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Lens, Manville Shape Discussion of How Housing Can Be Coupled to Transit L.A.’s future must accommodate a shift in housing concentrated not where transit lines used to run but where they go today — or will be soon

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.

Not Enough Land for Newsom’s Housing Goals, Monkkonen Finds

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was featured in the Los Angeles Times and KTLA 5 News explaining the results of a recent UCLA study that highlighted a discrepancy between the amount of land necessary to fulfill Gov. Gavin Newsom’s housing goals and the amount of land the state of California has set aside for development. Cities and counties have set aside enough land for the construction of 2.8 million homes out of the 3.5 million housing units Newsom aspires to build in the next seven years, the report found. Monkkonen explained that “because not all that land can be developed quickly for home construction, the state would probably have to double or triple the amount of land zoned for housing for the governor to reach his goal.” He said the report “shows pretty clearly that it’s going to be a hard slog to actually get 3.5 million housing units built.”


Ong Weighs In on Progress of Transit-Oriented Communities Program

After a study by the UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project found that L.A. neighborhoods near transit hubs were seeing increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and decreases in populations with less education and lower incomes, Los Angeles has taken various measures to combat gentrification. Construction in areas near bus and train hubs aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods has resulted in increases in rent. As new developments progress, policymakers are working to protect residents from being pushed out, according to the real estate trends site The Real Deal. The Transit-Oriented Communities Program in Los Angeles is fighting gentrification by offering density bonuses to developers building near transit, but only if they include affordable units in their projects. Research professor and director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge in the Luskin School of Public Affairs Paul Ong commented that “the challenge is ensuring that progress is fair and just.”


In Support Development efforts include establishment of fellowship fund in memory of Urban Planning's Leo Estrada

Urban Planning’s Leo Estrada, who passed away in November 2018, began his career at UCLA in 1977 and retired just a few months before his death. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service to students and leadership, especially as a role model to Latino and other minority scholars. While at UCLA, Professor Estrada was a pioneer in demography and a leader on UCLA’s campus and beyond, serving as the chair of the Academic Senate and member of the 1991 Christopher Commission, which examined the use of force by the Los Angeles Police Department.

In honor of his remarkable career, Urban Planning celebrated Professor Estrada at a retirement celebration on June 11 at the Luskin School. Colleagues, former students, friends and family members gathered to honor Estrada and the many people he served in his four decades at UCLA.

The department also established the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund. The fund supports Urban Planning graduate students with an unmet financial need who are from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in graduate education.

To support the Leo Estrada Fellowship Fund, please contact Ricardo Quintero (310) 206-7949 or rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu

SALONS HOSTED BY BOARD OF ADVISORS FURTHER CONNECT UCLA LUSKIN TO LOS ANGELES

In an effort to provide further connections for business and community leaders to engage with the School, UCLA Luskin has created a series of topical salons hosted by members of the Board of Advisors. The first session hosted by Jeffrey Seymour, a longtime member of the Board, was scheduled for December at the SOHO House in West Hollywood.

The salon and others to follow provide an opportunity for Dean Gary Segura and other UCLA Luskin leaders to share information on a wide range of topics, including changes in the School’s three graduate departments and the progress of the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs.

Seymour is a dual-degree holder from UCLA with a B.A. in political science and a master’s in public administration. He and his wife, Valerie, whose UCLA undergraduate degree is in sociology, have been longtime supporters of UCLA and the Luskin School. Seymour is the founder and owner of Seymour Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm specializing in areas of planning, zoning and land use consulting, as well as public policy analysis and ordinance studies.

LUSKIN FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENTS MEET MEYER AND RENEE LUSKIN

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Meyer and Renee Luskin, more than 60 Luskin students were recipients of the Luskin Graduate Fellowship this past academic year along with five undergraduate student fellows. The Luskins came to campus on April 10 to meet the recipients, learn about the important work they are doing and hear highlights of their student experiences. Students were able to personally thank Mr. and Mrs. Luskin for their generosity as they work to become change agents while at the Luskin School.

