Manville, Lens and Monkkonen on ‘the Consequences of Inaction’

A CityLab article on housing supply as a hot-button issue delved into the robust debate around the best strategies to make shelter affordable. Los Angeles is the epicenter of the housing crisis, and UCLA Luskin urban planning scholars have conducted extensive research on the issue, with varying conclusions. The article described arguments made for and against upzoning, which would increase the housing stock by lifting regulatory limits on density. In an earlier article, Professor Michael Storper cast doubt on the effectiveness of such policies. In rebuttal, three of his UCLA Luskin colleagues, Associate Professors Michael Manville, Michael Lens and Paavo Monkkonen, authored an essay pointing to studies that support upzoning. “When every neighborhood acts to preserve itself, soon the city is mired in regulation, and rents and prices rise,” they wrote. “Were regulations relaxed, these places would have more housing, and price increases would first slow and eventually fall.” They concluded, “The consequences of inaction also matter.”


 

Affordable Housing Is Not an Easy Fix, Lens Says

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, evaluated proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including those put forward by Democratic presidential candidates. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have proposed offering tax credits to help tenants pay rent. Opponents argue that such vouchers will not change the number of housing units available and could even spur landlords to raise rents. On KCRW’s Left, Right & Center, Lens said tax credits are just one of a wide variety of tools and interventions needed to address the complex problem. These include stronger tenant protections and more publicly subsidized housing, he said. “This is not a problem that lends itself to an easy fix,” said Lens,  associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The podcast segment featuring Lens begins at the 34-minute mark.


 

Looking at the Life and Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

“The Hussle Is Real,” a conversation inspired by the life and work of Nipsey Hussle, was held May 14 at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The event, organized by the student-run Luskin Black Caucus and UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare Diversity Committee, included presentations by Latoya Small, assistant professor of social welfare; Michael Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; and Marcus Hunter, associate professor of sociology and chair of African American Studies at UCLA. The discussion went beyond the “gangster-rapper” label to examine Hussle’s contributions to the community and impact in the context of public affairs and urban space. “When you think about Nipsey Hussle, it’s not just the gangster rap, it’s also the entrepreneurship,” Small said. “He didn’t rent a shop, he purchased the building. He hired people that were undesirable to others and talked about promoting commerce … and building business legitimately.” Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, provided “numbers and history” on South L.A.’s environment and long legacy of segregation to provide a framework for Hussle’s community work. “Nipsey was the embodiment of the power to affect positive change from the ground up, and his death undoubtedly leaves a hole,” Lens said of the rapper, who was slain in March. Hussle, who was born in 1985, during America’s “War on Drugs” era and its aftermath, was a survivor, Hunter said. He played samples of Hussle’s music, asking the audience to “consider what questions come up when you meditate on Nipsey’s contributions and tragic murder.” View photos of the event on Flickr.


 

Lens Defends Senate Bill 50 Upzoning Proposal

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, expressed his support for Senate Bill 50 in a Los Angeles Daily News article about the controversial bill. If passed, SB50 would override local restrictions against multi-family housing, allowing developers to construct larger buildings or condos near transportation hubs in a process known as upzoning. Many have expressed opposition to the bill, arguing that it would destroy neighborhoods without necessarily addressing housing affordability. Critics of SB50 argue that there is little empirical evidence to support the relationship between upzoning, increased construction and lower housing prices. Lens points to the long-standing trend of downzoning to protect single-family neighborhoods, arguing that “there is an absence of evidence mainly because we don’t have a lot of experience upzoning anything like this.” In defense of SB50, Lens explains that he “doesn’t believe it’s his right to guarantee that a building down the street isn’t multi-family housing.”


Lens, Storper Offer Perspectives on Housing Bill

A CityLab article about a state bill aimed at easing California’s housing crisis cited UCLA Luskin faculty and research. The bill, SB 50, would loosen zoning restrictions to permit more housing units near jobs and transit. A diverse mix of Californians — residents of rich suburbs, neighborhoods fighting gentrification and struggling farm towns — have weighed in on both sides of the bill. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty also offered competing perspectives. Associate Professor Michael Lens commented, “Homeowners generally benefit from scarcity. So pulling some of the zoning powers away from cities seems like something to consider to reduce those negative incentives.” Professor Michael Storper offered a counterpoint, noting that “some of the most diverse communities in California are made up of suburban-style, single-family homes.” The article also cited a Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies report showing that the state does not have the planned capacity to meet its housing construction goals.


 

Lens, Stoll Release Study of Misdemeanors in Los Angeles

UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy and associate faculty director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and Michael A. Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, released a report on March 22, 2019, that reviewed 16 years of misdemeanor data from the Los Angeles Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office. “Trends in Misdemeanor Arrests in Los Angeles: 2001-2017” highlights that misdemeanor arrests rose sharply — from 88,511 arrests in 2001 to 112,570 in 2008, which is the highest number recorded — but then dropped to 60,063 in 2017, a 47 percent decrease. This reflects a statewide trend. The rates fell dramatically for juveniles, but some other demographic groups, including black females, saw increases. The researchers said this work is critical because, unlike felonies, misdemeanors are understudied, and they account for a much higher volume of arrests, particularly among people of color. “Interaction with police is the single-most –common way people interact with the government, and yet we neglect this level of interaction at our peril,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said during a release event at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. How people interact with the criminal justice system could impact their views and participation in many societal functions. UCLA was one of seven sites selected by the nationwide Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to use the collective data to study trends in the enforcement of lower-level offenses, which could inform policy discussions and result in reforms. Yiwen Kuai, a doctoral student in urban planning, also co-authored the report.


