Lens, Storper Offer Perspectives on Housing Bill

A CityLab article about a state bill aimed at easing California’s housing crisis cited UCLA Luskin faculty and research. The bill, SB 50, would loosen zoning restrictions to permit more housing units near jobs and transit. A diverse mix of Californians — residents of rich suburbs, neighborhoods fighting gentrification and struggling farm towns — have weighed in on both sides of the bill. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty also offered competing perspectives. Associate Professor Michael Lens commented, “Homeowners generally benefit from scarcity. So pulling some of the zoning powers away from cities seems like something to consider to reduce those negative incentives.” Professor Michael Storper offered a counterpoint, noting that “some of the most diverse communities in California are made up of suburban-style, single-family homes.” The article also cited a Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies report showing that the state does not have the planned capacity to meet its housing construction goals.


 

Forum Explores Latin American Identity of Los Angeles

Author and journalist Daniel Hernandez and professor Eric Avila explored the Latin history, features and identity of Los Angeles at a March 14, 2019, forum hosted by the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Initiative director Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy, moderated the forum on “Los Angeles as a Latin American City.” Hernandez, editor and host of L.A. Taco and the author of “Down & Delirious in Mexico City,” commented on corruption and infrastructure in Los Angeles, explaining that “there are things from Latin America that we should not import, [such as] the way political offices are doled out.” He noted that Los Angeles “is developing in a way that only benefits the people who already have money,” a pattern that is all too familiar in Latin American cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina. Avila, professor of Chicano studies and urban planning, researches the intersection of racial identity, urban space and cultural representation in 20th century America. According to Avila, Los Angeles is a Latin American city “in terms of population, the built environment, present-day demography, and the regional design and infrastructure.” However, he said, “Los Angeles is not a Latin American city in regard to the historically sustained efforts to whitewash and erase Spanish and Mexican past, including informal and formal practices of racial segregation, the creation of a subordinate labor force, racial hierarchies and white supremacy as a principle of urban development.” — Zoe Day


Reality Check for Newsom’s Housing Crisis Plan

A new UCLA report casts doubt on the feasibility of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign promise to address California’s housing affordability crisis by building 3.5 million new homes by 2025. The policy brief from the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies shows that cities and counties have the capacity to construct just 2.8 million new housing units. The report adds that “historically, only a fraction of planned units are actually built” due to limited demand, community opposition and other factors. The report also found that “much of the planned capacity is located in the relatively lower-demand, more rural parts of the state. … High-demand communities do not plan for or permit housing, and planned capacity in low-demand areas remains unbuilt.” The brief, titled “Not Nearly Enough: California Lacks Capacity to Meet Lofty Housing Goals,” is based on research conducted by Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Spike Friedman, an urban planning master’s student. Monkkonen is senior fellow for housing policy at the Lewis Center. The researchers examined data from 525 municipalities and unincorporated areas, which are mandated to zone for sufficient new housing construction to accommodate population growth. The brief highlights the obstacles created by the state’s zoning policies and the difficulty Newsom will face in meeting his stated goal. With California’s current construction patterns averaging 80,000 new housing units per year, the governor’s plan would require a sevenfold increase in housing construction. — Zoe Day


A New Network for Urbanists From Across the Americas Ciudades, as the Latin American Cities Initiative is known, brings urban planning students, educators and practitioners into a multinational conversation

By Mary Braswell

A new initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is strengthening connections among urban planning students, educators and practitioners from across the Americas.

Ciudades, as the Latin American Cities Initiative is known, taps into the expertise of scholars and professionals whose cultural, historical and geographical ties run deep, said Paavo Monkkonen, director of the venture and associate professor of urban planning and public policy.

“Los Angeles shares an early history of urbanization with many cities across the Americas,” said Monkkonen, whose research into housing, land use and sprawl in Mexico and other countries inspired him to establish Ciudades, with support from UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura.

“Academia and professional practice can benefit a lot from greater levels of communication,” and that interplay creates a spirited teaching environment, Monkkonen said. “Planners in Los Angeles and across California’s cities can learn a lot from the urbanism of Latin America.”

The mission of Ciudades is expansive, Monkkonen said.

“Urbanists can learn from one another’s experiences with issues ranging from public space, mobility, historical preservation and redevelopment to indigeneity, local democracy, integration and local public finance,” he said.

Since its launch in January, Ciudades has pursued an ambitious agenda: a weekly speaker series; a binational workshop bringing together city, state and federal leaders from California and Mexico; creation of an inclusive website, with translations in Spanish and Portuguese; and an effort to fund student research and internships.

