‘A Mission I Can Embrace’ New Dean Gary Segura discusses his first 100 days, and why UCLA Luskin is the ‘right fit’ for him

By George Foulsham

On Jan. 1, Gary M. Segura began his tenure as Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In a Q&A conducted soon after his appointment in October, Segura, professor of public policy and Chicano studies at UCLA and the former Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy and professor of political science at Stanford University, discussed his new role and how excited he is to lead the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

First of all, congratulations on being named the new Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Can you tell us your initial reaction when you got the news?

Segura: I was stunned, in fact, and really quite surprised to hear the news. I was in Europe at the time and I’m a little embarrassed to say that I was on a beach when Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh called me. But he was in Europe too, so we were in the same time zone, and it worked out OK. But I was really quite surprised and very, very pleased.

Can you share with us your initial thoughts on what you hope to accomplish when you get started, maybe in your first 100 days at the Luskin School?

Segura: I’m not a physician — I’m not that kind of doctor — but my first rule is to do no harm. There are a lot of very good, wonderful and exciting things going on here. And my first step would be to find out what I need to do and where I can be helpful to enhance, enlarge and grow the existing areas of strength in the school. My second step will be a pure information-gathering one.

I need to know the faculty. I want to know what their interests are, what they think we can do better, what they think is working well. And, also, test out a few ideas in terms of how we might broaden the footprint.

In the coming years, we will see any number of important opportunities and changes come to the Luskin School. I want to be certain to figure out how to make opportunity for growth or renewal a win-win for everyone. I think the first 100 days will be a lot of information gathering and a few trial balloons floated, and we’ll see if they get shot down or if they actually make it to the ceiling.

The Luskin School’s previous full-time dean, Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., believed that Luskin prepared students for the future by providing them with a “change-agent toolkit.” Do you see Luskin continuing that role of helping our students become change agents?

Segura: I would say I see Luskin continuing and extending that role, with the possibility of some additional programs at Luskin. I want to create an environment where we have a huge cadre of students who are going to engage the community as it exists. This is purposeful social science. This is the idea that understanding what’s happening in the world is only useful to the extent that we can then take it and make the world — at the individual level, at the family level, at the community level, at the nation level and maybe even globally — somewhat better than we found it before. So I definitely believe in engaged learning, the idea that the tools they get at UCLA Luskin can be brought to bear on their life goals and their own communities and families.

You are steeped in Latina/o, gender, political and all minority issues. How has your academic background informed and prepared you for your new role as Dean here?

Segura: This society is changing in ways that are unprecedented. In 1950, this society was 90 percent white. When Ronald Reagan was president of the United States in 1980, this society was 80 percent white. In the last national census, it was 63.7 percent white, non-Hispanic. And, in the next census, that number is likely to be around 60 percent. At the same time, we’ve had a revolution in gender relations in the United States over the last 50 or 60 years. So heterosexual white males, who have so dominated American society in all of its facets — whether it be governance, business, industry — those individuals comprise only about 30 percent of the national population. We have relatively little understanding of the other 70 percent. The traditional social sciences and even some of the public affairs and public policy folks in the world have devoted less attention because they were not the holders of power.

What we’re seeing now is a gigantic change in the composition of the United States at every level. And I think preparing our students — many of whom come from that 70 percent — to engage in an America that fundamentally looks different than the one you and I grew up in is an important change. My particular research interests speak to that, but I’m certainly not alone in that interest and expertise. There are others in the school and others on campus and that’s a primary concern.

Finally, any special message you’d like to share with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors?

Segura: I’m very excited to be here. When you look for opportunities to take a leadership role, many of them look like just administrative roles, basically file cabinet management.

I didn’t want that. I wanted an administrative role where I believed in the mission of what I was doing. Here, we have three wonderful departments, an array of research institutes, all of which are dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life, of people living in the United States and beyond, especially in the Los Angeles basin. That’s a mission I can embrace and get behind and something I can actually bring something to personally. This was the right fit for me. I hope I can do my best to help everyone achieve the goals that they have for their time here at Luskin.

3 Alumni Are True Change Agents When recruiting for gender, cultural and ethnic diversity, founders of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors start at UCLA

By Les Dunseith

Working together from a restored 1920s office building in the heart of a city they are helping to revitalize, three graduates of the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning program are fulfilling a shared vision of diversity and innovation.

Their goal? Change the world.

“UCLA, when we went there — and I think it is still the case today — is really about integration,” says Jennifer LeSar MA UP ’92, one of the founding partners of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors. “You are not just a transportation planner or an affordable housing person or an environmental planner. You understand the integration of it all.”

The company, which provides strategic counsel to public agencies, foundations, business associations and civic organizations, reflects the partners’ deep respect for each other, a bond that first formed about three decades ago for LeSar and her close friend and company co-founder Cecilia V. Estolano MA UP ’91. Through professional interactions, they later met their third business partner, Katherine Perez-Estolano MA UP ’97, and her values were closely aligned.

