In the Weeds of Legalized Pot Recreational cannabis raises pressing questions for California officials, citizens and UCLA faculty experts seeking to devise common-sense policies

By Mary Braswell

When Californians voted in 2016 to bring the cannabis industry out of the shadows, the aim was to create an environment where marijuana was safe, controlled and taxed. This has not been a simple undertaking.

Legalization of recreational pot has raised pressing questions from public health officials, local law enforcement, state regulators, city planners and citizens hungry for common-sense policies — not to mention the growers, retailers and users who drive California’s multibillion-dollar weed industry.

What will the city-by-city patchwork of laws look like? How can marijuana cultivators safely introduce pesticides into a neighborhood? When will communities see the benefits of tax revenues? How will lifting the stigma on pot use affect adolescents?

The need for facts, evidence and clear thinking has never been greater. Fortunately, UCLA Luskin researchers and policy experts are on the case, among them Public Policy lecturer Brad Rowe MPP ’13.

‘A REALLY TRICKY BUSINESS’

Proposition 64, the ballot measure that legalized recreational pot, gave each of California’s 482 cities and 58 counties the authority to license cultivation, manufacturing and sales. So far, most have declined to do so.

The more than 160 cities and unincorporated areas that decided to move forward face a labyrinth of policy questions, said Rowe, who launched his own research firm, Rowe Policy + Media, in 2017. He also serves on the faculty of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, teaches a Public Policy class on drugs and crime, and advises municipalities that are venturing into the marijuana fray.

“Cannabis is a really tricky business, and it’s one that is probably going to have more volatility than most of the other licensing areas,” Rowe said.

In many cases, he said, communities have overestimated the financial gains and underestimated the complications.

“Expectations have been set so high for tax revenues. Common claims from city representatives are, ‘We’re going to build libraries and parks and football programs for the kids,’ ” Rowe said. “The truth is that you’ve got to get your system up and running, and realistically expect that that store that you just licensed may only generate tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands in tax revenue for you this year. … It’s hard to pay for your new inspector and the new police officer you just hired, and your financial department has to figure out how to handle the cash.”

Cannabis commerce requires cities to create systems for licensing, taxation, financial compliance and the delicate matter of handling deposits from a largely cash business, Rowe said. They must keep up with evolving regulations from the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control and shifting signals from the federal government, which strictly prohibits pot.

They will have to consider whether growing outdoors will create a nuisance and how to safeguard first responders against new threats. Firefighters arriving at a site that uses pesticides or volatile solvents for terpene extraction “shouldn’t be inhaling that stuff,” Rowe said.

Some of the policy debates veer toward the high end. Sonoma, he said, is considering whether to permit tastings of cannabis products, just as it does for viognier and pinot noir. “So then we’re getting into on-site consumption, event permits, more cannabis cops,” Rowe said.

On the whole, he said, “it can be a big hairy hassle for the cities, and that’s one of the reasons a lot of them have said we’re going to kick the can down the road and see how these other cities do.”

SEEKING JUSTICE, EQUITY AND FACTS

Rowe’s work with the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative focuses on criminal and juvenile justice as drug offenses are reclassified.

“Are we even moving away from the war on drugs? That is the intent but in practice it’s a trickier thing, so we’re looking at equity considerations,” he said.

The health and well-being of young people must be a top policy priority, he argues.

“The one thing I am super concerned about is cannabis use disorder among adolescents,” Rowe said, citing brain research as well as recent studies measuring the toll that compulsive pot consumption takes on test scores and analytical skills.

“We just don’t know enough about the plant,” he said. “We don’t know enough about its addictive properties; we don’t really know what will happen as it becomes de-stigmatized and easily available.”

Legalization has led to new funding for research aimed at answering these questions. Proposition 64 earmarks $10 million a year for public universities to evaluate the impact of the law and make recommendations to the state.

Rowe has visited cities up and down the state as a consultant with MuniServices, which helps local governments manage their affairs. He has hosted forums for potential pot licensees, family and faith-based groups, and other stakeholders and says, “There have been some really heartfelt, interesting conversations. Some are opposed and some just want this to be done with caution.”

Many simply want reliable information, he said.

“There’s a lot of room for reasonable conversation; there’s a lot of room for public policy people to come into this area,” Rowe said. “It’s only going to get bigger. It’s going to be a very big industry.”

Getting a Handle on the Future Transportation experts join with policymakers and entrepreneurs to tackle the impact of disruptive technology on urban mobility

By Will Livesley-O’Neill

Getting around Southern California has never been easy. But the infamously congested region has grown even more complicated with the arrival of new private services — including ridehail companies such as Lyft and Uber and electric scooter operators such as Bird and Lime — looking to disrupt how people travel.

Motorized scooters are often seen at UCLA.

As in any field impacted by technology-fueled disruption, transportation policymakers want to find ways to adapt. And that requires taking stock of what the transportation system is meant to do and, more importantly, whom it is meant to serve.

