Getting Transportation Forecasts Right — as Often as Possible In 10th annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture, Professor Joseph Schofer of Northwestern University says systematic learning from experience is vital when predicting the outcome of major infrastructure projects

By Les Dunseith

In the realm of transportation planning, significant time, effort and money go into the process of forecasting, but the gap between predicted outcomes and reality remains a persistent problem for many projects.

“Forecasts don’t always get it right,” said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean of faculty affairs at Northwestern University. Schofer spoke on the topic of forecasting the future during the 10th annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture, held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on April 4, 2017.

The Wachs Distinguished Lecture features prominent and innovative scholars and policy makers who draw on many years of research and thinking in the field of transportation. Created by the students in honor of Emeriti Professor Wachs, the lecture rotates between UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively.

This year’s lecture invitee, Joe Schofer, provided a wide-ranging view about forecasting – a prominent feature of transportation planning. In Schofer’s talk titled “When Forecasting Fails: Making Infrastructure Decisions in an Uncertain World,” he explained that learning to accept the inherent limitations of the forecasting process is a necessary first step in helping planners improve their predictions of cost, utilization, performance and impact.

“Don’t expect that the gap between predicted outcomes and reality is going to get really small,” Schofer told a crowd of more than 50 scholars, planning professionals and transportation decision-makers who came to hear him. “The world is changing at a faster and faster pace. And those big sources of uncertainty — sources of risk — often are outside the transportation system.”

Schofer’s lecture focused less on the shortcomings of forecasting than on “improving decisions by systematic learning from experience,” as Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and professor of urban planning, described the topic during his introduction of Schofer.

Schofer acknowledged the significance of the occasion during his opening remarks, taking a moment to recognize the presence in the audience of his “dear friend and colleague of a lot of years. This is not just another lecture. It’s me giving the Martin Wachs lecture,” said Schofer, who also cited Wachs’ “immeasurable impact on ideas in transportation, transportation planning, transportation policy and transportation finance.”

On Limitiations

In his lecture, Schofer focused on “what we can do in a situation where we don’t always get it right.”

For starters, he said, planners need to understand that they can never know everything there is to know about the dynamics of human behavior. It’s also important to keep in mind the rapid pace of change in today’s world.

“Changes that are going on right now literally make it impossible to forecast what the future is going to be like,” Schofer said. He pointed to examples such as the proliferation of cellphones, which enhance the speed of communication but negatively impact the capacity to do telephone-based polling research.

Schofer also pointed to other factors that limit forecast accuracy. “Data aren’t complete. There might be better models that we can use. Perhaps those models are not even available to us yet,” he said.

Although transportation experts are making strides and “using better and better data all the time, it’s not a calculus problem; we will not get infinitely close to zero error,” Schofer said.

He also noted that it’s common for forecasts to be impacted by unforeseen factors. For instance, major infrastructure projects often experience cost overruns and construction delays when previously unknown grave sites of historical or cultural significance are found during excavation.

On Being Grounded

Dealing with uncertainty may be avoided if planners make an effort to ground their projects firmly in the reality of previous experience. When forecasting a new project, planners must “ground that by finding out what someone else has experienced,” Schofer said.

The idea of looking at case studies and data related to past events is an essential element of evidence-based decision making, he said.

Some projects face the added complication of being based on visionary thinking — the “visionary ideas of interesting people,” he said. “It’s very difficult in a forecasting situation to go against that because you are dealing with somebody who has a firmly held vision, who is really committed to a particular idea.”

The goals of a visionary leader may outweigh an expert’s forecasts in the decision-making process, Schofer noted. The upside, he said, is that a diligent and resourceful planner can seize the opportunity in these situations to approach that visionary leader directly.

“You may be able to get his or her attention, which may be an opportunity to talk about a more realistic forecast,” Schofer said.

In most circumstances, however, it’s data that drives forecasting, and Schofer said he has seen some promising signs in getting access to better and more useful information.

Among the notable efforts he cited was a federal effort to mine existing administrative data, not to collect new information, to make better-informed decisions during evaluation of social programs.

In the medical field, he noted an effort known as the Cochrane Collaboration that is a loose confederation of people in medical research around the world who have an agreement to produce evidence-based information and to advocate for sharing of that information.

“A bunch of people around the world who have agreed to share data, agreed to work together, are bringing together data from a variety of studies to amplify the impact of that data,” Schofer said.

It’s a model that could easily translate to transportation planning, he said, an “opportunity to look at cases, to bring cases together, and to codify that.”

Schofer envisions a sharing of information among scholars, doctoral researchers, professionals and, perhaps, even journalists, in which information about the success or failure of infrastructure projects would be gathered into a database that could be accessed by “every one of us who wants to ask the question, “How well is this going to work in my town?’”

The shared data would be available for forecasters to evaluate, either analytically or qualitatively, and decide if there’s something useful from which they can learn.

For this type of case-based reasoning, it’s important to have a large dataset from which to draw conclusions. It’s also important for the cases to be kept up-to-date.

