UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija commented in a New York Times story about a program to offer homeowners incentives to house the homeless in their backyards. Pilot programs in the city and county of Los Angeles offer subsidies for the construction of so-called granny flats that would be rented for a set number of years to those in need of shelter. The programs are seen as a creative, if limited, way to address the affordable housing crisis, which Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the biggest humanitarian crisis in this city.” “In the total picture of homelessness, we know this will not necessarily change that much,” Mukhija said. “The value goes beyond that, though, because it is finally somewhat of a departure of the purity of single-family housing in the region. It’s a good step to change what people here really consider a dogma of private housing.”
UCLA Luskin transportation expert Michael Manville is featured in a podcast and short film about traffic and public transit in Los Angeles. Besides negative impacts on drivers’ health, wallets and mental well-being, traffic is a large issue for people living near large roads, who may suffer harmful consequences from pollutants. In the NPR podcast, “The One Way to Reduce Traffic,” Manville, an associate professor, argues that the solution to traffic jams is to “price roads with a congestion charge, a dynamic type of toll that would rise and fall based on the demand for the road at different times of day.” Manville explains that the “majority of the delay in traffic is caused by the last few cars getting on the road.” A toll that would get 4-5 percent of drivers off the road could increase average speed by 15-20 percent. In his Streetfilms appearance, Manville highlights the limitations of Los Angeles’ approach to public transportation. With bus ridership falling and a prioritization of cars over buses, Manville identifies the root of the issue as a “fight over space.” He stresses urgency, saying “congestion in our major urban areas is getting worse.”
Michael Manville of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning commented in a Los Angeles Times op-ed article that weighed proposed solutions to traffic congestion in L.A. neighborhoods. The article highlights research that suggested reconfiguring narrow streets in the city’s smaller neighborhoods to one-way as a way to make streets more efficient and increase vehicle capacity. However, some U.S. cities have converted one-way streets back to two-way in an effort to slow traffic and increase safety for drivers, pedestrians and others. “We need to think about streets as more than conduits. They are multipurpose public spaces,” said Manville, suggesting that increased traffic speed does not necessarily improve a city’s quality of life.
Juan Matute, lecturer in urban planning and deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation, commented in a Los Angeles Times story about a proposed 3.6-mile tunnel to ferry baseball fans between Dodger Stadium and a nearby Metro subway station. Elon Musk, above, and his Boring Company proposed to whisk riders in zero-emission, high-speed pods, following another company’s proposal to build an above-ground gondola connection between L.A.’s Union Station and the stadium. “It doesn’t seem like Dodger Stadium’s traffic problems have been solved as a result of the bus-only lanes,” Matute said. “It seems like people have a different available option to get there, and this could be another different viable option.”
Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, is quoted in a New York Times story on the planned use of body scanners to boost security at transit stations entrances in Los Angeles. Taylor commented that a successful security system would help riders feel safer about personal crime while not interfering with their commutes. “Someone has to intervene, stop that person and check out what’s going on,” said Taylor about the technology, which is currently being tested in New York. “That causes delay and it also causes a sense of invasiveness among the passengers.”
Anne E. Brown, MURP ’14 Ph.D. ’18, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at UCLA Luskin, authored a Los Angeles Times op-ed about L.A.’s taxi industry and discrimination against black riders. Comparing taxi service in Los Angeles with ridehail services such as Uber and Lyft, Brown writes, “when it comes to timeliness, technology, and – most troublingly – racial discrimination, taxis lag significantly behind their flashy new competitors.” Brown’s findings, published in her doctoral dissertation, come from her groundbreaking equity audit of ridehail and taxi services in the city that compared wait times and trip cancellation rates by race and ethnicity.
Between 2012 and 2017, 43 percent of all people arrested in the city of Los Angeles were unemployed, according to a new study co-authored by Master of Public Policy students at UCLA Luskin. “Policing the Unemployed in Los Angeles: An Analysis of LAPD Data (2012-2017)” highlights disparities in arrests by race and employment, with African Americans (32.6 percent) and Latinos (43.9 percent) representing the majority of arrests of unemployed people. “Working on the report and seeing how unemployed people are arrested on charges like failure to appear made me reflect on how governments invest/disinvest in their most vulnerable communities,” said second-year MPP student Estefanía Zavala, who worked with classmate Alvin Teng , UCLA Professor of History and African American Studies Kelly Lytle Hernandez, and Albert Kocharphum, assistant campus GIS coordinator at UCLA. The Million Dollar Hoods report, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, shows that among African American men and women, the highest percentage of arrests was on failure to appear charges for both groups. Top ZIP codes for number of arrests were in South Los Angeles, a people considered houseless exceeded 18,000. During the five-year period, unemployed people spent the equivalent of 1,402 years in LAPD custody, the authors found. Data came via Public Records Act requests fulfilled by the LAPD in March 2018 and included information on more than 20 categories of detention bookings. — Stan Paul
By George Foulsham
More than half of Los Angeles County residents — especially those under the age of 50 —are worried that they might have to move because of the rising costs of housing in the region. This is one of the key findings in the 2018 Quality of Life Index (QLI), a project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment.