This was the focus of the 28th annual UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium, hosted by the Institute of Transportation Studies (UCLA ITS) and Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, in October. At the university’s retreat center in the San Bernardino Mountains, dozens of the nation’s leading experts on transportation and land use policy pondered the symposium’s theme, “From Public Transit to Public Mobility.”

The changing nature of travel means different things for elected officials, planners, academics, advocates and tech leaders. But everyone fundamentally agrees that, as LA Metro chief planning officer and symposium panelist Therese McMillan put it, “there’s a public interest in how private activity happens in a public space.” The modes may change, but the mission of a safe, effective, accessible transportation system remains the same.

John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, set the tone for a discussion of balance between tradition and innovation. Lyft has been actively expanding beyond ridehailing into other forms of mobility, including e-scooters and automated vehicles. The company’s stated goal of providing more options for consumers and reducing the number of people driving

alone benefits the environment — as well as those profiting from the service.

But the way that some tech companies roll out new products — a “move fast and break things” model — often leads to public backlash.

Southern California has been ground zero for arguments about the traffic tie-ups and sidewalk clutter allegedly caused by ridehailing and scooters. Public officials are being forced to make policy on the fly — although some such as Francie Stefan, chief mobility officer in Santa Monica, describe that as an opportunity. Santa Monica recently partnered with Lyft, Uber, Bird and Lime to introduce new regulations on the number of e-vehicles in the city while funding infrastructure improvements.

“[We] made a conscious choice to embrace new technology and work through some of the kinks that are inherent in change,” Stefan says.

Technology also gives cities the chance to innovate and to fulfill some hard-to-implement planning goals. Willa Ng, an associate director at Google’s Sidewalk Labs, presented an example at her panel on “coding  the curb.”

“If we need to do more stuff at the curb, and we need to have those spaces constantly turning over, we can’t have it managed by a static aluminum sign,” Ng explains, outlining how creating a flexible digital management system could allow the same section of curb to be used for parking, ridehail drop-offs, delivery unloading, or as a bike and scooter lane depending on the time of day. New transportation technology can crowd and complicate the use of public space, but it can also help make sure the space is better used to benefit the most people.

For example, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, recently spoke to the University of California for a story and accompanying video about e-scooters titled, “What the battle over scooters gets wrong.”

Urban planners recently adopted a model known as “complete streets” that involves rethinking how shared space is divided between a street and a sidewalk, Loukaitou-Sideris says. This model abandons the assumption that streets are for cars and sidewalks are for pedestrians.

“The complete street perceives the street as a space where different transportation modes can coexist: not only cars, but also buses, and lanes for trams, bicycles and scooters,” according to Loukaitou-Sideris. “Nobody wants to compromise the safety of anyone by mixing these modes. So that’s where planning and design needs to come in.”

People-centered design — of services, systems and infrastructure — is at center stage in these policy discussions. Technology needs to be a tool to help improve transportation for people, not an end goal in itself.

“A lot of people are really annoyed with private capital coming into the mobility space without understanding people’s travel needs,” says Clarrissa Cabansagan of the Bay Area climate change nonprofit TransForm. But tech disruption will be worthwhile if it provides people with more options to get around besides driving their own car, she says.

Professor Brian Taylor of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning

Urban Planning Professor Brian D. Taylor, director of UCLA ITS, co-authored a groundbreaking 2018 study that found that Southern Californians are buying more cars than ever and turning away from public transit. That’s the exact opposite outcome of what policymakers had sought and shows the need to set new priorities for shared public spaces.

“We have to manage the automobile more intelligently. We can’t just allow people to drive anywhere they want, anytime they want,” Taylor says. “We need to create environments that are more conducive to travel by foot, by bike, by scooter or by public transit.”

New and old mobility services could work hand-in-hand to reduce private car travel. Ideally, technology should improve, not replace or eliminate, traditional transit, according to transportation experts.

“We should really focus on making the core strength of transit something we do incredibly well,” says Houston-based planner and author Christof Spieler, who spoke at the conference. With transit ridership falling across most of the country, new policies need to make riding the bus as easy as hailing a Lyft, he says, noting that public transit can move many more people much more effectively than any ridehail vehicle or scooter.

Bay Area transportation advocate Ratna Amin argues that focusing on riders as people, not cogs in a machine, is key.

“When we think about public transit as a utility, we focus on the bare minimum: We got the service out, it’s clean enough, the doors opened, the bus stop is there and it’s labeled,” Amin says. “We need to actually talk to people and find out what their experience is, and try different possibilities out to see if they improve the experience.”

Seattle is one of just a few American cities to see an increase in transit ridership in recent years. Terry White, the deputy general manager of Seattle’s transit operator, believes one factor has been key to success: an emphasis on making sure service is equitable.

“Transportation is a human right for everyone,” White says. “We’re trying to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to

be mobile.”

That’s ultimately what a better transportation system will mean — mobility for all, regardless of whether they take a bus or ride a scooter. Efficient use of public space lessens the need for gridlocked, polluting private vehicles.