“The cases that we studied two years ago or 10 years ago, those are dead,” Schofer said. “We have to look at what’s happening right now.”

On Being Flexible

Given the limitations they face, Schofer said, it’s also important for transportation forecasters to be flexible in their thinking. In his lecture, he called this strategic incrementalism.

Think of it as hedging against uncertainty, he said, “getting ready for something different to happen that you didn’t expect to happen, and maybe putting some dollars against it, so that you are ready for it. So you can preserve future flexibility.”

In practical terms, this might mean erecting a building at a certain height but with the foundation and structure to allow it to become taller should the need for additional space later arise. It could mean building a bridge with one roadway but adequate architectural support to add a second deck later.

It means taking a long view when building major infrastructure projects, then monitoring, collecting data and watching closely to see how the new project actually gets used. If a project has design flexibility in the beginning, any future expansions can proceed at greater speed and at lower cost.

“We have to convey the notion of flexibility and adaptability and real options with the public and decision-makers,” Schofer said. “What you need to say is: “Let’s be a little looser about this, a little more flexible, to get what you really need.’”

Making better decisions in an uncertain world, Schofer said, involves collecting, analyzing and sharing as much data as planners can. Better information leads to better forecasting.

“In the end,” Schofer said, “it’s all about learning.”

 

Despite Ongoing Meningitis Outbreak, Vaccination Among Gay Men Remains Low Limited 2-dose completion among HIV-positive men puts them at particular risk, new study shows

Despite a yearlong outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease in Southern California primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, less than 27 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated for meningitis.

The findings released Thursday, March 30, 2017, by the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health call for more education about the disease and more places offering immunization throughout Southern California at venues where gay and bisexual men socialize.

More than 500 men were interviewed about their knowledge of the meningitis outbreak by UCLA Luskin’s Ian Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, and teams of researchers who visited venues throughout Los Angeles County. Most of the canvassers were current UCLA students or recent graduates.

“Our rapid-response research suggests that coordinated efforts to standardize data collection about sexual practices in conjunction with immunization will enable better tracking of meningitis vaccination among gay and bisexual men,” said Holloway, who is also the director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center.

Meningococcal disease is often characterized with sudden onset of high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, stiff neck and confusion, which can lead to rapid septic shock and death if not treated quickly. Vaccination is highly effective and can prevent the disease. The current outbreak in Southern California is the second in the area in recent history. A 2014 meningitis outbreak led to the deaths of three gay men in their 20s.

Despite the outbreak and vaccination recommendations from the California Department of Public Health, the majority of respondents interviewed by the UCLA team were not protected against meningitis.

Holloway noted that HIV-positive people are at particular risk for developing serious health issues if infected with meningitis and are recommended to receive a two-dose primary series of meningitis vaccination. Few HIV-positive men surveyed by Holloway’s team had received two doses of the vaccination.

“Primary care doctors who treat gay and bisexual men and HIV-positive people should talk to their patients about the ongoing outbreak and make sure they receive the full recommended dosing,” said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs at APLA Health.

The study praises the efforts of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Immunization Program, which distributed free vaccines, and of participating community-based organizations such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the LA LGBT Center, but researchers concluded that more needs to be done.

In addition to Holloway, study authors include Elizabeth Wu and Jennifer Gildner from the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, and Vincent Fenimore and Paula Frew from Emory University.

Learn more about Ian Holloway and the meningitis study in this video:

Dean of UCLA Luskin Takes the Long View on Political Rhetoric Gary Segura sees parallels between California history and current national debate over immigration. He tells crowd at UCLA Advocacy event that Latino voters will again be key to a resolution.  

By Les Dunseith

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, thinks that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may seem all too familiar to Latinos and others in California who endured a similar campaign against undocumented residents a couple of decades ago.

The current effort could backfire on Trump and his supporters, suggested Segura, an internationally recognized expert on the Latino electorate, during a presentation March 21, 2017, to a packed room of citizens, policymakers and fellow educators. The UCLA Advocacy event, co-hosted by UCLA Government and Community Relations and the Luskin School, featured introductions by Chancellor Gene Block and Keith S. Parker, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.

Segura reminded the crowd at Cross Campus in downtown Los Angeles that a GOP-backed ballot initiative in 1994 known as Proposition 187 sought to establish a citizenship screening system in California and prohibit undocumented immigrants from using many public services. It passed, but soon was found unconstitutional and never took effect.

The lasting result? “It created a tidal wave of Latino registrants” that tipped the balance in California elections strongly toward Democrats. “It’s known as the Prop. 187 phenomenon,” Segura told the enthusiastic audience of more than 100.

“What’s less known is that between 1980 and 1994, if you looked at the California Field Poll, the share of Latinos identifying as Republican went up in every year,” Segura noted. Latino voters had been trending toward the Republican party for a decade and a half before Proposition 187 sent waves of Latinos to the Democratic side. For the GOP, the measure amounted to “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.

It’s too soon, of course, to know whether California’s pivot away from anti-immigrant policies will repeat itself nationwide. But providing this type of perspective about modern-day political controversies is an important role that Segura has embraced as the recently installed dean at UCLA Luskin.

