Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the persistence of racial segregation in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. New research has found that many regions of the U.S. were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990. Reversing the legacy of segregation is a slow process, said Monkkonen, director of the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “It’s a self-perpetuating process, where people are relegated to less attractive parts of the city, and then they’re associated with those parts of the city,” he said. There are also stark disparities in income, home values and life expectancy between residents in segregated communities and those in more integrated areas. Monkkonen said that, while some communities are working to develop proactive policies around fair housing and development, many researchers aren’t convinced that 2020’s reckoning with race will significantly move the needle when it comes to segregation.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was mentioned in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece about the need to enforce housing regulations in San Diego. Every eight years, California cities are required to adopt a state-approved plan that includes rules about regional housing targets, sanctions and zoning restrictions. San Diego is currently out of compliance, but it is unclear how California’s Department of Housing and Community Development will enforce the rules. State law says that cities that lack a compliant housing plan forfeit authority to deny or downsize affordable housing projects. Monkkonen and his students studied San Diego’s housing plan and identified grave shortcomings. For example, they found that 65% of the sites San Diego identified for low-income and multifamily housing are located in the poorest third of the city’s neighborhoods, and the plan fails to open up neighborhoods reserved for single-family homes to multifamily housing.
Property-related incidents are the most frequent type of police-related event at UCLA, followed closely by incidents involving people whose presence or behavior is deemed disruptive or out of place, without any indication of violence, according to a new report from the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The study examines police activity at UCLA based on data compiled in compliance with the Clery Act, which requires public disclosure by the Police Department at UCLA regarding the nature, date, time and location of incidents, as well as their disposition status or outcome. The researchers use maps and charts to visualize Clery Act data relating to events involving police, plus some fire department responses, in 2014 and 2019, with supplemental information focusing on arrests by the UCPD in 2018, the most-recent information available. Less than 10% of events involve force or threat of violence, they found, and data maps reveal that a substantial amount of UCPD activity and arrests occur off-campus, mostly in the greater Westwood area but also farther afield. Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA Luskin, helped oversee the study, working with Noah D. Zatz and Jennifer M. Chacón, professors of law at the UCLA School of Law, and Alejandra A Martinez, an undergraduate research assistant at the Lewis Center who studies economics and was the lead author. Their report also found that more than 80% of reported police activity during the study periods did not result in follow-ups for any asserted or possible crime.
Experts, scholars and activists convened to discuss successful housing strategies — and their potential application in the L.A. region — at the Luskin Summit webinar “Homes for All: Building Coalitions for Equitable Planning in Los Angeles County.” Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee delivered the keynote address at the April 9 event, co-sponsored by UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and Ziman Center for Real Estate. Lee suggested that social housing is the key to addressing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis. Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, moderated a panel on the successes and challenges of housing initiatives in other areas. Berkeley City Council member Terry Taplin shared his personal experiences with homelessness and discussed efforts to end exclusionary zoning practices. Laura Loe, founder of Share the Cities, spoke about her work building housing coalitions in Seattle and the importance of building trust within communities. Alison McIntosh of the Oregon nonprofit Neighborhood Partnerships explained that, “while these problems are complex and thorny, they are solvable.” A second panel, moderated by Tommy Newman of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, focused on how Los Angeles might apply these strategies. Andy Cohen of the architecture and design firm Gensler pointed to COVID-19 as an “opportunity to reimagine the future of cities and prioritize the human experience,” while Joss Tillard-Gates of Enterprise Community Partners spoke about preserving supportive housing for homeless populations. Mahdi Manji of the Inner City Law Center discussed serving the lowest-income clients, and Leonora Camner of Abundant Housing LA stressed the importance of “moving at the speed of trust.” — Zoe Day
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning, was featured in a CalMatters article about the lack of affordable housing construction in wealthy cities like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills. In the statewide planning process, affluent communities often lobby for fewer affordable housing units than smaller, less wealthy cities located inland. Monkkonen co-authored a paper arguing for a wholesale reorganization of the process, removing the focus on vacant and underutilized land in favor of rezoning in places where people can easily get to jobs and transit. “The cynical interpretation is that they frame local input as a ‘technical process’ that happens to end up with a result that satisfies the preferences of rich NIMBY cities as a way to distract from criticism,” Monkkonen wrote. “Whatever term you use, the result goes against the goals of state housing law, all the lofty rhetoric of SCAG itself about sustainability, and basic social equity.”
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was featured in a Time article on ways to end racial segregation in neighborhoods. Even though the formal practice of redlining has ended, the national homeownership rate for Black Americans is the same as it was in 1968. National zoning reform is needed to bring affordable housing into mostly white neighborhoods, the article argued. Noting opposition at the local level, it called on the federal government to drive the change by tying federal grants for cities and suburbs to zoning for multi-family housing. “There are very few single-family neighborhoods that have suddenly allowed apartment buildings. We don’t really have a model for that kind of zoning change,” Monkkonen said. “People sometimes get upset when we talk about that because they don’t want to feel like they are part of a racist system, but they definitely are part of the legacy of a racist system,” he said.
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.
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Voice of San Diego about some of the issues associated with single-family zoning. In San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is pushing housing reforms that would make it easier for developers to build rent-controlled apartments near transit but would not change the single-family zoning that applies to most of the city. Excluding single-family areas near transit from the program might be politically wise, Monkonnen said, but the collective benefit of allowing more people to live near transit should outweigh the concerns of people who don’t want their neighborhoods to change. “A big problem for California is we have never allowed single-family neighborhoods to change, and so people are overly concerned about what would happen if we did,” he said. Allowing California residents to build four homes on any single-family lot would be a big step toward addressing the state’s housing crisis, he said.
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.”