Sheriff’s Approval Ratings Point to Risk at the Polls

A Los Angeles Times story on L.A. Democrats’ failure to agree on a consensus candidate to back in the race for county sheriff cited results from this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, produced by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. The actions, policies and rhetoric of Sheriff Alex Villanueva have alienated local Democratic clubs and progressive advocacy groups, but infighting and indecision kept them from mounting a united campaign against the incumbent, the article said. The Quality of Life Index, directed by Zev Yaroslavsky and published in April, found that 37% of voters had a “very or somewhat favorable” view of Villanueva, 33% have a “very or somewhat unfavorable” view, and 30% have no opinion or are unfamiliar with him. The results suggest that Villanueva could have trouble getting 50% of the vote in the June 7 primary, needed to avoid a runoff. The index, a survey of 1,400 L.A. County residents, includes favorability ratings of local officials.

‘No Political Will’ to Do the Work of Ending Homelessness

A Guardian article about Los Angeles’ struggles to address homelessness cited researcher Hilary Malson and UCLA Activist-in-Residence Theo Henderson, who are both associated with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. “There is no political will to do the hard work of addressing systemic issues that cause homelessness,” said Malson, a doctoral student in urban planning. “There is more of a will to disappear the symptom of the problem of inequality.” She said many unhoused people in Los Angeles have to learn which districts are safe for them to sleep outside in based on the political stances of different council members. “Where is the enforcement of tenant rights that prevent people from becoming unhoused?” Malson asked. “Where is the enforcement of human rights to prevent people from experiencing multiple displacements and violations?” Henderson, a podcast host who has experienced homelessness, added that “there’s a lack of funding to do what is really necessary.”

Diaz on De León’s Mayoral Campaign

Sonja Diaz, director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León’s campaign for mayor. De León, who was the first Latino ever to lead the state Senate, is currently running in third place behind front-runners Rick Caruso and Karen Bass. “With his legislative record and working-class immigrant success story, De León would be leading the race if he were spending like Caruso,” Diaz said. “His policy acumen is bar none … whether it’s climate change, pension reform or immigrant rights.” While Caruso has spent nearly $30 million on his campaign so far, De León has spent about $2 million. Despite his limited funding, De León is continuing to fight to be in the two-person general election runoff. To increase his chances, De León’s campaign will be pushing to get a large Latino turnout for the June 7 primary. 

Manville on Sharing Wealth of Housing Market

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about the possibility of a new luxury tax on homes in Los Angeles. The housing market has rewarded many homeowners who have seen their properties quadruple in value before selling. In response, the United to House L.A. initiative has proposed an additional tax on property sales above $5 million that could then be funneled into homelessness prevention. “If the value of your house doubles, that’s not because you did a killer kitchen remodel, it’s because L.A.’s economy took off like a rocket,” Manville said. “Did you personally kickstart the L.A. economy? Impressive as you are, probably you didn’t.” According to Manville, “the community as a whole created that value, and there is no particular reason that you should mop up a big share of it while someone who rents gets punished for it, simply because you were lucky enough to own a house while it happened.”

A System That Threatens Rights of the Unhoused

A New Republic article on Los Angeles homelessness policies that led to the 2021 sweep of an encampment at Echo Park Lake cited UCLA Luskin faculty members Ananya Roy and Mark Vestal. The two scholars described a shelter system that often violates the rights of unhoused individuals. Roy, director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and author of a report on the fallout from the Echo Park Lake eviction, said residents of interim housing face “a constant stripping of rights in the way that in prison you’re stripped of your rights.” Before entering interim housing, residents must testify that “no tenancy is created,” effectively denying them hard-fought rights associated with being a tenant, said Vestal, an assistant professor of urban planning. He added that politicians and police often deploy the language of mental illness, “justifying the shelter system as a medical intervention,” rather than confronting the public policies that deprive people of dignified housing.


Shoup on What to Do About L.A.’s Cracked Sidewalks

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, spoke with NBC4 News about Los Angeles’ backlog of 50,000 complaints about broken sidewalks. An audit last year found that the city pays about $7 million a year to settle injury claims related to sidewalks in disrepair. “In L.A., the sidewalks are a disgrace,” Shoup said. “We could use them as an obstacle course for the 2028 Olympics.” California cities including Pasadena and Oakland have passed “point of sale” ordinances that require homeowners to fix damaged sidewalks in front of their properties when they sell their homes, Shoup said. “People ought to pay for sidewalk repairs when it’s convenient for them and when they have the cash available. And that is at the time of sale.” He added, however, that the sidewalks are currently so dangerous that the city must look for a quicker fix.

Yaroslavsky on Inflation’s Fallout on Local Elections

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s “AirTalk” about the impact of Southern California’s widening economic gap on upcoming elections. Yaroslavsky cited results of the 2022 UCLA Quality of Life Index, which found a steep drop in residents’ satisfaction with life in L.A. County, largely due to concerns over inflation and public safety. “What stands out is that people are unhappy, they’re anxious, they’re angry, they’re concerned,” Yaroslavsky said. Lower-income households, hard hit by lost wages and rising inflation, have been slower to rebound from the financial shock of the COVID-19 era, the survey showed. “We are the ground zero in this country of the economic divide,” Yaroslavsky said. The Quality of Life Index also showed a decline in approval ratings of many local government officials. “Inflation, I think, is the most pernicious thing economically that we have in our society,” Yaroslavsky said. “That will have a political bite like nothing else.”

Yaroslavsky on the Importance of County Government

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” about the race for Los Angeles County supervisor. The Los Angeles mayoral primary is getting most of the attention from voters and the media, but the race to represent L.A. County’s Third Supervisorial District, stretching from the Westside to the far northern San Fernando Valley, is consequential. “The County Board of Supervisors is a place where virtually every issue that matters to the general public crosses your desk every day,” said Yaroslavsky, who served as an L.A. County supervisor from 1994 to 2014. “Historically, a lot of people, especially middle-class voters, haven’t grasped the importance of county government and its services to millions of people — services that can literally mean the difference between life and death.” The Board of Supervisors oversees a $40 billion budget that acts as the human service arm of society, focusing on people who are economically marginalized, he said. 

Pierce on New L.A. Water Restrictions

The Los Angeles Times spoke to Gregory Pierce, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, about new watering restrictions implemented by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Due to worsening drought conditions and reduced water supplies, residents of the city of Los Angeles will be assigned two watering days a week based on their addresses — Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Thursday and Sunday for even ones. “It’s a fine way to go for now, but I would recommend not hesitating to go to one-day [watering] and seeing those plants die if necessary,” said Pierce, who leads the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab housed at the Center for Innovation.

A Shadow Over Garcetti’s Final Months as L.A.’s Mayor

A New York Times article on Eric Garcetti’s delayed nomination as U.S. ambassador to India cited the Los Angeles mayor’s declining favorability ratings as reported in this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index. The nomination has been on hold during a Senate inquiry related to accusations of sexual harassment by one of Garcetti’s top aides. The Senate found that “it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.” The mayor denies the claim, which the White House referred to as a “partisan hit job” meant to drag out the confirmation process. The Quality of Life Index, produced by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin under the direction of Zev Yaroslavsky, found that Garcetti’s favorability ratings have slumped dramatically in the last two years, to 45% from 62%. The index is based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with 1,400 Los Angeles County residents.