“It’s a dazzling school that needs extraordinary leadership, and that’s what we have here,” Block said of Segura during his introductory remarks. The event served as a first opportunity for many of those in attendance to meet and hear from Segura, who relocated to Los Angeles in January after serving as a professor of political science and former chair of Chicana/o-Latina studies at Stanford University.

“We are introducing a true partner with Government and Community Relations and the university’s greater engagement with Los Angeles,” Parker said. “When Chancellor Block came to UCLA, one of his priorities was to increase our engagement with Los Angeles. In our discussions with Dean Gary Segura, that’s one of his priorities as well.”

A widely published author and a frequent interviewee by print and broadcast news outlets, Segura is also a principal partner in the political research firm Latino Decisions. His presentation, formally titled “Population Change and Latino Prospects in the New Era” but sarcastically dubbed by Segura as “Being Latino in Trumplandia,” drew heavily from polling results and other research gathered by Latino Decisions.

Click to listen

“Latinos became deeply involved in this election in a way that they had never been in the past,” Segura said. “This was their highest level of turnout.”

Segura said this fact strongly refutes a narrative picked up by several media outlets based on an Election Day exit poll. That poll showed more Latinos voting for Trump than would have been expected given his anti-Latino rhetoric, including repeated calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“There is not a shred of statistical evidence consistent with the exit poll,” Segura said. “In fact, precinct analysis shows that Latinos actually voted more Democratic than they have in past elections. From actual precinct data, we estimate that Donald Trump won about 18 percent of the Latino vote,” not the 29 percent shown by the exit poll.

Results in other races also belie the presidential results, Segura said, noting that Latino voters were critical in electing a record number of Latinos to Congress.

“The Latino surge was real,” Segura said. “There’s lots of evidence for this. And, nationally, we estimate that about 51 percent of eligible Latinos cast a ballot, up from the last two elections.”

The political views of most of those Latino voters are at odds with the conservative policies of the Trump administration, Segura said. Polling of Latinos regarding issues such as gun registration, equal pay for women, higher minimum wages and climate change consistently lean toward a liberal viewpoint.

At this point, those views do not hold sway in Washington. The right-wing — mostly Anglo voters who tipped the 2016 presidential race to Trump — tends to be an older demographic, Segura explained. But Latinos are younger, and fewer are registered to vote. “That’s a disadvantage, but it’s also an opportunity. Latino advocates could, in fact, mobilize more voters.”

In 2016, 27 million Latinos were eligible to cast a vote, and it’s estimated that about 14 million were registered to do so. If Latinos had the same registration rate as whites and African Americans (roughly 70 percent), then 19 million would have been registered voters. That’s 5 million additional Latino voters.

And the country’s evolving demographics — fed primarily by Latino birth rates, not immigration, Segura noted — will continue to swell that potential voter pool.

“The number that it is important for you to leave here with tonight is that 93 percent of Latino residents under age 18 are citizens of the United States,” Segura told the gathering, which included prominent Latino officials such as UC Regents John A. Perez and J. Alberto Lemus, as well as Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the L.A. Community College District.

“What that means is the passage of time alone will dramatically enlarge the Latino electorate. The Latino electorate will double in the next 20 years,” Segura said, citing estimates that 73,000 Latino citizens turn 18 and enter the eligible electorate every month.

During a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Segura was asked by moderator and UCLA Luskin lecturer Jim Newton to address the fact that such statistics are seen as threatening by many Americans, particularly in rural America where lower-income white voters helped sway the election to Trump.

Segura expressed sympathy for those voters, acknowledging the legitimate concerns of people in communities hit hard by job losses.

“That pain is real,” but he said it’s wrong to blame illegal immigration for the country’s economic problems. “They are being told that reality is being caused by someone else. The actual evidence suggests that there is very little labor market replacement between Latin American immigrants to the United States and native-born U.S. workers.”

There are some historical exceptions, such as in the textile industry, “but as a large-scale measure, immigration really has very little to do with labor market turnover in the United States,” Segura said.

Newton also asked Segura to talk about whether the immigration issue is really of much importance to most Latinos voters. They are U.S. citizens, after all. Like other voters, aren’t they more concerned about crime, good schools and jobs?

“All of those statements are true, but the conclusion is incorrect — that immigration doesn’t matter,” Segura responded. “Both parties have gotten this wrong because they don’t understand that Latino families are mixed status. You might be a born citizen of the United States. Your wife might be naturalized. But your brother-in-law might be undocumented.”

In polls of Latino voters conducted by Segura and Latino Decisions, one-quarter of respondents know someone who has been detained or deported. “And 60 percent of Latinos who are registered voters know someone who is undocumented. In more than half of those cases, that person is a relative of theirs.”

Segura noted that “86 percent of all U.S. Latinos are within two generations of the immigration experience. So when you talk badly about immigrants, you are talking about members of my immediate family.”

