.

“We bring together skills — whether it be ecology, park design or financing expertise — needed to help bring these projects to fruition,” DeShazo said. “We are very committed to engaging with Los Angeles and the communities that make up Los Angeles and working with them to make sure their vision of their section of the greenway is realized.”

The L.A. River Greenway Guide was made possible by donations from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Bohnett Foundation and the California Endowment.

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

UCLA Carbon Upcycling Team Enters XPrize Interdisciplinary researchers, including UCLA Luskin faculty and students, will compete with teams from around the world vying for $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize

Carbon Upcycling, an interdisciplinary team from UCLA, has announced its official entry into the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Carbon Upcycling, headquartered in Los Angeles with 13 team members, is among a growing number of teams from around the world vying for a share of the $20-million prize purse.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change.

Carbon Upcycling is composed of UCLA professors, students, and staff. The team has formed over the past year to explore new approaches for developing construction materials. Led by five distinguished professors including Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center and professor of Public Policy, Urban Planning and Environmental Engineering, the team has succeeded in developing a new technology which transforms waste carbon dioxide from power plants into a new building material that can replace cement, a material responsible for approximately 5 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions.

“We have proof of concept that we can do this,” DeShazo said. “But we need to begin the process of increasing the volume of material and then think about how to pilot it commercially. It’s one thing to prove these technologies in the laboratory. It’s another to take them out into the field and see how they work under real-world conditions.”

By removing CO2 from power plant smokestacks this technology reduces the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions and could be a game-changer for climate policy, DeShazo said.

For more information about team Carbon Upcycling, please visit http://www.co2upcycling.com/. High-resolution images, video and other team materials are available upon request.

For more information about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, visit http://carbon.xprize.org.

Sustainable Cities Conference to Include UCLA Luskin Experts UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs among co-sponsors of May 16 conference focusing on transforming urban centers into sustainability leaders

Leading academics and experts from across the country and the globe will gather at UCLA on May 19, 2016, to discuss one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century: achieving sustainability. Expert panels at the Smart and Sustainable Cities Conference will focus on critical areas for transforming the world’s urban centers into sustainability leaders: transportation, water, energy, the built environment, and the digital city and sharing economy.

A closing panel will take an integrated approach to defining what makes a “sustainable city,” discuss the context necessary for innovative technologies and policies to take hold, and consider the broad social and economic issues involved.

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is among the co-sponsors of the conference. Three Luskin faculty members and one Luskin Scholar — all with extensive experience in urban sustainability — will participate in the conference. They will weigh in on the cutting-edge policies, designs and technologies that are helping cities use limited resources as efficiently and intelligently as possible.

J.R. DeShazo is the director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, vice chair of the Department of Public Policy at Luskin and a professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His latest research highlights the importance of innovation in the quest for urban sustainability. In March, DeShazo and a team of interdisciplinary researchers at UCLA unveiled a method for turning concrete, an essential building block of cities, into an essential building block of a sustainable future.

While essential to the modern world, the ubiquitous material is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. About 5 percent of global emissions can be linked to concrete.

DeShazo and his team worked on a process that captures carbon from power plant smokestacks and turns it into an alternative to concrete — called CO2NCRETE. The closed-loop method for producing the material is highly efficient and environmentally friendly. It both limits carbon emissions and produces a fundamental building material for the modern world.

DeShazo’s current research also focuses on making Los Angeles County water self-sufficient. The project aims to create a feasible local water market for trading and selling county water resources, with input from stakeholders.

Dana Cuff is a professor of Architecture/Urban Design and Urban Planning and the founder and current director of UCLA’s cityLAB. Established in 2006, the research center explores the challenges facing the 21st century metropolis through design and research. Cuff’s work focuses on urban design, affordable housing, modernism, urban sensing technologies and the politics of place.

One of Cuff’s project at cityLAB included concept development and executive production of the BI(h)OME, which was completed last June. The ultra-modern lightweight accessory dwelling unit has the potential to address current housing shortages in an affordable way.

The structure also addresses urban sustainability challenges. The environmental impact of the structure over its entire life cycle is between 10 and 100 times less than a similar conventional structure and the BI(h)OME also can function as a biome, providing a home for multiple species. The structure also can supply water to surrounding vegetation using its grey water drainage system.

In August, Cuff received the Community Contribution Award from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects for her dynamic design contributions to Los Angeles.

Martin Wachs is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Wachs was a professor of civil and environmental engineering and professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies.

Prior to his work in Berkeley, he spent 25 years at UCLA, where he served for 11 years as chair of the Department of Urban Planning. Wachs was also director of the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica.

Wachs is the author of more than 180 articles on planning and transportation and he also wrote or edited five books on transportation finance and economics, planning and policy.

He is the recipient of a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award and the Carey Award for service to the Transportation Research Board.

Luskin Scholar Yoram Cohen of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has dedicated much of his work to water issues. In 2014, Cohen, the director of the Water Technology Research Center at UCLA, unveiled his portable, self-operating Smart Integrated Membrane System. SIMS makes undrinkable, brackish water usable.

Cohen has taken his system from the university campus into the field and it is currently being put to the test in the San Joaquin Valley, where it has successfully treated 25,000 gallons of contaminated water a day for almost two years. The potential of the system is vast thanks to its cost effectiveness and scalability.

Cohen is also the driving force behind the conference. One of the forum’s themes will be Israeli leadership in urban sustainability. Six of the 22 panelists are from Israel, which faces many of the same sustainability challenges as California.

Cohen also has deep ties to Israel. The Luskin Scholar and director of UCLA’s Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies was born in Israel and maintains professional connections to his country of birth as a member of the International Advisory Committee to the Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and as an adjunct professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The conference, at DeNeve Commons on the UCLA campus, is open to the public.

