MPP/MD Student Wins Health Equity Challenge

The inaugural Health Equity Challenge, a competition among UCLA graduate students aimed at developing community-based solutions to health equity issues in California, has given one of two grand prizes to Alma Lopez, who is pursuing a dual master of public policy and doctor of medicine degree. Lopez partnered with the South Los Angeles nonprofit SHIELDS for Families to develop a proposal to provide online peer support, in English and Spanish, for mothers of color who are experiencing perinatal depression. Thanks to the Health Equity Challenge, made possible by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the MolinaCares Accord, SHIELDS will receive $50,000 to implement the pilot program. “If successful, this could serve as a model for group interventions to address maternal mental health conditions in other urban communities of color,” said Lopez, an aspiring OB-GYN. The competition invited graduate students to submit applications proposing innovative interventions to address health equity issues in the state. Ten finalists received $2,500 stipends and 10 weeks of mentorship to develop a full project proposal. The two grand prize winners, Lopez and UCLA medical school student Angelica Johnsen, were announced in June. Other finalists with connections to UCLA Luskin include Lei Chen, a social welfare doctoral student whose proposal sought to meet the needs of older immigrant adults seeking health care and social services; and Annalea Forrest MSW/MPH ’22, who proposed building an integrated health platform to bring psychotherapeutic services, trauma-informed exercise and nutritional counseling to marginalized communities Los Angeles.

Read the full story

Manville on Car-Free Zones for L.A.

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the temporary closure of a road in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park to stop drivers — about 2,000 a day — from cutting through the park and to improve safety for cyclists, runners, hikers and equestrians. “It is good to make it easier for people to recreationally cycle and walk and feel safe in our own parks,” Manville said. “But the fact is that people also should be able to bike and walk safely throughout the city.” Los Angeles has historically prioritized car travel, as evidenced by projects to widen streets to accommodate more traffic and requirements that new developments include ample parking. The Griffith Park pilot program “accentuates the park’s original purpose as a respite away from the noise and activity of the city. … The city should be much more willing to consider things like [car-free stretches] on its actual streets,” Manville said.


Yaroslavsky on County Supervisors’ Authority Over Sheriff

UCLA Luskin faculty member Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to CBS2 News and KPCC’s “AirTalk” about a motion from the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to seek authority to remove an elected sheriff from office. The proposed change to the county charter, which would require voter approval, comes amid continuing strife between board members and Sheriff Alex Villanueva over funding, hiring, COVID-19 vaccination policies and claims of “deputy gangs” within the agency. “I think the board is right to be frustrated with this sheriff. … But they need to be careful that the remedy does not undermine their high-ground position,” said Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who now directs the Luskin School’s Los Angeles Initiative. The timing of the motion may be a “tactical mistake,” he said, as it could divert attention and resources to the supervisors’ action rather than Villanueva’s record as he faces a runoff election in November against former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.


New Online Mapping Tool Helps California Prepare for Extreme Heat

As summer kicks off and California braces for more record-breaking temperatures, a new tool co-developed by UCLA researchers will help government officials, school administrators and communities visualize the neighborhoods most in danger from extreme heat. Low-income residents and communities of color are impacted most by hot weather, which is the deadliest effect of climate change in California. “Heat is an equity issue. Neighborhood by neighborhood, we’re going to be experiencing heat differently,” said Colleen Callahan, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. “That’s why it’s important to identify where protections are most needed, and where they’ll have the biggest impact.” The online mapping tool developed by UCLA and the Public Health Alliance of Southern California allows users to find information about temperature extremes, explore vulnerable populations, understand community health situations and seek out state resources such as air conditioners for low-income households. Researchers created the tool with a variety of audiences in mind. For instance, data at the school district level can help educators understand how their risk compares to nearby districts. They can also identify funding programs to weatherize classrooms and playgrounds. Other users, like state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local and tribal governments, can use the tool to identify where to target investments. At the household level, residents can find programs to make their homes more energy efficient, help pay for energy costs or install rooftop solar panels to provide cheaper electricity. The California Strategic Growth Council’s Climate Change Research Program provided funding.


(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Our Research Centers An introduction to the stories in this edition

Our goal was to create a definitive roundup of UCLA Luskin research centers. Over several months, more than two dozen professors, staff, students and alumni were interviewed, producing 160 pages of transcripts totaling 69,774 words. Did we capture every connection, permutation or interaction? No way. For one, we simply ran out of space. What follows are excerpts from the interviews. Also note that our research centers web page now has a mention of every — we think — research entity with a UCLA Luskin connection. Here are a few facts and notes about the project:

