My neighborhood: the Friday the 13th Paris Massacres Urban Planning professor Michael Storper’s first-hand account of the Paris attacks


By Urban Planning professor Michael Storper

The massacres occurred in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, for the most part.  I moved to the 10th in 1990.  At that time, there was a housing shortage in Paris and, desperate to find a place, I took one in a neighborhood I knew nothing about.  It turned out to be a down-and-out, but central part of Paris.  It was a declining area of small artisanal industries in metal-cutting, paper manufacture, and such.  It had a lovely but abandoned 19th century barge canal, known as the Canal St. Martin, running through it.  It had lots of poor people, public housing and drug traffic.  Parisians called it la zone.   Over the years, it gentrified.  Capitalizing on the extraordinary beauty of the canal, with its art nouveau bridges and locks, and some good industrial but also bourgeois architecture, it very slowly attracted young people, hipster families and such.  Cafes opened on the canal, and then the whole area became slowly converted into interesting new boutiques and restaurants and other attractions, driven in part by the rising rents in the nearby Marais and 3rd, just on the other side of the Place de la République.  I have a deep attachment to the neighborhood because I’m not a latecomer, here just for the coolness; I was here when it wasn’t cool and when I often came home at night to semi-hostile youth hanging out in front of my building, playing music, smoking joints, sometimes teasing the residents (especially the women).  We’ve had various rounds of negotiation with them, sometimes their parents, and so on, to resolve these issues, and sometimes there has been police intervention.  With gentrification, most of that is gone, and now it seems almost too clean, a bit boring.

My building has two floors of offices.  On the ground floor is an unemployment office and a center where migrants seeking  political asylum can apply.  The lines that snake in front of the building have changed composition in the past few years, from heavily East Asian to South Asian and of course, Syrian and Iraqi.  I see and, sometimes, speak to these people.  I know the security guard who keeps the line orderly.  The office is closing now, as the application process is being consolidated into another center in another place.

From my living room window, on the 4th floor, I look down on a primary school.  The parents bring the kids promptly at 8:30 am, and the school yard can be seen from my window, filled with raucous happy kids at recreation time.  The population seems to be a balanced mix of people with Asian, African and European heritage.

This area of Paris is now one of the liveliest.  The killers hit this neighborhood in order to target this young France, a world city’s pleasure and freedom zone.  Rather than going after the Champs Elysées or the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, they wanted to get a generation in its territory.

On Friday evening, a friend had organized a get-together in a wine bar in the 1st arrondissement, between Châtelet and Louvre.  On the ground floor is a bar with one table, and then a subterranean wine cellar, where we gathered to drink red wines and – yes – eat cheese and charcuterie.  At about 10 pm my godson called to inform me.  As the evening wore on, we were told not to go out, and there were rumors of attacks spreading, some (falsely it turned out) said to be at Châtelet or Les Halles or City Hall.  We lowered the steel shutters and the two young bartenders poured champagne and then we moved on to Japanese whisky.  At 2, it was decided that we needed more comfort, so the friends who had organized the evening, who lived nearby, invited everyone to their place, about 500 m away.  The other patrons were mostly very young, in their early 20s, and afraid to walk anywhere.  We had to reassure them, as they were shaking.  All of us, about 20 or so, including bartenders and other patrons, ended up at my friends’ apartment, where a large bowl of pasta and more wine and whisky were prepared for a nice 3 am dinner.  Then we waited it out, checking media.

The atmosphere was a strange mix of jolly and other-worldly.  But the camaraderie was really nice.  A dinner of semi-strangers mixed with a group of friends, and different age groups.  Too much was drunk.  As it turned out, that was the pattern for the night, what was called open doors, portes ouvertes, all over the city as we waited it out.

At about 5 am, some people decided to bed down, but some of us wanted to go home.  So, we almost immediately found Ubers. The Ubers and taxi drivers came out en masse, as a public service, as metro lines had been shut down.

The next day, I had an appointment, and decided to keep it, in the Marais.  An eerie normality prevailed.  Quieter than usual, but with a fair number of people quietly shopping.  On the way home, I rode my bicycle first through the Place de la République, and there was a crowd lighting candles at the base of the statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, and the tears were flowing.  From there, I went by the restaurant just across the canal from my place, Le Petit Cambodge, where I have eaten dozens of times and where 15 died.  There, too, a stunned crowd, candles, notes and flowers, and the Mayor, Anne Hidalgo.

Sunday was in some ways worse for most people, as the shock of this new situation set in.  The uncertainties and the gravity of a new form of urban guerilla warfare, organized and planned.

Sunday night, I went to friends’ for a dinner on the rue de la Fontaine au Roi, less than 15 minutes by foot. The city was more deserted than in August.  As I reached the intersection, there it was:  the two cafes and laundromat that had been shot up on Friday night, with 19 deaths. A big crowd, flowers, candles, poems, tears. These friends had whats-apped me Friday night, with Céline telling me that they could hear shots.  That’s one thing for adults, but they have three kids.  What do you tell your kids, who already lived through the January massacre, also in the 11th arrondissement, when your teenage daughter asks:  why do they keep shooting people in our neighborhood?  When Gaspard, who is six, asks: why are all those people crying in the street?

