Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to CalMatters for a story about a California housing crisis mystery: There has been a major run-up in rents, and delinquent payments are the most common reason a landlord sues to remove tenants from their property. Yet the state has seen an unexpected decline in eviction filings. The article cited Lens’ research into what made one Southern California neighborhood more likely than another to see landlords initiate formal evictions, with surprising findings on the impact of gentrification. “The conventional wisdom is that landlords will be more aggressive in trying to push people out … when they think they can get somebody who will pay more,” Lens said. “But that’s not what we find, on the court side of things.” Instead the factors that had a strong correlation with eviction filings were whether a neighborhood was very poor or was largely African American, Lens found.
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about a decline in driving across the United States. The average number of miles driven per person has declined since its peak in 2004, the report said, citing migration to dense urban areas; young adults’ preference to use alternate modes of transportation; more online working, shopping and streaming; and a growing population of retirees who no longer commute to jobs. The trend is a break from the past, when the country’s driving pattern moved in sync with the economy, with people driving more when times were good. “In the midst of a fairly substantial economic recovery between 2009 and 2017, we’re seeing a decline in person trip-making, which suggests that something pretty fundamental is going on here,” Taylor said.
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, wrote an article for The Nation about California’s raging wildfires, the deadly stakes of global warming and a key aspect of the crisis that has not captured headlines: “Yes, climate change intensifies the fires — but the ways in which we plan and develop our cities makes them even more destructive,” Goh argued. Private homeownership, a key part of the American Dream for generations, is an ideal that has blinded us to safer and more sustainable priorities, she wrote. She called for new urban designs that protect whole communities, including their most vulnerable members, rather than individual lots. “Given the scope and scale of the climate crisis, it is shocking that we are being presented with so few serious, comprehensive alternatives for how to live,” Goh wrote. “We need another kind of escape route — away from our ideologies of ownership and property, and toward more collective, healthy and just cities.”
The New York Times spoke with public policy lecturer Jim Newton for an article about California’s socioeconomic conundrum: The state has a thriving $3-trillion economy with record low unemployment, but also has a pernicious housing and homelessness problem and faces a future of ever-worsening wildfires. California’s biggest cities, plagued by traffic and trash, have gone from the places other regions tried to emulate to the places they’re terrified of becoming, the article noted, adding that the state has lost more than 1 million residents to other states since 2006. “What’s happening in California right now is a warning shot to the rest of the country,” Newton said. “It’s a warning about income inequality and suburban sprawl, and how those intersect with quality of life and climate change.”
The New York Times spoke to Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson for a story about House Democrats’ focus on rising prescription drug costs in their reelection campaigns. Democrats, particularly those in districts that flipped from red to blue in the 2018 midterm elections, are betting heavily that they have solidified an image as protectors of affordable health care, the story noted. “The Republican efforts at ‘repeal and replace’ ironically highlighted the protections in the [Affordable Care Act] that would be lost and generated more public support for the law than at any time since its passage,” Peterson said. “Now more attention has turned to the other live issue that remains, that has largely always been present and that the A.C.A. has done little to forestall, and in some cases is perceived to have made even worse: out-of-pocket healthcare costs for individuals and families.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, assessed the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Los Angeles in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had “more of an opportunity to display her capabilities on the stage, and I thought she did extremely well,” Yaroslavsky said. “She had the most to gain by having this kind of a night.” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held his own in a sparring match with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions from wealthy donors. And “Andrew Yang is still somebody who’s connecting with people, though it’s not showing up in the polls,” Yaroslavsky said. He also said former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading national polls but lagging in Iowa, had a strong showing. “What he needed tonight was to stop the erosion and create a sense of ascendancy, and I think he may have started that process tonight,” Yaroslavsky said.
Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, shared her views on the renewal of civic engagement in troubled times as part of the “55 Voices for Democracy” series presented by the Thomas Mann House. “It is no stretch to argue that the problem of the 21st century is the enduring problem of the color line,” Roy said. She argued, however, that amid vast income inequality and racial division, freedom dreams thrive, powered not by elite institutions but by grassroots activism and poor-people’s movements. Roy cited several examples: in the face of institutionalized white supremacy, a robust national discussion about black reparations; amid skyrocketing student debt, growing political interest in free college for all; as thousands of men and women live on the streets, calls for an ambitious public housing program and national rent control. “Radical democracy is demanded and created anew at each historical conjuncture, including this one,” Roy said.
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Curbed LA about a proposal to eliminate fares for public transportation in Los Angeles County. Offering free rides on buses and trains would get cars off the road, build ridership and reduce carbon emissions, proponents say. Taylor noted that it would be difficult to predict how the program would impact the whole system — particularly its capacity to handle increased rush-hour ridership — without trying it out. Curbed LA also cited research on free fares conducted by urban planning doctoral student Teo Wickland, who worked on the California Statewide Transit Strategic Plan. Wickland noted that eliminating fares would speed up bus service, where the boarding process is slowed every time riders struggle to find their fare card or come up with exact change.
Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the Orange County Register about the prospect of converting carpool lanes to toll lanes on Orange County freeways. Seventy-seven percent of Orange County carpool lanes don’t meet the federal law’s requirement to move at a speed of 45 mph or faster. Turning carpool lanes into toll lanes would help unclog the flow of traffic because drivers willing to pay for access would move out of the general-purpose lanes, Wachs explained. “In every case, the facility is carrying more people than it would have had the lane either been not tolled at all, or remained a high-occupancy-vehicle lane alone.”
Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and professor of urban planning, spoke to WalletHub about affordable car insurance in California. Studies have shown that drivers from minority neighborhoods have higher insurance rates than other households, and Blumenberg advised states to regulate insurance companies to minimize such disparities. She also encouraged a transparent system of rate-setting that limits the use of factors not linked to driving safety, such as occupation, education and credit score. Blumenberg also pointed out that many drivers have difficulty understanding the full costs of owning a car, such as out-of-pocket expenses as well as congestion, environmental harms and other social costs. But she noted, “If access to a car increases employment outcomes (as many studies show), then the benefits of having a car must be weighed against the costs.”