The disruption of old transit methods is still in its early stages, with plenty of blind spots to be navigated. But as Juan Matute, deputy director of UCLA ITS, recently told LA Weekly, it’s important to remember that the disruption from new technology is likely to lessen over time.

“The safety hazards are comparable to those for automobile use,” Matute said of the new innovations, particularly e-scooters. “We’ve had over 100 years to figure out a lot of things.”

Gore, DeShazo Share Insights on California’s Climate Leadership Luskin Center for Innovation director joins environment champion and Nobel laureate at global Climate Reality leadership training

By Stan Paul

‘We’re going to win this. … Have no doubt about that, we will win this.’
— Al Gore

More than 2,200 people eager to learn how to make a difference in the future of the planet came together at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the largest-ever Climate Reality Leadership Corps training led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Participants from California, the United States and more than 50 countries took part in the three-day training session that began Aug. 28, 2018, and included working with the best-selling author of An Inconvenient Truth — and subject of the Oscar-winning documentary. They heard from world-renowned scientists, communicators and other experts about how to work together to find solutions to the global climate crisis by influencing public opinion and policy and encouraging action in their own communities.

“In the United States we have a tremendous amount of climate denial. We have a president who is a bitter opponent right now of addressing climate change,” said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Climate Reality Project, in his opening remarks.

The purpose of the ongoing series of trainings, held worldwide starting in 2016, is to develop a critical mass of activists to ensure there is enough support for addressing the climate crisis, Berlin said before introducing Gore, who appeared on stage to a standing ovation.

Joining Gore on the first panel of the day, “California’s Roadmap for Climate Change,” was JR DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, and other experts including Fran Pavley, former member of the California State Senate, and Veronica Garibay, co-founder and co-director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

“Here we are again at a time when our national government is … disappointing so many of us. Once again California is stepping forward,” Gore said in his opening remarks.

Citing California as a national leader and example to other states in addressing the environment and climate change, Gore started the conversation by asking DeShazo, “What is it about California that has led this state to be such a driven leader on climate policies?”

“I think California understands how important historically it was to deal with its air quality challenges,” said DeShazo, Public Policy chair at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “And so, in the ’60s and ’70s the state developed this robust set of state agencies to tackle that problem in the energy sector and the transportation sector,” he said.

DeShazo credited state leadership, including Sen. Pavley, with passing legislation that allowed those agencies to shift attention, “with all their expertise and authority, to attack climate change in a very comprehensive way.”

Gore also asked DeShazo to cite examples of the state “breaking up the problem … and addressing those elements in an intelligent way.”

“We decarbonized electricity while making appliances more efficient. We introduced the low-carbon fuel standard in the transportation sector, making transportation fuels lower-carbon while making vehicles more efficient and pushing for electric vehicles. So there was a broad-based scoping plan that really covers all of the relevant carbon-generating sectors of the state,” DeShazo said. He also credited state leadership that was “based upon a California that wanted to take responsibility for its emissions.”

DeShazo, who also holds appointments with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and UCLA’s civil and environmental engineering departments, recalled that during the nationwide recession California voters rejected a ballot initiative to halt the state’s climate policies.

“We said ‘no,’ ” he said, explaining, “We want to continue with the commitment that the legislature had made on our behalf. … I think that is really evidence of California’s commitment.”

More recently, DeShazo said, a “second generation” of climate policies in California has focused on environmental justice. “There’s a clean vehicles program, and there’s one for low-income consumers, there’s a weatherization program and there’s one for disadvantaged communities,” he said. A significant portion of the $2 billion a year generated by cap and trade is reinvested to benefit disadvantaged communities, he added. This year, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is part of two partnership grants that will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular. The grants ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council ─ total more than $4 million.

As a result of all of this, the state is making progress. “We’re on track to reach the goal of 50 percent renewable energy in 2020, 10 years ahead of schedule in reaching this goal,” DeShazo said. “And that’s terrific because we need to electrify the transportation sector, and we’re committed to that and that’s where a lot of the heavy lifting still awaits us.”

View more photos from the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training on Flickr.

New Grants Totaling $4.1 Million Will Build Climate Resilience UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is a partner in two climate research grants from the Strategic Growth Council

By Colleen Callahan

Record-breaking heat and scorching summer wildfires are signs of a hotter California. As part of efforts to further knowledge and action on climate change, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) is part of two winning partnership grants ─ totaling more than $4 million ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council.

The Council’s new and competitive Climate Change Research Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that is putting billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment. Both grants will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular.

Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities to Design and Target Protective Policies

A nearly $1.5-million grant led by LCI involves multiple studies of heat-related climate impacts, as well as factors that make populations and communities vulnerable, plus opportunities to build resilience. Climate change could exacerbate existing inequities, and LCI will develop tools to help government agencies target responses and empower communities.

“The goal is to increase the climate resilience of California’s vulnerable communities in the face of rapidly increasing extreme heat events,” said JR DeShazo, the grant’s principal investigator and LCI director.

The researchers include R. Jisung Park, an LCI scholar and an assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences at UCLA Luskin, who will assess climate change impacts on low-income workers. Gregory Pierce, associate director of research at LCI, will assess the climate risk of vulnerable built environments — including affordable housing — to better inform protective policies.

