The UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy hosted a panel discussion on Nov. 1, 2017, focusing on the current state of Boyle Heights as a microcosm for a larger conversation about the rise of gentrification and the slew of other issues to which it contributes in Los Angeles. “Gentrification and its Discontents: Boyle Heights and Beyond” included Rina Palta of KPCC News as moderator; Professors Abel Valenzuela and Eric Avila, whose appointments include positions in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning; Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, co-CEO of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors; and Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist. The discussion was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A that included a detailed political history of rent control in Los Angeles from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Access a Flickr gallery of photos by Aaron Julian from the event below.
By George Foulsham
After fielding a series of challenging questions from students in UCLA Luskin lecturer Zev Yaroslavsky’s public policy class, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan smiled when they were asked to explain how the election of Donald Trump has affected their jobs.
“How much time do we have?” Padilla said. “I’ve gotten a heck of a lot more press coverage than anybody would have expected.”
Trump’s frequent charges of voter fraud in the November 2016 presidential election have been a source of frustration for Padilla. To say that the Trump administration has had an impact on his job would be an understatement.
“He keeps alleging massive voter fraud — which is absolutely not true,” Padilla said. “He has repeatedly mentioned California. He’s not just questioning my credibility; it’s our credibility. Whenever it’s in a story, which is pretty frequent, we have to go out, defend and explain all the measures we go through to protect the integrity of the election.”
As California’s top elections official, Padilla is tasked with protecting the votes and voters of the state.
“There’s fundamentally a different person, different leadership in the U.S. Department of Justice, the attorney general,” Padilla said. “That’s someone we look to as a partner to protect people’s voting rights. Depending on what may happen in the future, we may be butting heads with them on advancing public policy or interpretation of existing laws, enforcement of laws. Red flags are way, way up.”
The same holds true for Logan, who oversees all elections in L.A. County.
“It’s the continued repeating of information that’s not backed by any evidence or fact,” Logan said. “Ultimately — and it’s just my personal opinion — it is part of the same campaign: The ultimate end game of that is to decrease people’s confidence in the electoral process and for them to just sit out,” thus benefiting candidates with politically extreme views.
In introducing Padilla and Logan to the students in his class, Yaroslavsky hailed Padilla as a “national figure and leader” and Logan as “a visionary.”
“Between these two guys, you’ve got two of the best minds when it comes to elections,” Yaroslavsky said. Both fill important roles “that most people don’t know about. We take it for granted, like when we turn the water on in the morning. Running an election, making sure the votes are counted with integrity, is not to be taken for granted.”
Padilla told the students about his various statewide duties, including political reform, campaign finance reports and overseeing the state archives, but most of his talk concentrated on how he views his role as secretary of state.
“Academically, what can we do to get more people to vote in California? That’s not my job,” Padilla said. “My job is to oversee California elections and make sure there’s no voter fraud, but I think there’s an expectation that we use this job to get more people involved and engaged in the process.”
He’s proud of what his office has done to help increase the number of registered voters in California. “We’ve already shattered the previous record in California on the registration side,” Padilla said. “When I was sworn in, 17.4 million registered voters were on the books. We’re at 19.4 million now, quickly approaching 20 million.”
Starting next year, the state will launch automatic voter registration so that residents who are eligible will automatically be registered when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or a state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles, online or by mail, Padilla said.
His ultimate goal is to increase voter participation. “We have an electorate that is not always representative of the people — geographically, demographically, economically or by any other measure,” Padilla said. “The better we get toward 100 percent participation, then from a ‘small d’ democracy standpoint, we get an electorate that better represents the people.”
Logan’s biggest challenge is managing the county’s antiquated voting infrastructure. “Here in L.A. County we are still using voting equipment that was first introduced in 1968 when Robert Kennedy was on the ballot,” he said. “We are very involved in a project here in L.A. County to modernize the voting system.”
If Logan and Padilla have their way, this won’t be a continuation of your mother’s voting methodology.
“Today the voting experience is focused on single-day, single-location and a single piece of equipment,” Logan said. “A random Tuesday, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. That makes no sense; that isn’t relevant to anything that we do on a regular basis.”
The new model will feature community vote centers all over Los Angeles County. “So if you live in Santa Monica, but you happen to work in downtown L.A.,” Logan said, “you can walk into a downtown vote center and get your Santa Monica ballot and vote.”
Other highlights of the new voting system:
- Voting centers will be open for a 10-day period, “so it’s not just on a random Tuesday,” Logan said.
- There will be mobile and pop-up voting centers. “So if there’s a big farmers market out at the Rose Bowl on the weekends, and there are going to be thousands of people there, we’re going to go out and throw up a vote center,” he said.
- Sample ballots will no longer be paper pamphlets delivered via the post office. “We’re going to offer an interactive sample ballot,” he said.
“It’s going to fundamentally change the way the voting experience works here in L.A. County,” said Logan, who added that he hopes to institute all of these changes by 2020.
Questions from Yaroslavsky’s students covered a variety of issues, from voter accessibility to campaign finance issues to frequency of elections, but the last question for Padilla was simple and direct: Are you thinking about running for governor in California?