Monkkonen is also exploring partnerships with Latin American universities, to augment the international opportunities Urban Planning already offers in Germany, France and China. And he envisions annual field visits to Latin American cities, with faculty from all three Luskin School graduate departments — Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning — invited to participate.

The connections that Ciudades is forging will make UCLA Luskin a draw for graduate students, planners and policymakers from across the region, Monkkonen said.

“We hope that this initiative is the beginning of something larger that deepens connections and intellectual exchange with students, educators and professionals across South, Central and North America,” he said.

Monkkonen on Housing Affordability Near UCLA

Urban Planning Vice Chair Paavo Monkkonen spoke to Los Angeles Magazine about the formation of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. For decades, single-family homeowners in neighborhoods surrounding UCLA worked against the interests of students, said Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Before the new council was formed, the Westwood Neighborhood Council was the voice of the area and would often object to housing construction. “West L.A. has extremely high rents, and there is not enough housing for students. In the extreme, we have students sleeping in cars but, more commonly, they just have to commute very far,” he said. As Monkkonen concluded in a paper for the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, “The vocal advocacy of a handful of neighbors is often framed as local democracy, but many of these processes exclude the majority of a neighborhood’s residents and explicitly favor those with more money and time.”


 

Not Enough Land for Newsom’s Housing Goals, Monkkonen Finds

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was featured in the Los Angeles Times and KTLA 5 News explaining the results of a recent UCLA study that highlighted a discrepancy between the amount of land necessary to fulfill Gov. Gavin Newsom’s housing goals and the amount of land the state of California has set aside for development. Cities and counties have set aside enough land for the construction of 2.8 million homes out of the 3.5 million housing units Newsom aspires to build in the next seven years, the report found. Monkkonen explained that “because not all that land can be developed quickly for home construction, the state would probably have to double or triple the amount of land zoned for housing for the governor to reach his goal.” He said the report “shows pretty clearly that it’s going to be a hard slog to actually get 3.5 million housing units built.”


Monkkonen Critiques California Governor-Elect’s Ambitious Housing Proposal

California governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s plan to solve California’s housing crisis were critiqued by Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen in a recent article on Curbed. Newsom and Monkkonen agree that California’s current housing crisis is the result of “an underwhelming amount of housing production … contributing to escalating rents and home prices,” but they disagree on the approach to a solution. Monkokken argues that while Newsom’s proposed construction of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 sounds appealing, “it’s harder to figure out how to actually make that work.” Newsom’s plan would require an unprecedented construction boom and matching investment in infrastructure; Monkkonen points out the “restrictive zoning requirements” as a significant obstacle “that make dense housing extremely difficult to construct.” He concludes that the priority should be “[finding] a way to ensure housing construction keeps pace with demand” instead of Newsom’s focus on “[reaching] a specific number of units.”


Manville, Monkkonen Investigate Roots of Animosity Toward Housing Developers

UCLA associate professors Michael Manville and Paavo Monkkonen were recently featured in an article on Sightline highlighting their research on neighborhood opposition to new building. Even more than perceived harm and self-interest, Manville and Monkkonen found that “the most powerful opposition frame is about the developer,” specifically when a developer “is likely to earn a large profit from the building.” Despite the apparent motivation to “enforce community norms of fairness” by reining in developers who strive to maximize personal profits, Manville and Monkkonen note the potential flaws of this approach. Manville and Monkkonen illustrate the potentially “vicious cycle of regulation and resentment” as a result of anti-developer attitudes in which “punishing developers … [risks] thwarting affordability, punishing people who need homes, [and] discouraging all but the least likable, deepest-pocketed and most aggressive developers from building.” Despite the foundations of a moral argument against profit-driven developers, Manville and Monkkonen propose a shift in focus to the accessibility and affordability of “homes of all shapes and sizes [for] neighbors of all income levels.”


Monkkonen Comments on ‘Historic’ Gas Station in Silver Lake

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about a controversial 1940s-era gas station in Silver Lake that may be designated as a historic monument, pending a city council vote. Monkkonen noted that disputes over historic preservation and development are not new, but groups demanding new housing are becoming more vocal. “In the past, a lot of this stuff happened without anyone questioning it.”


 

Curbed L.A. Seeks Out Monkkonen for Comment on Development Near Expo Line

A new Expo Line plan to allow higher density residential development around five Westside stations may provide an important example of how to approach the city’s housing crisis, according to Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning. “Look at how often a single-family home sells on a block. You’ll have a gradual change, not some crazy transition overnight,” Monkkonen said about the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan. “But we need some proof-of-concept model because it has never happened, really.”