  • Funds that flow into the Luskin School are increasingly tied to a research center, and those numbers have risen as the School has grown in recent years. Research centers received 80% of all contract and grant funding at UCLA Luskin in the last fiscal year, totaling $18.5 million. With four months of 2021-22 to go, the research center tally stood at 82.9% of all awards and $17.9 million.
  • Most full-time faculty, and many part-timers, are associated with at least one research center. The financial benefit is a factor, but interviewees mostly spoke about collaboration and impact.
  • Research units play an integral role in advancing UCLA Luskin’s mission, particularly its community service goals. (Some of the many research-oriented advocacy success stories are told in this edition.)
  • There are a lot of them. In 2009, the Luskin Center for Innovation became the fourth research center at UCLA Luskin. Today, we show 12 research centers on the homepage and list more than a dozen more on the web page mentioned earlier. A couple of non-Luskin-School-based examples are in this issue, but faculty also hold leadership positions or fill scholarly roles in many other research centers housed within another UCLA school, hosted by an off-campus partner or existing as part of a national research consortium or an ad hoc project involving scholars from other universities.
  • Some research centers are — potential funder alert — still in the startup phase; others are firmly established but ready to grow. And two research centers have been bastions of the UCLA Luskin educational experience for decades. These highly respected and influential centers are profiled in chapter 1. 
  • The word center is often used in this project as an umbrella term even though individual entities are actually an institute, initiative, hub or lab. No disrespect is intended. Is there any official difference? We asked UCLA’s vice chancellor for research, Roger Wakamoto: “We do not discriminate a center from an institute or any other term. The names are
    used interchangeably.”
  • The main story in this issue unfolds in oral history form. Some minor rephrasing was needed for clarity’s sake, and trims were made. But the people associated with UCLA Luskin research centers tell their stories primarily in their own words

Vestal on Need to Empower the Unhoused

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Mark Vestal spoke to the Los Angeles Times about ways to prevent homelessness in Los Angeles instead of simply reacting to it. According to Vestal, one of the core problems in addressing the issue of homelessness is lack of political power among unhoused individuals. The House California Challenge Program, or AB 2817, aims to provide $5 billion over five years in rental subsidies for people who are homeless or on the brink of it, many of them families and people of color. Latinos are estimated to make up 35% of the homeless population in Los Angeles, but many prefer to stay in overcrowded housing with other families instead of going to traditional homeless shelters and encampments. “They chose the places where they want to live, even if they’re outdoors, because they have communities that are holding them together,” Vestal said.

Yaroslavsky on Takeaways From Tuesday’s Elections

A New York Times article on key takeaways from this week’s nationwide primary elections turned to Zev Yaroslavsky for his insights on the California races. Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who is now on the UCLA Luskin faculty, said voters were more interested in effective government than ideology. “People want solutions,” he said. “They don’t give a damn about left or right. It’s the common-sense problem-solving they seem to be missing. Government is supposed to take care of the basics, and the public believes the government hasn’t been doing that.” Yaroslavsky directs the Luskin School’s Los Angeles Initiative, which produces the annual UCLA Quality of Life Index to measure residents’ satisfaction with life in L.A. County. In its election coverage, the Los Angeles Times cited the index’s findings that Angelenos are deeply disillusioned with the status quo, particularly inflation, public safety and housing.


Yaroslavsky on Deep Dissatisfaction Among L.A. Voters

A CNN analysis about the potential for a right-tilting backlash among California voters who are discontented with public disorder cited Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Yaroslavsky said the level of voter frustration is reminiscent of the late 1970s, an era of high inflation and soaring property tax bills that produced California’s Proposition 13 and helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. He cited this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, a poll of 1,400 residents that showed deep dissatisfaction with life in L.A. County. The region’s struggle to meet the basic housing needs of its people is “a billboard that says failure,” Yaroslavsky said. “I think homelessness is both a real issue but it’s also a metaphor for everything else that’s gone wrong in society and government’s ability to address something that is so visible and so ubiquitous in the county.”


Shoup on the Wisdom of Eliminating Parking Requirements

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a New York Times opinion piece about the hidden consequences of parking requirements. In his book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup explained that rules that require developers to include a minimum number of parking spaces increase real estate costs. Furthermore, building more parking lots creates more urban sprawl, making cities less walkable and more car-dependent. Parking lots also exacerbate the effects of global warming by creating urban heat islands that absorb and reflect heat. Shoup has also noted that parking requirements worsen inequality by forcing people who can’t afford to drive a car to still pay for parking infrastructure. “People who are too poor to own a car pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store,” Shoup wrote. Now, California is considering legislation that would eliminate or reform minimum parking regulations.

Manville on Urban Design Impact of Caruso Properties

A Los Angeles Times article on the origins of developer Rick Caruso’s real estate empire included comments by Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. Caruso, who is running to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, has deployed his political instincts, force of personality and sizable resources to sway constituencies to support high-end shopping centers and residences, the article noted. Manville spoke about malls such as the Grove and Americana at Brand, manicured outdoor centers where visitors are enticed to hang out. From the inside,“this is a very nice urban environment, but from the outside, it’s not,” he said. “They’re often surrounded by vast quantities of parking, and that is bad urban planning in many ways.” Manville asked, “What would a Mayor Rick Caruso bring to the public realm? Would he bring what he has tried to do within his properties, or would he bring what his properties suggest to the city from the outside?”