“Thinking about it and doing it are two different things,” Padilla said. “I don’t dismiss that potential opportunity in the future, but not next year. I’m up for re-election next year.”
Additional photos are available here.
By Zev Hurwitz and Stan Paul
At the end of a daylong symposium during which journalists, scholars and media pundits debated whether truth matters in a polarized United States, reporter and news anchor Ray Suarez summarized the condition of American politics vs. American journalism.
“The job of telling the truth is different than the job of getting elected,” Suarez said.
The former host of Al Jazeera America’s “Inside Story” and contributor to PBS “NewsHour” delivered the final Luskin Lecture of the academic year on May 25, 2017, capping a full day of programming that addressed a pertinent question: “Do Words Matter? Journalism, Communication and Alternative Truth.” The lecture and preceding panel discussions were sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and held at the new Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center on the UCLA campus.
Suarez spoke about the role of the media in a world in which traditional journalism is trusted only marginally and the truth seems to matter less and less.
Referring to the recent contest for Montana’s only congressional seat in a special election, Suarez discussed newly elected Greg Gianforte’s body slam of a reporter from the Guardian on the eve of the election.
“Think about where we are — physical attacks on reporters asking questions. That’s the kind of thing that happens in Moscow, not in Montana,” Suarez said. “While we’re at a perilous time for the country and the world, respect for the news business keeps finding new lows.”
‘Truth Is Under Tremendous Stress’
Suarez told the audience of students, faculty and community members about a recent exchange he had on Twitter with a critic who was unhappy after Suarez appeared on Fox News. Suarez had argued for the use of unnamed sources in certain instances, and afterward he became engaged in a social media argument with the Twitter user, who was convinced that President Trump won the 2016 election’s popular vote. In fact, Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots.
“Truth is under tremendous stress in the United States,” Suarez said. “Observable, countable, measurable, testable truth now has to fight on an even playing field with your feelings. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, your feelings don’t carry the burden of evidence that truth does.”
Most fake news has an obvious slant, but biased reporting leads to public distrust of reporting, Suarez said. This mistrust of media threatens the ability of journalists to cover stories.
Suarez’s lecture was followed by a conversation with Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Segura, who had been interviewed by Suarez for stories in the past, talked about how much he admires the integrity of impartial journalists.
“I have great respect for journalists and especially those who persevere in pursuing objectivity — especially in the face of those who hold power in Washington,” Segura said during introductory remarks. “Ray Suarez is one of those journalists.”
Focusing on the state of media during the Trump presidency, the lecture followed these three panels: “The 2016 Campaign and Media Impact,” “The Face/Place of Media During the Trump Administration” and “Truth or Trolls.”
‘Truth is a Really, Really Big Deal’
Segura opened the day, talking about the importance of the UCLA Luskin commitment to “the value of information.”
“If we did not take Mr. Trump seriously before, we sure do now,” Segura said. “We have to understand the demonization of the press. … We find ourselves in a moment where reporting the truth is a really, really big deal.”
Sasha Issenberg, journalist and author of “The Victory Lab, the Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” served as moderator of the first panel, which addressed the question of whether the news media played a key role in President Trump’s upset victory on Nov. 8, 2016.
“Should we be thinking differently about that question as it pertains to 2016?” Issenberg asked Lynn Vavreck, professor of political science and communication studies at UCLA.
“I think the answer to that question is no,” Vavreck said. “The media doesn’t really tell voters what to think, what positions to hold on issues, for example, but it does do a great job of telling voters what to think about.”
With nearly four decades in public service, panelist Zev Yaroslavky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, said of the 2016 election, “Overall, what troubled me about that campaign was that it set a new low on what constitutes acceptable for discourse in the political realm in our country.”
Segura moderated the second panel discussion, asking how the press will be able to cover a new administration that is seemingly playing it by ear, intentionally excluding select larger mainstream media from some press briefings.
‘The Leaky White House’
Adam Nagourney, West Coast bureau chief of the New York Times, said that, as a former White House reporter during the Clinton administration, he found the day-to-day job could be boring: “You’re getting fed stuff” that may be inconsequential, he said. But, he added, “You want someone in the White House keeping track of what’s going on.”
Of Trump, Nagourney noted that this has been “the most leaky White House that has ever existed.”
Nick Goldberg, editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, said he once spent time on the East Coast as a reporter but now loves covering national politics from the West Coast. “I Iike being in a place where we think about different issues” outside of the Washington bubble, Goldberg said.
For VOX video producer Carlos Maza, the “palace intrigue” is fascinating, but he explained, “The problems or risks of being so close to the White House is that it may not affect the material conditions of most people’s lives.” It all amounts to background noise for most Americans, distracting from other issues, Maza said.
Segura asked La Opinión writer and editor Pilar Marrero, who has years of experience covering social and political issues in the Latino community, if policy issues are being drowned out by the current “circus environment” in Washington.
“We’ve always lived in a different universe from the mainstream media,” Marrero said. “We all know this particular White House is focused on immigration issues and on what happens to a large part of the audience I cater to.”
Marrero said that her coverage concentrates on budget cuts or executive orders that impact her audience. “Our main focus continues to be the person who was deported next door,” she said. “Every day we are covering heartbreaking family separations,” which the mainstream media seldom do.
