UCLA School of Public Affairs Among Charles E. Young’s Lasting Legacies Former colleagues recall the late chancellor and his role in the 1994 consolidation of degree programs

By Stan Paul

Charles E. Young, the former UCLA chancellor who passed away Sunday at his home in Sonoma, California, at age 91, was instrumental in the creation of what later became the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

During a time of budgetary constraints, the long-established schools of Social Welfare and Urban Planning were combined in 1994 with a new graduate department — Public Policy — in one new school. In recognizing Young’s legacy and significance at UCLA Luskin, Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris said it was his vision that made today’s Luskin School possible.

And, as she wrote to the UCLA Luskin community, “placing his faculty appointment in our Public Policy department, he immediately elevated the visibility of our School in its very early days.” Loukaitou-Sideris noted that Young always kept a great interest in “his school” long after his official retirement. “As late as June 25, 2023, he emailed me to express his pleasure and congratulations for Urban Planning having been ranked as No. 1 in the nation.”

Several others who knew Young and his relationship with UCLA Luskin offered their remembrances.

Daniel J.B. Mitchell, professor emeritus of management and public policy, was on the faculty at UCLA at the time of the transition. He said Young supported the final result, but the original idea was different.

“Originally, the idea was to create an interdisciplinary research center — not a school — for faculty with a general interest in public policy,” recalled Mitchell, who served as chair of public policy from 1996 to 1997.

In the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict, and in response to budgetary pressures coming from the state that would require rethinking some programs at UCLA, Young appointed a committee to take on the task. It was headed by Archie Kleingartner, professor emeritus of management and public policy, who would become the School’s founding dean.

“Young expanded the task to include creation of a full school of public affairs. He felt that public policy, particularly aimed at state and local concerns, should have a distinct presence at UCLA, both for research and for the production of professionals in the field,” Mitchell said.

Kleingartner said Young had reached the conclusion in the early 1990s that UCLA could and should do much more in the field of public policy. As a premier university, UCLA had an obligation to provide research and teaching at a high level in public policy, said Kleingartner, noting that although Young’s master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA were in political science, his personal academic research interest was in public policy.

Young with current Chancellor Gene Block and former Chancellor Al Carnesale.

After the decision on a new public affairs school was reached, top-level attention turned to how to go about creating a public policy entity and what it should look like, Kleingartner said. “The chancellor was interested in something big and impactful.”

A second strategic decision was based on the fact “that very little by way of new funding would be available, that the main resources would have to be found from within the university,” he said. “So, a really big issue was to reorganize in a way that generated savings.”

Kleingartner said the late Andrea Rich headed up the administrative and financial aspects of the restructuring, and he led the academic and faculty aspects.

“But many faculty and administrators got involved because it was quite a complex undertaking,” he said.

At that time, a number of schools and institutes were reorganized as part of the Professional School Restructuring Initiative, or PSRI, and it was done amid a great deal of internal opposition from existing schools, institutes and their faculties. But “the chancellor remained firm despite the extensive opposition.”

The School — with a different name but in essentially its current form — was officially launched on July 1, 1994. That wouldn’t have happened without Charles E. Young, and “I think at this point, most people are quite satisfied with what was created,” Kleingartner said.

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School, has known Young since Yaroslavsky’s days as an undergraduate in the late 1960s. That association continued during his career as a Los Angeles City Council member and Los Angeles County supervisor representing districts including the Westwood campus.

At a time of declining state support for higher education, Yaroslavsky pointed out that Young “saw what was coming” and took steps to help UCLA remain competitive as a top public university, according to a story posted by UCLA Newsroom.

“Chuck was a bold and visionary leader who catapulted UCLA to one of the world’s great research universities,” Yaroslavsky commented. “Moreover, under his stewardship this university became a consequential player in its own backyard — Westwood and the greater Los Angeles community. As an elected official who represented UCLA for four decades, I never had a better partner.”

Stewardship and partnerships were a hallmark of his work and affiliations on campus.