Collaborations with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders will be integral to the work. For example, civic partners will oversee the development of geographic tools to identify areas disproportionately affected by heat-related climate change and vulnerability factors. Stakeholders will also be able to identify policies, funding and other opportunities to increase resilience in vulnerable areas and among vulnerable populations such as low-income workers and residents.

The analysis of resilience opportunities will also be collaborative. A partnership with the Liberty Hill Foundation and community-based organizations will test a coordinated outreach pilot called Opportunity Communities to promote clean and affordable energy, transportation and associated financial assistance for low-income households. Researchers will assess the effectiveness of this strategy to build financial and health resilience to climate change impacts.

Climate Smart Communities Consortium

A partnership grant led by UC Davis and the UC Institute of Transportation Studies will also involve LCI. This $2.6-million grant to a multifaceted group of researchers from seven academic institutions will tackle the challenge of transportation-related environmental impacts, which fall disproportionately on low-income communities of color. Researchers will seek solutions that reduce emissions and improve the mobility and quality of life for California’s most vulnerable communities.

LCI will collaboratively study interrelated areas of innovative mobility, electrification and freight movement, using equity and policy engagement lenses as crosscutting themes. Research will center on regional case study initiatives and statewide initiatives to demonstrate findings.

The Strategic Growth Council brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity and environmental stewardship. For updates during implementation of the latest grants, see LCI’s climate action program at innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/climate.

 

Climate Funds Create Jobs Luskin Center for Innovation releases study that quantifies statewide employment benefits from billions of dollars in California Climate Investments

By Colleen Callahan

Amid debate over extension of California’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment, researchers from the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) at UCLA studied and quantified the number of jobs supported from the statewide initiative known as California Climate Investments, funded by cap-and-trade revenues. 

The Luskin Center for Innovation has now released the new study as California considers the job training and workforce development needed in a lower-carbon economy under 2017’s Assembly Bill 398, which extended the state’s cap-and-trade program. 

The report “Employment Benefits from Climate Investments” focuses on the $2.2 billion appropriated between 2013-14 and 2015-16 to support 29 programs created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing local economic, environmental and public health benefits. The programs include investments in public transit, clean vehicles, transit-oriented affordable housing, clean energy for low-income communities and ecosystem restoration.

Many of these programs also induce consumers, businesses and government entities to contribute matching funds. The largest example of induced co-investment is the $3 billion in federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project, which would not be available without the state’s match in cap-and-trade auction proceeds, according to the researchers.

“We found that the $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments supports about 19,700 jobs, and $6.4 billion in induced co-investment supports an additional 55,900 jobs, for an estimated total of more than 75,000 jobs in California,” said JR DeShazo, the principal investigator of the study and director of LCI.

Jobs supported by California Climate Investments are diverse and cut across many different industries and economic sectors, ranging from the manufacture of clean vehicles to the restoration of degraded wetlands, according to the study.

“Given their diversity, California Climate Investment-related jobs can serve as a sample of the types of jobs supported by California’s transition to a lower-carbon economy,” said researcher Jason Karpman MURP ’16, lead author of the report. “Since California Climate Investments are one component of the state’s broad suite of strategies for addressing climate change under Assembly Bill 32 [the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006], the jobs reported in the study represent a fraction of the total jobs supported by the state’s effort to decarbonize.” 

Of the many economic sectors directly impacted by California Climate Investments, the construction industry stands to gain the most (54 percent of total jobs), according to the report. This is because of the significant level of investment going toward the construction of public transit systems and the construction of multiunit affordable housing near transit, among other investments. The sector receiving the second-highest number of job gains due to investments is architectural, engineering and related services. 

Impacted industries employ both blue-collar and white-collar workers. For example, the architectural and engineering sector is known for creating white-collar jobs that pay middle-class salaries. Many blue-collar construction jobs funded by California Climate Investments are covered under the state’s prevailing wage law and requirements for enrollment in state-certified apprenticeship programs. This system is designed to ensure that public works construction jobs resulting from California Climate Investments support broad occupational training and provide family-supporting pay and benefits to workers. 

“The industry-level findings in this study can be a springboard for better understanding the quality of jobs that are supported by large public investments in greenhouse gas reductions,” Karpman said. 

The modeling tool used for the LCI study focuses on quantifying job flows rather than providing granular detail about job quality, training, access for workers in disadvantaged communities and other important components of employment benefits. Because the study identifies the industries involved in each California Climate Investment program, it could be used to more deeply analyze job quality metrics that characterize those industries, including pay, benefits and career advancement opportunities. 

The study found that the California Climate Investment programs that generate the most jobs in California (per million dollars invested, as determined by their employment multiplier) devoted a greater share of investment dollars to services rather than materials. In addition, the employment multiplier of a program was also positively influenced by the share of investment dollars going to firms based in California rather than to out-of-state firms. 