Kevin Roderick, director of UCLA Newsroom and a former editor at the Los Angeles Times, is the longtime editor of the media watchdog website L.A. Observed. He moderated the panel “Truth or Trolls,” which featured five former or current journalists and UCLA Professor of Communication Studies Tim Groeling, who has researched historical media trends.
“I do not like the term fake news,” Groeling said. “It is so nebulous and open to interpretation that it is easily appropriated by a lot of different figures, including the President, to attack news in a variety of ways. I think it’s too unspecific to be useful.
‘We’ve Seen This Before’
The current era is closer to 19th-century news than 20th-century news, in Groeling’s view. “The period of time that most social science theory was developed regarding the media is a time that was historically weird. We are much closer to something like the 19th century where you have a lot of competing organizations. It’s very easy to start a new competitor. They’re very personalized. They’re very emotional. They’re less attached to the truth and professionalism than we’ve been used to,” he said. “So we’ve seen this before.”
Panelist Doris Truong, Washington Post home page editor, recalled how she was trolled by thousands of Trump followers after someone saw a video of a woman snapping photos near the table where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had testified during his confirmation hearings. Trump fans posted the video on social media and wrongly decided that it was Truong. Her life turned upside-down for several weeks.
“It was a little bit shocking,” Truong recalled. “Some right-wing Twitter account said, ‘Oh, this is Doris Truong of the Washington Post. She should be fired.’ People just ran with that.”
The next day, “I wake up around 7 and I have all of these messages from my friends saying, ‘Oh my god, your accounts are exploding, and I wanted to rebut this.’ Then Drudge Report picked it up. That’s where it snowballed,” Truong said.
Two major conservative websites ran with it, and Truong faced a deluge of vicious criticism. Washington Post officials sent notes to Drudge and other websites to clarify that it wasn’t Truong, but that didn’t stop Reddit users and other web commenters from touting what Truong called a “conspiracy theory.”
“It was so crazy and so far-fetched,” she said.
To view more photos from this Luskin Lecture, go here.
View videos from the panel discussions and the keynote address by Ray Suarez below.
By Zev Hurwitz
Mitchell Katz, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow, knows of several projects that would demonstrate the potential for effectiveness of local government.
“When people talk about public policy, typically people think about Washington [D.C.] or they think about state government,” said Katz, MD, director of the Los Angeles County Health Agency during a talk May 9, 2017, at the UCLA Faculty Center. “I have to say I’ve never been interested in working in either because I like seeing problems directly and figuring out how to solve them. What I want you to think about is, ‘What are the opportunities to do interesting things at a local level that perhaps you could never do at a federal level?’”
More than 50 attendees also heard from Director of the Los Angeles Initiative and former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who moderated a Q&A that followed Katz’s discussion of experiences that employ creativity to improve public health.
For example, when HIV/AIDS was spreading in San Francisco more than two decades ago, Katz helped create a needle exchange program that drastically lowered the number of new infections. In order to bypass state laws prohibiting taxpayer-funded needle exchanges, Katz and his colleagues needed to be creative in finding a legal loophole.
“We came up with the idea that we would declare an emergency,” he said. “The idea was that this was the leading cause of death among men … and here was something that was a transmissible agent. It seemed to me that this cause of death was a public health emergency.”
Katz likened the response to AIDS during the epidemic to an earthquake, during which normal county bureaucratic channels would be bypassed in providing emergency services.
“You were on the County Board of Supervisors for many years,” he said to Yaroslavsky. “If there’s a huge earthquake, you don’t want Zev and his colleagues to follow the process of getting request for proposals and figuring out who’s going to clean up your street — you want everybody to waive all the rules.”
Because rules for emergencies are time-sensitive, keeping the needle exchange program alive meant renewing the emergency order every two weeks for the next nine years.
“This gives you some sense about how absurd it was,” he said of navigating the bureaucracy.
Needle exchanges finally became legal in 2011, yet today no federal funding can be used to pay for such programs.
Katz also spoke about his work banning tobacco sales in pharmacies, improving public housing for homeless and chronically ill patients, advancing teleretinal screenings and remote doctor’s appointments to reduce waiting time for specialist appointments.
During the Q&A, he and Yaroslavsky engaged in a conversation about the future of health in Los Angeles and the country.
Yaroslavsky had high praise for Katz. “One of the best decisions the Board [of Supervisors] made in my day was getting Mitch Katz to come to Los Angeles even though he was from San Francisco,” he said.
Associate Dean and Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris opened the event, which was co-sponsored by the Fielding School of Public Health, and she introduced Katz. She also discussed the Luskin Senior Fellows program, which pairs leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors with graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for mentorship and engagement on field-specific issues.
VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at Luskin, oversees the program, which is now in its 20th year. She noted that the fellowship program’s speaker series allows the Luskin community to hear directly from community leaders.
“The Senior Fellows Speaker Series was created to provide a public square in which these prominent community and policy leaders can discuss their roles in public service and provide insights to their efforts to solve pressing public and social policy challenges,” she said.
