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Newton on Garcetti’s Steady Response to Crisis

Jim Newton, lecturer of public policy, spoke to the Washington Post about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s approach to managing the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Garcetti has made it a priority to be well-versed in all the numbers, he said. “I think the book on Garcetti, correctly, has been that he is smart, articulate, principled, kind of an incrementalist and cautious,” Newton said. “And so what I think all of that has added up to — up to this point, anyway — is a kind of steady but unspectacular time as mayor.” As pressure has increased to reopen the economy, Garcetti’s decision-making process has been driven by cautious reason. Newton explained that the coronavirus pandemic is “the sort of crisis well-suited to [Garcetti’s] strengths: He is smart, good with data, comfortable with science. There’s no blaming. There’s no ridiculousness. It’s very steady and even and straightforward.”


Yaroslavsky Sees Tectonic Shift in Los Angeles History

In a Los Angeles Times article, Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky weighed in on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal to redistribute funding from police to communities. After decades of efforts to expand the Los Angeles Police Department with the aim of making the city safer, the news proposal would direct $250 million from other city operations to youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” to heal trauma, with as much as $150 million coming from the LAPD. The proposal comes in response to widespread demands that the government provide poor and minority communities with more than a police presence following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “If you look at the arc of the city’s history for three decades, there is a tectonic shift here with this growing constituency for reform,” Yaroslavsky said. “There is the emergence of this multiracial coalition of people, who have formed a powerful constituency, and they are making their voices heard.”


Ong on Evictions and the Worsening Housing Crisis

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about the impact of impending evictions on the housing crisis. A moratorium in Los Angeles prohibited landlords from evicting renters during the coronavirus pandemic, but many families fear they will lose their homes when the moratorium is lifted. The threat of eviction comes as widespread unemployment has pushed many households further into debt. After studying how the coronavirus crisis has affected different communities, Ong said that African American and Latino households in Los Angeles County are at high risk. “These are the same workers that … are on the financial edge,” he said. “By the end of the crisis, [they] will be deeply in debt.” 


CNK Makes COVID-19 Information Available Via Online Data Map

A new online map and data repository highlight research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The interactive visualization shows how different communities in Los Angeles County have been impacted by the health crisis. It draws on data and research conducted by UCLA Luskin Research Professor Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, working in partnership with Ong & Associates, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. It visualizes information from a series of recently distributed research briefs that show disadvantaged communities are facing greater risks of income insecurity, job displacement and other hardships because of the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

Abrams on Setting Priorities in the Next L.A. Budget

LAist cited Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams in an article about budget cuts the city of Los Angeles is facing amid an economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. At issue is the appropriate level of funding for the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD supporters say uniformed police have been expected to provide an ever-expanding array of community services, especially during the pandemic. Activists argue that law enforcement funding should not be increased while vital services go underfunded. On a conference call organized by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Abrams said, “Police officers, even when well-intentioned, are not social workers.” Becoming a certified social worker requires special training, including adhering to a code of ethics and gaining the ability to advocate for vulnerable communities, she said, adding, “These skills or training cannot be paralleled by any work in law enforcement.”

Yaroslavsky Seminar Becomes Crash Course in L.A. Crisis Management

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about his spring public policy graduate course, which shifted to an online seminar because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The former L.A. county supervisor and city councilman typically focuses the course — co-taught by his former chief deputy Alisa Katz — on regional institutions and leaders and how they influence policy and quality of life. The change has allowed guest speakers, including those on the front lines of leadership during the crisis, to participate. Guests have included county supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Most recently, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, broke away from their daily press briefings and other public appearances to chat directly with students via Zoom. “What better way to counterbalance their theoretical and quantitative training than to show them real-world, life-and-death decision-making in the moment?” Yaroslavsky said.

