Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jasmine Hill spoke to Dot LA about the findings of PledgeLA’s survey of Los Angeles technology companies and venture firms. While the tech industry in Los Angeles has made efforts to increase the diversity of its workforce, the survey highlighted the disparities that still exist in pay and representation. “Tech oftentimes likes to think of itself as a very equal, egalitarian space,” said Hill, who helped analyze the data for PledgeLA. “But the data shows something different.” The report found that Black and Latino workers make less money than their peers, and women earned an average of $20,000 less than men regardless of role or experience. PledgeLA was able to break down earnings data by race as a result of an increased participation rate from PledgeLA companies in the survey, but Hill noted that the report is not representative of the entire L.A. tech scene because it only includes data from the participating PledgeLA companies.
A USA Today opinion piece written by former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and prominent civil rights lawyer Connie Rice highlighted research on community policing led by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap. Beck and Rice were part of a team that launched Los Angeles’ Community Safety Partnership (CSP), which they described as a “ ‘whole of community’ alternative to paramilitary enforcement that changes neighborhood conditions to boost safety, build trust, cut police use of force and drop violent crime with fewer arrests.” After conducting an extensive independent review of the program, Leap’s team concluded that with CSP, “the community feels protected and strengthened.” Beck and Rice wrote that Americans want policing that is holistic, racially fair and effective, but that true criminal justice reform is blocked by a lack of political will to dismantle the “labyrinth of exclusion” created by pervasive inequalities in the nation’s systems of employment, health, wealth, education, housing and justice.
Urban Planning faculty members Michael Manville and Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the return of L.A. traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels. “Traffic is a product of people having places to go,” said Manville, but he noted that “it’s the last few vehicles on the road that are responsible for most of the delays.” Manville argued that congestion pricing is key to reducing traffic. “Traffic congestion arises because there’s excess demand and scarce road space,” he said. He also pointed out that congestion pricing can be used to increase equity “because the absolute poorest people don’t drive … [and] no one suffers from congestion more than people stuck on a bus.” Taylor added that “when traffic demand is near or above the capacity of the street and highway system, any changes — adding or subtracting relatively few cars — can have a significant effect on delays.”
The Los Angeles Times spoke to Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Mark Vestal for a column about the growing issue of homelessness in Los Angeles. Experts estimate that there are at least 60,000 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and as many as 365,000 renting households on the brink of eviction. While most Angelenos agree that homelessness is a pressing issue, they disagree on whether it is a property rights issue or a human rights issue, which makes it difficult to find a solution. “The history of homelessness testifies to the futility of trying to find solutions that average these two perspectives,” Vestal said. Enforcing property rights on people experiencing homelessness only creates more obstacles to ending homelessness. “You can’t just criminalize a condition that people can’t cure,” Vestal said. “These problems that we have created — they are all intimately tied up with the good things we thought we were making of our society.”
Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s decline in favorability since his shift to the political right. In 2018, Villanueva campaigned for sheriff as a relatively unknown Democratic candidate and promised police reform and transparency. However, since being elected, Villanueva has resisted calls for greater transparency, pursued controversial hires and resisted multiple subpoenas. The sheriff responded to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread demands for police reform by publicly rebuking local elected Democrats and working to increase the number of people permitted to carry concealed guns in Los Angeles County. The story cited UCLA’s 2021 Quality of Life Index, which found that Villanueva’s favorability has decreased since he was elected; he will be on the ballot for reelection in 2022. “Whether Villanueva is vulnerable depends in huge measure on who runs against him,” Newton said. “Without a credible opponent, none of this really matters.”
A Los Angeles Times story on landlords who skirt anti-eviction rules enacted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak cited research from the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin. A Times analysis of data from the Los Angeles Police Department revealed more than 290 instances of potential illegal lockouts and utility shutoffs across the city over 10 weeks beginning in March. The largest share of those police calls was in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in South L.A. CNK research shows that members of these communities, who faced disproportionately high rent burdens even before the pandemic, often work in food service and other sectors with significant wage reductions and job losses due to COVID-19. “This is a web of urban inequality,” CNK Director Paul Ong said. “We could talk about housing, we could talk about jobs, we could talk about health. But the truth of the matter is all these things are interlocked.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about how to address rising rates of gun violence, one of several issues that the next L.A. mayor will face. While some city leaders have expressed a desire to reform the duties of the Los Angeles Police Department, including moving away from armed responses to certain calls, the city is facing a surge in homicides and gun violence. As of July 3, homicides had increased by nearly 41% compared to the same period in 2019 and the number of shooting victims increased by nearly 40% in the same period. Leap expressed concern that the gun violence could spark a public backlash against community policing programs and partnerships with gang intervention workers. “What terrifies me is that people will say, ‘Crime is increasing, we’ve got to stop this,’” Leap said. “And they’ll go back to the bad old days of command-and-control policing.”
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner was featured in a National Geographic article about the importance of shade in cities like Los Angeles that are growing hotter due to climate change. Urban design in Los Angeles has prioritized access to the sun, with many city codes determining how much shadow buildings can cast. However, climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves, increasing the risk of heat-related death and illness. Furthermore, predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods have fewer parks and trees and less access to shade than white neighborhoods. While asphalt and concrete absorb and release captured heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, planting trees and creating shade can keep buildings cooler, lowering the risk of heat-related illness. “The really simple thing, if you care about making people more comfortable, is just to offer more opportunities for shade,” Turner said.
Urban Planning Professor and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about changing traffic patterns in Los Angeles as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and life returns to a post-pandemic normal. The pandemic altered traffic and transit patterns, with many businesses transitioning to remote work. As the economy reopens, traffic levels have increased, but the next few months will signal how long-lasting the pandemic’s impact on traffic patterns will be. Vehicle travel is increasing in part because more businesses and activities are opening up, prompting people to drive more often and farther from home. Taylor explained that congestion is “spatially and temporally” structured, meaning that it occurs when many travelers are going to the same destination at the same time. “If we go back to pre-pandemic living and working patterns, driving and traffic levels are likely to be similar to before,” he said.
The American Planning Association’s Los Angeles section bestowed multiple awards on the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin and also honored the late Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning. Wachs, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2021, received the Planning Pioneer Award for his lifelong work as a renowned transportation scholar. The Institute of Transportation Studies won the following honors:
- The Academic Award of Excellence for the paper “School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations Through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School,” authored by doctoral student Samuel Speroni and advised by Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg
- The Academic Award of Merit for the paper “Need for Speed: Opportunities for Peak Hour Bus Lanes Along Parking Corridors in Los Angeles,” written by Mark Hansen MURP ’20.
- The Planning Landmark Award of Excellence for the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium, a series of virtual sessions centering on transportation and the pandemic.
The American Planning Association is a national organization that aims to unite leaders and professionals across the field of planning. Every year, the organization’s Los Angeles section recognizes the outstanding work, best practices and thought leaders that impact the built and natural environment in Los Angeles County.— Zoe Day