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Lens, Stoll Release Study of Misdemeanors in Los Angeles

UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy and associate faculty director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and Michael A. Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, released a report on March 22, 2019, that reviewed 16 years of misdemeanor data from the Los Angeles Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office. “Trends in Misdemeanor Arrests in Los Angeles: 2001-2017” highlights that misdemeanor arrests rose sharply — from 88,511 arrests in 2001 to 112,570 in 2008, which is the highest number recorded — but then dropped to 60,063 in 2017, a 47 percent decrease. This reflects a statewide trend. The rates fell dramatically for juveniles, but some other demographic groups, including black females, saw increases. The researchers said this work is critical because, unlike felonies, misdemeanors are understudied, and they account for a much higher volume of arrests, particularly among people of color. “Interaction with police is the single-most –common way people interact with the government, and yet we neglect this level of interaction at our peril,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said during a release event at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. How people interact with the criminal justice system could impact their views and participation in many societal functions. UCLA was one of seven sites selected by the nationwide Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to use the collective data to study trends in the enforcement of lower-level offenses, which could inform policy discussions and result in reforms. Yiwen Kuai, a doctoral student in urban planning, also co-authored the report.


 

Forum Explores Latin American Identity of Los Angeles

Author and journalist Daniel Hernandez and professor Eric Avila explored the Latin history, features and identity of Los Angeles at a March 14, 2019, forum hosted by the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Initiative director Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy, moderated the forum on “Los Angeles as a Latin American City.” Hernandez, editor and host of L.A. Taco and the author of “Down & Delirious in Mexico City,” commented on corruption and infrastructure in Los Angeles, explaining that “there are things from Latin America that we should not import, [such as] the way political offices are doled out.” He noted that Los Angeles “is developing in a way that only benefits the people who already have money,” a pattern that is all too familiar in Latin American cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina. Avila, professor of Chicano studies and urban planning, researches the intersection of racial identity, urban space and cultural representation in 20th century America. According to Avila, Los Angeles is a Latin American city “in terms of population, the built environment, present-day demography, and the regional design and infrastructure.” However, he said, “Los Angeles is not a Latin American city in regard to the historically sustained efforts to whitewash and erase Spanish and Mexican past, including informal and formal practices of racial segregation, the creation of a subordinate labor force, racial hierarchies and white supremacy as a principle of urban development.” — Zoe Day


Cuff Highlights Disney Hall’s Contribution to Local Identity

Dana Cuff, professor of architecture, urban design and urban planning, was featured in an article explaining the effect the Walt Disney Concert Hall has had in redefining the identity of downtown Los Angeles. Before the hall’s construction, downtown L.A. was notoriously lifeless and empty, the article said. “Anyone living downtown seemed like refugees from real cities elsewhere,” Cuff commented. Increased funding of public art has helped revitalize the downtown area. Cuff explained, “Getting people out of their private spaces and bringing them into collective everyday life, that’s what a city is.” Disney Hall, designed by architect Frank Gehry, changed the Los Angeles skyline when it opened in 2003. The building was praised as an architectural triumph and a cultural landmark with its asymmetrical walls of shiny stainless steel. “When a city can claim its local identity, which I think that area around Grand Avenue is starting to do, that’s an amazing achievement,” Cuff said.


Lens, Manville Shape Discussion of How Housing Can Be Coupled to Transit L.A.’s future must accommodate a shift in housing concentrated not where transit lines used to run but where they go today — or will be soon

By Naveen Agrawal

With Metro spending billions of dollars in Los Angeles over the next few years and transit-oriented development seen as key to denser building, encouraging ridership and mitigating environmental issues, the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies hosted a panel on Feb. 20, 2019, around the topic of coupling more housing to transit.

Held in partnership with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate as part of the Housing, Equity and Community Series, the event focused on some of the latest local and statewide developments. It featured a panel of professional and practicing experts moderated by Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin and associate director of the Lewis Center.

Framing the discussion was UCLA Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville, who shared results from a recently released Lewis Center report on what a transit-oriented future might look like, focusing on five current — and two planned — Metro rail and bus stations. The report emphasized the impact that land use patterns can have on transit ridership and neighborhood quality, and it offered recommendations for future zoning scenarios.

Manville spoke of framing a narrative around two different transit and housing systems: what we have and what we want. Among the discrepancies between the visions is that much of the city’s housing is concentrated around where train stations used to be — not where they are today.

Arthi Varma, deputy director of the city’s planning department, shared some of the early results of its Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program. Created in November 2016 by voter approval of Measure JJJ, the TOC program is a local-density program available within one-half mile of major transit stops.

In 2018, its first full year of implementation, half of all applications for new dwelling units were filed under the TOC program, Varma said. Of the applications received since the program has been active, 18 percent (2,377 out of 13,305) are affordable units. The Planning Department issues quarterly housing reports.

Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance for Community Transit, shared her perspective on the development of the TOC program. In particular, she emphasized that many low-income communities surveyed by her organization expressed strong preference for increased density.

From a community organizing perspective, this issue is one that spans transit and housing, Raymond stressed, but discussion is also needed around labor markets and the types of jobs created near transit — as well as environmental justice.

Elizabeth Machado, an attorney at Loeb & Loeb, LLP, provided an overview of the factors that make it difficult to build in Los Angeles, which include the high price of land, zoning limitations and political challenges. The state has delegated most planning and zoning issues to localities, Machado said, but she noted the introduction of SB 50 as a move by Sacramento to accelerate local governance or force action from the top down.

