Mukhija on Empowering Homeowners to Ease the Housing Crisis

Urban Planning Professor Vinit Mukhija argued for loosening restrictions on “granny flats” and other accessory dwelling units in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece co-authored with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). As a result of legislative reforms that went into effect in 2017, applications from homeowners who want to build basement apartments, backyard cottages, garage conversions or upstairs additions are up across the state. These units, just one element of a broader strategy needed to ease the state’s housing crunch, are “the low-hanging fruit for cities seeking a quick and inexpensive way to increase housing,” the authors wrote. They urged Californians to support Senate Bill 13, which would reduce fees levied on homeowners, loosen owner occupancy requirements and strengthen state oversight of local ordinances. In addition to relieving the housing crisis, the authors wrote, “homeowners can generate rental income that provides much-needed financial security, especially for seniors who may be house rich but cash poor.”


 

Cohen on Weighing the Benefit of Antidepressants

A Los Angeles Times column about the difficulty of coming off antidepressants quoted Social Welfare Professor David Cohen, whose research focuses on psychoactive drugs. The column noted that the number of Americans age 12 and over who use antidepressants has tripled over the last two decades. For some patients, ongoing treatment is the best option for a functional life. Others may opt to wean themselves from the drugs, which must be done with care to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. “Users themselves must decide about meds’ helpfulness in their own lives,” said Cohen, who is associate dean for research and faculty development at UCLA Luskin. Two recent studies by Cohen looked at clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry that appeared to misinterpret withdrawal symptoms as relapse, bolstering the case for staying on the medications and raising questions about the reliability of the trials.


 

Holloway Wins Grant to Merge Technology, LGBTQ Health

Ian Holloway, associate professor of social welfare, has received an Avenir Award of more than $2 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to advance his research into health interventions for LGBTQ communities. Holloway leads a UCLA team that is developing a social media tool designed to offer highly personalized health information to prevent substance abuse and HIV infection among gay men. Under a previous grant, the researchers built a library of nearly 12,000 data points made up of text phrases and emojis that correlate with offline health behaviors. Holloway’s Avenir Award will be used to create a machine-learning system that will monitor social media interactions with participants’ consent, then send customized health reminders and other alerts via an app. The team’s goal is to develop a wide-reaching and cost-effective tool to promote public health, said Holloway, director of the Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice at UCLA Luskin. The Avenir Awards, named for the French word for “future,” provide grants to early-stage researchers who propose highly innovative studies, particularly in the field of HIV and addiction.


 

Manville on East Coast Traffic Relief

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke with WGBH News in Boston about a proposal to add dedicated toll lanes on Massachusetts’ major highways. As the state considers options to alleviate traffic during rush hour, Gov. Charlie Baker has come out in support of adding “managed lanes” that let drivers choose whether to pay a fee for a quicker commute. “While drivers have a choice to commute in a faster lane for a cost, drivers who remain in the un-tolled lane will also experience lighter volume from those who peel off for the faster lane,” the governor explained. Manville said the benefits of creating such lanes are clear. “Almost anytime these managed lanes have been put in, you see traffic flowing much more smoothly, delay going down and many more vehicles being moved in these managed lanes. They are, at this point, a proven intervention,” he said.

A Spotlight on Park’s Research on Heat, Learning

PBS NewsHour took an in-depth look at Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research linking extreme heat and students’ ability to learn. Every 1-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average outdoor temperature over a school year reduces student learning by 1 percent, a team of researchers led by Park found. The team’s analysis of weather data, test scores for 10 million students, and access to air conditioning in classrooms across the country point to a “Dixie divide”: In hotter counties in Florida, Texas and other Southern states, test scores were lower than those in the North, even after controlling for factors such as family income, a county’s economic status or local pollution. “The causal effect of any given 90-degree day was much larger for lower-income students and racial minorities,” added Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation. The study puts a spotlight on the nuanced ways that developed nations will be influenced by global warming.

 

Wray-Lake on Planting Seeds of Political Engagement

Laura Wray-Lake, associate professor of social welfare, authored a blog post for the London School of Economics that highlighted her research on political behavior among U.S. youth. Affiliation with a major party has long been linked to heightened political engagement, she wrote, but in recent years young adults have been less likely to join a party. To analyze changes in youth political engagement, Wray-Lake and her research partners surveyed nearly 13,000 people — beginning at age 18 and continuing until they reached at least 30 — about behaviors such as voting, donating to a campaign, writing to public officials, and boycotting products or stores. They found that major political and social events from a person’s adolescence may be linked to his or her level of political activity throughout young adulthood. Given their potential for engagement, “it is remarkable that political parties appear to place such a low priority on recruiting or mobilizing young people,” Wray-Lake wrote.


 

Study Highlights Inequality for Families With Two Fathers

Same-sex male couples are losing out on paid parental leave when compared to both same-sex female and different-sex couples, according to research by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA. The study, newly published in the Journal of Social Policy, compared labor, social security and parental leave legislation in 34 countries. Same-sex male couples received leave on par with other couples in only four of the 33 countries with national paid parental leave programs, the researchers found. Only one of the countries — the United States — offered no national paid parental leave to new birth parents. “While we didn’t find any legislation that explicitly prohibits same-sex couples from receiving paid parental leave, the way policies are structured or worded can nevertheless stop them from claiming benefits,” lead researcher Elizabeth Wong said. Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, added, “Families benefit when all parents, regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation, can access paid leave to care for and bond with their children.” Heymann is a distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA. The research was highlighted in a Reuters news article.


 

Zepeda-Millán on O’Rourke’s ‘Last Effort to Stay Relevant’

Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy, spoke with the Houston Chronicle about a campaign strategy shift by Beto O’Rourke. Since the Aug. 3 mass shooting in his hometown El Paso by a man who warned of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the Democratic presidential hopeful has focused his message on racist violence, and held President Trump accountable for stoking it. This may be an attempt to jumpstart O’Rourke’s lagging campaign or set himself up as a vice presidential pick, some analysts said. “There’s nothing about him anymore that stands out,” Zepeda-Millán said. “He’s not a person of color, he’s not a woman, he’s not the most progressive candidate by far. He doesn’t have anything to set himself apart.” Zepeda- Millán concluded: “This is kind of a last effort to stay relevant.”


 

Matute on Monetization of Google Maps

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox Business about reports that Google Maps will soon launch advertising on the app — to the tune of $11 billion in annual revenues within four years, according to some estimates. The app has become so popular that its users are not expected to strongly object to the ads. “Google has developed a high-quality mapping product with a significant user base over the past two decades. That they haven’t fully monetized it sooner is the anomaly,” Matute said. Linking people with information about nearby businesses, services and events is a useful service, he added. Google has also announced plans to integrate bike riding, ridesharing and transit information into their maps. “Google Maps helps transit and commuters,” Matute said. “It provides them with easy-to-understand, actionable information in context, which can help them make informed travel decisions.”


 

Yaroslavsky on Labor-Tech Faceoff as a Campaign Barometer

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Associated Press about a faceoff between Big Labor and Big Tech that has become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary. Several major Democratic White House hopefuls have expressed support for a California bill backed by labor and opposed by tech giants such as Uber and Lyft, the article said. The bill would make it harder for tech companies to classify workers as independent contractors, who are not entitled to minimum wage or workers’ compensation. “It says something about where the candidates think the primary voters are on this issue,” Yaroslavsky said. They “may believe that labor can be more helpful to them than the high-tech companies can be to them in a caucus state or a primary.”