Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a CityLab article on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on transportation ballot measures in the upcoming election. With transit ridership at low levels and many Americans out of work or working from home, experts are wondering how voters will respond to the transportation initiatives on the ballot. Manville said that it doesn’t necessarily matter if voters don’t plan to ride buses and trains anytime soon. He pointed to various transit measures that have passed in areas where the vast majority of enfranchised people drive. According to Manville, the promises of traffic relief, economic growth and environmental benefits can be more motivating for voters than the actual mobility services. “I think the bigger question now is whether the way people are experiencing COVID and the economic fallout has changed how they think aspirationally about their transportation system,” Manville said. “We just don’t know what that will look like.”
A new UCLA-USC study that took a deep dive into how Los Angeles County tenants are handling rent and finances during the COVID-19 health crisis was covered by media outlets including the Orange County Register. Since the start of the pandemic, landlords have argued that tenants who were shielded from possible eviction would refuse to pay rent, the article noted. In fact, while the study showed that many have struggled to make rent, most tenants have not used the pandemic as an excuse to take a rent holiday, according to the study conducted by scholars from UCLA Luskin’s Lewis Center for Regional Studies and USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. One factor measured in the study was the impact of direct assistance to renters who need it. The findings showed that tenants collecting unemployment insurance were 39% less likely to miss rent payments. The report’s findings were also highlighted in Courthouse News, Commercial Observer and Pasadena Now.
A 2018 article about anti-development attitudes, authored by UCLA Luskin’s Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Manville, is mentioned by the Libertarian magazine Reason in an essay that focuses on the propensity of Hollywood to portray real estate developers as bad guys. The essay traces the movie trope of an evil developer as far back as Frank Capra and his Depression-era movies like the 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That movie presents one of the best-known rich-guy villains in movie history: Mr. Potter. Such characters reflect circumstances explored by Manville and Monkkonen when they wrote about how the high cost of land and the complexity of regulations can make real estate development difficult. Reason quotes directly from the UCLA article, saying, “These circumstances could select for developers who are both affluent and out-of-step with conventional ways of behaving: Only deep-pocketed, hard-charging and confrontational people will be willing and able to lobby elected officials and get rules changed in order to build.”
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the San Diego Union-Tribune about the city’s transit plans. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata, who spent two years working on a transit expansion plan when the pandemic started, said he is determined to push forward with the $177 billion proposal. Ikhrata will present the plan, which includes 350 miles of new rail track, to the SANDAG board of directors. The plan has faced pushback from some who have said that the pandemic will radically change commuter patterns, threatening to render the plan obsolete by the time it’s under way. However, Manville argued that much of the pandemic’s impact will be temporary. “Right now, most of the economy’s still closed and you’ve got jammed roads,” he explained. “It seems hard to believe that in 20 years there will be no point to having mass transit to San Diego’s job centers.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Boston Globe about an uptick in traffic as the Boston metropolitan area reopens. Transit officials view the increased congestion as a real-time experiment to determine how much traffic the region’s highways can take before hitting their tipping points. Manville explained that, once a road nears capacity, each additional vehicle gums things up exponentially. “In ‘The Three Stooges,’ the classic trope is they all try and go through a door at once and they get stuck. If they had just walked through individually, not only could all of them have gone through the door but an almost infinite number of people could have gone in behind them,” he said. “You can have an incredibly high flow going through a door, or on a road, as long as a critical mass isn’t trying to do so at once.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a KCRW segment on the resurgence of Los Angeles traffic congestion as the car-centric county reopens. “It’s some combination of businesses and recreation areas reopening, combined with quarantine fatigue,” explained Manville to Press Play program host Madeleine Brand. “It’s still well below what we would be experiencing in non-COVID times … but it’s up a bit from the absolute valley it fell to right after the stay-at-home orders were first put into place,” he said. Once the county reopens completely, Manville predicted that traffic will return to what it was like before the pandemic. “Yes, the numbers are creeping up, and I think we just notice that because they had been so low.” Manville also noted that traffic congestion is the biggest constraint on driving speeds; during the pandemic shutdown, driving speeds increased and the overall number of high-speed collisions remained fairly consistent.
An American Planning Association blog post broke down the main arguments made by Associate Professors Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens in their collaborative piece “It’s Time to End Single-Family Zoning.” The article was one of several commentaries by academics and practicing planners included in the January issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, which focused on the debate over single-family zoning. Manville, Monkkonen and Lens traced single-family zoning’s “racist and classist history” through Supreme Court decisions including Buchanan v. Warley (1917) and Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926). The impact of these century-old decisions can still be seen in the racial and class makeup of cities in the United States, they said. Arguing that socioeconomic and racial inequality and transportation inefficiency are exacerbated by the single-family classification, they called on planners to lead the charge to change the zoning laws.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to HuffPost about the consequences renters will face when bans on evictions are eventually lifted. Many Americans may be evicted immediately, resulting in a significant increase in homelessness. Manville predicted that “thousands of newly homeless people and thousands of empty apartments will create a situation that benefits neither renters, landlords nor cities.” He explained that “individual landlords may be confident that if they evict tenants, they’ll be able to fill the vacant unit quickly. If a large number of landlords evict their tenants at the same time, however, there’s going to be too many empty apartments and not enough people with the savings to move into them.” According to Manville, “only the federal government has the power to keep this problem from spiraling.” He argued that all these problems can be avoided “by just letting people stay in their homes.”
The Cato Institute released a video featuring Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville discussing California land-use regulations as a key factor in the state’s housing crisis. In the video, part of the institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California, Manville argued that, while some limits on development are sensible, there is a certain point at which zoning “becomes an instrument for people who are currently in a neighborhood … to keep other people out.” According to Manville, inefficient land use and rising prices have pushed middle-class people out of neighborhoods, setting off a chain reaction that affects low-income people most. “We need to reform our land use so we can build a lot more housing,” he argued. “It’s true that there isn’t a lot of undeveloped land in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, but land can and should be redeveloped.”