Author, attorney and activist Randy Shaw visited UCLA Luskin on April 15, 2019, to discuss his latest book, “Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.” As the working and middle classes find themselves priced out by skyrocketing rents and home values, Shaw dissected the causes and consequences of the national housing crisis. Shaw is a housing policy influencer and advocate for people experiencing homelessness. In 1980, he co-founded the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, San Francisco’s leading provider of housing for homeless single adults. At the talk hosted by Urban Planning, Shaw said he decided to write “Generation Priced Out,” his sixth book on activism, after the 2016 Ghost Ship tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of 36 people when a fire broke out in a former warehouse in Oakland. Shaw initially planned to focus on Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland but ended up broadening the scope of his book to include other progressive cities that claim to support inclusion, including Austin, Denver and Portland. Shaw said the book highlights the hypocritical rhetoric of progressive cities whose policies price out working-class people. Many books about gentrification are misleading, he added. The absence of affordable housing policy and opposition to new construction contribute to the gentrification of urban spaces, he said. While discussions about gentrification often villainize developers, Shaw argued that “the real profiteers of gentrification are homeowners.” To solve the national housing crisis, Shaw advocates for a combination of rent control and housing construction. — Zoe Day
A new book co-authored by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, takes a novel and critical look at the effects of compact development around urban transit systems. “Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities” (MIT Press), is the work of Loukaitou-Sideris and Karen Chapple, professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley, who studied the “realities on the ground” surrounding the question of who wins and who loses with the creation of new transit accessibility. “Gentrification — and the often ensuing displacement — are not stable but dynamic and changing processes that are not often well captured by the collection of census data that occurs every five or 10 years,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “We learned a lot about gentrification in specific neighborhoods — not readily obvious from census data — from interviews with community groups and from multiple visits to these neighborhoods,” she said. The authors note that, although gentrification does entail increasing land rents and housing prices, it is also about “losing the sense of place in a neighborhood that you grew up in and have lived for many years, that now looks different and serves different socio-demographic groups.” Loukaitou-Sideris said the intention of the book is not to “send the message that we need to stop building TODs and higher-density housing around transit stops, where appropriate. But we want to send a notice to planners and policymakers that they also need to enact or continue anti-displacement policies in these areas to protect existing residents from displacement.”
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov spoke to The Daily Beast about “climate-change gentrification,” which occurs when the effects of climate change cause residents to relocate to another area, driving up property prices. In Los Angeles, Koslov said, people are likely to move only small distances due to climate change-related issues in order to stay near their social and professional networks. She noted that the complexity of climate change makes predicting where Americans will go extremely difficult. For example, some may try to escape extreme heat and find themselves in a flood zone. “Governments, policymakers and city planners are increasingly anticipating climate change in the projects that they take on and are building protective infrastructure or deciding not to fund the protection of certain areas,” Koslov said. “Their actions in anticipation of climate impacts and in response to disasters … have the potential to displace a lot of people or make places more habitable.”
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.”
Founding Director of UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) Sonja Diaz spoke to Block Club Chicago about the socioeconomic changes in Fruitvale Village in Oakland, Calif. Diaz said Fruitvale Village made economic gains without losing the majority-Latino population. Meaningful community engagement, development projects and strong social services will likely result in economic gains, she said. Diaz pointed to Fruitvale’s social services — La Clinica, the public library and the senior center — as crucial to upward mobility. “There is evidence to show that this type of development works and that you get a high return of investment while ensuring that people are able to stay in their communities [where] they likely spent generations,” Diaz explained.
The Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin has updated its website to offer two important online resources: an inventory and map of anti-displacement policies in Los Angeles County, and a map of neighborhood change and gentrification in Southern California. The map of anti-displacement policies utilizes data collected between February and May of 2018, and it reflects CNK’s first step to highlight and better understand the policies that can promote affordability or mitigate displacement of vulnerable populations in gentrifying neighborhoods. Among the findings is the fact that despite a wide range of anti-displacement policies and strategies in Los Angeles County, their coverage is fragmented and implementation is not equitably distributed across jurisdictions. CNK’s urban displacement map reflects an update to a resource first provided in 2016. It focuses on understanding where neighborhood transformations are occurring and helps identify areas that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement in both transit and non-transit neighborhoods. One of the key findings in this update is that the number of gentrified neighborhoods (based on census tracts) rose by 16 percent in Los Angeles County between 1990 and 2015.
The UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy hosted a panel discussion on Nov. 1, 2017, focusing on the current state of Boyle Heights as a microcosm for a larger conversation about the rise of gentrification and the slew of other issues to which it contributes in Los Angeles. “Gentrification and its Discontents: Boyle Heights and Beyond” included Rina Palta of KPCC News as moderator; Professors Abel Valenzuela and Eric Avila, whose appointments include positions in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning; Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, co-CEO of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors; and Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist. The discussion was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A that included a detailed political history of rent control in Los Angeles from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Access a Flickr gallery of photos by Aaron Julian from the event below.