‘Day of Remembrance’ Blends History and Activism Panel at UCLA Luskin marks 75 years since Japanese American internment camps by advocating resistance to modern-day efforts that target immigrant populations

By Les Dunseith

Marking the passage of 75 years since a presidential executive order that led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs hosted a panel discussion on Feb. 23, 2017, that took place at a time when many U.S. citizens believe history is in danger of repeating itself.

The session was opened by moderator Lisa Hasegawa, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow and one of two alumnae who are activists-in-residence on campus for the winter quarter. She told of her Japanese American family’s experience of being unjustly forced into internment camps in 1942. Hasegawa likened that long-ago situation to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that sought to bar entry into the United States by immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“All of us in different generations are trying to figure out how we learn the lessons from the past and figure out how we activate those lessons in our daily lives,” Hasegawa said of the correlation between these two historic and controversial presidential actions.

The desire for activism amid a political climate that many people find fearful was a dominant theme of the panel discussion, which included five activists and filmmakers. Several showed clips from documentary films and other video projects that they have helped create in response to the Trump administration and its efforts that seem to target minority populations, particularly Muslim Americans.

“When Trump got elected, it was definitely very devastating to the Muslim community. I think we were all in shock,” said panelist Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07, who co-hosts a popular podcast titled “#GoodMuslimBadMuslim.”

But Ahmed has since been heartened by the showings of support that have taken place at protest marches and rallies around the country, including a sit-in at LAX that united various ethnic communities in opposition to the immigration ban.

“It is super-powerful as a Muslim to go into these spaces and to see non-Muslim people of color coming together in solidarity,” Ahmed said.

The mass protests in January at Los Angeles International Airport were also the subject of a “rough cut” clip for a documentary film shown by panelist Tani Ikeda, a filmmaker and member of imMEDIAte Justice. Her video focuses on two women (one Muslim, one Japanese American) from a grassroots solidarity group known as Vigilant Love that helped organized the resistance effort at LAX.

Ikeda said her father, who had been incarcerated as a draft resister when he was young, inspired her involvement in political activism and her pursuit of filmmaking as a career. Ikeda said she struggled with frustrations about societal and educational hurdles related to her minority status when she was young, but her father advised her to find strength, not despair, in those moments.

“Everything that makes you different is what gives you this unique perspective on the world, and that’s so needed,” Ikeda said her father told her. “So start making art.”

Also joining the panel, which was sponsored by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, was Sasha W. from the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. She seeks to “redefine security” by helping more people understand why many U.S. residents, especially those at the margins of society, don’t always feel safe.

For example, she was recently involved in a project in which average U.S. citizens were approached on the streets under the pretext of an opinion survey, but then were asked the sorts of questions that someone being racially profiled would hear.

Two other filmmakers also joined the panel discussion. The team of Mustafa Rony Zona and Koji Steven Sakai are working together on a documentary about the experiences of a young Muslim girl and her mother who recently relocated from Syria to Los Angeles. And they are in the development stage of a feature film about what might happen if new terrorist attacks sparked a modern-day effort to round up Muslim Americans in a manner similar to what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.

They hope to make a film that would lead people to recognize the parallels of the internment of Japanese Americans 75 years ago and anti-immigration efforts today.

“Today it’s Muslim Americans, Arab Americans. But tomorrow we don’t know who it is,” Sakai said. “It’s not about Muslim Americans; it’s not about any other group. It’s not even about Japanese Americans. It’s just making sure it doesn’t happen to anybody, ever again.”

Language, Power and What Resistance Looks Like Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs co-sponsors talk by UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler

By Stan Paul

“We are the people. The mighty, mighty people. Fighting for justice and liberation …”

Signs and songs preceded the talk at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Photo by Aaron Julian

Signs and song — the trappings of traditional protest — served as prelude to a talk by UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler at a gathering titled, “This is What Resistance Looks Like,” on Feb. 15, 2017, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

For Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at Berkeley, contemporary resistance in a time of “shared uncertainty” may not look exactly like your parent’s or grandparent’s form of protest.

“The de-politicized public needs to be re-politicized,” she said, arguing that “the people have to consent … and have the power to withdraw consent.”

Citing the recent presidential election’s low overall voter turnout, Butler emphasized the importance of figuring out how to “bring the non-voter back into politics.” For her it raised further questions such as, “Who are the people and what is the popular will?”

Butler, who is active in human rights issues, as well as gender and sexual politics, also joined a panel of scholars to provide her “thoughts in progress” about the possible forms that resistance might take in a new political era.

In pondering this, Butler said traditional protests and the presence of large crowds in the streets — such as during the January Women’s March on Washington — may continue, but resistance may also come from unexpected places. “We will have to fight for a very strong freedom of the press,” she said, noting that news media have been under attack from the new president.

UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler spoke about the resistance movement and recent political events. Photo by Les Dunseith

“Opposition is one term that suggests that our political structures are basically intact,” she said. “Now we’re in some different kind of trouble. The fear we have, I think, is that we’re actually fighting now for the conditions in which oppositional parties and movements still make sense. … That’s why the name of this fight has to be resistance.”