“The findings could inform recommendations for legislators and agency leaders interested in maximizing the number of jobs supported by California Climate Investments,” DeShazo said.  

The researchers note that state agencies could design or update programs to involve sectors with high employment multipliers, such as social services, agriculture, forestry, engineering and construction. Administering agencies could also consider incentives for grantees that contract with vendors located in California and stipulate that they purchase materials manufactured in California, when possible. The findings suggest that these considerations, along with job quality considerations, could help the state ensure multiple employment benefits from its future investments. 

The amount of California Climate Investments appropriated annually has increased significantly since the study period’s $2.2 billion, to a total of now $6.1 billion.  

Justice — and Smog Checks — for All New UCLA Center for Innovation study finds that the Tune In & Tune Up smog repair program in the San Joaquin Valley efficiently tackles pollution and poverty

By Colleen Callahan

A 34-year-old mother dropped out of college in San Francisco due to mobility issues.

A young couple with four children walked to get around when their vehicles broke down.

A homeless woman relied on her car for both housing and travel purposes.

These are just a few of the more than 40,000 individuals who have benefited over the past four years from the San Joaquin Valley’s smog test and vehicle repair program known as Tune In & Tune Up.

A new study from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation analyzed Tune In & Tune Up data and finds that this program, which has been operating since 2005, is pioneering a model that other regions could use to efficiently reduce emissions from cars and other light-duty vehicles while achieving equity objectives. It is one of the first transportation programs in the nation premised on jointly achieving efficiency, equity and environmental objectives. That it exists to serve residents in the San Joaquin Valley is only more critical given that this eight-county region has disproportionately high levels of pollution and poverty compared to the rest of the state.

Tune in & Tune Up is a program of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District funded by enhanced vehicle registration fees and implemented by a nonprofit organization, Valley Clean Air Now (Valley CAN). The program provides free smog checks for residents of the valley. Owners of vehicles that do not pass emission tests receive vouchers redeemable for up to $850 in smog repairs.

UCLA evaluated the program with regard to efficiency, equity and environmental objectives.

“Tune In & Tune Up operates efficiently, in part by keeping attrition low and passing funds to a high level of program participants,” said Gregory Pierce MURP ’11 PhD UP ’15, co-author of the study and associate director of research at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

Analysis of previously unexplored data by Pierce and Rachel Connolly, who will be pursuing her Ph.D. in public health at UCLA in the fall, found that Valley CAN recorded 41,688 unique attendees at its Tune In & Tune Up events since 2012. Of vehicle owners offered a voucher, the vast majority (78 percent) redeemed their vouchers at a smog repair shop. This resulted in the program providing over $12 million in direct financing for smog repairs to more than 20,000 qualified residents of the valley since 2012. This equates to about $2.7 million allocated annually to 4,500 annual customers.

Residents from nearly every neighborhood in the San Joaquin Valley (97 percent of all census tracts) attended a Tune In & Tune Up event. Researchers equate that very high level of engagement to the wide reach of the events — several events were held in each county several times per year — and effective outreach. Valley CAN partners with community-based organizations, local radio stations and newspapers to spread the word about the program in multiple languages and in multiple neighborhoods throughout the valley.

“Tune In & Tune Up is the largest program in the state to offer light-duty transportation assistance to a substantial number of low-income households through a grassroots approach,” Pierce said.

Researchers found that while the program is equal opportunity, the program distributed the most financial benefits to neighborhoods most in need within the valley. The study concluded that the program successfully targeted communities with lower incomes, higher percentages of minority households and higher levels of cumulative pollution threats than the regional average.

The program also successfully targeted vehicles most likely to be high emitters, according to researchers. The study found that the vehicles reached by the Tune In & Tune Up program are much older, have higher odometer readings and are more often unregistered than the average for the state’s overall fleet of light-duty vehicles.

“This is important because older vehicles emit a disproportionate amount of smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases. Yet many low-income residents of the valley have no choice but to drive old vehicles because they live in rural areas with limited or no access to public transit,” Pierce said.

In addition to receiving smog checks and vehicle repair vouchers, attendees of Tune In & Tune Up events also learn about additional opportunities such as incentives worth thousands of dollars that are available for low-income Californians who voluntarily scrap their older, high-emitting cars and replace them with newer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars.

“Tune In & Tune Up should be considered as a complementary approach to meeting air quality standards in low- or moderate-density regions throughout the U.S. where the built environment does not allow for the cost-effective build out of a full-serve transit network or where financing for zero-emission vehicles is constrained,” the researchers noted in the study.

The researchers concluded that features of the Tune In & Tune Up program can serve as potentially replicable models for supporting the type of social and environmental justice objectives increasingly expected by many policymakers and residents of California.

Wildfires Don’t Have to be ‘Bad,’ Author Says During UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation talk and panel discussion, experts discuss how policy changes can reduce the risk of tragedy in fire-prone areas such as Southern California

By Aaron Julian

Last December, Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area faced many major fire events, including the Skirball and Thomas fires, that caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings. Severe fire incidents such as these leave an impression on some people that all wildfires can be nothing but catastrophic.