By Les Dunseith
As the curtain lifts on another academic year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students enrolled in one of two group efforts begin to tackle a major planning issue from multiple angles.
Listening, learning, analyzing, synthesizing and debating, the students enrolled in the Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project options will unite by graduation time to produce a shared vision of how best to address a challenge of significant scope and scale.
Exactly how comprehensive are these projects? Here’s the tally from last year:
- 29 Urban Planning students (now alumni)
- 20-plus weeks of class instruction
- 545 total pages (256 pages in one report, 289 in the other)
- 172 charts, tables, illustrations, infographics and complex data maps
- dozens of photographs (including a few shot by a drone camera high overhead)
- hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls and face-to-face sessions
Both of these group efforts are popular among students despite the workload, said Alexis Oberlander, graduate adviser in Urban Planning. In fact, an application and acceptance process is necessary to limit enrollment to a manageable number of about 15 for each.
“Comprehensive projects are more realistic to what it’s like in a professional setting,” Oberlander said of the difference between the group efforts and individual client projects pursued by other MURP students. In the professional world, “You don’t really do anything alone most of the time.”
The group efforts are similar in scope, complexity and instructional approach, but Community Scholars and the Comprehensive Project have key differences.
Community Scholars is a joint initiative of UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education that has been tackling issues related to jobs, wages and worker rights since 1991. UCLA’s Department of African American Studies was involved in 2016-17 too, joining an effort on behalf of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center to produce a report that reflects broad social concerns: “Black Liberation in Los Angeles: Building Power Through Women’s Wellness, Cooperative Work, and Transit Equity.”
“The idea is that students actually get to take the class with activists from the communities who are trying to accomplish the same things but need the guidance of an academic program,” Oberlander said. “And the students need the guidance of activists. So they learn from each other.”
Conversely, the annual Comprehensive Project is managed solely within Urban Planning. The 2016-17 team prepared a report for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which was titled, “Lower LA River Revitalization: An Inclusive Approach to Planning, Implementation, and Community Engagement.”
From concept to completion, a typical Comprehensive Project can stretch over a year or more. Oberlander pointed out that students entering the Luskin School in the fall will decide just six months later whether to register for the next Comprehensive Project, which won’t wrap up until more than a year later.
Thus, now is the time for potential client partners to step forward. “You can come to Luskin and you can get really great research for a third of the cost to hire somebody,” she noted.
The end of an academic year is often a hectic time for Comprehensive Project students. For example, the final presentation to the Community Economics, Health, and Equity Committee of the Lower LA River Working Group was on June 8, 2017. A final (more comprehensive) on-campus presentation took place June 13, 2017, just two days before Commencement.
Public presentations are also typical of Community Scholars. On June 17, 2017, the students gathered at Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles for a rousing public review and reflection on what they had accomplished together.
“It is phenomenal to have the privilege to spend 20 weeks in a room with other organizers and thought leaders who are every day experimenting and making change on the front lines for black workers and black working class families,” said the UCLA Labor Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the 2016-17 project director.
“We didn’t solve the black jobs crisis in this 20 weeks,” she continued. “But what we did do was create the opportunity for us to get closer, to build the relationships, to build an analysis that will help us shape and continue to hone those definitions and our work together moving forward.”
Their report, which like other student research from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students can be viewed online, focused on three aspects directly related to African American workers in Los Angeles:
- a curriculum on trauma-informed self-care for women served by the Black Workers Center;
- a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned jobs services center;
- a mobility study of the Slauson Corridor that paid particular attention to the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues, which a collision analysis found to be among L.A.’s most dangerous traffic locations.
Marque Vestal, a PhD student in history who served as a teaching assistant for Community Scholars, noted that the effort was about more than simply doing great research. While studying under Smallwood Cuevas, UCLA Luskin’s Gilda Haas and Gaye Theresa Johnson of UCLA African American Studies, the students examined issues of race, equality and empowerment through the black radical tradition.
“We suspected that something special would be crafted in that room because every week the laughter amid the planning got louder,” Vestal recalled during the presentation. “So we are here today to share that harvest of laughter and planning.”
“And there’s always the people who rise to the top with any group project who end up being the leaders,” Oberlander said. “They are usually the ones who are still working till August after they have graduated, making sure the client has exactly what they need.”
The instructor of the L.A. River project was Diana Varat JD/MA UP ’08, a planner and attorney who was part of the Luskin School’s adjunct faculty for the year. A rotating instructor approach is used for Community Scholars too. In 2015-16, UCLA Luskin’s Goetz Wolff led an analysis of the distribution of goods in Southern California that went on to win a national applied research award.
