UCLA Luskin Community Scholars Project Named National Award Winner Students’ study of the distribution of goods in the L.A. area receives American Planning Association’s 2017 professional institute award for applied research

By Stan Paul

UCLA Luskin’s Dylan Sittig, right, accepts the award at the National Planning Conference from Glenn Larson, president of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Each year since 1991, scholars and students from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have worked together with community stakeholders to focus on timely and important Los Angeles regional issues and publish their findings and recommendations.

For their 2015-16 study of the distribution of goods in Southern California, the Community Scholars, a joint initiative of the Luskin School’s Department of Urban Planning and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, has received national recognition in the applied research category from the American Planning Association’s (APA) professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Chosen from a competitive nationwide field of candidates, the project, “Delivering the Good: Strategic Interventions Toward a Just & Sustainable Logistics System in Southern California,” is one of just two projects receiving the AICP award for applied research. UCLA shares the award with the University of Virginia.

“The enthusiasm of the students not only resulted in this excellent final report, but just recently they became involved in contributing to comments on the Clean Air Action Plan,” said Goetz Wolff, an urban planning faculty adviser for the project who has been a part of the program since its founding. Community Scholars also was recently recognized for its 25 years of commitment and service to the community with UCLA’s 2016 Community Program of the Year honor, the Landmark Award.

To ensure the needed breadth of knowledge that the topic of sustainable goods movement required, Wolff said, students — all candidates for the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree in 2016 — were selected from several of the Urban Planning areas of concentration: economic development, transportation and environmental planning. The winning project was focused on the movement and distribution of goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and its disproportional negative impact on local communities, labor and the environment.

“The combination of perspectives and skills resulted in a powerful mix with our community scholars,” Wolff said. The program expanded its knowledge base by bringing aboard Linda Delp, who heads UCLA’s Labor and Occupational Safety and Health program, as a co-instructor.

As part of their research, the students went on several field trips, including a bus tour of the Alameda Corridor, a boat tour of the Port of Los Angeles and a tour of the massive Costco distribution center in the Inland Empire, Wolff said. Teo Wickland, a Ph.D. student in urban planning at Luskin, and Katy McNamara, a doctoral candidate in environmental health sciences at UCLA, served as teaching assistants for the course, which also serves as the capstone project for Luskin MURP students.

In addition, at the Community Scholars weekly meetings held at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, the group heard from experts, organizations and activists concerned about the impact and future of goods movement in the region. “The participants from community organizations also brought their values and environmental, community, labor union and institutional experiences so that we had shared learning and research,” Wolff said.

Student team members who participated in the project were Adriana Quiquivix, Ariana Vito, Diana Benitez, Dylan Sittig, Edber Macedo, Evan Moorman, Gabriel Gutierrez, Kate Bridges, Lindsey Jagoe, Meghmik Babakhanian, Michael Barrita-Diaz, Saly Heng, Sam Appel and Stephanie Tsai.

Bio information on 2016 Community Scholars team may be found in the full report.

The winners of the 2017 awards will be recognized May 9 at the APA/AICP Annual Meeting and Leadership Honors event held in conjunction with the 2017 National Planning Conference in New York, N.Y.

A full list of winners is available here.

A Landmark Honor for UCLA Luskin’s Community Scholars Urban Planning project recognized as 2016 UCLA Community Program of the Year for impact on Los Angeles

By Stan Paul

For more than a quarter-century, a unique UCLA community outreach experiment has brought UCLA Urban Planning students, faculty and community stakeholders together to focus on jobs, wages, workers and many other important Los Angeles issues.

The Community Scholars — a joint initiative of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education — began with the first evening class in 1991.

“The very first class was a totally an experiment,” said UCLA Urban Planning instructor Gilda Haas. Haas and Urban Planning lecturer Goetz Wolff continue to teach in the program, and both have been a part of Community Scholars from the beginning.

Haas said it began with conversations on rethinking economic development in Los Angeles and “how the university could be more helpful to the community.”

Community Scholars has won the Landmark Award as the 2016 UCLA Community Program of the Year, an award recognizing UCLA programs that have made a significant impact in the communities they serve throughout many years of service.

Keith Parker, assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said that Community Scholars was selected because of the “longstanding commitment to economic and environment sustainability and the work of labor, community organizations in greater Los Angeles over 26 years.”

The Community Scholars program serves as part of a capstone project for 15-25 master of urban and regional studies (MURP) students each year. And, while the yearly two-quarter research seminar serves as a graduation requirement for the students, the program also recognizes the role the community plays in shaping development policy in L.A.

Past Community Scholars project topics have included manufacturing, banking, Walmart, home-care workers, immigration, green-collar jobs and the right to health in South Los Angeles. Although looking at industries in L.A., at their core, these topics focus on the human dimension and are “concerned about working people,” Haas said. For example, the project for the first year was Accidental Tourism, and it focused on the hotel and restaurant industry, specifically unions and workers.

The most recent project was dedicated to longtime Urban Planning professor Jacqueline Leavitt, who had served as the director of the Community Scholars program since 1999 until she passed away in November 2015. The most recent report was led by Goetz Wolff, “Delivering the Good: Strategic Interventions Toward a Just & Sustainable Logistics System in Southern California,” and served as the client project for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

“Delivering the Good” focused on the movement and distribution of goods, via the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the disproportional negative impact on local communities, labor and the environment.

As for future topics, Wolff said, “They bubble up, issues that arise in the community. They all look at what will it take to improve L.A.”

Haas said that a number of students who have participated in the program have gone on to become research staff for labor unions and community organizations.

“People learn to appreciate, listen to and communicate with others,” Haas said. “This is a good role for a university and students.”

The award was presented Oct. 13 at the annual UCLA in Downtown L.A. reception at Los Angeles City Hall.