Image of Royce Hall in the early evening

Roy on Decolonizing the University

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Next City about the institute’s efforts to link the university’s research and resources with social movements and racial justice activism. “We call this decolonizing the university. Turning the university inside out,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning and social welfare. Roy said the institute is not a movement itself but stands in solidarity with community residents and organizers. “They’re telling us where the gaps in knowledge are and how our research should address those gaps,” Roy said. The article mentioned the Housing Justice in Unequal Cities network launched by the institute and the Activist-in-Residence program, which creates space for activists, artists and public intellectuals.


 

Students Tackle Climate Change in Visit to L.A. City Hall

Climate change — and what Los Angeles leaders and planners can do about it — was the topic of this year’s UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall held Feb. 15, 2019. Now in its 15th year, the event sees UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Public Policy students traveling to the iconic City Hall to discuss and debate a current policy issue with policymakers, officials from government agencies and community leaders. This year’s topic, “How Can Planning Combat Climate Change?” came from Councilmember Paul Koretz of District 5. Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), served as program adviser for group of 18 students. Koretz wanted “outside-the-box ideas for addressing climate change through planning and policy solutions,” Callahan said, “and how to leverage what the city is already doing and build on new opportunities.” First-year MPP student Noreen Ahmed said, “I thought it was really valuable because the people we interviewed went straight into talking about what the issues were, what they cared about, how climate change is involved in what they are doing.” Ahmed also had the opportunity to interview Los Angeles city planners. Koretz will receive a written memorandum of findings and policy recommendations from the students, according to organizer VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services. “What happens here in Los Angeles doesn’t stay in Los Angeles,” Koretz told the visiting group. “We are one of the most watched cities in the world. We take action and it spreads statewide — sometimes nationally, sometimes globally. We hope that what we do here in Los Angeles can literally help save the world in terms of dealing with climate change.” The annual trip is co-sponsored by UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations—Stan Paul

View photos from the day on Flickr.

UCLA Luskin Day at LA City Hall


 

Manville’s Research on Universal Auto Access Published

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville’s research on “The Poverty of the Carless: Toward Universal Auto Access” was published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Manville and co-authors David King and Michael Smart investigated how vehicle access inequity affects low-income American households. In a society where vehicle access is becoming increasingly necessary, “anyone who can acquire a vehicle will, even if doing so is financially burdensome,” the study explained, noting that “only the most disadvantaged people [are] unable to afford cars.” The research found that “U.S. households without access to a vehicle have steadily lost income, both in absolute terms and compared to those with cars, as the landscapes around them were increasingly shaped to favor the automobile.” Facing objections to universal auto access due to factors such as carbon emissions, the study argued that, “like water and heat, access to cars should be guaranteed and perhaps subsidized for low-income households.” While the long-term goal should be to decrease driving overall, the status quo is comprised of a “small group of people who need vehicles and lack them and a large group who have vehicles and use them needlessly.” Manville and his co-authors recommended treating vehicles as essential infrastructure and working to close gaps in vehicle access for poorer Americans while aiming to decrease overall consumption by the more affluent in the long term. The research was featured a recent Planetizen article and in a Q&A with co-author King. — Zoe Day

Loukaitou-Sideris on Viability of Central Valley Bullet Train

Professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was featured on KPCC’s AirTalk discussing the viability of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised plan to build a bullet train from Bakersfield to Merced. In his State of the State address, Newsom declared that the original plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost too much and take too long, and surprised the audience by announcing the curtailed Central Valley line. Transportation experts including Loukaitou-Sideris have stressed the importance of having enough passenger demand to make the 160-mile line worthwhile. Loukaitou-Sideris expressed her “dismay at cost overruns and lack of efficient management,” arguing that “high-speed transit needs to connect high concentrations of people in centers at the origin and at the destination.” She said it is not necessary to stop the project completely but recommended “better planning, more transparency, and increased involvement from local stakeholders and the private sector.”


Manville Points to Congestion Pricing as an L.A. Traffic Solution

In response to LA Metro’s ongoing evaluation of different forms of congestion pricing, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a KCRW podcast and an article on LAist explaining how the policy works. “Congestion pricing addresses the root cause of traffic congestion: The price to drive on busy roads at busy times is too low for drivers,” Manville said. “Empirically, it’s the only policy that’s ever been shown to reduce congestion and keep it reduced.” Manville cited economic theory to explain how the “underpricing of goods, like the 405 freeway, results in a shortage.” He likened congestion pricing to metering road use, the “same way we meter the use of services like electricity or water.” Manville also offered the consolation that congestion pricing “does not have to be very prohibitive,” since “the last few vehicles entering the road are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the delay.”


Dukakis on Culture Clash Exposed by Super Bowl

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece on the cultural clashes exposed by Sunday’s Super Bowl confrontation between New England and Los Angeles quoted Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. Despite the geographical and cultural divide, the article noted that there are connections between Massachusetts and California that defy surface stereotypes. “Yes, the places are totally different,” said Dukakis, who for the past 24 years has spent fall term at Boston’s Northeastern University before heading to UCLA for the winter term. But Dukakis added, “In recent years California and Massachusetts have come together politically for the Democrats.”


 

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