For the L.A. River project, students looked at gentrification, access and community impacts as part of their detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls of redeveloping the Lower Los Angeles River that runs through 14 cities from Vernon to Long Beach.
“As the potential of the Lower L.A. River becomes more clear, communities along the river are at a critical juncture,” said Alex Linz MURP ’17 during concluding remarks. “By committing to sustained community engagement and empowerment, river-adjacent cities have an excellent opportunity to showcase the Lower L.A. River both as a local and regional reflection of community pride.”
For 2017-18, the Comprehensive Project team will work with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs on the issue of transit-oriented development. Community Scholars will tackle homelessness and housing.
By George Foulsham
More than one-third of Los Angeles County residents are worried that they, a family member or a friend will be deported from the United States, and nearly half of county residents believe that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new federal health law would make their access to health care worse.
These two major findings highlight the 2017 UCLA Luskin Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in partnership with the California Endowment. The annual survey, which is in its second year, is based on interviews conducted with about 1,600 county residents from Feb. 28 to March 12, 2017.
The index is an annual survey of Los Angeles county residents that asks them questions to rate their quality of life in nine different categories. In addition to the categorized questions, the survey also asks specific standalone questions that relate to their quality of life. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.
In one noteworthy finding, 37 percent of county residents are worried about deportation from
the U.S., and more than half of them are very worried. Of respondents who expressed
deportation worries, an overwhelming 80 percent said that they, a friend or a family member
would be at greater risk of being deported by enrolling in a government health, education or
housing program. More than half of them are very worried.
“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “The national debate on immigration in
recent months has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now
fear engaging local government for services should be of concern to all of us.”
Those observations are reflected in follow-up interviews conducted by the Luskin School. A man
in his early 30s who lives in the San Fernando Valley and is half-Latino said he worried for his
girlfriend’s family, most of whom are in the country legally but one of whom is not. “I wouldn’t
even call the police,” he said.
These concerns are not limited to minority groups. Another respondent, a white woman in her
late 50s who lives in the South Bay, said she’s concerned about neighbors and others being
deported. “I hear from a lot of people who are afraid,” she said.
Significant findings on deportation worries include:
- Younger residents are more worried about deportation (50 percent between the ages of
18-39, compared to 25 percent of those over 50).
- Latinos, who make up 43 percent of the survey sample, are the most concerned about
deportation (56 percent) and nearly one-third of Asian residents are worried (31
- Lower-income residents are more likely to be worried (49 percent of those earning less
than $30,000 annually, compared to 30 percent of those earning over $120,000
- Residents born in another country (52 percent) are more worried, compared to U.S.-
born (30 percent). Twenty-nine percent of the survey sample are foreign born.
Nearly one-fifth of whites (19 percent) expressed concerns about deportation.
Nearly half of survey respondents said that repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, would
make their access to quality medical care worse. Forty-eight percent of respondents said
replacing the ACA would worsen their access to care, while 14 percent said the repeal would
improve access. Thirty percent said it would make no difference. The survey was taken before
the Trump administration and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the decision to withdraw
legislation that sought to repeal the ACA with the American Health Care Act.
Follow-up interviews bear out these findings. A young African-American man living in the San
Gabriel Valley thinks Obamacare could use some improvement, but “it’s better than what we
had.” He added that he had no confidence in the Trump/Ryan proposal to replace it.
Significant findings on the ACA’s repeal and replacement include:
- Younger residents are more likely to say that changes would negatively impact them (58
percent between the ages of 18-39, compared to 32 percent of those older than 50).
- Those with Medi-Cal or an ACA insurance policy are more likely to say changes would
negatively impact them (59 percent).
- A significant majority of African-Americans (63 percent) and Latinos (56 percent) say
changes would negatively impact them.
The gentrification of many Los Angeles County communities also is a cause for concern,
according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of those contacted said they have a negative reaction
to the displacement of their neighbors by those who are willing to pay more for housing. Only 19
percent viewed this as positive. And the number went up to 57 percent negative among those
who were asked about community-serving shops and stores being replaced by businesses willing
to pay higher rents.
Sixty-five percent of Latinos and African-Americans viewed gentrification as negative, compared
to 43 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asians. Geographically, 68 percent of residents of
Central Los Angeles viewed gentrification negatively.
Interestingly, the QLI’s overall satisfaction score of 59 remained the same as last year, though
there were some shifts within various categories. The score remained slightly above the
midpoint of 55 (on a scale of 10-100). Overall satisfaction, according to the QLI, depends a lot on
one’s age. Those in the 18-29 age group had a satisfaction score of 53, at the low end of the scale,
while those who are 75 and older had the highest satisfaction score, 67.