“We knew that there were diverse people of color who were anxious to make a difference,” says Perez-Estolano.

ELP Advisors and its sister firm, San Diego-based LeSar Development Consultants, makes a point of recruiting smart, talented people who reflect the gender, cultural and ethnic diversity of Southern California.

“Every time I would go and meet with other people who had their own companies, their top folks were all white men,” Perez-Estolano remembers. “And I thought this is not the world that we are planning for.”

Their vision crystalized at UCLA — they cite faculty members such as Martin Wachs, Joan Ling MA UP ’82 and Goetz Wolff as key influencers — and their commitment to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs remains a vital aspect of their personal and business interactions today. All three are active in alumni activities, and Estolano and Perez-Estalano have both served as Luskin Senior Fellows. They coordinated a visit by a delegation of planners from Panama a few years ago. Their firm also hosted a reception for Professor Ananya Roy when she first came to UCLA in 2015.

And the close association with UCLA has benefited the company as well. Three of ELP Advisors’ six full-time employees are also UCLA Luskin alumni, and the firm has employed a steady stream of interns from the Luskin School since its founding in 2011.

LeSar notes the “amazing talent pool at UCLA.” Estolano says their firms are a direct reflection of the “particular way that UCLA teaches students how to be urban planners. In order to be an activist planner, you have to have strong sense of civic purpose.”

Estolano continues:  “The idea of building a company owned by three women with multiple core competencies in Southern California, the most diverse place in the country, based upon the graduate educations and work experience that we have had, and an ability to hire staff  out of the institutions from which have come, was our vision then and still is to this day.”

Their many professional accomplishments contributed to the three founders’ decision to join forces at ELP Advisors. But there is a personal side to it, too.

Katherine Perez, a former Deputy to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, and Cecilia Estolano, the former chief executive officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, married in 2013. LeSar’s spouse is San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who served as Assembly Speaker from 2014 until March of this year.

The three also believe that their backgrounds mesh particularly well. “If you look at Katherine’s career, and my career, and Cecilia’s career, we have all worked in different sectors,” says LeSar, who also has an MBA from UCLA and is an expert in community development and real estate finance. Estolano, who is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, has expertise in sustainable economic development and urban revitalization. Perez-Estolano, who in 2013 was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the board of directors of the California High Speed Rail Authority, brings knowledge of transportation and stakeholder engagement.

They have a professional contact list — “a giant Rolodex” as Perez-Estolano notes it once would have been called — that few companies can match.

It has helped them land clients such as Los Angeles County, the Metropolitan Water District, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Goldhirsh Foundation. The latter is a great example of the firms’ strengths, Estolano says.

The Goldhirsh Foundation “wanted to completely change their approach” to philanthropy and orient it toward making L.A. the best it can be by 2050. The resulting 2050 Report “really put us on the map,” Estolano recalls. “And the folks we hired to do a lot of the analysis, gather the data and design the report, they are just top-flight. And they are still working with us.”

ELP Advisors takes pride in solving solutions that have stumped others.  “We are just scrappy,” Estolano says, “and resourceful. We are smart people, and we have  broad-ranging interests. So, if a client has a difficult problem and they really can’t figure out how to get at it, sometimes they just give us a call and ask us what we think. And I say, sure, we know how to do that. We can figure it out!”

Success hasn’t always come easily, however. For one, they started ELP Advisors while the Great Recession was still dragging down the economy and hindering new projects. Then, just a few months after ELP Advisors opened for business, Gov. Brown dissolved the state’s redevelopment agency.

“We formed at a time that, in hindsight, was the worst possible,” LeSar recalls.

But they quickly adapted, putting their knowledge to good use to help clients adapt to the new reality they were facing. “So,” Estolano says, “we made lemonade out of lemons! What we thought would be a negative for us ended up creating a base for our company to expand.”

LeSar adds, “We learned some hard lessons, and that’s OK. You know, most small businesses don’t survive. Most women-owned businesses don’t survive. Most businesses of color don’t survive. And I don’t really know any other businesses today that are quite like ours.”

Each partner brings talents that complement the others. They say their success is based on hard work and smart choices. And it’s also based on staying true to their principles: Inclusion. Diversity. Gender equality. Community engagement.

“You live in our city, you live in our neighborhood, and you have a right to participate in these processes,” Perez-Estolano says about the firm’s commitment to getting involved at every level. “We had people who would understand how they could actually change the outcome by getting involved, participating on local city commissions, by running for city councils, by running for county offices or state offices. That was, to me, the pipeline of future leadership.”

A recent example of this commitment to the community is a project spearheaded by Estolano and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14, a senior associate at ELP Advisors. The L.A. Bioscience Hub and its Biotech Leaders Academy launched in summer 2016 to promote entrepreneurship training for community college students from underrepresented groups. The pilot program, funded by a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, introduced 10 students of color (six of them women) to professional opportunities related to a growing biosciences sector in the East Los Angeles area.