By George Foulsham
More than one-third of Los Angeles County residents are worried that they, a family member or a friend will be deported from the United States, and nearly half of county residents believe that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new federal health law would make their access to health care worse.
These two major findings highlight the 2017 UCLA Luskin Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in partnership with the California Endowment. The annual survey, which is in its second year, is based on interviews conducted with about 1,600 county residents from Feb. 28 to March 12, 2017.
The index is an annual survey of Los Angeles county residents that asks them questions to rate their quality of life in nine different categories. In addition to the categorized questions, the survey also asks specific standalone questions that relate to their quality of life. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.
In one noteworthy finding, 37 percent of county residents are worried about deportation from
the U.S., and more than half of them are very worried. Of respondents who expressed
deportation worries, an overwhelming 80 percent said that they, a friend or a family member
would be at greater risk of being deported by enrolling in a government health, education or
housing program. More than half of them are very worried.
“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “The national debate on immigration in
recent months has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now
fear engaging local government for services should be of concern to all of us.”
Those observations are reflected in follow-up interviews conducted by the Luskin School. A man
in his early 30s who lives in the San Fernando Valley and is half-Latino said he worried for his
girlfriend’s family, most of whom are in the country legally but one of whom is not. “I wouldn’t
even call the police,” he said.
These concerns are not limited to minority groups. Another respondent, a white woman in her
late 50s who lives in the South Bay, said she’s concerned about neighbors and others being
deported. “I hear from a lot of people who are afraid,” she said.
Significant findings on deportation worries include:
- Younger residents are more worried about deportation (50 percent between the ages of
18-39, compared to 25 percent of those over 50).
- Latinos, who make up 43 percent of the survey sample, are the most concerned about
deportation (56 percent) and nearly one-third of Asian residents are worried (31
- Lower-income residents are more likely to be worried (49 percent of those earning less
than $30,000 annually, compared to 30 percent of those earning over $120,000
- Residents born in another country (52 percent) are more worried, compared to U.S.-
born (30 percent). Twenty-nine percent of the survey sample are foreign born.
Nearly one-fifth of whites (19 percent) expressed concerns about deportation.
Nearly half of survey respondents said that repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, would
make their access to quality medical care worse. Forty-eight percent of respondents said
replacing the ACA would worsen their access to care, while 14 percent said the repeal would
improve access. Thirty percent said it would make no difference. The survey was taken before
the Trump administration and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the decision to withdraw
legislation that sought to repeal the ACA with the American Health Care Act.
Follow-up interviews bear out these findings. A young African-American man living in the San
Gabriel Valley thinks Obamacare could use some improvement, but “it’s better than what we
had.” He added that he had no confidence in the Trump/Ryan proposal to replace it.
Significant findings on the ACA’s repeal and replacement include:
- Younger residents are more likely to say that changes would negatively impact them (58
percent between the ages of 18-39, compared to 32 percent of those older than 50).
- Those with Medi-Cal or an ACA insurance policy are more likely to say changes would
negatively impact them (59 percent).
- A significant majority of African-Americans (63 percent) and Latinos (56 percent) say
changes would negatively impact them.
The gentrification of many Los Angeles County communities also is a cause for concern,
according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of those contacted said they have a negative reaction
to the displacement of their neighbors by those who are willing to pay more for housing. Only 19
percent viewed this as positive. And the number went up to 57 percent negative among those
who were asked about community-serving shops and stores being replaced by businesses willing
to pay higher rents.
Sixty-five percent of Latinos and African-Americans viewed gentrification as negative, compared
to 43 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asians. Geographically, 68 percent of residents of
Central Los Angeles viewed gentrification negatively.
Interestingly, the QLI’s overall satisfaction score of 59 remained the same as last year, though
there were some shifts within various categories. The score remained slightly above the
midpoint of 55 (on a scale of 10-100). Overall satisfaction, according to the QLI, depends a lot on
one’s age. Those in the 18-29 age group had a satisfaction score of 53, at the low end of the scale,
while those who are 75 and older had the highest satisfaction score, 67.
That’s true throughout the survey, with younger residents the least satisfied overall in many
categories, including the cost of housing, educational opportunities and the fairness of the local
Other highlights from the index:
- Transportation and traffic scores are lower this year, driven in part by the condition of
streets and the length of commutes.
- Satisfaction with the cost of living, especially as it relates to housing, also declined from
last year, from 51 to 47. That was true among residents from all income groups. Nearly
half of the respondents (48 percent) said that what they paid for housing was the most
important factor in their rating of the cost of living category.
- The scores for education also dropped slightly from 2016, with respondents expressing
lower satisfaction with the overall quality of K-12 public education and the training
children and young adults receive for jobs of the future.
- The most positive score in the QLI was in race relations. Overall satisfaction in relations
among different ethnic and racial groups rose to 79, compared to 76 last year.
Asked to rank the overall impact that immigrants are having on this region, the
satisfaction rating was four points higher than last year, at 69.
- Satisfaction with neighborhood quality was also high — and unchanged from last year, at
75. Homeowners are more satisfied with their neighborhoods than are renters.
Health care continues to have a relatively high level of satisfaction, though those under
age 39 are less satisfied than those over 50.