“Chancellor Young welcomed me personally when I was recruited to UCLA,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor emeritus of social welfare and public policy. He recalled Young’s graciousness and interest in his career, which would include a number of leadership roles at UCLA Luskin.

“Since that time, I took great joy in calling him ‘Chuck’ and experiencing the great university he helped to create. Very few individuals have the good fortune to see a legacy grow and flower, and Chancellor Young could enjoy his creation on his many visits to campus post-retirement,” Torres-Gil said.

Read more about the life and career of the former chancellor on UCLA Newsroom.

Yaroslavsky on California’s ‘Formidable’ Pick for U.S. Senate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CBS Los Angeles about the appointment of Laphonza Butler as California’s next senator. Butler, who has deep experience in Democratic politics as a campaign strategist and labor organizer, was selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “Laphonza Butler is a very serious and formidable individual in whatever position she takes,” said Yaroslavsky, who worked closely with Butler when she was a Los Angeles labor leader and he a county supervisor. Her work in the labor, nonprofit and private sectors demonstrated her “tremendous leadership qualities,” he said. The appointment fulfill’s Newsom’s vow that his next Senate appointment would be a Black woman. Said Yaroslavsky, “I don’t look at her just as an African American woman, I look at her as a formidable human being who has paid a lot of dues so far in her young life.” 


‘We Were Prepared and, as a Result, We Made Our Own Luck’

The New York Times checked in with Los Angeles civic leader Zev Yaroslavsky to discuss the impact of Tropical Storm Hilary, which broke records for August rainfall in Southern California but did not cause catastrophic damage or large-scale loss of life. In some communities, emergency workers were dispatched to ferry people to safety, and crews responded to reports of fallen trees, potholes and downed power lines, along with flooding and mudflows that cut off roads. But officials generally expressed relief that things were not much worse. “I can’t remember a major storm in which we had no fatalities,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles county supervisor and city councilman who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “We were prepared and, as a result, we made our own luck.”


‘Become a Leader, Not Just a Bureaucrat’

A Los Angeles Times piece asking veteran public servants to offer words of guidance to the seven new members of the Los Angeles City Council included insights from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Yaroslavsky, who served the people of Los Angeles as a city councilman and county supervisor for nearly four decades, stressed the importance of mastering the rules and processes of legislating, but said it’s essential to become a leader, not just a bureaucrat. He advised each of the new councilmembers to look in the mirror each morning and ask: “What issue am I willing to lose my job for?” He continued, “People will respect an elected official who takes a calculated risk in the interest of the public.” 


A Look at the Behind-the Scenes Battles That Helped Shape Los Angeles

A new political memoir by Zev Yaroslavsky, who helped shape Los Angeles as a member of the City Council and County Board of Supervisors for four decades, has drawn widespread attention from news outlets around the country. The New York Times called “Zev’s Los Angeles: From Boyle Heights to the Halls of Power” a “history of the people and policies that have shaped the city,” delving into tax revolts, police culture, immigration, the arts, the environment and more. A review in the Jewish Journal said the book’s glimpses of behind-the-scenes deal-making “may even give the reader a new appreciation for the work of a politician.” Yaroslavsky, now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, has appeared on “L.A. Times Today” on Spectrum News 1 and “Air Talk” on LAist, and he discussed the book at length in a two-part interview on “Then & Now,” the podcast of the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy.


Yaroslavsky Memoir Offers Lessons for L.A. and Beyond

A newly published political memoir by Zev Yaroslavsky weaves tales from his life and family with a half-century arc of Los Angeles history, which he helped shape as a longtime fixture in the region’s civic life. “Zev’s Los Angeles: From Boyle Heights to the Halls of Power,” shares stories about Yaroslavsky’s early years as the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, his entry into social activism as a young man, and his four decades serving on L.A.’s City Council and County Board of Supervisors before joining UCLA Luskin as director of the Los Angeles Initiative. While in public office, Yaroslavsky championed health care, transit, police accountability, fiscal stewardship, the arts and the environment in Los Angeles. The book, however, reaches beyond borders. “The stories I’m telling aren’t just vivid historical moments. Each one offers lessons about how to use power, how to make government listen to the people it serves, and how to bring about change — all without sacrificing one’s values or integrity,” Yaroslavsky writes. At a June 6 event at Royce Hall hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, Yaroslavsky discussed the book with UCLA Professors David Myers and Gary Segura and Alisa Belinkoff Katz, co-director of the Los Angeles Initiative. The conversation delved into how far the city has come, but also how the struggle continues against income inequality, homelessness, racial tension and other societal ills. “Zev’s Los Angeles” is dedicated to Yaroslavsky’s late wife, Barbara Edelstein Yaroslavsky, whose legacy is enshrined in her decades of community service “performed with grace, generosity and love.”