It’s another example of the three UCLA graduates’ commitment to open doors for people who might not otherwise get a chance to succeed. It also shows their dedication to the value of education, which underlies everything they do, including their advice to current and future UCLA Luskin students about what it takes to succeed.

“I think the core skills are in writing, research and quantitative analysis,” LeSar says. “And be a creative thinker!”

For Perez-Estolano, being adaptable is important. “The world changes rapidly today,” she says, “and you have to embrace that as a planner.”

Estolano advises today’s students to take full advantage of their educations at UCLA Luskin. “Your classmates are going to be your greatest network,” she says. “Do not turn your back on the school. Your school can be a huge asset for you, and even if you can only do a little bit, always give to this school.”

“It’s about changing the future,” she says. “If you have a commitment to keeping the school strong — to honor its mission — it will continue to graduate people that will change the world.”

 

From left, Leah Hubbard, Katherine A. Perez-Estolano MA UP ’96, Jennifer Lesar MA UP ’91, Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, Richard France MA UP ’10, Cynthia Guzman MURP ’12 and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14. Photo by George Foulsham

A Crash Course in Politics For MPP alumni, 2016 was a time to run, to rally and, sometimes, to rant

By Stan Paul

At least one ran for office. Another handled a presidential candidate’s digital correspondence. A third harnessed emerging media to further her political activism. It was an election year, after all — a time when Department of Public Policy graduates are even more likely than usual to get engaged in the democratic process.

Recent UCLA Luskin alumnus Nelson Esparza MPP ’15 sought public office by running for and winning a seat on his county school board back home in Fresno.

Esparza, who teaches economics at a community college, sees the role as a perfect fit. “The Board of Education is especially personal because I am the students of my district,” said Esparza, who grew up in California’s Central Valley. “I faced the same barriers and obstacles that students in my district are battling every day.”

His political journey began at age 16, he recalls, when a teacher sparked his interest in economics and put him on a path that eventually led to Luskin and on to politics.

“I had a broad desire to understand how the world worked, where the money flowed, why things happened the way they did,” Esparza said. “And economics sounded like it might teach me just that.”

After obtaining what he calls “a sweet fellowship in Sacramento” as an undergrad, Esparza experienced a “crash course” in California politics and public policy.

“And that was it – I was sold,” he said. “My passion was impacting public policy in my home state and home community.”

That led him to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “My collective experience at Luskin was invaluable,” he said. “It was a place where I could capitalize on my experience and interest in impacting public policy at the state and local level.”

Now he’s ready to show the value of that Luskin degree. “I want to have the ability to point and say, ‘We produce change agents in a wide range of capacities, including elected.’”

Vernessa Shih MPP ’14 spent the 2016 campaign working at Hillary for America in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she served as digital correspondence manager for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Another recent MPP graduate, Vernessa Shih MPP ’14, got a chance to relive one of her favorite student memories — a presidential debate — from an insider’s perspective. Shih spent the 2016 campaign working at Hillary for America in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she served as digital correspondence manager. On any given day, she would respond to people with policy questions, pull content to circulate to the campaign’s digital team or pitch a great story to the speechwriting team for possible inclusion in Hillary Clinton’s remarks.

“It’s still a bit surreal when I think about being on this campaign now,” Shih said as Election Day drew near. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, and it’s also the most tired I’ve ever been.”

Shih credits her time at the Luskin School with opportunities to seek and grow in leadership.

“Through working with the Public Policy Department and the Dean’s Office, I felt a great deal of agency to convene opportunities for my class,”

Shih said. “Those were some of my first experiences in project management. I learned a lot from the successes and failures of trying to convene people and resources.”

Shih also said she has been challenged to grow in her understanding of other people’s experiences and the big and small details that affect others’ lives.

“This has been a really challenging year for this country. The one thing that seems to cut through all the static is remembering that everything I am doing is in the hopes of continuing forward progress,” Shih said. She hopes the next generation will “have a more diverse, more open and, hopefully, more equitable future than even I had.”

Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07, who co-hosts a podcast titled “GoodMuslimBadMuslim,” describes herself as activist, storyteller and politico.

Looking forward is also important to Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07, who describes herself in three words: activist, storyteller, politico.

But, these labels only scratch the surface of her many creative and empowering efforts. She co-hosts a podcast called “GoodMuslimBadMuslim,” an ongoing discussion on “walking this fine line between what it means to be good and bad” as a Muslim American woman. And she works with the organization 18MillionRising to empower Asian Americans — nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population – to vote.

“We are currently going full force on turning out the vote,” said the Los Angeles-based Ahmed.

Ahmed said she’s helped mobilize thousands of Asian American and Pacific Islanders — representing at least 17 different languages — to go to the polls in the past 15 years.

