Manville Imagines Post-Pandemic Work Life

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was cited in a Bond Buyer article about how work patterns, commutes and transportation will look after the pandemic is over. The San Diego Association of Governments is drafting its 30-year transportation plan, but some experts are hesitant about investing in transportation projects due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. At a SANDAG board meeting, a panel of experts debated how long it will take for work patterns and traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels. While some firms will continue to offer work-from-home opportunities, Manville said he believes that “work patterns will largely return to how it was before the pandemic, as will traffic patterns.” He noted that it didn’t take long after the shutdown in March for traffic to return. “Though Zoom is great, so many companies have mentioned that it’s the unplanned interactions between employees that generate the best ideas,” Manville said.

Lewis Center Reviews Perspectives on Housing Development

An article in Planetizen highlighted the findings of a recent publication from the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies on the effects of market-rate housing development on surrounding neighborhoods. The report, co-authored by Lewis Center project manager Shane Phillips and UCLA Luskin faculty Michael Manville and Michael Lens, reviews the findings of six papers published since 2019, highlighting different perspectives on the zoning debate. “On one side are those who think new market-rate units — unsubsidized homes whose price often places them beyond the reach of lower- and middle-income households — make nearby housing more affordable by increasing availability and relieving pressure on the existing housing stock,” they explained. “An opposing view, however, is that new housing only attracts more wealthy households, brings new amenities to the neighborhood (including the housing itself), and sends a signal to existing landlords that they should raise their rents.” The report helps to guide the ongoing conversation about the effects of market-rate development.

To Combat Housing Crisis, ‘We Must Build Up,’ Manville Argues

Architectural Digest spoke to Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville about Apple’s pledge of $1 billion to address California’s housing crisis — including devoting 40 acres of company-owned property in San Jose to affordable housing. Much of the area is currently zoned for detached single-family homes, a “very inefficient use of valuable land,” Manville said. Increasing the housing stock by allowing for more density would surely face resistance from homeowners who want to preserve the atmosphere of their neighborhoods and the soaring value of their property. However, Manville argued, “if your desire to have your neighborhood remain the same is imposing extremely high costs on other people in the form of high rents, there has to be some give.” He concluded, “Land is finite, but housing is not. … We must build up, so that the same plot of land of one home can accommodate many families. You know, the elevator also exists in Silicon Valley.”


Upzoning Alone Won’t Solve Housing Crisis, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Marin Independent Journal article about new design standards for housing in Marin, California. County planning officials will soon unveil the standards, which are intended to preserve the look of the area while complying with state laws mandating denser housing. While changing zoning requirements to allow more units per acre would increase the number of housing units in the county, newly built units would not necessarily be affordable for people with low incomes. “It’s never been the case that you would expect new construction to be affordable to very low income people,” Manville said. The two ways to create affordable housing are through subsidies or by “building housing and letting it get very old,” he explained. While any increase in housing supply in high-demand areas should lower prices across the board, upzoning alone won’t solve the housing crisis, he said. “But you can’t not do it.”

Manville on New Legislation to Combat State’s Housing Crisis

A Courthouse News article on a new legislative package unveiled by California lawmakers to combat the state’s housing crisis called on Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, to provide context. The six-bill package calls for small apartments near transit centers, a new affordable housing bond, residential projects in existing retail and commercial zones, and a wave of new duplexes. Manville said that Los Angeles has had success with residential developments on major streets and boulevards. “It’s definitely much more palatable [for officials] to approve boulevard projects than having to go back to one of their neighborhoods and saying some changes are coming,” he said. Issuing new bonds to spur affordable housing for low-income families and the homeless is an important step, Manville said, but he cautioned that the bond money could go to waste unless zoning reforms are first put in place.

Manville Explains ‘Induced Demand’ on Congested Highways

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville appeared on KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” podcast to discuss the practicality of freeway expansion projects. The I-605 Corridor Improvement Project is a massive freeway expansion plan that would add new lanes and exit ramps along 16 miles of I-605 and a stretch of the I-5 and other highways in southeastern Los Angeles County. However, Manville argued that “there’s no situation in a vital growing economy under which expanding a roadway to fight congestion makes much sense.” Highway space is valuable land that should be priced accordingly, he said. “We offer it to people for no direct charge,” Manville explained. “And so as a result, at times when lots of people would like to use it, there is more demand for the highway than there is actual highway in existence, and we end up with congestion.” He suggests charging for use of the roadway to deter just enough people from driving to avoid traffic congestion.

A Blunt Assessment of Grand Olympic Promises

The notion that cities chosen to host the Olympics are guaranteed to reap a financial windfall for years to come is flatly untrue, according to noted U.S. economist Andrew Zimbalist, who has spent years scrutinizing the costs and benefits of major sporting events. Zimbalist dissected the extravagant promises and deep pitfalls of past Olympic experiences and handicapped Los Angeles’ chances of success in hosting the 2028 Summer Games at the Luskin School’s first Transdisciplinary Speaker Series event of the academic year. Host cities have been beset by cost overruns, environmental degradation and displacement of local populations, he said. And with fewer cities willing to bid for the Games, the International Olympic Committee has been forced to consider hosts with questionable human rights records. “It’s valuable to have the best athletes from around the world congregate in the Olympic Village and live together and model what peaceful co-existence looks like,” he said, “I just don’t like the way it’s organized now.” As for the upcoming L.A. Games, “Yes, there’s a risk, but I think it’s a safe risk,” said Zimbalist, an author and professor of economics at Smith College. Southern California is already home to major sports venues and other infrastructure, including a ready-made Olympic Village at the UCLA dormitories, which also accommodated athletes during the city’s 1984 Games. For the future, Zimbalist envisioned permanent Olympic venues — for summer, perhaps in the area between Olympia and Athens, Greece. “There’s no reason, either environmental or economic, to argue for rebuilding the Olympic Shangri-La in a new place every four years,” he said.


Manville on Steep Decline in Bus Ridership

The New York Times spoke to Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville for a piece on the trends behind the yearslong slide in bus ridership in many U.S. cities. In addition to demographic shifts and the changing nature of work, Manville pointed to the rise of Craigslist, which has made used cars easier to find and cheaper to buy. In California, he added, a state law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants may have reduced the pool of transit riders. Manville recommended making the true costs of driving more pronounced by raising prices for gas, parking and driving on congested roads, while building a system that gives advantages to public transit. “At the end of the day, we may never know what is driving this decline,” Manville said. “But I guarantee you that if you took a lane of Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles and gave it only to the bus, ridership would go up.”

Manville on Public Sentiments Surrounding Transportation and COVID

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.”

Few Trying to Skip Out on Rent During Pandemic, Study Finds

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