Listen to a conversation with Yaroslavsky on the Center for History and Policy’s “Then and Now” podcast.

View photos from the book event on Flickr.

'Zev's Los Angeles' Book Event


An L.A. Story of Power, Influence and Big Personalities

The Los Angeles Times put a spotlight on the newly released autobiography of Zev Yaroslavsky, a fixture in L.A. civic life for decades and now the director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “Zev’s Los Angeles: From Boyle Heights to the Halls of Power” revisits “the period in which Los Angeles became what we know today: big and complex, multiracial, exciting, divided and far deeper than what meets the eye,” writes UCLA Blueprint editor Jim Newton in his review of the book. “Zev’s Los Angeles” recounts Yaroslavsky’s family history, his UCLA student activism and forceful defense of Soviet Jews, and his election to the L.A. City Council at age 26, which spawned a long and consequential career in politics. Newton calls the memoir “a solid history, an insightful analysis of power and a sincere reflection on a life of service,” with fresh insights and behind-the-scenes details about key turning points in the region’s polity.


Younger Angelenos Hit Particularly Hard by Inflation, Pandemic Stresses

Spectrum News 1’s “Inside the Issues” spoke with Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, about this year’s Quality of Life Index, a countywide survey that captures Angelenos’ feelings about inflation, housing affordability, health care, race relations, education and more. “For the last three years, dissatisfaction has definitely been on the rise,” said Yaroslavsky, who has directed the survey since its launch in 2016. “Where it hits the hardest is among younger people,” particularly those in their 30s whose families may have been turned upside down by pandemic stresses followed by spiking inflation. The index also polls residents on the favorability of public officials, and Yaroslavsky spoke about the broad popularity of Mayor Karen Bass in the city she leads as well as countywide. “She’s off to a strong start, and she’s using her political capital to try to do big things,” he said. The interview begins at minute 30.


‘Powerful, Strong, Indefatigable, Courageous’

News outlets covering the death of trailblazing Los Angeles political leader Gloria Molina spoke with Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who served alongside Molina for nearly a quarter-century. Molina was a “powerful, strong, indefatigable, courageous woman” known for her unflagging commitment to regular people, Yaroslavsky told KCAL News. She was “the greatest ally you could have when you were on the same side — and she was the worthiest of adversaries when you were on opposite sides,” he told LAist. Her fierce independence and confrontation style grated on some colleagues “because she held up a mirror to ourselves,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Molina was the first Latina to serve in the California Assembly, on the L.A. City Council and on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Molina and Yaroslavsky left the Board of Supervisors in 2014 due to term limits, and Yaroslavsky now serves as director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

Pandemic Worsened L.A. Income Divide, Survey Finds

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to news outlets about this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, a countywide survey that revealed that the deep income divide among Angelenos has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The lower-income folks are the same people whose income hasn’t come back to pre-pandemic levels, and they’re the ones getting clobbered by inflation,” Yaroslavsky told ABC7 News. This has occurred while many more affluent residents of L.A. County saw their incomes rise over the last three years, the survey found. On NBC Los Angeles’ “News Conference,” Yaroslavsky explained the index’s many findings, including a point of consensus about one way to expand housing options in the region: Three-quarters of respondents supported using vacant commercial and retail buildings for residential use. Coverage of the Quality of Life Index also appeared on news outlets including KCAL News, KTLA, Telemundo and the Los Angeles Daily News.