A Los Angeles Times story about a petition to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón cited this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, a survey that includes favorability ratings for selected state and local officials. County residents surveyed in March were nearly equally divided in their opinions of the reform-minded D.A., who had a 31% favorability rating compared to 32% unfavorable. However, more respondents had intensely unfavorable opinions (22%) than intensely favorable ones (9%), according to the index produced annually by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. To move forward, recall organizers must collect signatures of support from 10% of L.A. County’s registered voters — a little more than 579,000 people — by Oct. 27. Gascón has also faced lawsuits from prosecutors in his own office, interference on cases from other California law enforcement leaders and an outcry from some crime victims who claim his policies have abandoned them.
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville were featured in a Capital & Main article about the political forces that often derail Los Angeles’ efforts to solve its transit crisis. The gridlock comes as climate change is increasing pressure to transition to greener, faster and more equitable mass transit. Transit-oriented cities like Boston and New York “did not divorce the automobile; they were married to transit from the start,” Manville said. Now, Los Angeles is trying to accomplish the same feat through electoral politics and public policy. As a county supervisor 20 years ago, Yaroslavsky proposed the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit system, which was expected to carry 7,500 riders daily when it first opened in the San Fernando Valley. By the time Yaroslavsky left office, the Orange Line was carrying 30,000 per day. “Today, if you tried to get rid of the Orange Line, people would lie in front of the tractors,” he said.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Spectrum News’ “Inside the Issues” about this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, which offered a deep dive into the impacts of COVID-19 on Los Angeles County’s residents. “There are two Los Angeleses,” Yaroslavsky said. “There are the people who are doing well, who are making it. … And then there are those who are struggling, who are living on the margins of the economy and are always feeling one step away from oblivion.” The index included the surprising finding that Latino residents were more positive about their overall quality of life than white residents. Yaroslavsky said this may be because white people on average had higher incomes and more to lose during this pandemic, despite their greater privilege overall. Latinos faced tough challenges but “they worked their way through it, and they are much more optimistic about getting ahead in Los Angeles,” he said.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about California’s roller-coaster recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Months of shifting restrictions about lockdowns and stay-at-home orders took a significant toll on California residents. Yaroslavsky pointed out that when you ask the question “Were all the strict mandates worth it?” you are ultimately asking whether saving even one additional life was worth it. “Losing your business is an existential event; it’s a brutal price to pay,” he said. “But you can rebuild your business. You can’t do that with your life.” Yaroslavsky also said that accusations of inconsistency and hypocrisy surrounding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s management of the crisis “hurt public trust at a moment when it was sorely needed. … Any politician today has taken a hit politically because this has been an unprecedented societal disaster, but there have definitely been some who are paying a bigger price than others.”
UCLA Luskin’s Zev Yaroslavsky and Jim Newton weighed in on billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad’s enduring imprint on the cultural and civic life of Los Angeles. Broad, who died April 30 at age 87, was the rare individual who could “convene the agents of wealth and commerce and business to mobilize for a large civic project,” Yaroslavsky told the Los Angeles Times. On KPCC’s AirTalk, beginning at minute 18, Yaroslavsky spoke about the transformative impact of Broad’s decades of “venture philanthropy.” “His commitment, his civic involvement, was contagious,” said Yaroslavsky, a longtime elected official who now directs the Luskin School’s Los Angeles Initiative. Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, wrote an L.A. Times op-ed calling Broad “an unstoppable force” bent on pushing the city toward greatness amid substantial resistance. “Today’s Los Angeles, from its schools to its political leadership to its skyline, reflects Broad’s great construction project,” Newton wrote.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about findings from the 2021 UCLA Quality of Life Index. The annual survey of Los Angeles County residents showed that 40% suffered a drop in income over the last year as the region was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Those are the people who are pessimistic, those are the people who are threatened with losing their apartments because they can’t make their rent payment at the end of the month,” said Yaroslavsky, who called on policymakers to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable. As one example, he noted that office space vacated as businesses downsize after the pandemic is “going to have huge implications for land use.” He asked, “What do you do with that empty office space? Can you repurpose it for housing, for example?” Several media outlets covered the Quality of Life Index, including the Los Angeles Times, KABC7 News and RealClear Politics.
