Pandemic Highlights Deep Needs and a Big Price Tag, Newton Says

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton was featured in a New York Times article about the progressive initiatives put in place to help people bear the burden of the pandemic. As the country begins to reopen, the political left in California and across the country is arguing that normal wasn’t working. Many leaders hope that temporary measures – including the release of thousands of people from state jails and prisons, the elimination of cash bail for most crimes, makeshift shelters for homeless people, and providing children in rural areas with laptops for remote learning — will become durable solutions to long-standing problems of inequity. Newton highlighted “an abiding tension between accelerated momentum toward Democratic goals and a constrained ability to finance them.” He explained that “going back to a normal in which those problems just return doesn’t feel acceptable, particularly to the left.” The pandemic, he said, “both emphasizes the needs and highlights the big price tag.”


Dukakis on Strong Coronavirus Response in California

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, spoke with Politico about the strong COVID-19 response in place in California and Los Angeles. Dukakis praised Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their quick adoption of strict social distancing protocols. “You’ve got a tough governor, tough mayor — to their credit, in my opinion — and they’re not fooling around here,” he said. Dukakis added that he is concerned about President Trump’s push to reopen the economy while coronavirus cases continue to rise. “I don’t have a problem with gradually opening things up, but you better do it very, very carefully,” he said. Dukakis, who teaches at UCLA Luskin during the winter quarter, anticipates returning to Massachusetts soon. He remains at his Los Angeles home due to travel restrictions and to recover from a bout of pneumonia in March that was unrelated to the coronavirus.

Manville on Protecting Tenants from Eviction

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to HuffPost about the consequences renters will face when bans on evictions are eventually lifted. Many Americans may be evicted immediately, resulting in a significant increase in homelessness. Manville predicted that “thousands of newly homeless people and thousands of empty apartments will create a situation that benefits neither renters, landlords nor cities.” He explained that “individual landlords may be confident that if they evict tenants, they’ll be able to fill the vacant unit quickly. If a large number of landlords evict their tenants at the same time, however, there’s going to be too many empty apartments and not enough people with the savings to move into them.” According to Manville, “only the federal government has the power to keep this problem from spiraling.” He argued that all these problems can be avoided “by just letting people stay in their homes.”


Coronavirus Threatens Latino Homeownership, Diaz Says

A new Politico article included comments from Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, about the financial impact the pandemic is having on racial minorities and renters. Congressional relief has allowed homeowners to delay payments on federally guaranteed mortgages, but renters are much more vulnerable. Struggling tenants whose jobs have been wiped out and are unable to keep up on rent will face eviction as well as a major hit to their credit scores, hurting their ability to build wealth for years to come. “Latinos were the hardest hit of any racial ethnic group in terms of wealth loss during the Great Recession,” Diaz said. “Over the course of the last five years, Latinos have had targeted increases in their share of homeownership in the United States and in fact have been instrumental in increasing the national share of homeownership, [but] any recession associated with the coronavirus threatens that.”


Nelson Is Recognized During Women’s Conference in Bangladesh

Barbara Nelson, former dean of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA and professor emerita of public policy, social welfare, urban planning and political science, received recognition at the 2020 International Women’s Day Conference held at Dhaka University in Bangladesh in March for her award-winning 1994 study, “Women and Politics Worldwide.” Nelson co-edited the book with Najma Chowdhury, a professor in Women and Gender Studies at Dhaka whose lifetime achievements were also honored at the conference. They studied 43 countries and territories focusing on women’s political engagement in state organizations and civil society. In 1995, the book won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award for the best book on women and politics. Nelson’s 12-year tenure as dean ended in 2008. She was invited to speak in Bangladesh about the book and her collaboration with Chowdhury but was unable to attend because of travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Her address was delivered on her behalf at the conference.