POV: The Problem with Los Angeles’ economy The topics of professor Michael Storper's new book on urban economies discussed on KCRW.

Why do some public organizations deny it? Don’t shoot the messenger, please. 

I was recently on the radio show “Which Way LA?,” with a panel discussion devoted to our book on San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One of the panelists was Mr. Hasan Ikhrata, who is the Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments.  This is what is known as a “council of governments” under California state law, and a “metropolitan planning organization” under federal law.  Basically, it’s a place where the governments of a region come together to analyze the region’s past and future and consider ways forward, to improve the lives of people in the region.  That’s the goal they state on their website.   Organizations such as SCAG are important, because they produce ideas for the many scattered governments in the region and try to get everybody on the same page to understand and solve problems.

Mr. Ikhrata’s position in our radio debate was surprising, as it was in the interview our team conducted with him during the research for our book.  I would characterize it as “deny everything.”   What I mean by this is that he did not even admit that Southern California has a problem.  But if slipping from 4th place to 25th place among metropolitan regions in the USA is not a problem, then I’d like to know why.

Listening to the interview, Mr. Ikhrata did the following:  first, even though he knows perfectly well (and I stated it clearly before he spoke) that our book compares the whole five-county Southern California region to the whole 10-county Bay Area, he tried to change the subject, speaking about the city of San Francisco and emphasizing its smallness.  This is an elementary error that nobody in his position could possibly commit without it being a deliberate attempt to divert attention.

He attempted to make four other points, which range from vague to clearly inaccurate. First, he noted that So Cal has received a lot of immigrants, as if this is the reason for its economic decline.  But he knows that both So Cal and the Bay Area had the same proportion of immigrants in 1970 (11% each) and the same now (respectively 38% and 39%).  It’s true that the origins of the immigrants are somewhat different, but it’s simply not true to characterize LA as more an immigrant gateway than the Bay Area.

We also clearly show in our book that LA’s slippage is not primarily because it received more of its immigrants from poorer origins than the Bay Area. Instead, it’s that the quality of opportunities (and wages) offered to immigrants in the Bay Area have gotten progressively better over time than in LA, whether for educated or less-educated immigrants and from any origin group.  So don’t blame immigrants, Mr. Ikhrata, blame the failure of LA’s economy to capture the industries that give people high-quality opportunities.

His second claim was that LA’s economy is “diverse.”  As someone working in economic matters, he knows that this term means nothing when applied to a regional economy.  It could be applied to the people of a region, in which case the two populations are indeed “diverse,” by which we mean composed of people from many different cultures and birthplaces.   It could mean what economists call, more accurately, “diversified,” meaning having many different industries and not specializing in much of anything.  This is exactly what we document for LA, and show that it’s a main reason for LA’s slippage down the ranks of regions.  All the world’s wealthy great city-regions are strongly specialized, such as New York in finance or SF in high technology.  LA used to be strongly specialized and is no longer, and this is one main reason why it has become relatively poorer.  So Mr. Ikhrata’s assertion that LA’s economic diversity is a positive thing is exactly wrong.

This is linked to a third assertion he made, which is that because the Bay Area is so specialized in such high-wage activities as information technology or biotech (how terrible is that?) that it will one day collapse, as a one-horse town vulnerable to shocks.  But we show in our book that Silicon Valley is now in its 7th incarnation and that the Bay Area continues to develop wave after wave of new technology and entrepreneurship, the way LA used to do in the middle of the 20th century.   In any case, where is Mr. Ikhrata’s evidence?  There is a long scholarly paper trail on specialized cities that shows that they are not, on average, more vulnerable to decline than highly diversified ones.  It’s the wrong question in fact.  The issue is whether a city-region stays dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial in whatever it’s activity happens to be, whether it’s highly concentrated in a few sectors or spread over many.  He cited absolutely no evidence for his assertion about impending Bay Area doom, because there isn’t any evidence to cite.

Finally, he repeated that Southern California creates more “high tech” jobs than the Bay Area! I especially liked this brazen, unsupported claim.  But it’s not true.  Not only does the Bay Area create jobs that are “higher high tech” than LA (higher up the technology skills chain and paid much, much more than in LA), but it creates more of them in an absolute sense, even though its economy is only half the size of LA’s.

One doesn’t expect perfect accuracy in every public debate.  Economic development is a complicated matter.  But in our book we chased down every clue we could find and all of our conclusions are amply documented with the best available evidence.  Mr. Ikhrata is in a position of public responsibility.  Why would he deny that the Southern California region has a serious problem and not then turn his organization into a forum for trying to help the region get out of this predicament?  Isn’t that what his organization says it is there to do, with the taxpayers’ money?