The UCLA Luskin Summit concluded its 2021 season with a session delving into the sixth annual UCLA Quality of Life Index, a comprehensive look at residents’ satisfaction with life in Los Angeles County. Zev Yaroslavsky, who oversees the index as director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, led summit attendees through the most striking findings of the countywide survey, which was conducted in March. This year’s index put a spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic’s harsh impact on household income, children’s education and confidence about the future. “What this survey has once again exposed is the two Los Angeleses that we have, the disparities by income, by race, by ethnicity, by age,” Yaroslavsky said. “And it’s not sustainable.” He called on policymakers to “focus on the people who don’t have the capacity to weather a storm like this” but acknowledged that the complex issues do not lend themselves to simple solutions or talking points. During the session, ABC7 News reporter Adrienne Alpert presented questions from the virtual audience on topics including rising fears of violent crime, a notable increase in civic engagement and the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. The April 19 webinar was the last of nine Luskin Summit sessions exploring pressing public policy issues under the banner “Called to Action.” The series began in January with a keynote address by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; other sessions focused on issues such as housing insecurity, access to parks, sexual health, public transit and the numerous effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
By Les Dunseith
Residents of Los Angeles County have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis, with significant numbers citing the pandemic’s adverse impact on their finances, health and children’s education, according to UCLA’s sixth annual Quality of Life Index.
“A year ago we speculated about how resilient our region would be in the year to follow,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who oversees the index. “We now know that Los Angeles County has demonstrated robust resilience, but a significant toll has been exacted on our residents by the tumultuous events. Many of our residents — especially younger ones — are anxious, angry and steadily losing hope about their future in Los Angeles.”
This year’s Quality of Life Index, or QLI, was based on interviews with 1,434 county residents over a 20-day period beginning on March 3, just as vaccinations were beginning to fuel optimism about a possible return to more normal life. Last year’s survey, conducted in the earliest stages of the pandemic, found high levels of anxiety about the possible impacts of COVID-19. Twelve months later, respondents said many of those fears had come to pass:
- More than half of those surveyed (54%) reported that they or a close family member or friend had tested positive for the coronavirus.
- Forty percent said their income went down because of the pandemic, with 22% saying it dropped “a lot” and 18% reporting “some” decline. Roughly 1 in 5 (18%) said they had lost their job at some point during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Three-quarters of parents (76%) with school-age children felt their kids had been “substantially hurt, either academically or socially,” by pandemic-related distance learning and quarantine experiences.
In addition, nearly a fifth (17%) of all respondents reported that their income declined “a lot” in the past year and that they also suffered at least two specific negative impacts, such as a job loss, a wage or salary reduction, a decline in work hours or difficulty paying their rent or mortgage. This group was disproportionately composed of women under age 50, single people, renters, those without college degrees and those with household incomes of less than $60,000.
“These are among the most vulnerable individuals living in our county,” Yaroslavsky said.
The QLI, a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment with major funding provided by Meyer and Renee Luskin, asks a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents each year to rate their quality of life in nine categories and 40 subcategories. Full results of this year’s survey were made available April 19 as part of UCLA’s Luskin Summit, which is taking place virtually.
Mirroring last year’s result, this year’s overall quality-of-life rating held steady at 58 (on a scale of 10 to 100), which is slightly more positive than negative. But researchers noted that marked changes emerged among specific racial and ethnic groups, especially with younger residents.
Younger Angelenos: Sinking optimism, tempered by race
Reflecting a trend seen in recent QLI surveys, the county’s younger population — those between the ages of 18 and 49 — rated their quality of life lower than older residents, and the pandemic seems to have exacerbated that disparity.
“The varied manifestations of COVID-19,” Yaroslavsky said, “fell most heavily on the shoulders of younger county residents.”
In particular, researchers observed a growing belief by younger Angelenos that the cost of living in the region is threatening their ability to make ends meet, get ahead or gain some sort of financial security.Yet even among this demographic, the survey revealed a distinct divergence in views between Latinos and whites, the two largest racial/ethnic groups in the county. While they have faced demonstrably harder challenges in the region, Latino residents overall were more positive about their quality of life than whites — and this was particularly pronounced among younger residents.