That’s true throughout the survey, with younger residents the least satisfied overall in many
categories, including the cost of housing, educational opportunities and the fairness of the local
Other highlights from the index:
- Transportation and traffic scores are lower this year, driven in part by the condition of
streets and the length of commutes.
- Satisfaction with the cost of living, especially as it relates to housing, also declined from
last year, from 51 to 47. That was true among residents from all income groups. Nearly
half of the respondents (48 percent) said that what they paid for housing was the most
important factor in their rating of the cost of living category.
- The scores for education also dropped slightly from 2016, with respondents expressing
lower satisfaction with the overall quality of K-12 public education and the training
children and young adults receive for jobs of the future.
- The most positive score in the QLI was in race relations. Overall satisfaction in relations
among different ethnic and racial groups rose to 79, compared to 76 last year.
Asked to rank the overall impact that immigrants are having on this region, the
satisfaction rating was four points higher than last year, at 69.
- Satisfaction with neighborhood quality was also high — and unchanged from last year, at
75. Homeowners are more satisfied with their neighborhoods than are renters.
Health care continues to have a relatively high level of satisfaction, though those under
age 39 are less satisfied than those over 50.
- Other categories showing slight improvement included the environment, jobs and the
“Overall, county residents generally feel positive about their quality of life, the communities in
which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said. “However, it is troubling
that younger people, who should have so much to look forward to, often feel most pessimistic,
especially when it comes to the excruciatingly high cost of housing.”
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Download the 2017 QLI (PDF)
Review the data (PDF)
Summary Narrative (PDF)
By Stan Paul
A team of researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has created an interactive mapping tool to help community leaders better understand the effects of new light-rail and subway projects and related developments — especially on low-income communities.
Researchers view the project as a resource to help communities and policymakers identify the pressures associated with development and figure out how to take more effective action to ensure that new construction isn’t always accompanied by current residents being priced out of their neighborhoods.
The Southern California portion of the joint UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project on gentrification and displacement in urban communities is available online.
“There has been a strong interest in neighborhoods around subway stations and light-rail stops,” said Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a professor of Urban Planning. “These locations have the potential for extensive private investments because transit gives people an alternative to using cars. This is particularly attractive to today’s young professionals.”
However, according to Ong, the downside to this “upscaling” is that changing the character of a neighborhood with additional transportation options can lead to lower-income disadvantaged households being pushed out.
“Sometimes, landlords aggressively — and perhaps illegally — force them out,” said Ong, who is also a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Higher rents make it difficult for low-income households to move into the neighborhood, so we see a net decline in their numbers. They are replaced by those who can afford the higher housing cost — people referred to as ‘gentrifiers.’”
Ong said that most of those who can afford higher housing costs do not purposefully want to displace people living in poorer households, “but, nonetheless, gentrifiers are a part of the larger socioeconomic process.” The goal of the Urban Displacement Project, according to the researchers, is not to stop neighborhood change because many people can benefit from these developments. “The challenge,” Ong said, “is ensuring that progress is fair and just.”
The UCLA team, funded in part by the California Air Resources Board, created a database for the Los Angeles County region that included information on demographics, socio-economic and housing characteristics in neighborhoods that are near transit projects and those that are not.
Key findings by UCLA researchers for L.A. County include:
- Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification.
- Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households.
- The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods.
Users of the mapping tool can examine neighborhood-level data on racial/ethnic composition, which areas have seen upscaling, gentrification, population density, percentage of people living in poverty, median household income and level of education. More specific data is also available, including the number of households with a Section 8 housing voucher and low-income housing tax credits.
“Our goal is that local and state governments will use the information to guide decisions regarding public investments that are just; community groups will use the information to help tell their stories of preserving the best parts of their neighborhood; and engaged citizens will become more aware of critical issues facing society,” Ong said.
As part of the study, the Bay Area team analyzed nine case studies and the UCLA team looked at six more in L.A. County to capture geographic diversity and to examine different stages of the gentrification and displacement process.
“Also, we want to focus in more detail on the phenomenon of commercial gentrification, which leads to the closing down of mom-and-pop stores and ethnic small businesses in some neighborhoods,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, principal investigator on the Los Angeles team. Most of the existing studies focus only on residential gentrification said Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean of the Luskin School.
For example, the UCLA team looked at studies based on the “live experiences of real communities” such as six disadvantaged neighborhoods located near Los Angeles Metro Rail stations. The also examined the impacts on Asian-American businesses near transit-oriented developments, as well as the impact of new outlets such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks on ethnic small businesses in L.A.’s Chinatown.
Loukaitou-Sideris said the researchers discovered one important difference between the strategies used by Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
“We found that Bay Area municipalities have in their books many more anti-displacement policies than municipalities in L.A. County,” she said. “However, we do not know yet how effective these policies have been in limiting displacement.”