“I always knew I wanted to leave the world a better place than when I came into it,” said Ahmed, who was honored in September with a Rising Star award by the Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Los Angeles (OCA-GLA). The mixed-media artist, essayist and poet explained that vision is what motivated her to work in Washington, D.C. as an environmental organizer starting in 2001. In 2016 Ahmed was honored as a White House Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.

Ahmed said she decided to pursue public policy specifically to work on racial justice, which at the time was an underexplored field. Inside and outside of formal classes, she spent time trying to merge what she was learning elsewhere to what she was learning in public policy classes.

“To this day, I take those learnings on racial justice and incorporate it into what I do now.”

Just One Visit: Volunteers Make a Difference for Prisoners UCLA Luskin professor’s book launch highlights little-known but vital role that volunteers play in the juvenile and adult prison system

By Stan Paul

Just one visit. For those whose lives are entangled in the pipeline of the juvenile and adult justice systems, the life-changing meeting might come from a family member. It could be a psychologist. Or a chaplain. Or it could never come at all.

For many, though, the visitor is a volunteer — someone who can make the difference between continuing a downward spiral through the criminal justice system and turning a life around.

“The cycle continues until someone breaks it,” said Ernst Fenelon Jr., who was part of a Nov. 3 panel speaking about volunteers who help those incarcerated in America’s juvenile detention centers and adult prisons. The event also launched a new book co-edited by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Social Welfare professor Laura Abrams. It was sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, and the UCLA Justice Work Group.

New book co-edited by UCLA's Laura Abrams.

New book co-edited by UCLA’s Laura Abrams.

The book, “The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change,” was published “to highlight many examples of great practice, of volunteer programs that make a real difference behind bars … and impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers,” Abrams said. She was accompanied by one of her three co-editors, Emma Hughes, an associate professor and chair in the Department of Criminology at California State University, Fresno.

“This event, and the book itself, is intended to honor volunteers in jails and prisons, juvenile and adult institutions, who devote their personal and professional time, travel long distances and overcome numerous bureaucratic hurdles to reach out to those locked on the inside, whose humanity and dignity is often limited by the very condition of incarceration itself,” Abrams said in her introductory remarks.

Abrams said that the work of her colleagues and co-editors highlights many examples of great practice, impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers as well. “Unfortunately, this evidence of good practice is not well-known, so other volunteers have to keep reinventing the wheel, rather than benefitting from the experiences of others,” she said.

The co-editors pointed out that volunteers themselves are very diverse. They may be formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, teachers, musicians, artists, students or people of faith. A unique feature of the book is that it includes the voices of a number of people currently serving time, in addition to the 19 contributing authors from the United States, Canada and Britain.

“You may be that one person,” said Fenelon, whose 25 years of experience with the California prison system includes more than 14 as an inmate. He is now the program coordinator for the Prison Education Project (PEP), a “prison-to-college” program that seeks to enhance the educational experience of inmates and parolees while providing practical tools for reintegration.

“You’re here because it is a calling,” Fenelon told the audience of academics, social welfare students and volunteers, some of whom also had been wards of the foster care, juvenile justice and adult prison systems in California. “The best people to speak are the volunteers,” continued Fenelon said. Like himself, they “speak from a voice of unique experience,” and “sat where they sat” and they strive to “reconnect [those incarcerated] to their humanity.”

He was joined by Rosalinda Vint, president of Women of Substance and Men of Honor Inc. Vint, who grew up in the foster care system, has been “that one person,” Hughes said in introducing her.

“All of us have a friend or relative touched by the system,” said Vint, whose nonprofit organization provides mentoring, leadership training and other services for the Department of Juvenile Justice Ventura Youth facility. The former corporate executive, who left a successful 25-year career to reach out to foster youth, said it is a privilege to serve those who, like her, have suffered abandonment and loss. Recounting her own and her siblings’ experiences within the foster care and criminal justice systems, Vint paused, as her voice cracked with emotion. She continued, “This has changed my life, what I do. I wish someone would have come for me, looked me in the eye and said it is going to be OK.”

The relationship between two of the event’s speakers, Felix Miranda and Matthew Mizel, is an example of the significant difference that volunteering can make in the lives of both volunteers and those they help.

Miranda was raised in Nicaragua and he “saw things that no kid should see.” He was angry when he came to the United States, eventually ended up in trouble and lost 13 years of his life to the prison system in California. Mizel, a native of New Jersey, had a successful career in the entertainment industry before becoming a volunteer with Inside Out Writers in 2003, teaching creative writing in juvenile and adult facilities.

They met while Miranda was imprisoned, and the experience was transformative for Mizel, who was volunteering with the nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Mizel is now a doctoral student in the Luskin School’s Department of Social Welfare, where his research focuses on ways to reduce racial inequality in the justice system.

“I had to grow out of that phase,” said Miranda, who was recently released from prison and is now a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “You can make a change.”

Miranda said that at first he couldn’t understand why Mizel kept showing up to his prison visits, and more than once asked him why he would do this.

