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Newton on Subdivisions, Strip Malls and Sprawl

Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton commented on suburban sprawl in a New York Times article about the demonization of developers. Homebuilders, who once personified progress and opportunity in the United States, are now often vilified as unscrupulous characters driven by greed, the article said. In many cities, developers are blamed for the shortage of affordable housing; the irony is that remedying the shortage will probably require yet more development. Newton weighed in on the trend toward housing subdivisions and mass production to save time and money. “If you drive through the San Fernando Valley, you wouldn’t feel like someone did all of that because they were driven by a desire to create community, or that they were really modeling their housing on aesthetics,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of houses and strip malls.”


 

Man standing in unfinished garage

Garage Conversions Could Ease California Housing Crisis

Three UCLA Luskin-affiliated urban planning scholars co-authored a CityLab piece on single-car garage conversions as a way to ease the California housing crisis. The authors — Urban Planning Chair and Professor Vinit Mukhija, Distinguished Research Professor Donald Shoup and Anne Brown MURP ’14 Ph.D. ’18, an assistant professor of planning and policy at the University of Oregon — argued that homeowners should convert their garages into an apartment or accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to create more affordable housing in California. “Garage apartments create horizontal, distributed and almost invisible density, instead of vertical, concentrated and obvious density,” they argued. These units not only create more affordable housing but provide new avenues of income for homeowners and more secure neighborhoods, they wrote. “America can reduce the homelessness problem with a simple acknowledgment: Garages would be much more valuable for people than for cars,” the authors concluded.


 

Downtown San Diego skyline pictured from Coronado Bay

Manville on Efforts to Relax Parking Requirements

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about parking requirements for new housing developments in California. Manville was surprised to see that San Diego succeeded in eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing developments. While this would be tough to implement in Los Angeles, he said, he believes it would be a good idea because parking requirements have been harmful to the city. Parking requirements for new housing do not promote the city’s stated goals of encouraging transit use, sustainability and more housing development, Manville said. More parking demands additional land or capital to build expensive underground parking, which results in smaller developments, he said. Manville also discussed proposed legislative solutions that would reduce local jurisdiction of land zoning in order to build more densely near public transit.


 

Monkkonen on Housing Affordability Near UCLA

Urban Planning Vice Chair Paavo Monkkonen spoke to Los Angeles Magazine about the formation of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. For decades, single-family homeowners in neighborhoods surrounding UCLA worked against the interests of students, said Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Before the new council was formed, the Westwood Neighborhood Council was the voice of the area and would often object to housing construction. “West L.A. has extremely high rents, and there is not enough housing for students. In the extreme, we have students sleeping in cars but, more commonly, they just have to commute very far,” he said. As Monkkonen concluded in a paper for the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, “The vocal advocacy of a handful of neighbors is often framed as local democracy, but many of these processes exclude the majority of a neighborhood’s residents and explicitly favor those with more money and time.”


 

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.”


Manville on the California Housing Crisis

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Reason about the California housing crisis. Manville attributed the crisis to severe constraints placed on building new housing. “The hallmark of a housing crisis is not that your new housing is expensive. New housing has always been more expensive than existing housing. The hallmark of a housing crisis is when a junky-looking bungalow in Venice costs $1 million that was built in 1985,” Manville said. He explained that “we don’t allow enough new housing to sort of contain this price appreciation.” The article notes that the relationship between cities and developers is complicated. If local governments stop limiting new housing development, they will lose the ability to gain concessions, often in the form of community spaces and services, from developers, Manville said.


 

Manville, Monkkonen Investigate Roots of Animosity Toward Housing Developers

UCLA associate professors Michael Manville and Paavo Monkkonen were recently featured in an article on Sightline highlighting their research on neighborhood opposition to new building. Even more than perceived harm and self-interest, Manville and Monkkonen found that “the most powerful opposition frame is about the developer,” specifically when a developer “is likely to earn a large profit from the building.” Despite the apparent motivation to “enforce community norms of fairness” by reining in developers who strive to maximize personal profits, Manville and Monkkonen note the potential flaws of this approach. Manville and Monkkonen illustrate the potentially “vicious cycle of regulation and resentment” as a result of anti-developer attitudes in which “punishing developers … [risks] thwarting affordability, punishing people who need homes, [and] discouraging all but the least likable, deepest-pocketed and most aggressive developers from building.” Despite the foundations of a moral argument against profit-driven developers, Manville and Monkkonen propose a shift in focus to the accessibility and affordability of “homes of all shapes and sizes [for] neighbors of all income levels.”