 

Lens, Manville Shape Discussion of How Housing Can Be Coupled to Transit L.A.’s future must accommodate a shift in housing concentrated not where transit lines used to run but where they go today — or will be soon

By Naveen Agrawal

With Metro spending billions of dollars in Los Angeles over the next few years and transit-oriented development seen as key to denser building, encouraging ridership and mitigating environmental issues, the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies hosted a panel on Feb. 20, 2019, around the topic of coupling more housing to transit.

Held in partnership with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate as part of the Housing, Equity and Community Series, the event focused on some of the latest local and statewide developments. It featured a panel of professional and practicing experts moderated by Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin and associate director of the Lewis Center.

Framing the discussion was UCLA Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville, who shared results from a recently released Lewis Center report on what a transit-oriented future might look like, focusing on five current — and two planned — Metro rail and bus stations. The report emphasized the impact that land use patterns can have on transit ridership and neighborhood quality, and it offered recommendations for future zoning scenarios.

Manville spoke of framing a narrative around two different transit and housing systems: what we have and what we want. Among the discrepancies between the visions is that much of the city’s housing is concentrated around where train stations used to be — not where they are today.

Arthi Varma, deputy director of the city’s planning department, shared some of the early results of its Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program. Created in November 2016 by voter approval of Measure JJJ, the TOC program is a local-density program available within one-half mile of major transit stops.

In 2018, its first full year of implementation, half of all applications for new dwelling units were filed under the TOC program, Varma said. Of the applications received since the program has been active, 18 percent (2,377 out of 13,305) are affordable units. The Planning Department issues quarterly housing reports.

Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance for Community Transit, shared her perspective on the development of the TOC program. In particular, she emphasized that many low-income communities surveyed by her organization expressed strong preference for increased density.

From a community organizing perspective, this issue is one that spans transit and housing, Raymond stressed, but discussion is also needed around labor markets and the types of jobs created near transit — as well as environmental justice.

Elizabeth Machado, an attorney at Loeb & Loeb, LLP, provided an overview of the factors that make it difficult to build in Los Angeles, which include the high price of land, zoning limitations and political challenges. The state has delegated most planning and zoning issues to localities, Machado said, but she noted the introduction of SB 50 as a move by Sacramento to accelerate local governance or force action from the top down.

Lens Weighs In on ‘Upzoning’ Bill

The Sacramento Bee spoke with Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens about a California bill on “upzoning” in light of a recently released report. The bill, SB 50, would let developers bypass certain zoning restrictions when building multifamily housing in “transit-rich” and “job-rich” areas, a process known as upzoning. After an Urban Affairs Review study concluded that upzoning policies in Chicago resulted in higher housing prices and no increase in housing supply after five years, some began to question SB 50, although many noted that Chicago is not necessarily a good comparison for California. Lens stressed the need for more information. “We need to hear from tenants. We need to hear from and listen to developers. … We need to read carefully the text of these bills that outline various protections that are pretty robust in terms of communities vulnerable to gentrification and displacement,” he said. Lens continued the conversation on CALmatters’ Gimme Shelter podcast.


Coupling More Housing with Transit

Coupling More Housing with Transit: State, Local & Community Perspectives

// Housing, Equity & Community Series

DESCRIPTION

Please join us on Feb. 20th for the Housing, Equity and Community Series including a presentation of the recently released UCLA Lewis Center report, “Transit Oriented Los Angeles: Envisioning an Equitable and Thriving Future,” made possible by LA Metro and ULI-Los Angeles. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on the California Senate Bill 50 (“SB827 v.2.0”), the Los Angeles’ Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program and the issues around density and transit-oriented development in Los Angeles and California.

SPEAKERS:

  • Mike Manville: Associate Professor, Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School
  • Laura Raymond, Director, Alliance for Community Development (ACT-LA)
  • Arthi Varma, Deputy Director, Citywide Planning, Los Angeles Department of City Planning

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Associate Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; and Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Public Policy and UCLA Luskin School

________________________________________________________

**Dinner will be provided. For sustainability purposes, we ask that you please bring your own beverage**

________________________________________________________

 

RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2MnPUqF

Lens on Housing Reform in Minneapolis

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the New York Times about Minneapolis’ decision to end single-family zoning. The city acknowledged its role in perpetuating housing inequity, he said, adding, “I think that’s great. ‘Minnesota nice’ in action.” Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, said the step was necessary but unusual. It could take a while to know if changes to single-family neighborhoods are successful, he said, but added that the best measure of change may be no noticeable change at all. Lens predicted that residents will look around their neighborhood and think, “This has been a good thing. This is still a great place to live.”