“He came every week — that’s what impacted my life,” said Miranda, who also is now a member of the Inside Out Writers alumni project. He credits Mizel “for the love and friendship he showed me,” and the writing program for the positive changes he experienced.

“Don’t just show up,” Miranda said about volunteers’ need for perseverance and engagement. “It’s the follow-up that matters.”

According to Hughes, the book is also intended to show correctional officials and policymakers how valuable this work is. “All too often volunteers are confronted with insurmountable hurdles in terms of red tape and bureaucracy when trying to access facilities.”

Hughes added, however, that she is encouraged by recent changes.

“I am heartened that this year, CDRC (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has a mandate to establish a volunteer advisory committee at every adult prison, with the intention of better supporting volunteer-led programs,” Hughes said.

The evening’s presentations also included a moving spoken word performance by Harry Grammar, who brought students from his New Earth Arts and Leadership Center, a comprehensive re-entry center serving 2,500 young people each year who are incarcerated in Los Angeles County detention centers and placement homes.

Urban Planning Scholar Receives Royal Geographical Society’s Top Award UCLA Luskin School’s Michael Storper joins exclusive group of luminaries as a recipient of the organization’s Founder’s Medal

By Stan Paul

Since the 1830s, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) has presented gold “Royal Medals” to individuals for outstanding achievement in the field of geography. Among past winners are renowned explorer David Livingstone and, more recently, Sir David Attenborough. The awards recognize excellence in geographical research and fieldwork as well as teaching and public engagement.

This year the RGS, with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG), have awarded the Founder’s Medal to Michael Storper, Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development in the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The award is for his “leadership in human and economic geography,” according to the Society’s announcement.

The medals, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, are considered “the most prestigious medals awarded and one of the world’s highest accolades in geography,” according to the RGS-IBG. The two gold medals originated in 1831 as an annual gift of 50 guineas. In 1839 the gift to the society from King William IV became the two gold medals awarded since that time. Bob Geldof received this year’s other award, the Patron’s Medal.

“Michael Storper’s research has enhanced our understanding of the significance of the region and the importance of regional economies,” Nicholas Crane, president of the Royal Geographical Society, said in making the announcement.

Crane recognized Storper’s “pioneering research” on the role of informal institutions, as well as on the geography of clusters and innovation. “Michael has been at the forefront of setting up the theoretical and empirical framework of modern economic geography, and his work has inspired a generation of geographers,” Crane said.

Storper, who received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, is an international scholar who focuses his research and teaching on the closely linked areas of economic geography, globalization, technology, city regions and economic development. In addition to teaching at UCLA, Storper holds faculty appointments at the London School of Economics, where he is professor of economic geography, and France’s Institute of Political Studies, better known as “Sciences Po,” as professor of economic sociology.

“Our research is essential to helping humanity find pathways to more just and peaceful societies that respect the environment and are based on respect for all peoples,” said Storper. “I am honored to take my place among other geographers recognized by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for their contributions to our discipline and our commitment to making a better world through geographical research.”

The Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs was recently named the most influential planning school in North America based on citations of planning scholarship. In the same study, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Storper was listed as the second-most-cited planning scholar among more than 900 scholars evaluated in the analysis.

Storper’s most recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles” (Stanford University Press, 2015), co-authored with Tom Kemeny, Naji Makarem and Taner Osman, analyzes the economic development policies, and divergent outcomes of the regions since the 1970s.

“We are so proud of and happy for our colleague, Professor Michael Storper, on this momentous award!” said Lois Takahashi, Interim Dean of the Luskin School. “In addition to his groundbreaking scholarship, Michael makes huge contributions to practice and policy. He is a thought leader, critic and innovator in policy and practice circles in the region, state and nation. And, he contributes in innumerable ways to the life and culture of UCLA Luskin. We celebrate with him on this amazing announcement!”

The gold medals will be awarded June 6 in London at the Society’s annual meeting.

Storper was elected to the British Academy in 2012 and received the Regional Studies Association’s award for overall achievement as well as the Sir Peter Hall Award in the House of Commons in 2012. In 2014 he was named one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters. The author of “Keys to the City” (Princeton University Press, 2013), Storper received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2008. He also serves as director of Global Public Affairs @ UCLA Luskin.

Accepting a Grand Challenge UCLA Luskin Researchers Awarded First LA Grand Challenge Grants to Support Efficient Transportation and Local Sustainable Water Research

By Stan Paul

Innovative and sustainable use of water and energy in Los Angeles is at the heart of UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, and three UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers are at the forefront of this campuswide initiative.