- Other categories showing slight improvement included the environment, jobs and the
“Overall, county residents generally feel positive about their quality of life, the communities in
which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said. “However, it is troubling
that younger people, who should have so much to look forward to, often feel most pessimistic,
especially when it comes to the excruciatingly high cost of housing.”
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Download the 2017 QLI (PDF)
Review the data (PDF)
Summary Narrative (PDF)
By Stan Paul
Los Angeles has long been the setting for detective stories and Hollywood noir, but the real who-done-it is the region’s economy over the past several decades, according to UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researcher and author Michael Storper.
There are false leads and possibly a smoking gun to be found in solving how Los Angeles — a leader among cities for most of the 20th century — began an economic slide after 1970, falling behind regions such as the Bay Area.
Storper, the distinguished professor of regional and international development in the Luskin School’s Department of Urban Planning, put the city’s economic history under a magnifying glass during a conversation with former Los Angeles city councilman and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky on Feb. 8, 2017, at a gathering of Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonprofit leadership forum founded in 1937.
“1970 is an interesting moment; it’s not just an arbitrary date,” said Storper, whose comments reflected research from his recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles.” “It’s pretty much the time when what we call the old economies about the middle of the 20th century, based principally on manufacturing, began to shift in what we would now call the new economy.”
Just the Facts
“We started with a simple fact that you can see,” said Storper. “We observed that in 1970 the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles were about equal in what we might call their wealth and development level,” using per capita income as a way to measure wealth, he explained. “Today the Bay Area is still number one, but we’re number 25 out of the regions that have more than 2 million people. That’s a really big slippage that does not put us, frankly, in the best of company.”
The time period in question included the IT revolution, finance revolution, “flipping the switch” for more globalization and the development of advanced services, Storper said. So, the Bay Area is now 30 percent richer than Los Angeles. “What that suggests is that the Bay Area somehow managed the transition more successfully than we did here in Southern California,” he said.
Since 1970, the Bay Area gave birth to Silicon Valley, refocused its economy in finance, landed several IT-related corporate headquarters and is currently winning in biotech. By contrast, greater Los Angeles lost high-wage aerospace and defense firms, as well as several corporate headquarters. “We grow in light manufacturing, but light manufacturing is the low-wage part of the economy,” he added.
And, while L.A. has Hollywood, or as Storper calls it, “the bright star, our super-dynamic, supernova,” it is not enough to float a region of 18 million people. “It has huge positive benefits, but it’s just not big enough,” he said.
“We have to ask ourselves, why is this happening, given that L.A. was the envy of the country and the world for much of the 20th century?” Storper said. “And, if you look at L.A., if you roll back the film to 1970, we had more engineers; we had a vibrant entrepreneurial culture; we had more tech firms; we had equal education levels; and we, in many ways, had better infrastructure than the Bay Area did.”
Storper said he is often asked if there is some kind of “optical illusion” at work, given that the Bay Area’s housing is so much more expensive than in L.A. Are people really better off in Northern California?
“The answer is yes,” Storper said. “When you correct for cost of living of each part of the part of the population at each income level, and the amount of money they spent on housing, they still come out with having somewhere between 20 to 25 percent higher per capita income than we do.”
Another question Storper is asked: Is it because L.A. is so much bigger? No, it’s not a question of geographical scale, Storper said. “Seventy-five percent of the population of the Bay Area lives in counties that are higher in per capita income than our richest county, which is Orange County. They have regionwide prosperity up in Northern California.”
Then Who Done It?
Storper said he and his co-researchers started looking into the different core sectors of the economy: aerospace, information technology, entertainment, finance, logistics, trade and biotech. They found very different stories about how IT and biotech firms, business leaders, leadership groups and public agencies use the resources of their regions to establish a foothold in the new economy.
“There’s a really strong business leadership group in the Bay Area,” Storper said. “We didn’t really know where things were going, but the Bay Area Council got on it early in the 1980s and said, ‘The future is in being the high-tech, high-wage, and high-skill economy. We’re never going to make it in manufacturing again. We’re too expensive and there’s no way to roll that back significantly,’ so they pushed a high-road vision for the Bay Area.”
And the Bay Area Council wasn’t acting alone, relying on business leadership networks. Storper said his researchers looked at the major firms of both regions and asked who sits the boards of directors.
“What emerges is an absolutely striking difference,” Storper said. “In the Bay Area it’s highly networked. They are all networked and talking to each other because they are all on each other’s boards of directors.” Not so for Los Angeles. “You look at L.A. and that’s not the case,” he said. “It’s a bunch of separate communities.”
In addition to industry, scientists and university-based researchers are more networked in the northern part of the state, said Storper, citing a seven times more per capita tendency for a university-based researcher to start a firm or to patent something that becomes commercialized in the Bay Area.
“And it’s not because our universities aren’t as good,” he said. “It’s because theirs are more connected than ours.”
For Storper, the core issue is whether we can “rebuild and change the way we do things and in particular rebuild our human connectivity” in order to be innovative and move forward in the new economy.