Many Happy Returns from Cap-and-Trade New Luskin Center study shows low-income California households are benefiting under the landmark climate program

By George Foulsham

Low-income Californians feel the pinch when gasoline, electricity and natural gas prices increase. And it’s logical to think that the state’s Cap-and-Trade program might add to those expenses. But this program is generating billions of dollars to provide an array of benefits to Californians, especially those living in disadvantaged communities.

Now, a first-of-its-kind study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation has found that Cap-and-Trade has produced another very positive result. The study, “Protecting the Most Vulnerable: A Financial Analysis of Cap-and-Trade’s Impact on Households in Disadvantaged Communities across California,” revealed that the state has very effectively put in place measures to mitigate any disproportionate impact that might fall on low-income households.

According to the researchers, protective measures implemented by the state could more than offset Cap-and-Trade compliance costs that are passed on to electricity, natural gas and gasoline consumers.

“As consumers of these three industries, we asked what are the Cap-and-Trade compliance costs for these industries,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and principal investigator on the project. “What is the cost pass-through from the regulated industries to consumers and what are the strategies to reduce those cost pass-throughs from Cap-and-Trade? And, finally, what is the net financial impact?”

Low-income households inevitably are going to bear a stronger burden from regulation because they pay a higher percentage of their income to electricity and natural gas bills as well as to gasoline. But, according to the study, the state has effectively put in place measures to protect low-income Californians as we transition to a cleaner, lower-carbon economy.

“We actually see that, once you factor in those direct and indirect measures, low-income Californians receive a small but still measureable potential benefit,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center and co-author of the report. “We found that electric utility customers could actually gain $200-250 during our study period, which is the length of the Cap-and-Trade program, through 2020.”

The study also found that low-income households could receive an estimated positive impact of between $44 and $83 as natural gas utility customers.

“And for gasoline customers we are predicting a bigger net benefit,” Callahan said. “We estimate that our representative households could receive a cumulated, indirect benefit of approximately $350 to $700 by 2020.”

“I think it’s been a success because of the way they are implementing various price increase mitigation strategies for consumers, and low-income households especially, along with the Cap-and-Trade program,” Julien Gattaciecca, lead author of the study and a Luskin Center researcher, said. “It is very well made and very well thought-out, and gives the rest of the world a leading path to follow.”

Cap-and-Trade was created in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It requires that the biggest producers of greenhouse gas — including electricity utilities, natural gas utilities and fuel distributors — purchase carbon allowances. The costs of these carbon allowances create price signals that communicate to consumers the amount of GHG emissions associated with electricity, natural gas, and gasoline consumption. “They have to pay to pollute, or they have an incentive to reduce their emissions,” Callahan said.

“It’s a complicated program, but it’s an important one,” she added. “It’s affecting the lives of us Californians. And it’s generating billions — with a B — of dollars and will continue to do so.”

The state’s portion of the Cap-and-Trade proceeds are deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which are used to make climate investments that further the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32, Núñez and Pavley). Those climate investments provide tangible benefits — energy efficiency and weatherization upgrades for homes, clean vehicle incentives, tree planting and more — in communities across Californians.

Another portion of the Cap-and-Trade proceeds are being directly returned to the millions of Californians who are residential customers of an investor-owned utility, such as Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison. Customers of those utilities respectively received $50 to $60 in climate credits on their electricity bills in 2015.

The Luskin report assessed how the provision of climate credits directed to households would mitigate Cap-and-Trade related costs. The study also assessed two other types of strategies that indirectly mitigate these costs. As such, Gattaciecca factored in low-income rate assistance programs, which although unrelated to the Cap-and-Trade Program, can reduce households’ budgetary burden associated with electricity and natural gas consumption.

Gattaciecca also factored in state and industry predicted trends for electricity, natural gas, and gasoline consumption, which are affected by climate investments and other efficiency, fuel switching, and vehicle-miles reducing programs and policies that help households lower their use of energy and fuels. Because these policies and programs can help lower energy and gasoline bills, they indirectly lower any Cap-and-Trade compliance cost passed on to customers.

The Luskin report utilized a case study approach. The state developed a tool, called the CalEnviroScreen, to identify disadvantaged communities that have elevated environmental health and socioeconomic risks, including poverty and pollution. Using CalEnviroScreen, the Luskin researchers chose four California communities for their study.

Gattaciecca also examined American Consumer Survey data and other databases to learn about common characteristics of households within those four case study communities. He then constructed hypothetical but representative profiles of households in each of the case study communities.

“We looked at four households in California,” Gattaciecca said. “We didn’t do that randomly. We took one in Oakland, one in Traver in Tulare County, one in Los Angeles and one in San Bernardino to collectively have a diverse set of case study communities. All four present different patterns when it comes to transportation, racial composition, housing types, family structure, climate and more. That’s the beauty of the report. We cover four very different locations. It’s not just policy and crunching numbers. There’s a human story here.”

“Real households benefits from climate investments deposited into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund,” Callahan said. Senate Bill 535 (De León) requires that a minimum of 25 percent of the monies in this fund go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities in California, and a minimum of 10 percent go to projects located in these communities. “I went to Washington, D.C., last year and presented at a national environmental justice conference. This is seen as one of the most significant environmental justice victories of the past decade.”

The results of their study left Callahan and the other researchers impressed.

“The California Air Resources Board is the lead agency on the Cap-and-Trade program and has a lead role in implementing climate investments,” Callahan said. “They’ve done a very thoughtful, thorough job. There’s more that can be done, but we commend them.”

A full copy of the Luskin Center report can be found here.