The other panelists who joined Butler after her talk are all members of a UCLA faculty group known as RAVE (Resistance Against Violence Through Education): Gil Hochberg, professor of comparative literature and gender studies at UCLA; Laure Murat, director of the Center for European and Russian Studies at UCLA and professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies; and Ananya Roy, professor of social welfare and urban planning and director of the Institute for Inequality and Democracy at the Luskin School.

“Authoritarianism finds its home in language but has not yet found itself in law and policy,” Roy said. “How should we think about the ways in which we have already, in these first few moments, come to rely on the law or come to rely on the lack of accomplishment of authoritarian power in law and policy? It’s a broad question.”

 

A Case of Arrested Development UCLA faculty members join the discussion on an upcoming city ballot measure that could block big development projects in Los Angeles for two years

By Zev Hurwitz

The merits of an upcoming ballot initiative, Measure S, that would mean big changes for big development projects in the city brought together a panel of UCLA faculty members.

If passed by voters in March 2017, Measure S would impose a temporary moratorium on development projects that require changes to zoning, land use and building height laws in Los Angeles. In addition, the measure would restrict other changes and impose mandatory review procedures to the Los Angeles General Plan, while preventing project applicants from conducting their own Environmental Impact Reports (EIR).

“If you’re a developer and you want to do some affordable housing … it would be informally discouraged in wealthier areas,” said Joan Ling, a longtime lecturer in the UCLA Luskin Department of Urban Planning. “There’s a lot of talk about reforming land use laws in L.A., but there’s very little desire for actual results because the councilmembers want control of what gets built and that is tied to election campaign fundraising.”

In addition to Ling, the panel, which was produced by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studiesincluded urban planning faculty members Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Manville. Jonathan Zasloff, a professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, also joined the conversation, which was moderated by Rosslyn “Beth” Hummer, the chair of the Land Use Planning and Environmental Subcommittee of the Real Property Section of the L.A. County Bar Association.

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, introduced the panel and gave background on the ballot measure. Most panelists oppose Measure S, he noted, but the goal of the forum was to forecast both electoral scenarios.

“Measure S is something that urban planners should be informed about,” he said to an audience comprised mostly of master’s students in UCLA Luskin’s program. “Our goal here is not to push you in any one direction. We’re hoping to provide you with the best possible projections for what might happen if Measure S is actually passed.”

Ling talked about the housing regulatory infrastructure in the city, the leadership of which includes a planning director designated by the mayor and the 15-member City Council. She described the zoning and development realities for what she referred to as Los Angeles’ three cities, “the rich areas, the very low-income areas and the transitional areas.”

Monkkonen discussed a recent White Paper he authored in which concerns of residential leaders about construction in California were voiced. He identified several major reasons why neighborhoods and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) leaders opposed big development projects.

“Some people have concerns about the built environment of their neighborhoods,” Monkkonen said. “They’re concerned about strains on services, their roads, their schools. They have anger at developers for being rich and seeming to get away with things.”

Zasloff noted that the movement to put Measure S and similar initiatives on the ballot is not uncommon for residents who want to maintain the status quo for housing in their neighborhoods.

“When you consider that the vast majority of wealth for many Americans is tied up in their house … many people are scared for what this is going to do to their property values,” he said. “It’s a real concern for people when they set financial expectations for themselves and aren’t sure where to go with them.”

Opponents of big development projects are often concerned about increases in traffic resulting from new population density. Manville said he thinks Measure S would provide little benefit regarding congestion, however.

“It ends up being a very small and uncertain reduction in traffic, played against a much more certain cost in housing prices,” Manville said.

The measure is opposed by the Los Angeles chapters of both the Democratic and Republican parties —giving it a rare bipartisan opposition.

Asked to name one positive that is coming out of the Measure S movement, Zasloff replied that the threat of ballot items similar to Measure S keeps pressure on local elected officials to be more involved with constituency planning.

“If there were a way to scare the bejesus out of City Council on a regular basis, that would probably be helpful,” he said.

The forum was co-sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and drew more than 50 students, faculty and community members. Additional resources, including a video, case law and information about other Measure S events, can be found here.

Luskin Lecture Peers Into Future of an Aging America AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins urges society to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population — and how society must change as a result

By Les Dunseith

The number of Americans age 85 and older now constitutes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

The second-fastest growing age group? Those age 100 and older.

The impact on society of increased longevity thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles was a centerpiece of a presentation by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series held Feb. 7, 2017.

Jenkins, whose bestselling book “Disrupt Aging” also served as the title for her lecture, talked about the necessity to rethink how we view the aging process in the years ahead.

“It’s not just about adding years to the end of life. It’s about changing the way we live throughout our lives,” Jenkins told a crowd of more than 200 people at Skirball Cultural Center. “Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. And yet we don’t see it that way. We often view it as a problem rather than an accomplishment.”

She urged the audience to think about a youngster they know today, perhaps a child or grandchild around 10 years old. Current research thinking predicts that child will have about a 50/50 chance of living to be 100.

