Urban Planning Scholar Receives Royal Geographical Society’s Top Award UCLA Luskin School’s Michael Storper joins exclusive group of luminaries as a recipient of the organization’s Founder’s Medal

By Stan Paul

Since the 1830s, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) has presented gold “Royal Medals” to individuals for outstanding achievement in the field of geography. Among past winners are renowned explorer David Livingstone and, more recently, Sir David Attenborough. The awards recognize excellence in geographical research and fieldwork as well as teaching and public engagement.

This year the RGS, with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG), have awarded the Founder’s Medal to Michael Storper, Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development in the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The award is for his “leadership in human and economic geography,” according to the Society’s announcement.

The medals, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, are considered “the most prestigious medals awarded and one of the world’s highest accolades in geography,” according to the RGS-IBG. The two gold medals originated in 1831 as an annual gift of 50 guineas. In 1839 the gift to the society from King William IV became the two gold medals awarded since that time. Bob Geldof received this year’s other award, the Patron’s Medal.

“Michael Storper’s research has enhanced our understanding of the significance of the region and the importance of regional economies,” Nicholas Crane, president of the Royal Geographical Society, said in making the announcement.

Crane recognized Storper’s “pioneering research” on the role of informal institutions, as well as on the geography of clusters and innovation. “Michael has been at the forefront of setting up the theoretical and empirical framework of modern economic geography, and his work has inspired a generation of geographers,” Crane said.

Storper, who received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, is an international scholar who focuses his research and teaching on the closely linked areas of economic geography, globalization, technology, city regions and economic development. In addition to teaching at UCLA, Storper holds faculty appointments at the London School of Economics, where he is professor of economic geography, and France’s Institute of Political Studies, better known as “Sciences Po,” as professor of economic sociology.

“Our research is essential to helping humanity find pathways to more just and peaceful societies that respect the environment and are based on respect for all peoples,” said Storper. “I am honored to take my place among other geographers recognized by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for their contributions to our discipline and our commitment to making a better world through geographical research.”

The Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs was recently named the most influential planning school in North America based on citations of planning scholarship. In the same study, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Storper was listed as the second-most-cited planning scholar among more than 900 scholars evaluated in the analysis.

Storper’s most recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles” (Stanford University Press, 2015), co-authored with Tom Kemeny, Naji Makarem and Taner Osman, analyzes the economic development policies, and divergent outcomes of the regions since the 1970s.

“We are so proud of and happy for our colleague, Professor Michael Storper, on this momentous award!” said Lois Takahashi, Interim Dean of the Luskin School. “In addition to his groundbreaking scholarship, Michael makes huge contributions to practice and policy. He is a thought leader, critic and innovator in policy and practice circles in the region, state and nation. And, he contributes in innumerable ways to the life and culture of UCLA Luskin. We celebrate with him on this amazing announcement!”

The gold medals will be awarded June 6 in London at the Society’s annual meeting.

Storper was elected to the British Academy in 2012 and received the Regional Studies Association’s award for overall achievement as well as the Sir Peter Hall Award in the House of Commons in 2012. In 2014 he was named one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters. The author of “Keys to the City” (Princeton University Press, 2013), Storper received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2008. He also serves as director of Global Public Affairs @ UCLA Luskin.

Urban Planning Faculty Ranked Most Influential In new study, UCLA Luskin department listed as No. 1 in North America for scholarly citations

By Stan Paul

Topping Harvard, UC Berkeley, NYU, USC and MIT, the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has once again been named the most influential planning school in North America, according to a recently published study.

The analysis was conducted by Thomas W. Sanchez of Virginia Tech, who measured citations of planning scholarship. Citations measure the number of times that publications by one author are referred to, or cited, by other authors. Citations are the most common measure of scholarly influence.

Using the median number of Google Scholar citations per faculty member, Sanchez, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech, compared the top 25 planning schools. For the second straight year, UCLA remained at the top. Others in the top 10 are Harvard, UC Berkeley, New York University, USC, Tufts University, University of Minnesota, MIT, University of Maryland and Rutgers.

Ranking faculty in terms of the median number of citations measures the scholarly influence of the typical faculty member in a program, which reflects the overall scholarly influence of an entire faculty.

“That Urban Planning at UCLA ranks first in the median number of citations among all North American planning programs reflects the impressive productivity and influence of our faculty across the board,” said Evelyn Blumenberg, professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning.

In addition to being broadly productive and influential as reflected by median citations, Urban Planning professor Michael Storper was the second-most-cited planning scholar out of nearly 900 evaluated in the analysis, with more than 28,000 citations. Sanchez, whose article appears in the “Journal of Planning Education and Research,” writes that his methodology (using Google Scholar data) includes citations “beyond traditional peer-reviewed publications.”

“Recent trends in bibliometrics suggest that including a wider variety of scholarship is especially applicable to the field of urban planning,” said Sanchez, adding that citation data analysis indicates programs that have “relatively high levels of scholarly activity, as well as identifying the planning academics that are generating citations.”

The full article, “Faculty Performance Evaluation Using Citation Analysis: An Update,” may be found at http://jpe.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/03/16/0739456X16633500.full.pdf+html.

‘Once-in-a-Lifetime Academic Experience’ Luskin Urban Planning expands global reach with new Sciences Po exchange program in Paris

By Stan Paul

UCLA Urban Planning students now have the opportunity to spend an academic quarter studying in the heart of Paris, on the city’s historic Left Bank.

A new exchange program between the Urban School at Sciences Po and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning, will allow three Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students to study in Paris for a quarter, while three of their continental counterparts will study at Luskin, said Alexis Oberlander, Urban Planning graduate adviser.

The exchange program was initiated by Urban Planning faculty members Michael Storper and Steven Commins, and Luskin Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, in conjunction with faculty at Sciences Po’s Urban School.

Sciences Po is highly regarded internationally in social sciences and has produced nearly all of France’s presidents as well as numerous political and business leaders. It is located not far from the scenic and iconic views of the Seine River running through the middle of the city. But “Paris is more than its beautiful core,” said Storper. “It is also a diverse world city, with populations drawn from every continent. It is as much an urban laboratory as any great city, with all the opportunities, problems and challenges.”

Storper, who also teaches at Sciences Po, said that the Urban School was recently formed to bring together master’s and Ph.D. programs that focus on cities, urban politics and urban policy. He said the program will give students a comparative and international learning experience between Los Angeles and Paris — a “once-in-a-lifetime academic and urban experience.” In addition to studying with students from all over the world and building a new network of friends and colleagues, the quarter abroad will also count toward the Luskin students’ two-year MURP degree.

Participating students can apply for the program during the winter quarter of their first year at Luskin, and if selected, the students would enroll for the fall quarter of their second year at Sciences Po. The Urban School at Sciences Po are offered in English, so there is no language barrier, said Storper.

The exchange program represents “a joining of forces between two elite institutions,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

“Urban Planning students will have the opportunity to study in one of Europe’s most prestigious universities … in a school with the most advanced curriculum on comparative urban governance in the world,” said Storper. “No other Urban Planning program in the U.S. can offer a similar opportunity to its students.”

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.