Manville on Improving Communities by Pricing Roads

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville spoke to Innovation Hub about the dim chances that traffic congestion will improve post-pandemic. Empty roads invite more drivers to use them, he said. And even if more employees work from home, they’ll still use the roadways to satisfy the craving for human connection after a year of quarantine. Offering a one-sentence summary of congestion — “because we’re all in a hurry, we all slow each other down” — Manville argued that the best strategy for managing traffic is charging drivers to use the roads, just as governments charge for utilities. Higher prices during peak traffic hours would help keep traffic moving at a consistent speed, and revenue could be used to keep the system equitable for people who must drive but cannot afford the fees. Manville also noted that reducing congestion would benefit the often low-income neighborhoods that line highways, which are currently inundated with pollutants from nearby traffic.

Roy on the Roots of L.A.’s Housing ‘Disaster’

Ananya Roy, director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, appeared in an Al Jazeera English documentary about Los Angeles’ crisis levels of housing insecurity, which grew starker during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With stay-at-home orders came a public realization about who could stay at home,” Roy said. “And I think one of the things that’s become very evident in the United States is the failure at all scales of government to protect communities and households that are vulnerable.” The film follows homeless families who take great risks by moving into vacant houses and highlights the work of advocacy groups including the Reclaimers, Moms 4 Housing and the Los Angeles Community Action Network. A fast-growing rent-wage gap has deepened the crisis, Roy said. “Housing has become a commodity, by which I mean that what matters is not whether people are housed or not. What matters is the profits to be made on housing that is traded in the marketplace.” 

Yaroslavsky on COVID-19’s Stark Lines of Inequity

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Spectrum News’ “Inside the Issues” about this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, which offered a deep dive into the impacts of COVID-19 on Los Angeles County’s residents. “There are two Los Angeleses,” Yaroslavsky said. “There are the people who are doing well, who are making it. … And then there are those who are struggling, who are living on the margins of the economy and are always feeling one step away from oblivion.” The index included the surprising finding that Latino residents were more positive about their overall quality of life than white residents. Yaroslavsky said this may be because white people on average had higher incomes and more to lose during this pandemic, despite their greater privilege overall. Latinos faced tough challenges but “they worked their way through it, and they are much more optimistic about getting ahead in Los Angeles,” he said.

Ong Featured in APA Tribute to Groundbreaking Urbanists

Paul Ong

The American Planning Association (APA) featured the work of UCLA Luskin Research Professor Paul Ong in a tribute to Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who have shaped the nation’s history and communities. Ong, director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, was one of 12 planners, architects, historians and community organizers who have “influenced our built environment, fought for historical and cultural preservation, and championed social justice to help make great communities for all,” the association’s Planning magazine said. Ong joins a list including modernist architect I.M. Pei, statesman Norman Mineta, Vietnam Wall designer Maya Lin and racial justice attorney Manjusha Kulkarni, who co-founded the hate crime reporting center Stop AAPI Hate. As a UCLA researcher and educator, Ong has specialized in urban planning, social welfare and Asian American studies, with a focus on labor, environmental justice and immigration. Over the past year, Ong has examined the direct and indirect impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on people and communities as part of the COVID-19 Equity Research Initiative at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The initiative focuses on systemic racial and class inequalities with the goal of developing insights that will lead to a just and fair recovery. The APA said its list of honorees, compiled in consultation with Asian American Studies scholars, is “intended to shine a spotlight on the many ways that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have built careers in service of their communities, especially in the face of adversity.”

Astor on Protecting Children as They Return to Classroom

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor spoke to K-12 Dive about concerns surrounding the safety and well-being of students as they return to the classroom following a year of living through COVID-19. In addition to pandemic-related stressors, students have witnessed enormous racial and political upheaval, creating “a swirl of different variables that make me really worried,” Astor said. “Kids are coming in with suitcases of really horrible experiences.” Bracing for an increase in threats of violence and self-harm, many school administrators have prioritized physical and mental health rather than nosediving into academic recovery. Astor called on principals to create a welcoming place for students and a supportive environment for teachers. “At least for this year, the next year and the year after, our school is not only about academic achievement,” he said. “We are going to go out of our way to [build] social-emotional friendships, so that our school becomes the ideal of what we hope society to be.” 