“I think that Michael’s book is one of the most important pieces of literature I’ve read on Los Angeles in an awful long time,” said Yarosklavsky, former Los Angeles councilman and five-term county supervisor, who spoke following Storper’s economic overview. “What it did was hold up a mirror to us those of us in public life, the private sector, stakeholders in the community. It said, ‘Here’s what’s been happening in the last 40 years.’”
Yaroslavsky, who was born and raised in Los Angeles and who has lived a public life as a civic leader, offered his observations.
“There are a lot of factors in why this happened. I think public investment is a huge piece of this puzzle,” said Yaroslavsky, who currently serves as director of the Los Angeles Initiative based at UCLA Luskin.
Investment in transportation is a prime example, according to Yaroslavsky. “Starting 1970 the BART system was under way,” he said. “By the time we cut the ribbon on the first 4.4 miles of the subway in Los Angeles, it was 1993.”
Going back to the early 1970s, Yaroslavsky said that San Francisco had plateaued while Los Angeles seemed to be on a roll.
“The Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, the space race, and the aircraft and aerospace industries were a backbone of the regional economy, and there was no thought that this would dissipate any time soon,” he said. “As a result, San Francisco’s business leaders looked ahead to position their region for the economy of the future, while Los Angeles’ leaders were looking in the rear-view mirror, searching for ways to preserve aerospace, manufacturing, and other industries that had carried it since the war years.”
Yaroslavsky said that, within a span of 20 years, these portions of L.A.’s economic base had diminished or disappeared, while the Bay Area was on its way. And, he said, L.A. is still playing catch-up.
He also pointed out that much of the political power in the state was based in Northern California, citing the influence of Northern Californians as U.S. senators, state legislators and assembly speakers for half of the 40-year period.
“These were important in that considerable public resources were invested in the north to provide infrastructure for the burgeoning industries of the future,” he said. “The Bay Area had a focused vision of where they wanted to go, and their federal and state representatives partnered with them to help make it happen.”
Southern California did not have a similar cohesive, focused civic leadership with a road map of where they wanted to go, Yaroslavsky said. In fact, during this period most of the remaining Fortune 500 corporations that called L.A. home left.
But Yaroslavsky said that there are signs that Southern California is turning the corner, mentioning several voter-approved measures in the last six years that will provide hundreds of billions of dollars of transportation infrastructure investment in this region.
Political power has also shifted in Southern California’s favor, he said. “The leaders of our legislature are both from L.A. county. The region seems to be working more collaboratively in recent years than in the past.”
Yaroslavsky said L.A.’s economic future is promising, but cautioned that this cannot be taken for granted.
“We are competing with other metropolitan areas along the coast, across the country and around the world,” he said. “Investments in our infrastructure — transit, harbor, airports, and communications are critical to facilitate private sector expansion. Public education and housing costs also heavily influence where private investment is made.”
By Zev Hurwitz
In a city famous for traffic jams and rush-hour gridlock, a return to rail may be putting Los Angeles on the right track.
Rail lines and transit policy were the focus of a UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs lecture delivered by professor Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) on Jan. 25, 2017. Elkind spoke about the history of rail transit in Los Angeles and what the future for trains in the county might look like.
Elkind began with a discussion about the early years of Los Angeles rail. Prior to the rise of the automobile, Los Angeles developed a complex system of electric streetcars, which became the primary mode of public transportation for the region.
“At its heyday, there were 1,164 miles of electric streetcars, covering four counties,” Elkind said. “By 1911, the average Angeleno rode the system at least one ride per day.”
Elkind displayed a map of the old Pacific Electric Railway system and its vast number of routes crisscrossing Southern California — a far cry from the relatively modest number of rail lines in Los Angeles today.
“For many Angelenos, they look at this map and it’s hard not to break down in tears at what used to be,” he said. “From Santa Monica to the San Gabriel Mountains you could literally get wherever you needed to go.”
The last streetcar ride took place in 1961, the demise attributed in part to a shift toward policies that favored automobile drivers, such as widening of streets and development of parking. Additionally, the street cars faced their own popularity decline, due in part to poor maintenance, scheduling issues and operator strikes.
Explosive population growth bred traffic congestion, Elkind said, which led one public figure to make addressing transportation a top issue.
“In 1973, City Councilman Tom Bradley ran for mayor of Los Angeles and for the first time made transit a priority,” Elkind said, noting an “overly ambitious” campaign promise by Bradley to break ground on a new rail line within 18 months of his inauguration.
Rail development in the 1970s was an attractive proposition for municipalities because the federal government granted 80 percent of the funds needed to construct a new rail line, contingent on a 20 percent match by local governments.
Ultimately, several tax-raising measures were passed by county voters that paved the way for the first crop of new rail lines in Los Angeles, beginning with a downtown-to-Long Beach route that opened as the Metro Blue Line in 1990 — nearly 20 years after Bradley’s 18-month promise.
Today, 105 miles of railway track reach different corners of Los Angeles County and draw more than 360,000 riders daily. More tracks are on the way, thanks to the 2016 passage of Proposition M, which raised sales taxes to pay for new rail projects, including an extension of the Purple Line subway to Westwood and a Green Line connector to LAX.
“Two cents of every dollar now go into transit,” Elkind said of Measure M’s passage. “It’s a big win. It will generate over $30 billion for transit over the next 40 years.”