She also noted that gerontology experts speculate that the first person who will live to be age 150 has already been born. “In this audience,” she joked, and the room erupted in laughter.

Her point, of course, is that increased longevity for a significant portion of the population not only impacts healthcare and public policy and the infrastructure of communities, but also the way people deal with the aging process and its impacts on their loved ones and themselves.

“The way people are aging is changing, but our attitudes and our stereotypes have not changed,” Jenkins said in an interview prior to the lecture. “I would like for us to be this ageless society. So that regardless of your age, you are judged on the quality of your mind and what you bring to the workplace, or what you bring into the environment. And that it’s not about being a particular age.”

Coping with the societal impact of the demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies and approaches are needed to successfully adjust to an aging population. “Older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has about 38 million members over age 50.

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins was also an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” Torres-Gil said in advance of the lecture. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA and its research, educational and planning capabilities. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

People at UCLA in fields of study such as medicine, gerontology, public policy and urban planning “have an enormous opportunity to rethink the course of life,” Jenkins said. “If we are going to live to be 100, how might that change the way we educate — not only the youth, but all of us — throughout the lifespan?”

California and Los Angeles, in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents, particularly those in minority populations.

In a question and answer session that followed the lecture and was moderated by Torres-Gil, he asked for Jenkins’ perspective on diversity given the fact that so many of those entering old age are from ethnic minority populations.

“We at AARP have a huge role to play in showing how nonprofit organizations ought to be community partners at the local level,” Jenkins responded. “Our goal at AARP is to be in your life every day, concerned about the issues that are important to you, not just necessarily about what’s important to AARP. And that absolutely includes diverse communities all across this country.”

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of rethinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of “Disrupt Aging.”

“We ought to accept our age and feel good about where we are in life,” Jenkins said. “Among our members, many of them are not retiring. They might be leaving a particular job, but it’s to do something different.”

Still, she noted, American society is obsessed with age. When people are asked what they are most likely to lie about, age is the top answer. “But what if we could eliminate our preoccupation with a number? For example, what if we decided that middle age started at 65? What would that do to your own preconceptions?” Jenkins asked.

“It’s not our own aging that we need to fight against,” Jenkins said during the lecture. “It’s the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate society and play such a huge role in our culture.”

She acknowledged that aging does create challenges that older Americans wrestle with every day. “As we get older, many of us find things that we have always taken for granted more difficult to achieve,” she said. “Our wants and our needs change, but our environment does not always adapt to address those changes.”

In her view, the capacity to deal successfully with that reality is an issue that impacts individuals, governments and businesses in equal measure. “We blame ourselves. Instead of changing our environment to fit our needs, we bemoan getting older,” she said.

Efforts by AARP and by researchers such as Loukaitou-Sideris seek ways to make communities more livable for an aging population. Jenkins cited a research example that focuses on the fact that many older people have trouble getting in and out of a car.

“We attribute it to the weakening of the leg muscles and the loss of sense of balance rather than considering the inadequacies of a car seat that does not swivel and allow us to emerge straight forward rather than trying to slide out of the car sideways,” Jenkins said. “Car seats were not made with a 75-year-old in mind.”

The idea of refocusing our thinking to better accommodate an aging population also applies to communities and housing. Today, more people are living into their 80s and 90s and want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

“Basic access should be built into the homes, just like wiring and plumbing,” Jenkins said. “Living in a community with services nearby and having a home that accommodates our needs are tremendous assets for those of us who want to age in place.”

Students’ Visits to Mexico Produce Real World Insights Urban Planning fieldwork course taught by UCLA Luskin's Paavo Monkkonen completes its study of housing crisis in Tijuana

By George Foulsham

UCLA scholar Paavo Monkkonen teaches classes covering housing policy, applied microeconomics, and global urban segregation, but much of his research focuses on Mexico. He has been working in Mexico – and in Tijuana – since 2003 and has served as a consultant to the Mexican government on housing policy issues.

So when Monkkonen, an associate professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, speaks about housing problems in Tijuana, people should probably pay attention.

“In the last 20 years, Mexico has built a lot of suburban housing and a lot of it’s empty,” Monkkonen said. “There is a major housing crisis right now.”

It’s also a teachable moment for this college professor, who created a course that took his students to Tijuana to examine the housing that federal policies have financed. The course provided the opportunity to offer real-world urban planning lessons to UCLA Luskin students.

“I had the idea of doing a case study of Tijuana’s housing system and how federal policy is played out in a local context,” Monkkonen said. “The course is different from many, though, because it’s a studio course that is a practice-based, problem-solving type of course. It’s not about me teaching; rather, I am working with students to actually do research and provide policy recommendations.”

The goal of the class, “Special Topics in Regional and International Development: Increasing Infill Development in Tijuana, Mexico,” was to determine how the institutions of Tijuana’s property market shape the implementation of the new federal urban policy designed to limit expansion and increase density in the central parts of Mexico’s cities.

With financial assistance from UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative and the Latin American Institute, Monkkonen put together the 2016 studio course in which students made two trips to Tijuana during the spring quarter.

