Manville on Bay Area’s Housing Dilemma

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to Courthouse News about the current housing crisis in the Bay Area. Affordable housing for middle- and low-income families is scarce, especially in the East Bay, in part because investors are outbidding traditional homeowners to buy multiple single-family homes. In addition, cities are simply are not building enough housing to meet demand. Manville commented on the city of Berkeley’s report on housing, saying, “Institutional investors like to buy in the Bay Area because the Bay Area doesn’t build housing. These companies feed off scarcity.” He added, “Berkeley needs more housing. The main way to keep it affordable is to build new housing so rich people don’t buy it up.”


A Solution to Increasing Traffic Concerns

The Boston Globe spoke to Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, about the reasons traffic has remained heavy despite the widespread move to remote work during the pandemic. Manville explained that while many people are no longer commuting to work in the morning, they still have errands to run and children to drop off at school. “What really never changed was the idea in people’s heads that ‘when there is a place to go, I drive there,'” he said. A solution he suggests is pricing the roads similar to how airlines are priced to help combat increasing traffic congestion. During peak commute times like early mornings, Manville says roads should be priced higher than at late nights. He believes that, similar to water and electricity, roads are a public good but we don’t typically run out of water or electricity because they are priced.


Celebrating an End to a ‘Slow-Moving Disaster’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about California’s new law barring local governments from mandating parking spaces as part of most development near transit stops. “This is one of the biggest land-use reforms in the country,” Manville said after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2097 into law. “Parking requirements have been an absolutely slow-moving disaster,” Manville said. “We are turning the ship around.” News outlets including StreetsBlog, Bloomberg CityLab and Mother Jones credited research by Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, with laying the groundwork for AB 2097. Shoup’s decades of scholarship pointed out the faulty and arbitrary reasoning behind parking requirements, whose unintended consequences have included raising the cost of of housing and commercial development, creating incentives to drive instead of using transit, and increasing emissions.


Shoup, Manville on Prospects of Statewide Parking Reform

A Slate article on California legislation to prohibit minimum parking requirements in areas near public transit called on two land use experts on UCLA Luskin’s Urban Planning faculty: Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The bill, AB 2097, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would preempt local parking rules statewide and promises to bring down the cost of new construction. “The way you really get affordable housing is to get rid of parking requirements,” Shoup said. “That reduces the price of housing for everybody, not just low-income residents.” Experts cautioned against overnight changes if the bill becomes law. “There’s very particular circumstances in California that allow you to pull the trigger on a building with no parking, and some of those places are already free from parking rules, like San Francisco,” Manville said. Manville also co-authored a San Francisco Chronicle commentary about lessons Los Angeles can learn from San Francisco’s parking reforms.


Manville on Building Equity Into ‘Congestion Pricing’

A Los Angeles Times column about equity issues surrounding “congestion pricing” as a strategy to manage traffic and cut emissions cited Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. Discouraging driving while encouraging mass transit use is the right thing to do, the column noted, but it asked whether charging for access to the roads creates a burden on lower-income communities. Manville argues that it is possible to put a price on driving while also maintaining a commitment to economic fairness. “The fact that pricing could create equity problems doesn’t mean it must. Nor does it mean that, for the sake of equity, all roads should be free,” he wrote in Transfers magazine. “Few equity agendas in other areas of social policy, after all, demand that all goods be free. Almost no one, for example, suggests that all food be free because some people are poor. Society instead identifies poor people and helps them buy food.”

Manville on L.A.’s Reluctance to Crack Down on Reckless Driving

A Los Angeles Times column on rising anger over speeding, stunt driving and street racing in L.A. cited Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. In the wake of a high-speed crash in South Los Angeles that killed five people, residents from across the city are weighing in with stories of unchecked reckless driving in their neighborhoods. In mid-city Los Angeles, residents’ pleas for street safety improvements that would protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have gone unanswered, Manville said. On Melrose Avenue, “almost every weekend, we have burnouts and stunt bikers and all sorts of people driving dangerously,” he said. “We should enforce speed limits, but the best speed limit is a road that doesn’t let you speed. But our city engineers and City Council members for some reason think we need to have highways running through our neighborhoods.”


Manville on Musk’s Pitch to Ease Traffic

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to New York Magazine about Elon Musk’s Boring Company, which proposes alleviating traffic congestion through the construction of tunnels beneath U.S. cities. Musk has argued that this type of underground network could whisk drivers across town in a fraction of the time. Manville countered that if the tunnels succeeded in easing traffic above ground, city streets and freeways would then become more attractive to the same drivers, and congestion would return. An example of this induced demand is the expansion of Interstate 405 through Los Angeles’ Sepulveda Pass, which was meant to reduce traffic but instead lured more motorists to the freeway’s added lanes. Manville, who leads traffic research at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said a wiser course of action would be to implement congestion pricing for drivers traveling on existing roads and provide more alternatives to low-capacity vehicles.


It’s Time to End Parking Requirements Statewide, Manville Argues

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville wrote a Streetsblog California op-ed arguing for a statewide ban on minimum parking requirements in areas near public transit. Most California cities currently mandate that newly constructed buildings include a certain amount of parking. Manville argued that these rules get in the way of meeting the state’s housing, transportation and climate goals by reinforcing our driving culture and making it harder and more expensive to build housing. He called for passage of AB 2097, which would lift minimum parking mandates in areas near public transit all across the state. Ending these requirements would not ban parking but would simply mean that the government cannot dictate the quantity and location of parking spaces in certain areas. “California has some of the most valuable land on earth, but parking requirements force us, despite a dire housing shortage, to squander that land on the low-value use of storing empty cars,” Manville wrote. 


Manville on Lag in Building Affordable Housing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to Courthouse News about the lag in building affordable housing in California cities despite the availability of hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding. An expensive and time-consuming process requires cities to meet several criteria in a stiff competition for state and federal funding. Many cities must make strategic policy changes if they really want to tackle their housing crises, Manville said. “If housing prices are high and no one is coming to you with a proposal, you are probably sending the message that you are not accommodating to development,” he said. Another challenge is the limited land available for traditional public housing. Senate Bill 9 — which among other things allows homeowners to turn their single-family parcels into multiple units — was a good start, Manville said, but officials should also free up land to accommodate larger complexes with denser housing.


Manville on Airbnb Boom, Affordable Housing

The New York Times spoke to Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville for a story about local restrictions on Airbnb and other short-term rental companies. Limits on short-term rentals, usually defined as a stay of 30 days or fewer, are often framed as a way to maintain affordable housing in California, but some local officials are revisiting these rules after demand for the rentals exploded during the pandemic. Manville noted that if communities are truly interested in affordability for renters, “there’s a solution to that: build more housing.” He added, “If you believe that the available supply influences the price renters face, the surest way to address that is to build apartments. The most uncertain way is to limit short-term rentals.”