“Repeatedly, younger Latinos are more positive about their own conditions and express greater approval and positivity toward the variety of public officials and governmental entities that affect their lives,” said Paul Maslin, a public opinion and polling expert with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3 Research) who has overseen the QLI survey process since 2016. “Among younger white residents in Los Angeles County, a greater sense of frustration and even bitterness is apparent.”
The survey uncovered a number of noteworthy differences in these two groups’ views of the pandemic, public officials and the opportunities available in the region:
- Younger white residents were evenly split over whether the handling of the pandemic had been fair or unfair to “people like them” (48% vs. 49%), whereas younger Latinos reported that it had been fair to them by a 2-to-1 margin (65% vs. 33%).
- About two-thirds (68%) of younger whites believe the Los Angeles area is a place where the rich get richer and the average person can’t get ahead, compared with only 55% of younger Latinos.
- Younger Latinos had more favorable views of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (57%) and Gov. Gavin Newsom (53%) than younger whites, 57% of whom had unfavorable views of Garcetti and 62% unfavorable views of Newsom.
- Younger white residents rated the response to the pandemic — across all levels of government — much more harshly than younger Latinos. Only about a third of whites approved of the response of federal, state and county governments and local school districts. Latinos’ ratings of approval were at least 20 points higher for every level of government and for local school districts.
- However, in terms of paying their rent, more younger Latinos (43%) reported falling behind than did young whites (31%).
The 2021 QLI: Resilience and change
While this year’s quality-of-life rating remained at 58 overall, reflecting a remarkable resilience among county residents, several significant shifts within the nine major categories that make up the survey tell a different story.
This was most noticeable in the education category, where the satisfaction rating of respondents with children in public schools dropped from 58 last year to 52 this year, one of the most dramatic one-year declines in any category in the QLI’s history.
Satisfaction ratings for public safety also fell over the past year, from 64 to 60, influenced significantly by a growing concern over violent crime. And respondents’ rating of the quality of their neighborhoods dropped from 71 to 68.
On the other hand, satisfaction with transportation and traffic rose from 53 to 56, which researchers attribute to a significant reduction in commuter traffic caused by pandemic-related workplace shutdowns.
With regard to the workplace, 57% of employed respondents said they currently work from home or split time between home and their place of work. As to the future, 77% said they would prefer a mix of working from home and their workplace when the pandemic ends, with just 16% wanting to “almost always work at home.”
The 2021 UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index is based on interviews with a random sample of residents conducted in both English and Spanish, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6%. The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3 Research). The full reports for 2021 and previous years are posted online by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the impending closure of a Ralph’s grocery store that serves a large Jewish community. The Pico-Robertson market, which has an extensive kosher section, is scheduled to close in May after the Los Angeles City Council voted to require large grocery stores to pay workers an extra $5 an hour for about four months as compensation for working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pending shutdown has sparked fierce debates on social media over who is to blame: parent company Kroger or city politicians. “It’s unusual for a business to pull out and just selectively pull out,” said Yaroslavsky, a former city councilman and county supervisor in Los Angeles. “They’re walking away from a community that’s been loyal to them.” The article also cited Zev Hurwitz MPP ’18, who started an online petition to keep the Westside market open.
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to Politico about growing efforts to recall elected leaders in California, starting with Gov. Gavin Newsom. Five previous attempts to recall the governor have failed. Now, voters unhappy with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic are again seeking to remove him from office. While there have been 179 recall attempts in California since 1911, only 10 have qualified for the ballot. Recently, virus fatigue has strengthened interest in recalls among disillusioned voters stuck at home, and many elected officials are becoming the targets of recall efforts. “I think COVID is one of those issues, and criminal justice is one of those issues, where everybody has an opinion,” Yaroslavsky said. He explained that law enforcement issues and pandemic restrictions have created distinct camps of Californians who “have been cooped up in their houses for a year” and are refusing to wait until 2022 to hold their representatives accountable.