Some obstacles remain for transit in Los Angeles, including an ongoing struggle to make projects more cost effective and efficient and keeping pace with continuing population growth for the region.
Elkind drew much of the material for his lecture from the research for his 2014 book, “Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, former Los Angeles county supervisor and director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, introduced Elkind — noting that Elkind had spoken earlier in the day to Yaroslavsky’s undergraduate capstone seminar about the history of transportation in Los Angeles.
“There are a lot of exciting dynamics that are going on in Los Angeles and Southern California in public transportation that are changing the face of the region,” Yaroslavsky said.
The event drew a big crowd that included Luskin and other UCLA students, as well as community members. The lecture was also streamed live online.
First-year MPP student Estefania Zavala attended the lecture because of her interest in transportation policy. “I think it was really interesting to hear about how equity plays a role in the system and what introducing a new Metro station in a really impoverished neighborhood does to gentrifying that neighborhood,” she said. “That’s really interesting to me as a graduate student.”
Transit issues are also personal to her. “It was a little bit frustrating just to hear about inefficiently the system has been laid out,” Zavala said, noting that, as a commuter from Azusa, she wishes that better transit options existed to get her to Westwood.
The Public Policy Department at the Luskin School of Public Affairs co-sponsored the event with the Department of History and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.
During a career in public life spanning nearly four decades, Zev Yaroslavsky has been at the forefront of Los Angeles County’s biggest issues, including transportation, the environment, health care, and cultural arts. He has been a pioneering advocate for the region’s homeless population and has played a key role in efforts to reform the county’s law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Yaroslavsky was first elected to office in 1975, stunning the political establishment by winning the Los Angeles City Council’s coveted 5th District seat at the age of 26. He honed his fiscal skills as chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee and earned a reputation for being unafraid to tackle controversial issues, including the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of excessive force and its improper spying on law-abiding residents. He authored two landmark ballot initiatives, one which cut in half the size of new commercial developments near residential neighborhoods in the City of L.A., and the other which banned oil drilling along the city’s coastline.
In describing Mr. Yaroslavsky’s City Hall tenure, the Los Angeles Times wrote that he “was more often than not a dominant player in virtually every municipal initiative of note since he joined the City Council.”
In 1994, Mr. Yaroslavsky was elected to the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the western part of the county and a constituency of two million people. He served five terms as the Board’s Third District representative. Because of term limits, he retired from office on December 1, 2014. Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s award-winning website, which ran from late 2009 until the end of his term, including blog entries and feature stories on County issues, programs and personalities, can be accessed here.
As a member of the Board of Supervisors, Mr. Yaroslavsky quickly emerged as a leader on fiscal, health care, transportation, cultural and environmental matters. He authored several landmark ballot initiatives: the 1996 park bond, which resulted in the preservation of a broad swath of rural open space and the development of urban parks throughout the county, and the 2002 trauma tax, approved by more than 73% of county voters—a measure credited with saving two public hospitals from closure and keeping the county’s emergency services intact.
Mr. Yaroslavsky was the driving force behind several major transit projects, including the hugely successful Orange Line busway across the San Fernando Valley, the Exposition Light Rail line from downtown to Santa Monica which will be completed at the end of 2015, and the subway—Purple Line—extension from Western Ave. to West Los Angeles which broke ground in 2014.
After the closure of Martin Luther King, Jr. hospital in south Los Angeles, Mr. Yaroslavsky proposed a partnership between the University of California and Los Angeles County upon which the recently re-opened hospital was modeled. Mr. Yaroslavsky also launched the building of three innovative school-based health clinics in largely working-class neighborhoods where many residents are living below the poverty line and rarely seek medical attention. He also led the effort to provide permanent supportive housing for thousands of homeless persons who’ve been identified as most likely to die if they remained on county streets.
During his public service career, Mr. Yaroslavsky was the county’s leader in the cultural arts. The Los Angeles Times said of him before he retired, “It would be hard to find another major politician anywhere in the entire country with Yaroslavsky’s record for outright arts support and achievement.” He championed efforts to rebuild and modernize the world famous Hollywood Bowl amphitheater and was instrumental in the development of architect Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also funded major investments in the County Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History and the San Fernando Valley Performing Arts Center.
Mr. Yaroslavsky is also credited with playing a leading role in the sweeping reforms of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He is responsible for the creation of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence in 2011 which recommended dozens of measures to restore constitutional policing and integrity to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and its jails.
Apart from his responsibilities as an elected official, Mr. Yaroslavsky has long been associated with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-governmental organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that promotes the development of democratic institutions in burgeoning democracies. He has monitored five elections for NDI: Romania (1990), Mexico (2000), Ukraine (2004), and Nigeria (2011 & 2015). He has conducted seminars on local government finance and democratic institution-building in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Bosnia/Herzegovina.
Mr. Yaroslavsky is now the Director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Department of History, focusing on the intersection of policy, politics and history of the Los Angeles region.
Mr. Yaroslavsky was born and raised in Los Angeles and earned an M.A. in British Imperial History and a B.A. in Economics and History, both from UCLA. He is a graduate of Fairfax High School in Los Angeles.