Brian Taylor, Juan Matute and J.R. DeShazo are among 11 winners of the $1.2 million in competitive research grants awarded through the Challenge’s Five-Year Work Plan, which envisions a 100-percent renewable energy and local water scenario for the greater Los Angeles area by 2050. In addition, Jaimee Lederman, an Urban Planning doctoral candidate at Luskin, was recently named an LA Grand Challenge Powell Policy Fellow for a research/scholarly project that will directly contribute to advancing the goals of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

Taylor and Matute said that their project will specifically study the viability of shared zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) and transportation network companies (TNCs) “to and from major transit stops to promote both ZEV and transit for commute-related traffic.” They believe the “meteoric rise” in use of TNCs, like Uber and Lyft, may address so-called “first-mile, last-mile” problems of daily transportation and encourage “mix-mode” travel that includes the use of expanding rail and bus rapid transit networks in Los Angeles.

“The TNC business model enables high daily vehicle utilization rates and high occupancy rates (percentage of seats filled) compared with personal vehicle ownership and operation,” said Taylor and Matute in their winning proposal. In addition, they indicated that the high rate of utilization rates will help zero-emission vehicle owners to “amortize the higher initial cost over a greater number of annual operating hours,” thus providing quicker returns on their investment.

Taylor, a professor of Urban Planning, is director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at Luskin. Matute serves as associate director of the Lewis Center and ITS. DeShazo’s winning proposal will assess whether creating a unified water market, or “OneWater,” as he calls it, out of the current fragmented system of more than 200 community water systems in Los Angeles, is a real possibility. DeShazo is director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and is a professor of Public Policy, Urban Planning, and Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

“A regional water market could enable those systems with underutilized water resources to develop and supply water to systems facing higher costs, poor quality and unreliable supplies,” said DeShazo. “This opportunity to trade water expands the lower-costs supply options available to higher-costs systems, thus reducing regional inequality,” he said.

DeShazo pointed out that each system in the county’s fragmented market varies in numerous ways such as access to groundwater and aquifer storage, storm water capture, direct and indirect water re-use as well each of the current system’s potential for conservation. The proposal also calls for the creation of an advisory panel for a joint powers authority that would manage the OneWater market.

“The only way that all water systems in L.A. County can achieve 100 percent local water is if a system that enables the trading of water among systems is created,” noted DeShazo. “Trading would create a revenue stream that attracts new investment in blue infrastructure.”

Lederman’s proposed project is titled, “From Great Idea to Sustainable Outcomes: traversing political roadblocks of local participation in regional environmental initiatives.” Serving as her faculty mentor is Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning. The fellowship award was made possible through a generous gift from Norman J. Powell.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is currently engaged with more than 150 UCLA faculty and researchers from more than 70 campus departments who are seeking ways to improve the quality of life as population growth and climate change affect the Los Angeles area.

Read the complete story on the UCLA Newsroom website.

Creating Good “Food Citizens” for Future Food Equity and Security Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program Taking Applications Starting Feb. 1, Selected Students to Begin Fall 2016

By Breanna Ramos

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will open the application period for the Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program starting Feb. 1. The program is open to all UCLA graduate students and selected applicants will begin taking classes in Fall 2016.

Food equity, security, and environmental sustainability are growing global concerns, and there is an increased interest in developing programs to alleviate such issues, specifically within the University of California system.  The certificate program falls under UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative, which was launched in 2014 to address “…one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.”

“It shouldn’t be an issue for people to get healthy foods or for us to worry about whether or not we’re going to have healthy foods in the future,” said Alexis Oberlander, Project Manager for the program at the Luskin School. Oberlander is just one of the many staff members who strongly supports food studies’ importance and participated in developing program details.

“That’s part of what’s most exciting, having people from the North and South campuses: from English, Dentistry, and all over,” said Public Health professor May Wang. “We can’t really talk about food without addressing all these other social, economic, and even political aspects.”

The program requires that participants take courses in multiple fields. Among the four graduate-level courses students must take, one must be a core interdisciplinary class that was specifically designed for the program. The other three courses can be chosen based on personal preference and selected from the following categories: Food Policy and Food Systems, Nutritional Science, and Social and Cultural Aspects of Food.

“The hope and intention of the program is that it’ll bring students together across all disciplines to think about the complex issue that is food in our country today,” said Sarah Roth, graduate student researcher for the program. “Bringing together law, business, public policy, urban planning, and public health students into the same room so that they can both understand one another’s perspective and use that understanding to leverage change.”

Applications will become available in February, with about 10 participant slots available. The program is expected to attract students from various disciplines.

“A passion for food is the critical component for applying,” said Oberlander. “Applicants should express any ideas that they have about how they’re going to use food studies in their education and future careers because that’s our goal: supplementing their education, so that they can go into the working world with their certificate and apply it to whatever they’re doing.”

Events have been planned to attract not only potential students, but to educate others about why studying food is crucial. A calendar of campus events relevant to food studies also is available online at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/content/food-studies-event-calendar

“What we really want to do is create good food citizens,” said UCLA law professor Michael Roberts, lead instructor for the core course. “What ‘good food citizens’ means is that we’ve got people in the community who understand and appreciate food and who can improve the conditions, the consumption, and or production of food in the local community and beyond.”