But the rich history of benefits, losses, debates, policy initiatives and research demonstrate that wildfires are so much more than what meets the eye.

Wildfire was the topic of discussion on April 19, 2018, at UCLA Luskin. Fronting this event was Edward Struzik, a fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and author of the book, “Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future.” Struzik detailed the history, science and approaches taken to control wildfires over the past couple of centuries. He also pressed for a hybrid approach to wildfires that moves us away from the longstanding policy of fire suppression toward fire management.

“Fire rejuvenates forests by removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from forest ecosystems, and yet fire continues to be demonized. … The big problem is that we have not been able to figure out how to live with fire,” Struzik said.

Wildfire incidents have become increasingly powerful and widespread, he said, and in turn have become increasingly difficult to contain. This amplifying issue can be attributed to factors such as global climate change, invasive trees and shrubs, arctic sea ice changes, and, especially, human behavior. As the human population increases, communities grow and spread. As more people spend more time in forests, fire risks increase dramatically.

“Human-started wildfires have accounted for 84 percent of total wildfires, and tripled the length of the fire season,” Struzik asserted. “The problem we can say is not fire, but people.”

He added that preparation is crucial in communities that are at risk of wildfire, so that people understand that we are unable to stop all fires. He argued for improved early warning processes and clearer evacuation protocols. Struzik also proposed doing more controlled burns and allowing remote wildfires to run their course to safely deplete the fuel for these fires and enhance forest ecosystems.

The future is projected to become increasingly dangerous if fire suppression remains dominant. As arctic sea ice continues to diminish, Santa Ana winds will become dryer. Struzik says that our best option is to adapt and embrace “good fire”; otherwise, the “bad and the ugly fires” will prevail.

Following the lecture, a panel of experts expanded on the subject matter.

Doug Bevington, director of the Environment Now Forest Program at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and moderator of the panel, said, “The central challenge we face is to find policies that simultaneously take climate change seriously and take the natural role of large wildfires seriously … while enabling Californians to safely coexist with wildfire as an inevitable part of life in our state.”

Chief Ralph Terrazas of the Los Angeles Fire Department detailed the hard work and strain that California fire departments have experienced in recent years, including last December when multiple fires raged at once. Terrazas emphasized the importance of larger policy reforms to reduce fire incidents and stretch fire combat resources when homes and lives are endangered.

“It is about changing the way we think when we live in these environments,” said Beth Burnham, a founder and current member of the North Topanga Safe Fire Council. Burnham argued that when people live in fire-risk areas like many parts of Southern California, they must make fire readiness and preparation a priority.

Alex Hall, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and director of the Center for Climate Science at UCLA, drew on his work in climate science in adding his perspective. “In California, there is this tremendous sensitivity of fire to climate and weather. Because climate and weather are changing, that means fire is also changing,” he said.

When the conversation was opened to the crowd, topics included technical inquiries from workers in water management as well as personal anecdotes about safety in communities that have previously been impacted by fire incidents. The panel reiterated the need to be prepared and have a plan for fire incidents, but attendees were also urged to work at the community level to promote change on a wider scale.

The event was organized by the Luskin Center for Innovation as part of the UCLA Luskin Innovator Series.

Click or swipe to view a gallery of photos from the event:

How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

A Showcase for Research by Urban Planning Students The annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations networking event highlights activities that welcome newly admitted students to UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and give them a preview of what the future holds. Public Policy and Social Welfare host their own Welcome Day events.

By Stan Paul

Britta McOmber wants to know “What’s the Dam Problem?” in terms of flood risk in California. Shine Ling wants to know “How Fair is Fair-Share” when it comes to housing law in California. Sabrina Kim asks, “Still No to Transit?” looking at areas in Los Angeles County that do not meet their full transit commuting potential.

Questions like these launched 36 research projects that brought together Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students with clients to produce research projects that address a specific planning issue. The second-year students, completing their required capstones, showcased their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations (CCC) networking event held April 5, 2018, at UCLA’s Covel Commons.

The event followed a day of welcoming activities for newly admitted UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students, who had the opportunity to view the projects and interact with current students, as well as faculty and staff.

Newly admitted student Bradley Bounds II said his interest in urban planning is local.

“I want to work on building up my community,” said the Compton resident. “I’m looking more toward open space projects; I’m looking for transportation projects and economic development,” said Bounds, who enthusiastically affirmed his intent to join the new Urban Planning class in fall 2018.

Project clients include governmental organizations, local agencies and cities, as well as private planning and design firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with regional, state and national urban issues.

Video highlights of the students practicing for CCC. [full size]

In addition to engaging titles, the projects — produced individually or in teams — include solid research and data that has been analyzed and put into context by the students. Topics included transportation, housing and social justice issues, including foster care in the region and environmental, resource conservation and energy challenges. At CCC, the students pitch and support their approaches via posters that frame the issues and their proposed solutions.

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, alumni and Luskin Senior Fellows were on hand to evaluate the projects displayed in Covel’s Grand Horizon Room.

