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.”


 

Lens Is Interviewed About Expo Line Upzoning

In an on-air interview for the “Take Two” program on KPCC, UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens talked about L.A.’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), which has recommended that the City Council adopt a proposal to re-zone property along the Expo Line. “Upzoning” the transportation corridor could mean taller, more dense housing units. Although upzoning isn’t always popular, it can lower the cost of housing through supply and demand economics. To listen to Lens’ interview, scrub forward to the 12:45-minute mark of the show.


 

Michael Lens, associate faculty director for the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, at the Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment. Photos by Stan Paul

The Rent is Too Damn High: A Forum on L.A.’s Housing Crisis Skyrocketing costs and politics of supply are focus of UCLA Lewis Center’s 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum

By Stan Paul

“Too Much and Not Enough” is a recipe for a crisis when it comes to rising rents and lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

It also was an apt title of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies’ 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment, held May 18, 2018, at the California Endowment.

“The short story is the rent has been getting ‘too damn high’ for decades, and renter wages have not kept up,” said moderator Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In the last few years, a threshold has been crossed as “more and more households cannot really bear the rising costs of rent,” Lens said, launching a day of debate and discussion on a nationwide problem that is acutely felt in the L.A. region, which is also beset by chronic homelessness.

Experts representing academia, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as community stakeholders, came together to discuss problems, barriers and solutions to the multifaceted issue of affordable housing.

“Research is pretty unequivocal that increasing housing supply is necessary to stabilize prices,” Lens said, but there is less certainty about what happens in neighborhoods that receive new housing supply or investment. “Neighborhood dynamics certainly complicate any of our policy options or choices and solutions for increasing housing affordability,” said Lens, who also serves as associate faculty director for the Lewis Center.

‘If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us.’

— Panelist Jacqueline Waggoner

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA, led the first panel of speakers, who looked at the causes and effects of the crisis from a variety of perspectives.

Panelists included Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation; Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Shane Phillips, director of public policy at the Central City Association; and Carolina Reid, assistant professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

“We can’t build affordable housing fast enough to meet the need,” said Reid, adding that “we don’t have a system where we can hold cities accountable for how much housing they’re producing to meet growing housing demand.”

Since 2000, half of L.A. neighborhoods built no housing at all, according to Reid. Citing gentrification pressures at the urban core, she said neighborhoods with the best transit access are building the fewest affordable housing units.

“Planning isn’t helping,” she added, noting that California cities continue to include minimum lot sizes and restrictive zoning. Compounding the problem are lengthy permitting and regulatory requirements along with strong public opposition to some affordable housing projects.

A second panel, led by Lens, addressed the politics of supply and evaluated possible solutions. Panelists were Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing; Jackelyn Hwang, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University; Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Foundation; and Ben Winter, housing policy specialist with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Hwang weighed the pros and cons of rent control. She cited research showing that landlords do take advantage of “perverse incentives,” such as converting units to condos to become exempt from rent control — and consequently decreasing rental housing supply. But rent control also protects tenants, she said, noting that it encourages longer-term and elderly residents to stay in place, protecting them from displacement.

“I think the takeaway from the study is it puts too much power in the hands of landlords,” she said.  “I think there are ways to have rent control and maybe we can think of more creative ways on how it’s implemented.”

Waggoner is a proponent of rent control but said the strategy should be regional and not just within the city. “If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us,” she said.

Keynote speaker Kathy Nyland made her point succinctly: “Put people first, share the power, and let people be part of the solution.”

As director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, Nyland oversaw the overhaul of the neighborhood council system to emphasize inclusive outreach, equity and community engagement. She said she has looked at affordable housing from several vantage points, having also served as chief of staff to a Seattle City Council member and as a senior policy advisor to the city’s mayor.

Audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion, during the panels and at a reception that followed the conference.One of them was Tham Nguyen, a 2005 alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning master’s program, who is now a senior manager in transportation planning for LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s certainly a very important component of transportation, looking at the housing and land use aspect,” Nguyen said. “This is a really great learning experience to see the conversations that are happening and unfolding around affordable housing.”

Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and outgoing director of the Lewis Center, closed the conference with this observation: “I thought transportation planning was complicated, but you’ve got me humbled here.”

Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said he often hears comments that emphasize both connections and contradictions in transportation: “Traffic is terrible. We have to stop development. Let’s build a lot of rail and have transit-oriented development, but we’re really worried about gentrification.”

While the “enormously complex” affordable housing crisis has been manifested over years and solutions may be slow in coming, “that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing,” he said. “But what it does mean is that the person that has been displaced today is not going to benefit from that immediately. …

“These problems are visceral and they’re current, and the needs to address them are immediate and pressing,” he said, adding that bridging the gap between slow market changes and urgent needs on the streets of L.A. “is really going to be the challenge as we move forward.”

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr:

DTLA 2018

The South Los Angeles Homeownership Crisis

Since the Sixties: The SLA Homeownership Crisis // Housing, Equity & Community Series

DESCRIPTION

Discrimination in the housing market was legal in California until the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act, which finally upheld the State’s frustrated efforts to legislate equal access in 1963. Legalized discrimination and segregation led to highly unequal housing outcomes between white households who benefited from several programs designed to increase homeownership and people of color who were systematically excluded. The confluence of major historical events central to the struggles for equality in South Los Angeles makes it a particularly apt lens through which to reflect on the disparities that persist to this day. Homeownership rates have decreased county-wide, but the gap with South LA has remained just as large. This leaves a shrinking share to the population able to benefit from rising property values and exacerbates wealth inequality. At the same time, the combination of the housing crises and housing shortage locks an increasing number of household in South LA into extreme housing cost burden which makes the aspiration of maintaining a stable home as distant as it ever was.

Please join us on May 7th for a discussion on the key findings from the recently released report, South Los Angeles Since the Sixties, from the UCLA Luskin Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.  Our distinguished panelists will examine what progress has been made in South LA, if any, in the domain of housing since the 1960s.

SPEAKERS:

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Assoc. Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center; and Professor of Urban Planning & Public Policy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

________________________________________________________

**Lunch will be provided. Please bring your own beverage**
________________________________________________________

 

RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2HlV1Ef

DTLA Forum – Housing Costs and Scarcity

Too Much & Not Enough: Housing Costs and Scarcity

11th Annual UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment

Presented by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies

The housing crisis gripping Los Angeles and cities around the country has two primary, interconnected causes: The rent is too damn high for most people to afford without cost burdens, and the politics of supply make building more housing extremely complicated. The 2018 UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum will explore how these two ideas interact with and contradict one another, and how finding solutions to the housing crisis can become a debate about the role of government, market forces, and community groups in society.

Lunch keynote address:
Kathy Nyland
Director, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

Confirmed speakers:

  • Becky Dennison, Venice Community Housing
  • Isela Gracian, East LA Community Corporation
  • Jackie Hwang, Stanford University
  • Michael Lens, UCLA
  • Paavo Monkkonen, UCLA
  • Shane Phillips, Central City Association
  • Carolina Reid, UC Berkeley
  • Jacqueline Waggoner, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Ben Winter, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

AICP credits available.

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://ucladtlaforum2018.eventbrite.com