The Luskin Graduate Fellowship has supported students in the School since 2011. Recipients of the award are among the best and brightest in the Luskin School and come from all walks of life. Graduate students and doctoral candidates who have received the award carry forward the Luskins’ legacy of giving back generously to their communities and creating long-lasting positive change.

FIRST LUSKIN SCHOOL UNDERGRADUATE BRUIN FAMILY WEEKEND FEATURES LUNCH WITH DEAN GARY SEGURA

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura met with students currently enrolled in the Public Affairs under-graduate major and their parents for an exclusive luncheon during Bruin Family Weekend on Oct. 26. Students who attended are members of the first enrolled class in the Public Affairs major after the program was approved by the Academic Senate in April.

Segura outlined his vision for the program, which strives to provide a wide-ranging education with a clear public service ethos. Students who matriculate from the program will be well-equipped to bring what they learn on campus back to their communities to create long-lasting positive change. This emphasis on service learning is highlighted by a yearlong capstone project that will immerse seniors in communities where they can apply their scholarship in the real world.

The program has already piqued interest across campus. More than 100 students have declared the Public Affairs pre-major, outpacing School projections.

 

Monkkonen Critiques California Governor-Elect’s Ambitious Housing Proposal

California governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s plan to solve California’s housing crisis were critiqued by Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen in a recent article on Curbed. Newsom and Monkkonen agree that California’s current housing crisis is the result of “an underwhelming amount of housing production … contributing to escalating rents and home prices,” but they disagree on the approach to a solution. Monkokken argues that while Newsom’s proposed construction of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 sounds appealing, “it’s harder to figure out how to actually make that work.” Newsom’s plan would require an unprecedented construction boom and matching investment in infrastructure; Monkkonen points out the “restrictive zoning requirements” as a significant obstacle “that make dense housing extremely difficult to construct.” He concludes that the priority should be “[finding] a way to ensure housing construction keeps pace with demand” instead of Newsom’s focus on “[reaching] a specific number of units.”


Monkkonen Comments on ‘Historic’ Gas Station in Silver Lake

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about a controversial 1940s-era gas station in Silver Lake that may be designated as a historic monument, pending a city council vote. Monkkonen noted that disputes over historic preservation and development are not new, but groups demanding new housing are becoming more vocal. “In the past, a lot of this stuff happened without anyone questioning it.”


 

Shoup Pens L.A. Times Op-Ed on Higher Density Housing

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, authored an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times pondering whether L.A. should allow higher-density housing in single-family neighborhoods near rail transit stations.  “Higher density will create more housing and increase transit ridership, but many homeowners view higher density as a bad neighbor,” writes Shoup, explaining that a minor zoning change — graduated density zoning — could bring major public benefits. Graduated density zoning allows for higher density, subject to limits, but also protects homeowners from unwanted development.


 

Lens Is Interviewed About Expo Line Upzoning

In an on-air interview for the “Take Two” program on KPCC, UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens talked about L.A.’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), which has recommended that the City Council adopt a proposal to re-zone property along the Expo Line. “Upzoning” the transportation corridor could mean taller, more dense housing units. Although upzoning isn’t always popular, it can lower the cost of housing through supply and demand economics. To listen to Lens’ interview, scrub forward to the 12:45-minute mark of the show.


 

In Wake of Recent Celebrity Suicides, Kaplan Appears on Radio Panel

Professor of Social Welfare Mark S. Kaplan joined other experts in a recent KPCC broadcast following recent high-profile suicides that included celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade. “Suicide is a remarkable public health issue because it is to some extent a hidden problem and in some cases almost a hidden epidemic. … And it is a remarkable problem because it is also associated with firearms,” said Kaplan, who studies suicide risk among vulnerable populations. Kaplan noted that of the approximately 45,000 yearly suicide deaths, half involve the use of firearms.


 

Curbed L.A. Seeks Out Monkkonen for Comment on Development Near Expo Line

A new Expo Line plan to allow higher density residential development around five Westside stations may provide an important example of how to approach the city’s housing crisis, according to Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning. “Look at how often a single-family home sells on a block. You’ll have a gradual change, not some crazy transition overnight,” Monkkonen said about the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan. “But we need some proof-of-concept model because it has never happened, really.”