McOmber, who has studied coastal cities and flood risk resulting from rising sea levels, as well as designated flood plains, said her project was inspired by last year’s Oroville Dam overflow incident in Northern California.

“There are quite a number of dams and large reservoirs in L.A. County,” said McOmber, explaining that, from the perspective of Oroville’s near disaster,  the state faces a broader problem of dam and water storage infrastructure that is aging, underfinanced and sometimes not well-maintained.

“I noticed that there really wasn’t any information on dam flood zones, so I thought that was an area that’s lacking in the academic field and also very relevant, not only for California, but I think more broadly for the country,” she said.

Her project also looked at who may be impacted based on factors such as income and education. For example, McOmber asked whether socially vulnerable households are more likely to live within dam flood zones in California. She found that almost 50 percent of households in these areas are Hispanic or Latino.

Presentation is an important aspect of the projects. Commenting on the eye-catching displays, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and sociology, looked at how effectively information was conveyed, noting those that “made a very dramatic and legible point.”

In Public Policy and Social Welfare, newly accepted graduate students were welcomed at daylong events designed to introduce them to the School and provide information about topics such as program content and financial aid. They got a day-in-the-life experience at UCLA Luskin through lectures, breakout sessions, tours and informal social gatherings.

UCLA was the top choice for many of the students attending the April 3, 2018, Welcome Day for newly accepted students in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare who learned about topics such as public child welfare stipend programs and social welfare field education.

“I’ve already decided on UCLA,” said Nancy Salazar, who joined other admitted students for roundtable discussions with UCLA Luskin faculty. Salazar, who also has a master’s degree in public administration, said that in addition to a focus on social justice, she was attracted by the leadership aspect of the program.

For Guillermo Armenta Sanchez, UCLA was the only choice. “That’s the only one; that’s where I’m coming,” said the Long Beach resident who is interested in focusing on mental health.

At the Master of Public Policy (MPP) Welcome Day on April 9, 2018, J.R. DeShazo, department chair and professor of public policy, provided introductory comments and introduced faculty and staff to incoming students.

“At Luskin, you are making a commitment to mastering a very challenging set of policy tools,” said DeShazo, who also serves as director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, the state’s premier environmental policy research center.

DeShazo highlighted the outstanding faculty and research institutes across all three departments, then continued, “There are a tremendous number of extracurricular activities that we present to you. The challenge is a scheduling challenge: How do you take advantage of everything that we offer?”

The new cohort of policy students gathered at the School to participate in a number of informative activities that included an ice-breaking exercise and an inside look at student life and the strengths of the UCLA Luskin program as presented by a students-only panel.

An invitation to Professor Michael Stoll’s Methods of Policy Analysis course was included, as were a variety of student-led breakout sessions on policy areas such as education, criminal justice, the environment, international issues and transportation. The conversations continued into a lunch with members of the faculty.

DeShazo advised that the two-year graduate program goes quickly and that students are soon thinking about what’s next.

“One of the things we’re very committed to — alums are committed to, our office of career services is committed to — is providing you with the internship opportunities and the alumni connections that will help you get a great job coming out of our program,” DeShazo said. “You are invited to start to develop your CV, practice in your interviewing skills, your public speaking skills, honing and refining your networking skills.

DeShazo summed it up. “When it’s time to engage with prospective employers, you’re ready.”

 

Reimagining CO2: UCLA Team Advances to Carbon XPRIZE Finals Carbon Upcycling team, which developed eco-friendly concrete, is sharing in the $5 million prize

Working to upend one of the most stalwart of construction materials, a team of UCLA engineers, scientists and policy experts has advanced to the finals of the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE by successfully creating a version of concrete that is nearly carbon-dioxide-neutral.

The international competition, which began in 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in 2020, challenged teams to develop carbon technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial facilities into viable products. The eco-friendly building material, called CO2NCRETE, was developed by the UCLA Carbon Upcycling team and offers similar strengths and functionality as traditional concrete.

Ten finalists have been selected from a field of 27 semifinalists by an independent judging panel of eight international energy, sustainability and carbon dioxide experts. The teams have been awarded an equal share of a $5 million milestone prize.

“As the son and grandson of civil engineers, I have always been fascinated by construction, and reaching the XPRIZE finals by doing what I am most passionate about is perfectly aligned with what I value,” said Gaurav Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science in the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “The concrete and construction industries are ripe for disruption and the ability to make a positive impact in these sectors, while lessening our carbon dioxide footprint, is a worthy cause for the entire UCLA team.”

Sant is the head of the team, whose leadership also includes J.R. DeShazo, professor of public policy and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; Laurent Pilon, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Richard Kaner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College and of materials science; and Mathieu Bauchy, professor of civil engineering. Additional team members include Gabriel Falzone, a doctoral student in materials science; Iman Mehdipour and Hyukmin Kweon, post-doctoral scholars in civil and environmental engineering; and Bu Wang, a project scientist in civil and environmental engineering, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

To secure a place in the finals, the UCLA team had to demonstrate that their technology consumed 200 kg of carbon dioxide in 24 hours. During a 10-month period, they were challenged to meet minimum technical requirements and were audited by independent verification partner Southern Research. The team was then evaluated by the judges based on the amount of carbon dioxide converted into CO2NCRETE, as well as the economic value, market size and carbon dioxide uptake potential of the construction material.

