Leap on LAPD Probe of Nipsey Hussle

The New York Times spoke with Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap about the Los Angeles Police Department’s criminal probe of rapper Nipsey Hussle. After Hussle was slain in March, city leaders praised him as an artist, peacemaker and hero of South Los Angeles. They did not mention that the city had opened an investigation into Hussle’s business enterprises to determine whether they were hubs of gang activity. Now, investigators are under pressure to back away from the probe, even as they see Hussle’s killing as a sign of the gang violence they were looking into. “I think this goes to the complexity of the problem of gangs, gang membership and gang congregating,” Leap said. “Someone can be a hero, someone may also have a past. Neighborhoods can want zealously to have public safety and public gathering places. But for better or worse, that may or may not include gang members.”


 

Cuff Comments on Miracle Mile Makeover

Dana Cuff, professor of architecture, urban design and urban planning, commented in a Los Angeles Times story on a number of new and updated cultural venues — including museums and a Metro Purple Line station — set to open in the early 2020s in the western portion of L.A.’s Miracle Mile. In anticipation of new development along Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, the article questions whether adequate planning has gone into the public space surrounding the new projects. “We have this museum district, but the stuff that holds everything together is the part we call the city, and that is the part that Los Angeles has never gotten right,” Cuff said. The founding director of cityLAB at UCLA added, “There is no there there. … There is no urban design that has been created for this chunk of Wilshire that will be one of the most pedestrian and populated parts of the city.”


 

L.A. Parking: How Did We Get Here?

When LAist set out to create a primer on the lightning-rod issue of L.A. parking — why it’s so exasperating, how we got here and where we are headed — it went straight to the experts at UCLA Luskin: Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies; Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning; and Associate Professor Michael Manville. As our reliance on cars grew in the years after World War II, minimum parking requirements were seen as essential, Matute said. Now, instead of too little parking in L.A., there is too much, Shoup argued. Some cities are relaxing parking requirements for new housing in high-density areas. After analyzing one such program, Manville found that it led to lower costs and more parking flexibility. The primer also cited Shoup’s book arguing that there is no such thing as free parking — the costs are just passed along to the entire community, including nondrivers.


 

Villasenor on ‘Deepfakes,’ Free Speech and the 2020 Race

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor narrated a short Atlantic video on the proliferation of “deepfakes,” videos and audio manipulated using sophisticated technology to convincingly present fiction as fact. Deepfakes are “engineered to further undermine our ability to decide what is true and what is not true,” he said. “We are crossing over into an era where we have to be skeptical of what we see on video.”  Villasenor, who studies the intersection of digital technology with public policy and the law, predicted that deepfakes will be used to deceive voters during the 2020 presidential campaign yet cautioned against aggressive laws to rein them in. While the technology could harm targeted individuals, the First Amendment protects free expression, including many forms of parody, he said. “As concerning as this technology is, I think it’s important not to rush a whole raft of new laws into place because we risk overcorrecting,” Villasenor said.


 

Tilly on Selective Use of Wage Statistics

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to FactCheck.org about presidential candidates’ selective use of statistics to describe U.S. wages as rising, sinking or flat. Different variables — including how to adjust for inflation and which base year to choose for comparison — can lead to different conclusions. President Trump has said that “wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders has said that “the average American today has not seen a nickel more in real wages than he or she got 45 years ago.” Tilly weighed in on Sen. Cory Booker’s claim that wages are at a 60-year low, a possible reference to wages as a percentage of gross domestic income — a measure of workers’ share of the economic pie. This is a different but legitimate way of looking at wages and salaries, Tilly said, noting that it reveals what workers are getting “relative to other kinds of income recipients in the economy.”


 

Too Much Parking ‘Poisons Our Cities,’ Shoup Says

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, shared his expertise on parking pitfalls and reforms in a wide-ranging conversation on the American Planning Association’s “People Behind the Plans” podcast. Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking” and editor of the recent “Parking and the City,” spoke of the long history of inequitable policies and made a case for “parking benefit districts,” which reinvest parking revenues directly into neighborhood improvements. Government-mandated minimum parking requirements for businesses are “a disease masquerading as a cure,” one that “poisons our cities with too much parking,” he said. Such policies have led to vast but vacant Home Depot lots and a six-story underground structure at Disney Hall that discourages Angelenos from stepping outside to create a vibrant urban landscape. Shoup concluded, “If you want more housing and less traffic, you shouldn’t limit the amount of housing at every site and require ample parking everywhere.”


 

Loukaitou-Sideris on Scooters and Sidewalk Wars

Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the Washington Post about the rancorous fight over sidewalk space in the age of electric scooters. Citing “Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space,” co-authored by Loukaitou-Sideris, the article noted that turf wars between “sidewalk-grabbers” have evolved since 2000 B.C. until the “scooter hell” of today. “But is it a hell made by scooters, or just made apparent by them?” the article’s author asks. “I see this conflict more as an outcome of bad decisions and bad design,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “Cities kept widening the streets and narrowing the sidewalks, and downgrading activities to accommodate only walking. … I don’t mean to say sometimes scooter drivers are not obnoxious. But I’d say it’s a less obnoxious use than cars.”


 

Shah on Health Benefits of Legal Sex Markets

Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah shared her insights and latest research about sex markets and public health on the podcast Probable Causation. In studies conducted in the U.S. and abroad, Shah has found that decriminalization of sex markets has led to a decline in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), rape and drug-related crime. In Indonesia, Shah and her research partners tracked sex workers and their clients in three towns, one of which had suddenly criminalized the trade. In the illegal sex market, STIs rose 60% after public health officials stopped providing free condoms and children of sex workers were more likely to have to work to support their families. Shah acknowledged that decriminalizing sex work is a complicated policy issue due to moral objections to placing a price on sex and the common belief that banning the trade will protect women. But “current empirical evidence points toward decriminalization,” Shah said.


 

Tilly on California Bill’s Impact on the Gig Economy

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke with The Information about legislation in California that would classify gig workers as employees rather than contractors. The article focuses on Jyve, a San Francisco-based staffing agency that pays by the job instead of the hour for temporary work such as restocking shelves and setting up displays inside grocery stores. While the bill in California is directed at ride-hailing companies, gig-based businesses such as Jyve could be affected. “If California does move forward with this, there is a decent chance at least some other states will follow suit,” said Tilly, who studies labor markets, inequality and urban development. That could be a threat to Jyve’s business model, which is “coming of age in a different regulatory environment at least in California and potentially in other states in years to come.”

Pay Heed to Housing Assessment, Monkkonen Urges

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, laid out the high stakes of an upcoming reassessment of the region’s housing needs in an editorial for Urbanize Los Angeles and a conversation on LA Podcast. California cities are required by law to increase housing stock to accommodate population growth, based on a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) conducted every eight years. In the past, the process has created anomalies like the “Beverly Hills loophole,” which allowed Beverly Hills to zone for just three housing units while the city of Imperial, with a smaller land area, half the population and lower income levels, was assigned 1,309 units. In the podcast, beginning at minute 54:40, Monkkonen explained RHNA’s history and next steps and spoke about the differing interpretations of “fairness” in allocating housing. He urged the public to engage with the Southern California Association of Governments to insist that the next round of assessments meet social and environmental goals.