Dukakis on Strong Coronavirus Response in California

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, spoke with Politico about the strong COVID-19 response in place in California and Los Angeles. Dukakis praised Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their quick adoption of strict social distancing protocols. “You’ve got a tough governor, tough mayor — to their credit, in my opinion — and they’re not fooling around here,” he said. Dukakis added that he is concerned about President Trump’s push to reopen the economy while coronavirus cases continue to rise. “I don’t have a problem with gradually opening things up, but you better do it very, very carefully,” he said. Dukakis, who teaches at UCLA Luskin during the winter quarter, anticipates returning to Massachusetts soon. He remains at his Los Angeles home due to travel restrictions and to recover from a bout of pneumonia in March that was unrelated to the coronavirus.

On-the-Ground Guidance for L.A.’s Far-Reaching Climate Strategy University researchers and a robot named MaRTy complete first on-site test of city’s Cool Streets program

By Mary Braswell

Los Angeles’ ambitious plan to cool the city as the planet grows warmer is getting a boost from two university professors and a street-smart robot named MaRTy.

The researchers, from UCLA and Arizona State University, have completed the first on-site evaluation of the city’s Cool Streets program, one of several sustainability strategies outlined in Los Angeles’ 2019 Green New Deal.

By covering several blocks of road with a solar-reflective coating engineered to reduce surface temperatures, the city’s pilot program aims to test the cooling effects on an entire neighborhood. The researchers broadened the body of knowledge by collecting a sophisticated suite of measurements that simulate the experience of a pedestrian walking on the surface.

“Once you take things down to the street level, arguably you have to start thinking about the thermal load on people,” said V. Kelly Turner of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who collaborated with Ariane Middel of ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

The reflective coating aims to prevent asphalt from retaining heat, which contributes to the “urban heat island effect” that keeps cities from cooling down, even in the evening. But the study by Turner and Middel, newly published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reveals an unintended, ground-level effect: The paint’s highly reflective properties can actually elevate pedestrians’ exposure to heat.

Imagine a scene that has become increasingly common as Angelenos shelter in place: families taking neighborhood walks, often with a dog in tow. On a coated road, the dog might appreciate the cooler surface beneath its paws. But the dog walkers might feel an uptick in heat reflected off the ground.

City workers apply a cooling paint on roads in Pacoima

City workers apply a cooling paint on roads in Pacoima, part of Los Angeles’ strategy to combat climate change. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services

“From an urban planning perspective, this idea of cool pavements is really innovative. Cool streets may be great for mitigating the urban heat island, if that’s the goal,” said Turner, who noted that the widespread use of the reflective paint on roofs, roads and other surfaces can reduce the amount of heat absorbed in the built environment.

However, she added, “If the goal is framed in terms of a public health benefit, we need to know a bit more, since the reflected radiation increases the heat load on a pedestrian walking over the surface.”

Turner and Middel hope their initial findings will open the door to further research that will help the public and private sectors fine-tune their green initiatives. In addition to gathering more information about cooling paint’s impact on human comfort and health, future studies could answer questions about cost-effectiveness, maintenance needs and the tradeoff between daytime glare and nighttime visibility, they said.

Putting MaRTy into action

To collect their cool pavement data, Turner and Middel took MaRTy for a spin on the streets of two Los Angeles neighborhoods chosen for the pilot project.

The robot is “essentially a garden cart that has a lot of meteorological sensors attached to it,” said Middel, who created the tool at ASU’s SHaDE Lab to calculate “mean radiant temperature” — the data set that gives MaRTy his name.

In addition to measuring surface and air temperature, wind speed and humidity, the robot collects information on long- and short-wave radiation to determine mean radiant temperature, which is a reliable predictor of thermal comfort for humans. MaRTy is also nimble enough to trundle along sidewalks, ravines or other locations where a pedestrian might wander, setting him apart from measurement tools mounted on street vehicles.

On a day in July 2019 when air temperatures hit the high 80s, the research team walked the blocks of the two neighborhoods, in Pacoima and Sun Valley, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They found that the coated roadways were cooler to the touch, by as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with nearby untreated asphalt — meaning the paint successfully lowered surface temperature, as it was designed to.