The QLI is an annual survey that asks Los Angeles County residents to rate their quality of life in nine different categories and to answer specific standalone questions on important issues facing them and the Los Angeles region.
Housing-related concerns are among the major findings in this year’s survey. When respondents were asked whether they, a close friend or family member has considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years because of rising housing costs, 55 percent answered in the affirmative — a percentage increase of 8 over last year’s survey.
Among younger respondents, that number soars. Sixty-eight percent of 18-29-year-olds, 73 percent of 30-39-year-olds, and 65 percent of 40-49-year-olds say that they or someone close to them has considered moving out of their neighborhoods due to housing costs.
“It is troubling that younger county residents are less hopeful and less positive about their quality of life in Los Angeles,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Historically, young people, especially in Los Angeles, could look forward to a great future, but today they have the highest level of negativity and anxiety, especially between the ages of 18-29. This should be a matter of concern to all of us.”
Survey respondents are asked to rate their quality of life on a scale of 10-100 in nine different categories and 40 subcategories. This year, the overall rating among all nine issues was 56, a drop from 59 in the first two years of the survey in 2016 and 2017. All nine categories experienced a more negative rating this year over last year, and most have continuously declined since 2016.
The lowest-ranked categories of cost of living, education, and transportation and traffic lost an average 7 points since 2016, and the highest-ranked categories of ethnic and race relations, your neighborhood and health care lost an average 3 points. In the middle tier, two of the three categories lost ground (public safety and the environment), while the ranking for jobs and the economy improved (see chart).
On the positive side, health care, race/ethnic relations and quality of respondents’ neighborhoods received the highest ranking — in all three cases a 67 on the scale, well above the midpoint. The most pronounced drops since 2016 were in cost of living, where the rating dropped from 50 to 43, education from 54 to 48, and transportation/traffic from 58 to 50.
Other key findings of the QLI include:
Twenty-seven percent of county residents have worried about becoming homeless, an increase of 4 percent over last year. Among residents with an annual household income of less than $30,000 that number jumps to 47 percent; among residents 18-29 years of age that number jumps to 38 percent; and among renters that number jumps to 41 percent.
Seventy-one percent of county residents favor rent stabilization legislation that would cap annual rent increases on all rental housing, including 78 percent of renters and 65 percent of homeowners.
Sixty-eight percent of county residents think new apartment buildings should only be built in neighborhoods already zoned for multi-family housing, and only 30 percent believe they should be built everywhere, including in single-family neighborhoods.
Nearly 60 percent of residents say that local police should refuse to help federal immigration authorities in the deportation of undocumented residents, even if cities could lose federal funds, while 38 percent believe local police should cooperate with federal authorities.
Residents continue to be split on the impacts of new development and growth in their community, with 44 percent saying it has a positive impact on their area and 52 percent saying it has a negative impact. However, the negative responses jump to 59 percent for those with annual household incomes below $30,000, and to 54 percent for those with annual household incomes of $30,000-$60,000, reflecting the challenges of gentrification in many low-income Los Angeles communities.
The number of residents who worry about themselves, a member of their family or a close friend being deported from the United States dropped to 23 percent this year from 37 percent last year. The drop in anxiety over deportation dropped nearly 50 percent among Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders. However, among those who are worried about deportation, 71 percent are worried that enrolling in a government program would increase their risk of deportation.
“While there is still a significant anxiety level over deportation in this survey, it is clear that in the last year that level has subsided,” Yaroslavsky said. “Court decisions and legislative efforts aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s immigration policies have clearly been reassuring, especially to our immigrant communities, but there is still an unhealthy level of fear in those same communities.”
The UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index survey is based on interviews conducted with nearly 1,500 county residents from March 3-20, 2018. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Download the 2018 QLI (PDF)
Review the data (PDF)
Summary Narrative (PDF)
By Zev Hurwitz
Though housing prices in Los Angeles are seemingly out of control, it may be control that can start to ease the burden for struggling renters.
At a panel conversation held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Feb. 26, 2018, a trio of experts discussed the housing crisis in the area and the potential for new rent control and eviction protections to help stabilize living situations in Los Angeles.
Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, opened the event, “Protecting Renters: Discussions of Rent Control, Stabilization and Evictions,” and alluded to the growing homeless issue as “an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles.”
“Here in Los Angeles, renters are spending enormous sums of money on basic shelter,” Lens said. “For an alarming number of Angelenos, even basic shelter is out of reach.”
Lens noted that the most recent homeless data shows 57,000 individuals on a given night are without shelter — a 23 percent increase over the year prior.
“The homeless crisis is an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles,” he said.
Tony Samara, program director of land use and housing at Urban Habitat in the Bay Area, explained some of the major issues facing renters in California. The two most critical issues are lack of rent control policies and so-called just cause eviction protections.
“Just cause evictions mean that to evict a tenant, you have to have a reason,” Samara explained. “In the state of California, unless the city has a just cause ordinance, you can be evicted at the end of your lease or within 60 days on a month-to-month basis for no reason. It’s called no-fault eviction.”
