Ananya Roy, founding director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, was interviewed by the Planning Report on her thoughts about Senate Bill 50, which would have addressed the housing affordability crisis in California through blanket upzoning. The institute’s research has identified some of the underlying causes of housing unaffordability and homelessness in Los Angeles and California, including the “displacement of working-class communities of color from urban cores to the far peripheries of urban life” and the “broad state-driven processes of displacement, racial exclusion and resegregation.” Roy stressed the importance of “[recognizing] that different social classes experience [the housing] crisis in different ways.” According to Roy, policies like SB50 “solve the housing crisis for the upper-middle class—particularly for the white, entitled YIMBY movement—by grabbing the land of those who are truly on the front lines of the housing crisis.”
SHAPIRO FELLOWS SHARE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE AT APPRECIATION LUNCH
UCLA Luskin’s Shapiro Fellows shared their impactful experiences and plans for the future at a lunch with Peter Shapiro, whose family has provided generous support to students from all three of the School’s graduate programs. UCLA alumni Ralph and Shirley Shapiro have maintained a lifelong commitment to helping the Bruin family. Their son Peter is president of the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, which supports organizations that advocate for the arts, education, environmental issues, religious causes, children’s health and human rights.
RECIPIENTS OF MONICA SALINAS FELLOWS MEET FOR LUNCH
Monica Salinas hosted recipients of her fellowship over lunch at her home in March. Established in 2005, the Monica Salinas Fellowship is awarded to students who have an interest in public policy issues affecting Latinos. Of particular interest are the contributions and achievements of the emerging Latino community as it plays an increasingly important role in our country’s social, economic, cultural and political life. The 2018-19 fellowship recipients are Gabriela Solis, a dual MPP and MSW student,
and Julio Mendez-Vargas, an undergraduate Political Science major and Public Affairs minor. The students, who are on track to graduate in June, have worked closely with the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.
PH.D. SUITE RECEIVES NEW COMPUTER LAB
Thanks to generous support from The Ahmanson Foundation, a newly modernized computer lab is nearing completion for doctoral students at UCLA Luskin. The project provided the perfect opportunity to redesign the old lab space and customize it to better fit the needs of our students. The refurbished lab is now equipped with brand-new computers, specialized software and upgraded furniture. Its open layout is conducive to students working individually or collaboratively. An adjoining office space was converted into a conference room to accommodate private meetings and has videoconferencing capability.
INAUGURAL ‘LUSKIN SUMMIT’ ADVOCATES FOR A LIVABLE L.A.
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs marked its 25th anniversary with the inaugural “Luskin Summit 2019: Livable L.A.” — made possible by support from sponsors Bank of America, the Los Angeles Rams, The California Endowment, Guidehouse, the Southern California Leadership Network and ABC7, which also served as the media partner. Leaders from government; business; academia; and the civic, nonprofit and philanthropic spheres gathered at the summit for a cross-sector conversation centered on the latest UCLA Luskin research. “We do hope you learned more about the great work at the Luskin School and that you’ll be our advocates out in the community, helping us make an even greater impact,” Dean Gary Segura told supporters at the close of the summit. “We ask that you become engaged with the Luskin School in a variety of ways: host students as interns or hire our graduates, fund summer internships or full-year fellowships, learn more about our faculty research and support it, and connect us with others who want to learn more about our great work and the progress we are leading.” Segura concluded, “Philanthropy truly makes our work possible and we have so much more we want do to.”
DUKAKIS MEETS WITH STUDENT FELLOWS
This spring, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis met recipients of the Michael S. Dukakis Internship award to hear about their experiences. Dukakis spearheaded this privately funded internship program to provide students with first-hand public service experience in government. As power shifts from Washington, D.C., to the state and local level, the need for talented public servants has never been greater. The internship program provides stipends for students serving in nonpartisan internships in government, with a special emphasis on California.
ESTOLANO LESAR ADVISORS ESTABLISH SUMMER INTERNSHIP AWARD
Luskin alumnae and business partners Cecilia Estolano and Jennifer LeSar established a summer internship award for deserving students in urban planning. Each summer, one graduate student will receive a stipend while developing professional skills working at a nonprofit organization that offers critical services in areas such as affordable housing, sustainability, transportation, land use, or workforce and economic development. The first recipient of the award was Michael Loper, a dual MURP and MPH candidate, who interned at the Los Angeles Food Policy Council last summer to help communities achieve food justice and social equity. Estolano LeSar Advisors invited Loper for lunch at their office in downtown L.A. to share his experience.
Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a KPCC Airtalk interview along with Gov. Gavin Newsom about the controversial SB50 upzoning proposal that was recently tabled. Ong agreed that “we need to move to denser, more efficient urban development” but pointed out the shortcomings of the trickle-down economic theory behind SB50. A “marginal increase in supply is not adequate,” he said, because housing will continue to be controlled by those with the “greatest demand and greatest income.” One of the biggest challenges is implementation, he added, noting that he wants to see greater protections for current tenants. Ong agreed that SB50 is a move forward that “makes development possible and levels the playing field” that has historically favored the privileged, but he stressed the importance of “listening to people’s fears about the uncertainty of change” and “collectively thinking about what is best for society as a whole.”
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky presented an in-depth look at the findings and methodology of the fourth annual UCLA Luskin Quality of Life survey on ABC 7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers program. After surveying Los Angeles County residents about their satisfaction in nine different categories, Yaroslavsky’s initiative found that cost of living continues to be the No. 1 concern for the fourth consecutive year. Young people, renters and people in low-income brackets are at the greatest risk of being harmed by high housing costs, he told ABC 7 host Adrienne Alpert. Yaroslavsky also weighed in on the SB50 upzoning proposal, which he described as a “one-size-fits-all approach that wouldn’t actually solve the affordable housing problem.” Yaroslavsky said his opposition to SB50 was echoed by the survey results, in which a majority of both homeowners and renters preferred to have new apartment building built in multi-family zones only.
Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the impact of Chinatown’s most popular restaurant, Howlin’ Rays. While Chinatown locals have struggled to stay afloat as office and housing costs rise, the Nashville-style hot fried chicken restaurant has attracted masses of Los Angeles locals and visitors since it opened in 2016, resulting in lines up to five hours long. Ong explained that new businesses like Howlin’ Rays attract a specific clientele, prompting increased investment and property development in Chinatown that alienates locals. After realizing that many locals didn’t have the time or money to try Howlin’ Rays, L.A. Times reporter Frank Shyong waited two hours in line to buy chicken to distribute to nearby business owners. “The biggest challenge is understanding how we all play a role in a much larger dynamic,” Ong remarked. “More broadly, we have to talk about what we want our cities to look like.”
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky was featured in the Los Angeles Times commenting on Senate Bill 50. According to census data, nearly two-thirds of California residences are single-family homes and between half and three-quarters of the developable land in much of the state is zoned for single-family housing only. Among other provisions, SB50 would allow duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes to be built on much of the residential land now zoned for only single-family houses. “When people around the world think of L.A., one of the things they think of is a home with a backyard,” Yaroslavsky said. “I think much of it should be preserved.” Doing away with single-family-only zoning would unalterably diminish California for current and future residents, he said.
Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, expressed his support for Senate Bill 50 in a Los Angeles Daily News article about the controversial bill. If passed, SB50 would override local restrictions against multi-family housing, allowing developers to construct larger buildings or condos near transportation hubs in a process known as upzoning. Many have expressed opposition to the bill, arguing that it would destroy neighborhoods without necessarily addressing housing affordability. Critics of SB50 argue that there is little empirical evidence to support the relationship between upzoning, increased construction and lower housing prices. Lens points to the long-standing trend of downzoning to protect single-family neighborhoods, arguing that “there is an absence of evidence mainly because we don’t have a lot of experience upzoning anything like this.” In defense of SB50, Lens explains that he “doesn’t believe it’s his right to guarantee that a building down the street isn’t multi-family housing.”
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, was quoted in an article from CityLab on a speculative proposal for sustainable living in the face of our rapidly changing climate. The futuristic solution involves high-tech cities that float atop the surface of the ocean and are aimed at total self-sufficiency in terms of food and energy production. The floating city is designed to provide permanent communities for those displaced by rising sea levels. Goh encouraged bold, utopian thinking but said this idea was unrealistic, mainly because these cities — while certainly a beautiful vision — could never provide enough homes for the several million people threatened with displacement. According to Goh, ideas like the floating city “are oftentimes posed as solving some big problem, when in many ways [they’re] an attempt to get away from the kinds of social and political realities of other places,” she said.
Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, was quoted in a San Diego Tribune article about two proposed tax hikes that would serve to fund a new and dramatically improved public transit system for the San Diego area. It is speculated that the success of the new transportation bill might not be entirely secure, mostly due to the amount of money that San Diegans would have to pay with the introduction of not one but two tax increases. Wachs said he thinks the bill would have increased success if it was limited to a single tax increase. Furthermore, officials must make clear to voters exactly what implications the bill and any subsequent tax increases would have, he said. “It’s pretty clear that voters need to have a relatively straightforward understanding of what is happening, and they will vote ‘no’ if they don’t understand what the measure is or they think another measure is coming soon,” he said.
By Naveen Agrawal
With Metro spending billions of dollars in Los Angeles over the next few years and transit-oriented development seen as key to denser building, encouraging ridership and mitigating environmental issues, the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies hosted a panel on Feb. 20, 2019, around the topic of coupling more housing to transit.
Held in partnership with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate as part of the Housing, Equity and Community Series, the event focused on some of the latest local and statewide developments. It featured a panel of professional and practicing experts moderated by Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin and associate director of the Lewis Center.
Framing the discussion was UCLA Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville, who shared results from a recently released Lewis Center report on what a transit-oriented future might look like, focusing on five current — and two planned — Metro rail and bus stations. The report emphasized the impact that land use patterns can have on transit ridership and neighborhood quality, and it offered recommendations for future zoning scenarios.
Manville spoke of framing a narrative around two different transit and housing systems: what we have and what we want. Among the discrepancies between the visions is that much of the city’s housing is concentrated around where train stations used to be — not where they are today.
Arthi Varma, deputy director of the city’s planning department, shared some of the early results of its Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program. Created in November 2016 by voter approval of Measure JJJ, the TOC program is a local-density program available within one-half mile of major transit stops.
In 2018, its first full year of implementation, half of all applications for new dwelling units were filed under the TOC program, Varma said. Of the applications received since the program has been active, 18 percent (2,377 out of 13,305) are affordable units. The Planning Department issues quarterly housing reports.
Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance for Community Transit, shared her perspective on the development of the TOC program. In particular, she emphasized that many low-income communities surveyed by her organization expressed strong preference for increased density.
From a community organizing perspective, this issue is one that spans transit and housing, Raymond stressed, but discussion is also needed around labor markets and the types of jobs created near transit — as well as environmental justice.
Elizabeth Machado, an attorney at Loeb & Loeb, LLP, provided an overview of the factors that make it difficult to build in Los Angeles, which include the high price of land, zoning limitations and political challenges. The state has delegated most planning and zoning issues to localities, Machado said, but she noted the introduction of SB 50 as a move by Sacramento to accelerate local governance or force action from the top down.
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