On-the-Ground Guidance for L.A.’s Far-Reaching Climate Strategy University researchers and a robot named MaRTy complete first on-site test of city’s Cool Streets program

By Mary Braswell

Los Angeles’ ambitious plan to cool the city as the planet grows warmer is getting a boost from two university professors and a street-smart robot named MaRTy.

The researchers, from UCLA and Arizona State University, have completed the first on-site evaluation of the city’s Cool Streets program, one of several sustainability strategies outlined in Los Angeles’ 2019 Green New Deal.

By covering several blocks of road with a solar-reflective coating engineered to reduce surface temperatures, the city’s pilot program aims to test the cooling effects on an entire neighborhood. The researchers broadened the body of knowledge by collecting a sophisticated suite of measurements that simulate the experience of a pedestrian walking on the surface.

“Once you take things down to the street level, arguably you have to start thinking about the thermal load on people,” said V. Kelly Turner of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who collaborated with Ariane Middel of ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

The reflective coating aims to prevent asphalt from retaining heat, which contributes to the “urban heat island effect” that keeps cities from cooling down, even in the evening. But the study by Turner and Middel, newly published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reveals an unintended, ground-level effect: The paint’s highly reflective properties can actually elevate pedestrians’ exposure to heat.

Imagine a scene that has become increasingly common as Angelenos shelter in place: families taking neighborhood walks, often with a dog in tow. On a coated road, the dog might appreciate the cooler surface beneath its paws. But the dog walkers might feel an uptick in heat reflected off the ground.

City workers apply a cooling paint on roads in Pacoima

City workers apply a cooling paint on roads in Pacoima, part of Los Angeles’ strategy to combat climate change. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services

“From an urban planning perspective, this idea of cool pavements is really innovative. Cool streets may be great for mitigating the urban heat island, if that’s the goal,” said Turner, who noted that the widespread use of the reflective paint on roofs, roads and other surfaces can reduce the amount of heat absorbed in the built environment.

However, she added, “If the goal is framed in terms of a public health benefit, we need to know a bit more, since the reflected radiation increases the heat load on a pedestrian walking over the surface.”

Turner and Middel hope their initial findings will open the door to further research that will help the public and private sectors fine-tune their green initiatives. In addition to gathering more information about cooling paint’s impact on human comfort and health, future studies could answer questions about cost-effectiveness, maintenance needs and the tradeoff between daytime glare and nighttime visibility, they said.

Putting MaRTy into action

To collect their cool pavement data, Turner and Middel took MaRTy for a spin on the streets of two Los Angeles neighborhoods chosen for the pilot project.

The robot is “essentially a garden cart that has a lot of meteorological sensors attached to it,” said Middel, who created the tool at ASU’s SHaDE Lab to calculate “mean radiant temperature” — the data set that gives MaRTy his name.

In addition to measuring surface and air temperature, wind speed and humidity, the robot collects information on long- and short-wave radiation to determine mean radiant temperature, which is a reliable predictor of thermal comfort for humans. MaRTy is also nimble enough to trundle along sidewalks, ravines or other locations where a pedestrian might wander, setting him apart from measurement tools mounted on street vehicles.

On a day in July 2019 when air temperatures hit the high 80s, the research team walked the blocks of the two neighborhoods, in Pacoima and Sun Valley, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They found that the coated roadways were cooler to the touch, by as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with nearby untreated asphalt — meaning the paint successfully lowered surface temperature, as it was designed to.

However, Turner and Middel also discovered that mean radiant temperatures at midday were more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in a five-foot–high area above the cool surfaces, compared with asphalt. In the midafternoon, that number fell to about 3 degrees.

While Los Angeles’ Cool Streets program targets roads designed for cars rather than people, the study provides useful data for agencies considering the cooling paint for playgrounds or other pedestrian areas.

Turner and Middel say the findings will also inform their separate, ongoing study supporting California’s Transformative Climate Communities program, which invests in climate action at the local level. Both of the researchers’ projects were underwritten by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, where Turner is associate director of urban environment research.