One reason he might be denying that the problem exists is that SCAG’s track record is a miserable one.  In our book, we carefully analyzed thirty years of SCAG reports for how their authors viewed the present and future of the Southern California regional economy.  They got it wrong about 95% of the time, hardly ever mentioning the new economy of IT and new forms of entrepreneurship.  They looked backward to the old days of manufacturing.  They advocated strengthening low-wage industries such as logistics.  This was actually before Mr. Ikhrata took up his job at SCAG, so we can’t hold him responsible for the errors of his predecessors. All the more reason for him not to be defensive, but instead to turn his organization around to be realistic, admit the problem, and get to work helping the governments of Southern California to change their vision and move forward into the 21st century.  The well-being of millions of people depends on it.

Michael Storper Publishes New Book on Urban Economies Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper offers a comprehensive look at the two cities from past to present

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Los Angeles and San Francisco stand as the two major metropolises of California, but increasing differences in economic growth and prosperity divide the two cities.

Urban Planning professor Michael Storper addresses these economic and cultural differences in his new book, The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons From San Francisco and Los Angeles, now available for purchase. In a forensic style of writing, Storper unpacks the mystery of the two cities, namely why the Bay Area continues to significantly outpace Los Angeles in average household income and wages. The book analyzes the economic development policies of the regions since 1970, the attitudes and actions of regional leadership, and the networks of leaders, and how these contributed to the Bay Area getting so far ahead of LA. In 1970 LA was ranked 4th in the country in terms of income levels, and now it is ranked 25th — this means all of Greater LA, compared to the Bay Area, which has remained number one.

Jon Christensen of the San Francisco Chronicle published a review of the book, stating that: “. . . it is written in a very accessible style, using the structure of a scientific detective story. And it is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of California and cities more broadly.”


UCLA Ranked in Top Five Urban Planning Programs The Department of Urban Planning was named the fourth best planning program in North America by Planetizen.


UCLA Luskin’s Department of Urban Planning has been ranked No. 4 in North America, according to the latest survey of the nation’s top graduate programs in urban planning by Los Angeles-based planning and development network Planetizen.

Planetizen’s latest guidebook also ranks UCLA No. 4 on its list of best graduate planning programs according to educators and the No. 2 program on the West Coast. In addition, UCLA is in the top five schools for most diverse student body in an urban planning program.

In terms of specialty areas, Luskin’s urban planning department was named in nine of those areas, including: Community Development, Economic Development, Environmental/Sustainability Planning, Housing, International Development, Land Use/Physical Planning, Regional Planning, Transportation Planning, and Urban Design.

For more information on the rankings and Planetizen’s methodology, go here.

In other studies, UCLA has taken the top spot for faculty productivity and reputation. An analysis published late last year found that UCLA faculty members averaged the highest number of total citations, and the School ranked second for average citations per year for faculty. In that same study, Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper was also ranked the No. 2 most cited planning faculty member of any school. Confirming this finding, in July Professor Storper was named to Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.  Researchers who published numerous articles that ranked in the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication made the list.

Michael Storper Makes List of World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds


Urban Planning professor Michael Storper has made Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.

Each year, Thomson Reuters analyzes data from its Web of Science and InCites platforms to determine the researchers who have produced work that is most frequently acknowledged by their peers. Researchers who published numerous articles that ranked in the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication made the list.

Storper, who teaches globalization, economic geography, and regional and international development at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, was recognized in the general Social Sciences category.

“”I’m very happy that my publications are having an impact,” Storper said. “As a scholar, I believe that scientific research is the basis for understanding the world around us and how it may be improved.”

Storper’s latest book, “Keys to the City,” examines economic, institutional, innovational and interactional, and political contexts that shape urban economic development. You can see more of his publications here.

To search the Thomson Reuters database of 2014 influential scientific minds by name, category or university affiliation, you can go here.


Global Public Affairs Opens New Student-Faculty Discussion Series

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Learning can come in many forms, including class lectures, discussions and research, but the first Global Public Affairs salon aimed to combine these forms into one engaging multi-departmental, student-faculty discussion.

Put together by Urban Planning professors Michael Storper and Steve Commins, this salon created a space for students and faculty from widely varied backgrounds in Public Policy to discuss major global public affairs topics outside of the traditional lecture setting.

The main topic of the night centered around the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2014 annual letter, titled “3 Myths That Block Progress for the Poor.” The letter aims to debunk the following three global affairs myths (through research and media examples):

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

Once the debate commenced, students brought up points to defend or deconstruct each myth while faculty expanded on those ideas with information based on their own research and experience. Comments ranged from analysis of developmental markers to benefits of quantitative vs. qualitative data to dealing with corruption and misuse of foreign aid.

Professor Michael Storper led the discussion, emphasizing at the beginning that the goal of the salon was to take information learned in the classroom and apply it to engaging, intellectual debates. Other Luskin faculty members that participated included Steve Commins, Manisha Shah, Robert Schilling, Paavo Monkkonen and Susanna Hecht.