For more information on the program and other food studies related resources, visit the certificate website at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/foodstudies.

New Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy to Launch with Series of Events Feb. 4-5 Inauguration will include panels with scholars, activists and organizers, plus a Luskin Lecture and special screening featuring David Simon, writer and creator of “The Wire” and “Treme”

By Stan Paul

A new kind of Institute has come to UCLA.

Led by Ananya Roy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs professor and center director, the newly established Institute on Inequality and Democracy will launch on Feb. 4-5 with two days of events at UCLA and the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.

“We analyze and transform the divides and dispossessions of our times, in the university and in our cities, across global South and global North,” is stated as part of the mission of the Institute which will encompass multidisciplinary, collaborative work led by UCLA faculty. Planned areas of work include: multi-disciplinary research collaboratives to advance knowledge about key social problems; contributing to policy frameworks via activist practices and community organizing; graduate student working groups that foster connections across and beyond UCLA; and offering intellectual space for debates within progressive thought.

From discussions on “Markets, Race, and the Aftermath of Slavery” to “Decolonizing the University,” the upcoming launch, titled “Urban Color-Lines,” will serve as an introduction to key themes to be explored at the new Institute based in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and made possible by a generous donation from Meyer and Renee Luskin.

Daytime events for both days will be held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and will include eminent UCLA scholars as well as intellectuals and activists who are actively working on human rights and social justice issues — locally, nationally and internationally.


Day 1, Feb. 4

First-day events begin at 11 a.m. at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, room 2355, with Why Think About Inequality & Democracy Together? Luskin Interim Dean Lois Takahashi will provide welcome remarks followed by Roy’s introduction of the Institute and events.

Markets, Race, and the Aftermath of Slavery
11:30 a.m., Room 2355, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Chair: Leobardo Estrada, Chair, Academic Senate, UCLA

Speaker: Cheryl Harris, UCLA School of Law and Chair, African American Studies

The Right to the City: From South to North
1 p.m., Room 2355, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Chair: Chris Tilly, Urban Planning, UCLA

Speakers: 

Toussaint Losier, Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and co- founder, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign

Raquel Rolnik, Urban Planning, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Richard Pithouse, Unit for Humanities at Rhodes University, South Africa

Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, India

Day 1 Evening

The Feb. 4 evening presentations and performances will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. (with a reception from 6 to 6:30 p.m.) at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. Round-trip transportation from UCLA will be provided.

The program includes:

Black, Brown, and Banished: Ending Urban Displacement in 21st Century Democracies

Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles 

Performances:

Bodies on the Line: Artists Fight Back
Curator: Dan Froot, 501 (see three) ARTS and UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Dance by Bernard Brown

Dance/Spoken Word by Sandy Vazquez and Ericka Jones

Excerpts from Oral Histories of Displaced Angelenos, by Dan Froot with Dorothy Dubrule


Eviction/Action:

Moderators:

Laura Pulido, American Studies and Ethnicity, USC, and Ananya Roy, Director, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin

Speakers:

Ashraf Cassiem, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, South Africa

Willie (JR) Fleming, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign

Patricia Hill, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign

Pete White, LA Community Action Network 

Day 2, Feb. 5:

What Do We Hope to Achieve Today and Now?
10:15 a.m., Room 2355, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Ananya Roy, Director, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin

Debtors’ Prisons and Debtors’ Unions: Direct Action in Finance Capitalism
10:30 a.m., Room 2355, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Chair: Robin D.G. Kelley, African American Studies and History, UCLA

Speaker: Hannah Appel, Anthropology, UCLA

Decolonizing the University
Noon, Room 2355, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Moderator: Ananya Roy, Director, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin

Speakers:

Gaye Theresa Johnson, African American Studies and Chicana/o Studies, UCLA

Camalita Naicker, Political and International Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa

Carlos Vainer, Chair, Forum of Science and Culture, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Marques Vestal, History, UCLA

Day 2 Evening program (7-9 p.m.)

The Audacity of Despair

James Bridges Theater, UCLA

Screening: Show Me a Hero

Keynote Lecture: David Simon, writer and creator, “The Wire,” “Treme,” and “Show Me a Hero” 

Information and Registration

Registration, a detailed program of events, and more about the Institute may be found at:  challengeinequality.luskin.ucla.edu

Cooperation May be the Key to Survival for Airbnb in the Sharing Economy UCLA professors project the future of Airbnb based off lessons from past startups.

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The short-term home rental company Airbnb seemed to have come out the clear blue sky, but this “disruptor” in the rental business may disappear just as fast into thin air unless it is perceived as a cooperator and “partner,” according to an opinion piece by Paavo Monkkonen, assistant professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and research fellow at the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Using as an example one of the original peer-to-peer disrupters of the music industry — Napster — Monkkonen and co-author and UCLA Urban Planning alum Nathan S. Holmes explain that Napster failed where iTunes, led by Apple’s Steve Jobs, found success because of a cooperative business model that worked with the music industry.

Monkkonen and Holmes, point out that the multibillion dollar (and growing) company based in San Francisco already is threatened by resistance and hostility from local governments, which the authors say has the potential to turn Airbnb into “the Napster of the short-term rental market.”

New Report Calls for More Consistent Policies for Mobile App Transportation and Taxi Services

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WASHINGTON – Innovative transportation services such as car sharing, bike sharing, and transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft are changing mobility for millions of people, yet regulation of these services often varies greatly across geographic areas and industry segments.  Policymakers and regulators should formulate consistent policies that encourage competition among new and traditional transportation services — such as taxis and limousines — in order to improve mobility, safety, and sustainability, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

California was the first state to establish statewide regulations for transportation network companies and as such UC researchers played a large role in the report. The report was authored by a diverse group of academics and practitioners, including Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Taylor served as chair of the committee. Other notable members of the committee include Michael Manville, Cornell University and Jennifer Dill, Portland State University, both of whom are alumni of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The availability of on-demand transportation services through smartphone apps is increasing shared mobility. The growth in these services follows and amplifies a recent rebound in taxi and public transit use. As of June 2015, Uber provided more than 1 million rides daily worldwide, while Lyft operated in 60 U.S. cities with more than 100,000 drivers.

The rapidly expanding services provided by TNCs, however, raise policy and regulatory challenges with regard to passenger and driver security, public safety, insurance requirements, employment and labor issues, and accessibility and equity. Current regulation of taxis and other for-hire transportation varies considerably across and within jurisdictions, even when the services offered are similar. Most large cities with sizeable street-hail markets extensively regulate taxis, while smaller cities where dispatch service is the norm tend to have lighter regulation. This pattern raises public policy concerns when taxi regulation is more stringent than that of TNCs. Leveling the regulatory playing field requires a reassessment of existing regulations governing taxi, limousine, and TNC services to determine the minimum necessary to ensure quality service and allow effective competition.

“Smartphone applications and GPS data are making feasible transportation services that have never before been realized on a large scale, and these services have the potential to increase mobility while reducing congestion and emissions from surface transportation if regulated wisely to encourage concurrent ride sharing,” said Taylor, who is also a professor of urban planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. “A key hurdle for policymakers at all levels of government is to both promote and facilitate innovations that meet the public’s mobility needs while achieving greater policy consistency among these new services and between them and traditional taxi and limousine services.”

To address public safety concerns, regulations currently focus on background checks of drivers, vehicle inspections, and minimum standards for vehicle liability insurance. Procedures for driver background checks are based on common practice but their efficacy has not been rigorously evaluated; likewise, the safety benefits of viewing shared driver ratings and operator and vehicle images on mobile apps have not yet been well-documented. Therefore, regulators at the state and federal levels should evaluate these safety requirements for their effectiveness and cost, the report says.

Regulated taxis offer critical transportation for people with disabilities in many areas, and although TNCs have introduced pilot programs to provide such services, they do not currently provide wheelchair-accessible services on an extensive or reliable basis, the report says.  About 10 percent of the U.S. population has a physical limitation; 3.6 million people use a wheelchair and another 11.6 million use a cane, crutches, or a walker. A decline in taxi fleets due to the continued rapid rise in TNCs could decrease the availability of for-hire vehicles for a substantial number of these travelers unless the quantity of TNC services for those with disabilities expands.

Further, most shared mobility services require users to have a credit card on file with the provider and arrange the trip using a smartphone. However, roughly 8 percent of U.S. households lack bank accounts that allow them to have credit cards, and 50 percent of adults earning less than $30,000 and 73 percent of adults over age 65 do not own smartphones. The committee concluded that local officials should ensure that the mobility needs of low-income, older and disabled riders are met as these new services expand and evolve.

In addition, policymakers and regulators should examine the pros and cons of alternative employment classifications of both TNC and taxi drivers. While new mobility services offer expanded opportunities for flexible, part-time employment for students or those seeking transitional income between careers, TNC drivers and most taxi drivers are classified by their companies as independent contractors, which limits their access to benefits tied to employment. This lack of benefits raises policy issues concerning employer-provided health care, workers’ compensation for injuries, and vacation and sick leave for those for whom such work is their sole source of income.

Policymakers and regulators should also consider whether traditional for-hire and shared mobility services are best monitored and regulated at the state, regional, or local level on the basis of market and service characteristics and regulatory capabilities. In addition, transportation planning bodies should develop methods for incorporating shared mobility into transportation planning initiatives and promote collaboration between public- and private-sector transportation providers.

Other UC researchers contributing to the report were Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley and Daniel Sperling of UC Davis. Sperling is chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which initiated and funded the study.

The study was sponsored by the TRB, a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit www.nationalacademies.org.