Most cities in California do not have such protections for renters, weakening the ability for tenants to plan ahead. Samara noted growth in advocacy campaigns by tenants’ rights groups aiming to broaden the scope of just cause protections and rent control.
“These policies won’t solve all our problems but will at least provide more stability,” he said.
Doug Smith, a staff attorney at the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, is a 2013 alumnus of UCLA’s Urban Planning department and the UCLA School of Law. Smith spoke about how the effects on a community without tenant protections might force families into overcrowded, substandard living conditions — or even homelessness.
“The consequences are really traumatic, and we’re seeing that played out in communities without these policies,” Smith said.
Smith noted that four Los Angeles County cities — Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles — do have some protections, but the other 84 regional cities do not.
“If you live in one of those cities, those protections are really important,” he said. “They can help stabilize your situation, allow you to continue to live in your home and invest in your community.”
Joan Ling MA UP ’82, a longtime lecturer in Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin, noted the cost of housing for moderate-income Angelenos has risen tremendously in the past 20 years.
“In 1998, 96 percent of units were affordable to moderate level incomes,” she said. “Today, only 15 percent are affordable to that group.”
One big obstacle to the spreading of tenant protections is the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which blocked major rent control policies and allowed landlords to dramatically raise rents on units that become available. A repeal effort has stalled in the state government, though some Californians are working to place a measure on a statewide ballot to repeal the law.
Beyond a full Costa-Hawkins repeal, Ling explained that rent control laws may be a disincentive to developers of new projects because they would be limited in their revenue generating. However, she said that compromise is possible.
“You don’t have to say that all housing units will fall under rent control,” Ling said. For instance, housing 10 years old or older would be subject to it.
Ling also noted that data show renters in areas with protections are more civically engaged and tend to remain invested in the community for longer than do tenants in unprotected neighborhoods.
The event was the second in the Housing Equity and Community Series hosted by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The forum was co-sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. It drew more than 60 students, faculty and community members.
Video of the event can be found here.
By Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10
Karina Guzman is both property manager and resident of a low-income housing complex for working families in Southern California. Even with the job and relatively affordable rent, Guzman worries about paying her electricity bills. But relief is coming from what she found to be a surprising source: solar panels recently installed on 17 of the 27 buildings in her complex.
The solar panel system will offset the cost of powering lights and other needs in common areas as well as help residents lower their electricity bills. “I can’t wait for the solar panel to help me pay a credit card bill, and maybe even save for a vacation,” Guzman said.
Low-income households typically spend higher percentages of their incomes on energy costs and thus stand to benefit most from utility bill savings due to solar power generated on their homes. Yet, while Los Angeles County is a national leader in the adoption of residential solar, the homes of low-income households account for less than 1 percent of residential solar capacity across the county, according to new research by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives. This may change.
The study found that cities in Los Angeles County could soon unlock millions of dollars annually in state incentives for residential solar on affordable housing.
Starting in 2018, California will offer a solar rebate program targeted at putting solar panels on the roofs of affordable housing developments. With an annual budget of up to $100 million, the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing program “could make a big difference toward reversing the current inequity in the distribution of residential solar systems,” said Michael Kadish, executive director of GRID Alternatives Los Angeles, which makes renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.
The program, along with smaller existing state solar rebate programs such as the Low-Income Weatherization Program available for large multifamily residences located in disadvantaged communities across the state, will encourage the installation of solar systems that help affordable housing residents’ reduce their utility bills.
But there is a catch.
Residents of affordable housing and other multifamily dwellings can only take advantage of state solar incentive programs if their utility offers a virtual net metering policy allowing residents to receive credits from the system. Virtual net metering is a common billing mechanism that allows multiple parties to share the financial benefits of a single solar power system.
Southern California Edison offers virtual net metering, but that’s not the case with municipally owned utilities in cities such as Los Angeles, Burbank, Glendale and others in the county. Without virtual net metering, there is no real mechanism for residents of multifamily dwellings, including affordable housing, to access the financial benefits of solar.
“Now is a good time for the City of Los Angeles ― which we identified as having the largest share of rooftop solar potential (62 megawatts) and rebate-eligible rooftop solar potential in the region ― to consider removing the policy barrier that is currently preventing myriad residents of multifamily dwellings from realizing the benefits of residential solar,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and chair of UCLA Public Policy.
Researchers calculated the potential of 115 MW of rooftop solar power throughout Los Angeles County on the more than 1,100 affordable housing properties that would qualify for a solar rebate. Researchers quantified the potential benefits if this physical capacity for solar on affordable housing was realized in Los Angeles County:
- $11.6 million annually in utility bill savings for affordable housing residents
- $4.9 million annually in savings for affordable housing property owners
- $220.6 million in funding from state programs to spur local economic development
- 1,800 job years (one year of full-time work or the equivalent) created
- More than 3,800 job training opportunities and nearly 31,000 job training hours that can be strategically targeted to encourage an equitable clean energy workforce
The report includes recommendations for designing a virtual net metering tariff in Los Angeles to help maximize these types of benefits. Findings also highlight the opportunity to target solar workforce development benefits to residents of affordable housing who are more likely to live in communities with higher unemployment rates than the county at large.
The report can be found online.