However, Turner and Middel also discovered that mean radiant temperatures at midday were more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in a five-foot–high area above the cool surfaces, compared with asphalt. In the midafternoon, that number fell to about 3 degrees.

While Los Angeles’ Cool Streets program targets roads designed for cars rather than people, the study provides useful data for agencies considering the cooling paint for playgrounds or other pedestrian areas.

Turner and Middel say the findings will also inform their separate, ongoing study supporting California’s Transformative Climate Communities program, which invests in climate action at the local level. Both of the researchers’ projects were underwritten by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, where Turner is associate director of urban environment research.

Greg Spotts, chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Services, said he welcomes the on-the-ground findings produced by Turner, Middel and MaRTy and called for further study.

“By being the first municipality in California, and possibly the country, to deploy a cool pavement coating on a public street, we now have physical sites where researchers can do some of their work. Before, most of the research was based on computer modeling,” he said.

Spotts, who earned his master’s in public policy at UCLA Luskin in 2008, spearheaded the cool pavement project as one part of a multipronged strategy to combat climate change at the neighborhood level. To date, the Bureau of Street Services has planted trees, built shade structures and installed hydration stations, among other interventions.

Future research could explore how cool pavement works in combination with these complementary measures to reduce the overall heat island effect on a community scale while also increasing pedestrian thermal comfort at the street level.

Turner and Middel concurred that climate change must be tackled from multiple directions.

“There is not just one solution that’s going to solve all our problems,” Middel said. “We have to look at the benefits and tradeoffs of all the solutions we’re considering to come up with the best way to cool our cities.”

LCI Experts on Drinking Water Crisis in the Antelope Valley

Gregory Pierce and Kyra Gmoser-Daskalakis of the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) co-authored an opinion piece in the Antelope Valley Times about drinking water problems in the Antelope Valley. The valley is home to about 5% of Los Angeles County residents but reports 80% of its major water quality problems, they wrote. Most of the area’s water systems are small, with limited financial resources and lack of technical and managerial expertise, making water quality and quantity problems more likely to occur. Pierce, associate director of LCI, and Gmoser-Daskalakis, associate project manager, warned that “as the climate continues to change, stresses on water systems will only increase.” They suggested extending the services of larger water systems that are performing well to places where smaller water providers are having trouble; increasing state funding to upgrade treatment facilities and capacity; and improving monitoring of small water systems by the county or state.


A Lesson on Housing Justice for L.A.’s Classrooms

Events

Careers in Public Policy Panel

In collaboration with the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Southern California Chapter and UCLA’s Master of Public Policy department, this panel will showcase PPIA and UCLA MPP alumni who are now working as policy professionals in government agencies, non-profits/NGOs, research centers and/or think tanks. Participants will be able to hear about diverse experiences in policy career trajectories and receive valuable advise on how to prepare themselves for the career they want. The Panel will include a Q&A section for participants to further engage with the panelists. RSVP to receive link days prior to the event.

Funding Your UCLA MPP Graduate Experience

At the graduate level, there are few opportunities that the federal and state government provides to assist students with funding their graduate education. This webinar will focus on the various sources of funding (i.e. department fellowships, Graduate Division fellowships, academic apprentice positions) UCLA students have access in order to reduce the cost of our program. RSVP to receive zoom link days prior to the event.

Mapping Your Future: Identifying Strategies for Graduate Admissions

Navigating the graduate admission process requires intentional planning, critical self-reflection, and a support system to help guide you in the process. This webinar will assist students (with a focus on the first-generation, students of color experience) in identifying strategies they can implement when choosing graduate programs they would like to apply, as well as different methods they can use to strengthen their MPP application. Participants will leave the webinar with an action plan on how to move forward with their graduate admission journey that will focus in the areas of student experience, support system(s), and financial aid. RSVP to receive zoom link days prior to the event.

*This event is part of Public Policy and International Affairs’ (PPIA) National Summer Series events*