By George Foulsham
The depth of financial insecurity in Los Angeles County is revealed in a new survey that shows 29 percent of residents have worried about going hungry in the last few years because they could not afford the cost of food, and 31 percent have worried about losing their homes and becoming homeless as a result.
But the survey also revealed a profound difference among ethnic groups when it comes to economic distress: Latinos were three to four times more likely to fear hunger and homelessness than were whites.
Those are just a few of many significant results from the first Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index (QLI), a project of the Los Angeles Initiative of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The survey was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3).
Interviews were conducted with 1,401 residents throughout the county. The survey has a margin of error of plus- or minus-2.6 percent. Respondents rated their satisfaction with up to 40 aspects of quality of life divided into nine categories. Responses were weighted according to the salience assigned to each factor by the survey participants.
The QLI found significant differences between ethnic groups and by class on financial, cost of living and economic fairness issues.
“Our survey represents a compelling class- and ethnic-based economic story,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “Latinos in particular are standing out as having fundamental economic concerns. Almost 1 out of 3 people in L.A. County has worried about going hungry in the last few years, but among Latinos that number jumps to 44 percent — and 52 percent among Latino men.
“This represents a very high percentage of county residents experiencing intense economic stress,” he added.
The overall satisfaction score from the survey is 59, slightly above the midpoint (55 on a scale of 10-100). This rating will provide the baseline for succeeding years of the QLI, which will be an annual countywide survey.
“Half of residents with annual incomes under $30,000 and one-third of people earning between $30,000 and $60,000 feared having to skip meals due to their economic circumstances,” Yaroslavsky said. “Nearly half of Latinos surveyed (44 percent) worried about becoming homeless. There’s obviously a have/have-not divide. There’s something happening below the surface here that’s invisible to a lot of people’s eyes.”
Major aspects of life in Los Angeles County can be separated into positive, neutral and negative groupings.
On the positive side, neighborhood quality (71), health care (70) and, somewhat surprisingly, ethnic/race relations (69) are among the top scores. Education (54), jobs and the economy (52) and cost of living (50) are at the bottom of the scale. Among the categories in the middle of the pack are public safety (64), the environment (61) and transportation (58).
“Interestingly, our survey shows that people are not as concerned about getting along as they are about getting ahead,” Yaroslavsky said.
The cost of housing is the biggest factor dragging down the overall satisfaction score of county residents. Cost of living was the most salient category and also the lowest ranked, and housing costs are the most important of the specific components in the cost of living category. Forty-one percent of all respondents cited “cost of housing” as the most important factor in their cost of living rating.
The lowest satisfaction scores on the cost of housing came from Latinos (47) and those with a household income of less than $30,000 (47). Latinos, in fact, proved to be the most negative ethnic group on all cost of living measures — utilities, transportation, food, taxes, as well as housing. Asian-Americans, meanwhile, were the most positive group in this category.
On jobs and the economy, most respondents were satisfied with their current jobs and job security. But when the question turned to retirement security, the ability to get ahead, or whether the local L.A. economy is fair to all, some clear fault lines emerged. African-Americans assigned the lowest scores of any ethnic group for the ability to get ahead (57) and the fairness of the local economy (54). Those under 50 years of age were the least satisfied with their retirement security (53). And those who are currently unemployed gave a very low score (44) to their prospects of landing a job.
Finally, in a category that bridges the class spectrum, there is widespread concern about the public education system in L.A. County. Whites, African-Americans, college graduates, post-college graduates and those with household incomes more than $150,000 gave a rating of between 50 and 54 to the quality of public education.
Likewise, lower scores were given to the level of funding for K-12 public education and the training students are receiving for jobs of the future. The only good marks were given to access to higher education, led by Asian-American respondents and those who graduated from high school.
The highest score went to neighborhood quality (71). Homeowners gave the most favorable rating in this category, which also addresses the availability of fresh, nutritious groceries and of parks.
The score for racial and ethnic relations (69) is an unexpected result considering the amount of recent media coverage devoted to racial strife throughout the country. L.A. County’s whites (78), Latinos (75), African-Americans (77) and Asian-Americans (74) are in almost total agreement about their own relations with different ethnic/racial groups.
While the category of interactions with local law enforcement revealed a more varied result — whites (79), Latinos (66), African-Americans (65) and Asian-Americans (70) — they all registered significantly higher than the overall quality of life rating, 59.
The quality of health care also received relatively positive scores, ranging from 76 by college graduates to 82 among those with a household income of more than $120,000.
The daily commute to work is the driving force in the transportation category. If your commute is 15 minutes or less, the satisfaction level is high (80). It goes downhill from there based on the length of the drive: 30-44 minutes (56) and 45 minutes or longer (47).
The availability of public transportation also received slightly above average scores, topping out with Latinos (68) and African-Americans (68), groups that indicated they are more likely to use mass transit.
Other neutral rankings went to public safety — which includes safety from terrorism/mass shootings, violent crime, property crime, and earthquakes/fires — and the environment, which includes the quality of tap water and steps being taken to deal with the drought, among other issues.
A breakdown of the questions and results can be found below.
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