“The competition provides an opportunity for UCLA’s cutting-edge academic research to be applied in the real world,” Sant said. “The performance-based measures of CO2NCRETE have been useful in showing that this effort is not only viable, but scalable. And, of course, the support provided by the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Foundation has been foundational to our success.”

Traditional forms of cement are formed from anhydrous calcium silicate, while CO2NCRETE is composed from hydrated lime that is able to absorb carbon dioxide quickly into its composition. As a result, producing CO2NCRETE generates between 50 to 70 percent less carbon dioxide than its traditional counterpart.

The unique “lime mortar-like” composition also helps reduce the nearly 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emitted from the production of ordinary portland cement, the binding agent used in traditional concrete.

The most compelling advantage CO2NCRETE offers when compared to other carbon capture and utilization technologies, Sant said, is that the carbon dioxide stream used in its production does not have to be processed before use. The manufacturing process allows for carbon dioxide borne in the flue gas of power and industrial plants to be captured and converted at its source. This advantage creates a cost-competitive business model that avoids the expense of a carbon dioxide enrichment or treatment facility.

“These teams are showing us amazing examples of carbon conversion and literally reimagining carbon. The diversity of technologies on display is an inspiring vision of a new carbon economy,” said Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of energy and resources and prize lead. “We are trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by converting them into useful materials, and do so in an economically sustainable way.”

In the final and most ambitious stage of the competition, teams must demonstrate carbon dioxide utilization at a scale of two tons per day — a scale that is 10 times greater than the semifinals requirements — at an industrial test site. The UCLA team will compete at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, a carbon research facility in Gillette, Wyoming, co-located with the Dry Fork Station coal power plant. This final stage of the competition will start in June 2019 and conclude in early 2020.

Sant is also the director of the Institute for Carbon Management at UCLA, which draws on UCLA’s campus-wide expertise to create innovative solutions to the climate change challenge. Launched this spring, the institute is developing advanced technology and market-driven strategies for mitigating the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

 

 

 

Using Public Spaces to Benefit the Public Urbanist Gil Penalosa tells crowd at UCLA Institute of Transportation event that public policy and design should improve the quality of life for all residents

By Will Livesley-O’Neill

The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies kicked off its spring speaker series with one of the world’s most influential urbanists, Gil Penalosa, an advocate for public spaces and sustainable mobility. Cities must meet the challenges of the 21st century through public policy and design that improves the quality of life for all residents, Penalosa argued.

“We need to decide how we want to live,” he told a large crowd of Luskin School students, staff, faculty and community partners.

Penalosa, a graduate of the MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School, is the founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization based in Toronto and dedicated to the idea that urban spaces should benefit an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old equally. He also chairs the board of World Urban Parks, an international association in favor of open space and recreation, after getting his start by transforming parks programs as a commissioner in Bogotá.

The groundbreaking programs overseen by Penalosa in Colombia included a weekly event to turn city streets into activity centers for walking, biking and other activities, which has served as a model for CicLAvia in Los Angeles and similar programs worldwide. Penalosa said that after streets turn into “the world’s largest pop-up park,” people begin to think about how much of their city is usually off-limits.

“All of a sudden we realize that the streets are public,” he said, adding that in a given city, around 35 percent of the total land is occupied by roadways. “We need to be much better at using everything that is public.”

Penalosa, who has consulted for more than 300 cities around the world, urges local leaders to use public space such as libraries and schoolyards for communal activities. He said that “playability” is a feature in urban design — making spaces more welcoming for children opens them up for everyone else as well. Every city should set a goal to have some kind of park within a 10-minute walk of any home, Penalosa said.

“Parks and public spaces are fantastic equalizers,” he said, describing the social integration that takes place during large sporting events, political protests and smaller exchanges such as children interacting with a sculpture. Penalosa added that public space helps people make friends and live healthier, but it can also promote transit and climate policy goals.

“Safe and enjoyable walking and biking should be a human right,” he said, noting that non-driving transit modes are not just recreational activities but the primary means of transportation for most of the world’s population. As the global urban population has surged — with the number of people living in cities expected to grow from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people over the next four decades — Penalosa believes that policymakers must shift their focus away from accommodating car travel and toward improving quality of life. This means prioritizing human interaction in public spaces by expanding parks, building sidewalks, reducing speed limits to make walking safer, connecting bicycle routes into cohesive grids, and much more.

Penalosa’s talk was presented in partnership with the California Association for Coordinated Transportation (CALACT), a statewide nonprofit association advocating for small transit agencies, rural transportation funding and coordinated mobility programs. The full schedule for the spring transportation speaker series will soon be available on the ITS website.

View additional photos from the presentation in a Flickr album:

Gil Penalosa