Greg Spotts, chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Services, said he welcomes the on-the-ground findings produced by Turner, Middel and MaRTy and called for further study.

“By being the first municipality in California, and possibly the country, to deploy a cool pavement coating on a public street, we now have physical sites where researchers can do some of their work. Before, most of the research was based on computer modeling,” he said.

Spotts, who earned his master’s in public policy at UCLA Luskin in 2008, spearheaded the cool pavement project as one part of a multipronged strategy to combat climate change at the neighborhood level. To date, the Bureau of Street Services has planted trees, built shade structures and installed hydration stations, among other interventions.

Future research could explore how cool pavement works in combination with these complementary measures to reduce the overall heat island effect on a community scale while also increasing pedestrian thermal comfort at the street level.

Turner and Middel concurred that climate change must be tackled from multiple directions.

“There is not just one solution that’s going to solve all our problems,” Middel said. “We have to look at the benefits and tradeoffs of all the solutions we’re considering to come up with the best way to cool our cities.”

Newton Recommends Highlighting Biden’s Expertise

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on Joe Biden’s appeal as a presidential candidate with experience. Modern presidential candidates tend to identify either as “experts” or “authentics,” Newton said. He described candidates Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney as experts, well-versed in political issues but sometimes coming off as stiff and removed, while Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are authentics whose frankness also has an appeal. While Biden is accustomed to presenting himself as an “aw-shucks populist who appeals to working people,” Newton argued that he may be better off highlighting his expertise. “During a crisis of this magnitude, expertise is essential and authenticity seems superfluous,” he wrote. While Americans chose to vote for Trump during a time of economic prosperity, Newton predicted that the coming election will favor expertise. Emphasizing his experience on health and economic issues may help Biden beat Trump in November, Newton said.


LCI Experts on Drinking Water Crisis in the Antelope Valley

Gregory Pierce and Kyra Gmoser-Daskalakis of the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) co-authored an opinion piece in the Antelope Valley Times about drinking water problems in the Antelope Valley. The valley is home to about 5% of Los Angeles County residents but reports 80% of its major water quality problems, they wrote. Most of the area’s water systems are small, with limited financial resources and lack of technical and managerial expertise, making water quality and quantity problems more likely to occur. Pierce, associate director of LCI, and Gmoser-Daskalakis, associate project manager, warned that “as the climate continues to change, stresses on water systems will only increase.” They suggested extending the services of larger water systems that are performing well to places where smaller water providers are having trouble; increasing state funding to upgrade treatment facilities and capacity; and improving monitoring of small water systems by the county or state.


Leap on Police Role in Enforcement of Social Distancing

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to NBC News about accusations that police have targeted minorities more than white protesters for social distancing violations. For example, demonstrators outside the Otay Mesa Detention Facility on April 11, who were protesting conditions faced by detained immigrants, received citations for violating stay-at-home orders and “unlawful use of horn.” However, no citations or arrests were reported at predominantly white beach protests a week later in Encinitas and San Diego. Authorities in San Diego and Los Angeles have enforced stay-at-home orders by issuing a few citations to protest organizers after the agencies were criticized for allegedly unequal enforcement, the report said. According to Leap, the LAPD has shown restraint in its enforcement of social distancing regulations. “The community itself is enforcing stay-at-home,” she said. “The LAPD, thankfully, they have been working with communities, especially communities of color.”


Manville on Land-Use Rules Pricing Californians Out of Housing

The Cato Institute released a video featuring Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville discussing California land-use regulations as a key factor in the state’s housing crisis. In the video, part of the institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California, Manville argued that, while some limits on development are sensible, there is a certain point at which zoning “becomes an instrument for people who are currently in a neighborhood … to keep other people out.” According to Manville, inefficient land use and rising prices have pushed middle-class people out of neighborhoods, setting off a chain reaction that affects low-income people most. “We need to reform our land use so we can build a lot more housing,” he argued. “It’s true that there isn’t a lot of undeveloped land in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, but land can and should be redeveloped.”