Yaroslavsky Urges Action to Uplift the Most Vulnerable

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about findings from the 2021 UCLA Quality of Life Index. The annual survey of Los Angeles County residents showed that 40% suffered a drop in income over the last year as the region was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Those are the people who are pessimistic, those are the people who are threatened with losing their apartments because they can’t make their rent payment at the end of the month,” said Yaroslavsky, who called on policymakers to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable. As one example, he noted that office space vacated as businesses downsize after the pandemic is “going to have huge implications for land use.” He asked, “What do you do with that empty office space? Can you repurpose it for housing, for example?” Several media outlets covered the Quality of Life Index, including the Los Angeles Times, KABC7 News and RealClear Politics.

Umemoto on Coalitions Emerging From Firestorm of Racism

Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto spoke to the Los Angeles Times and the podcast Then & Now about the dramatic rise in attacks on Asian Americans. Umemoto called the violence a “shadow epidemic,” stoked by former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. “Trump’s role in exacerbating and igniting this firestorm can’t be denied,” she told the L.A. Times. But she also pointed to a new era of coalition-building among communities of color long targeted by a culture steeped in white supremacy. “One of Trump’s legacies is sparking more activism and more acts of solidarity across many groups who became victim of many of his policies and rhetoric,” she told the podcast, produced by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. To tackle structural racism at its roots, Umemoto called for educating schoolchildren about the history and contributions of Asian Americans so that they are no longer considered the “perpetual foreigner.”

Luskin Summit 2021 Closes With a Call to Action

Zev Yaroslavsky

The UCLA Luskin Summit concluded its 2021 season with a session delving into the sixth annual UCLA Quality of Life Index, a comprehensive look at residents’ satisfaction with life in Los Angeles County. Zev Yaroslavsky, who oversees the index as director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, led summit attendees through the most striking findings of the countywide survey, which was conducted in March. This year’s index put a spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic’s harsh impact on household income, children’s education and confidence about the future. “What this survey has once again exposed is the two Los Angeleses that we have, the disparities by income, by race, by ethnicity, by age,” Yaroslavsky said. “And it’s not sustainable.” He called on policymakers to “focus on the people who don’t have the capacity to weather a storm like this” but acknowledged that the complex issues do not lend themselves to simple solutions or talking points. During the session, ABC7 News reporter Adrienne Alpert presented questions from the virtual audience on topics including rising fears of violent crime, a notable increase in civic engagement and the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. The April 19 webinar was the last of nine Luskin Summit sessions exploring pressing public policy issues under the banner “Called to Action.” The series began in January with a keynote address by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; other sessions focused on issues such as housing insecurity, access to parks, sexual health, public transit and the numerous effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Roy on Need for Bold Policy Solutions for L.A.’s Housing Crisis

Ananya Roy, director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, spoke to KPFK’s “Living in the USA” program about Los Angeles’ crisis levels of housing insecurity. Roy protested the Los Angeles Police Department’s recent dismantling of a homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake. The action violated CDC guidelines calling for a halt to evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as international housing standards and protocols set forth by the United Nations, she said during the broadcast, beginning at minute 23. Roy called on Los Angeles’ leaders to take bold steps to tackle the crisis, including canceling rental debt and providing stigma-free social housing. “Not only do we have 70,000 people who are unhoused, we know that when the eviction courts reopen later this year, which they will, thousands more will be evicted and there is no place for them to go,” Roy said. “What, then, is that policy vision? What is the plan?” 


Yaroslavsky on Impending Closure of Ralph’s Market

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the impending closure of a Ralph’s grocery store that serves a large Jewish community. The Pico-Robertson market, which has an extensive kosher section, is scheduled to close in May after the Los Angeles City Council voted to require large grocery stores to pay workers an extra $5 an hour for about four months as compensation for working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pending shutdown has sparked fierce debates on social media over who is to blame: parent company Kroger or city politicians. “It’s unusual for a business to pull out and just selectively pull out,” said Yaroslavsky, a former city councilman and county supervisor in Los Angeles. “They’re walking away from a community that’s been loyal to them.” The article also cited Zev Hurwitz MPP ’18, who started an online petition to keep the Westside market open.