“They were in five different groups, working on different aspects of the housing production system — infrastructure, planning, real estate development, the social culture around the consumption of housing, and formality,” Monkkonen said.

The students’ first visit to Tijuana included meetings with:

  • A representative of the government housing finance agency
  • A real estate broker who does consulting work for the government
  • A representative from a regional economic development consulting company, focused on industrial development
  • Local academics and graduate students

The students also did two site visits, including a tour of a new middle-class apartment building and of a new social-interest housing development.

“The focus of the class is the new federal policies that are trying to curtail sprawl and promote urban compact density,” Monkkonen said. “These policies were enacted in part because 30 percent of the new houses are empty. Despite the new message from the federal government to build more compact cities, they’re actually still building a lot of sprawl.”

The site visited by the students was a perfect example of the housing explosion in Tijuana. In an area that is miles from the edge of Tijuana, a developer is building about 50 houses per week, next to several developments full of abandoned houses.

“They have 5,000 built and the master plan of that company is to build 50,000 homes,” Monkkonen said. “The federal housing agency supports it, so it’s a strange system of bad decisions and government gone wild.”

Construction of new homes in Tijuana — and all over Mexico for that matter — is built on a system that encourages rampant development, Monkkonen said.

“Developers can make a lot of money building small, inexpensive houses in the urban periphery,” he said. “The vast majority — 70 percent — of housing finance comes from a federal government agency that operates like a pension fund, although the pension payout is very low. So every salaried worker has to pay into it, like a social security contribution, and then they are heavily pressured to get a mortgage. In many cases people use this mortgage even if they don’t want a house.”

The students also drove past two failed housing projects on the way back from Natura into Tijuana, developments of about 3,000 homes. “Some sections are half-built,” Monkkonen said. “There’s empty land, parts that are half-empty, covered in graffiti — not a nice environment, with a lot of trash around.”

It didn’t take long for the students to recognize the issues that led to two decades of overbuilding.

“The issue with Tijuana is that the institutions don’t really talk to each other,” said Katie Cettie, one of the students who authored the Real Estate Practice and Finance section of the report. “What the federal and the state do is very different from what actually happens at the city level. Everyone has their own agenda, so it’s really hard to get them to come together.”

Among the findings and recommendations in the recently released 131-page final report:

  • Local land use planning and development institutions are disconnected from federal housing policies.
  • Federal housing policies are designed more for the stimulation of the economy from the national perspective.
  • The flow of communication from local to federal and federal to local is unclear among agency employees, and the framework for this process is not well understood by officials or the public. The roles of federal, state and municipal agencies are largely distinct and lack effective coordination.
  • In Tijuana, the private sector has historically driven growth and economic development. Today, these actors continue to be overrepresented in the planning process.
  • The importance of political linkages and alliances at the local level continue to stifle the ability for sustainable urban development in Tijuana.

The Connection Between Poverty, Inequality and Firearm Violence UCLA Luskin’s Mark Kaplan explains how circumstances in U.S. urban centers go hand in hand with gun violence

By Stan Paul

A fatal gunshot wound. This is a slide that Mark Kaplan, professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, shows early in his presentation on gun violence.

As he recites annual gun death statistics in the United States, the vivid and unsettling scene serves as a backdrop.

“This might have been a suicide, this might have been a homicide; we’re not exactly sure. All I can tell you is that it was a fatal gunshot wound,” said Kaplan who spoke on “Poverty, Inequality and Firearm Violence,” Jan. 26, 2017 at the Luskin School as part of the Public Child Welfare Seminar series.

“The reason for putting this up is because quite often the discussion about guns is sanitized.” Kaplan explained, “We often treat the issue of gun violence as an abstraction but when you talk to people who are working in emergency departments, when you talk to coroners and medical centers, this is what people tell you. This is the net effect of guns.”

Across the nation, that net effect amounts to more than 33,000 similar scenes recorded each year on average, and more than 36,000 for 2015, Kaplan reported as the latest available data. What stands out for Kaplan is that two-thirds are suicides, his area of research. Kaplan, who holds adjunct appointments in psychiatry at the Oregon Health & Science University and in epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa, focuses on using population-wide data to understand suicide risk factors and firearm violence among vulnerable populations.

“So, the problem of gun violence in this country is primarily a suicide problem, less so a homicide problem,” said Kaplan to the audience, which included future social workers who are students in the master of social welfare (MSW) program. While recognizing the spike in gun deaths in cities such as Chicago – more than 50 in January in that city alone — Kaplan said that over the past 10-15 years there has been an overall national decline in the rate of gun deaths.

Kaplan said gun ownership in the U.S. is at more than 300 million and growing, and the death rate is only part of the story. He pointed out that for all of the recorded deaths by guns, there were more than 81,000 people – more than 200 per day – injured nationwide by guns in 2014.

“There are a lot of individuals who are shot, who survive, who wind up in emergency departments, are hospitalized and often disabled for life.”

