An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times juxtaposed a Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) plan to meet housing construction requirements with recommendations from Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Gov. Gavin Newsom promised to combat the affordable housing crisis in California with construction of 1.3 million new units of housing. The op-ed, written by the managing director of Abundant Housing L.A., accused the SCAG plan of “disproportionately dumping housing into the sprawling exurbs” while leaving wealthy cities with massive job pools alone. Critics say the SCAG plan will create a housing and jobs imbalance that will lengthen commutes and lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Working with Monkkonen, Abundant Housing L.A. researchers built a different model for distributing housing requirements that minimizes sprawl, prioritizes accessibility to transit and creates affordable housing where people want to live and have opportunities to work, the op-ed said.
Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was featured in a Los Angeles Times article describing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lack of progress on his goals to tackle California’s housing crisis. While Newsom’s campaign platform included plans for the construction of 3.5 million new homes by 2025 and a Marshall Plan for affordable housing, critics have pointed out that the state still faces a shortage of 1.7 million affordable rental homes. Newsom’s largest success so far has been a new statewide cap preventing large rent increases, and he argues that he remains committed to fixing California’s housing problems. Nevertheless, the state’s homelessness crisis has become even more pressing since Newsom took office. “It seems like a pretty meaningful failure — either a failure of commitment or a failure of effort,” Lens said.
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.”
An Agence France-Presse story featured comments by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning, and Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, on the status of California’s high-speed rail project. The original plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco was revised by Gov. Gavin Newsom in February to link Merced and Bakersfield instead, a distance only a third of the originally planned route. Construction delays and unexpected budget increases have prompted criticism of the “train to nowhere.” Loukaitou-Sideris weighed in on the curtailed route. “It absolutely does not make sense,” she said. “Any transit project needs big [urban] centers as origins and destinations, and so to have something like that … all but kills the project.” Wachs agreed, arguing that “California should have capitalized on its existing rail network, including that currently dedicated to freight.” The AFP story was picked up by several news outlets, including Yahoo! News and Daily Mail.
A new UCLA report casts doubt on the feasibility of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign promise to address California’s housing affordability crisis by building 3.5 million new homes by 2025. The policy brief from the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies shows that cities and counties have the capacity to construct just 2.8 million new housing units. The report adds that “historically, only a fraction of planned units are actually built” due to limited demand, community opposition and other factors. The report also found that “much of the planned capacity is located in the relatively lower-demand, more rural parts of the state. … High-demand communities do not plan for or permit housing, and planned capacity in low-demand areas remains unbuilt.” The brief, titled “Not Nearly Enough: California Lacks Capacity to Meet Lofty Housing Goals,” is based on research conducted by Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Spike Friedman, an urban planning master’s student. Monkkonen is senior fellow for housing policy at the Lewis Center. The researchers examined data from 525 municipalities and unincorporated areas, which are mandated to zone for sufficient new housing construction to accommodate population growth. The brief highlights the obstacles created by the state’s zoning policies and the difficulty Newsom will face in meeting his stated goal. With California’s current construction patterns averaging 80,000 new housing units per year, the governor’s plan would require a sevenfold increase in housing construction. — Zoe Day
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement of appointments to his team includes two accomplished UCLA Luskin alumnae, Giannina Pérez MPP ’03 and Lande Ajose MA UP ’95. They are among the senior advisors and members of the communications team announced Jan. 11 by the Governor’s Office. Pérez, who was appointed senior policy advisor for early childhood, has experience working in state policy, advocacy and government. In her time working in the California Legislature and with organizations like Early Edge California and Children Now, Pérez has focused on women’s and children’s issues that include child care, access to educational opportunities and domestic violence. Ajose was appointed senior policy advisor for higher education. She has extensive experience in research and evaluation of higher education and postsecondary degree attainment, serving on the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and on the advisory committee of the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California.
Following the California midterm elections, Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky appeared on several media outlets to offer insight into the state’s shifting political landscape. In an interview with TV station KCAL 9, Yaroslavsky said Gov. Gavin Newsom is “probably going to inherit a downturn of the economy” but he expressed support for Newsom’s economic philosophy “[not to] undertake programs in the good years that you can’t sustain in the lean years.” He said the new governor has a “good track record and experience to play the role he needs to play to keep the state in line” in the face of a legislature that wants to spend and a Trump administration that is “trying to undo … virtually everything that California has been a trailblazer in.” Yaroslavsky also spoke with Fox News about the state’s Democratic supermajority. “Republicans are politically less relevant in California than they have been in years, and it is really up to the Democrats to decide what role they play,” he said. “As long as Democrats stay unified, they won’t even need bipartisan support.” In a CNBC story on the legacy of Jerry Brown, Yaroslavsky spoke about the state’s rebound after the four-term governor cut programs and services to restore fiscal stability. “[Brown] made some very tough decisions to bring California from the precipice of fiscal demise,” Yaroslavsky said. “The last four years were maybe a little easier because the economy did finally turn around and he was able to build the state back up.”