A relationship exists between the high rate of guns and gun ownership and the number of homicides, suicides and injuries. Kaplan said that work is needed “on the ground” in America’s cities, such as limiting access to guns that would “go a long way to reducing some of the fatalities that we’re experiencing both in the homicide and suicide.”

He pointed to the work of one of his doctoral students that showed almost 90 percent of suicides involved guns in some parts of the country. California is an exception, according to Kaplan, who credited the state’s stringent gun control measures.

“California is an outlier. There aren’t many states like us,” he noted, suggesting that California could serve as a role model for the rest of the country. Unfortunately, two-thirds of states fall into the quadrant with both high rates of gun violence and lax restrictions on gun ownership, he said. “We are a gun-toting, gun-culture nation, and that’s going to make things a little bit challenging.”

The U.S. stands out among industrialized nations, Kaplan said. Gun homicides in the U.S. are 25 times higher than the average of other high-income countries. Factors such as poverty and inequality are contributing factors, he said.

“You all hear about poverty, but inequality is another measure of economic well-being. And there is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality,” said Kaplan, pointing out that countries that are most equal have the lowest rates of gun-related homicides.

In terms of race and ethnicity, Kaplan said that 77 percent of white gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, while less than 1 in 5 (19 percent) is a homicide. The figures are nearly opposite for African Americans, for which only 14 percent are suicides.

African American males in the 20-29 age group have the highest risk (89 per 100,000) in terms of the firearm homicide rate, a figure that is comparable with Honduras (90.4 murders per 100,000 people).

“In many ways we look like what some developing or Third World countries are experiencing,” Kaplan said.

Citing recent scholarship published by the Brookings Institution, he said that people who witness gun violence are also at increased risk for a variety mental health issues that can manifest as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, poor academic performance, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, delinquency and violent behavior – a “constellation of interconnected pathologies.”

Cities such as Los Angeles and New York have been stereotyped as “dangerous big cities,” Kaplan said, but both have benefitted from gun control measures. “Look how well we do in Los Angeles. New York is another place where the homicide rate has declined quite dramatically in the past 10-15, maybe 20, years.”

In contrast, Philadelphia today still has a high homicide rate, he said. And Texas, which has some of the least restrictive gun law on the books (with both Dallas and Houston appearing close to the bottom), has among the highest rates of gun deaths in the United States.

UCLA Luskin’s Mark Kaplan talks about a spike in gun violence in Chicago, a topic that has been much discussed by President Donald Trump and others. Photo by Stan Paul

Kaplan, who was born in Chicago, spoke about that city’s spike in murders in the past few years – nearly 300 shootings this January. One of Kaplan’s slides showed a recent tweet by President Trump about gun homicides in Chicago.

“We don’t know what [Trump] is going to do, but he is reacting to something legitimate” that is not occurring randomly, Kaplan said in reference to the accuracy of the numbers.

“You can approach this problem as a criminal justice problem … or approach it as a public health or social welfare or social justice problem, and that’s was missing in the discussion,” Kaplan said. Social inequality and income inequality are to some extent fueling the gun violence epidemic in Chicago, he noted.

Over the long term, however, little has really changed in Chicago, which has concentrated areas of poverty and racial segregation. Some areas are 90 percent African American. “Neighborhoods still look the same way as they did 10, 15, 20, maybe even 30, years ago. Chicago is a very divided city socio-economically,” Kaplan said.

The addition of guns increases violence. “The more guns, the more lethal the assault. When guns are absent, people are more likely to survive an assault,” said Kaplan. “If we could just tamp down the levels of gun ownership, that might – might – be the first step in trying to reduce the rate of gun violence.”

Compared to other leading causes of death in the U.S., the national investment in trying to understand and prevent gun deaths “pales by comparison” to what is spent on other causes of death and other major health problems, he said. A prohibition in the United States related to research on firearms doesn’t help.

“There is so much we need to know,” Kaplan said. “That’s what depresses me and keep me up at night.”

 

 

 

 

Message From the Dean UCLA Luskin joins University in supporting those impacted by an executive order that blocks citizens of seven nations from entering the United States

To the Luskin Family:

As you have no doubt heard, the President issued an executive order last Friday blocking citizens of seven nations from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days.  Parts of this order have been enjoined by the federal courts in New York and Virginia, but at this writing, the administration appears to be continuing to enforce the order, in its entirety or in parts, at several ports of entry into the U.S.

The University is recommending to anyone holding a visa or who are lawful permanent residents but who hail from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Syria not to leave the United States until this matter is resolved. 

The President of the University, in conjunction with all of the chancellors, has issued a statement of strong support for these students and colleagues, and for our longstanding principles of inclusion.  The Luskin School of Public Affairs stands with the UCLA Chancellor and Provost in their view that “the executive order directly challenges the core values and mission of universities to encourage the free exchange of scholars, knowledge and ideas.”

For those with questions about the evolving legal environment and its effects on students, please contact the Dashew Center, which is working tirelessly to stay up on events as they occur and to help inform students of their rights and their options.

Sincerely,

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean