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Unlocking Millions of Dollars in State Incentives for Solar Power New research by GRID Alternatives and UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation quantifies the opportunities and potential benefits of solar power on affordable housing units in L.A. County

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.

 

Lending a Helping Hand Panel discussion at UCLA Luskin highlights what is and isn’t being done to serve the burgeoning homeless population in L.A. County

By Zev Hurwitz

With nearly 60,000 Angelenos struggling with homelessness, local change agents have taken on the task of developing policies and services to address the crisis.

At a Nov. 15, 2017, panel discussion at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, four leaders in the field discussed the challenges and opportunities in finding solutions for the plethora of Los Angeles residents who do not have access to permanent housing.

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning at the Luskin School, moderated the “Homelessness in Los Angeles” event. Other participants were Jerry Ramirez, manager of Los Angeles County’s homeless initiative; Dora Leon Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends; Jordan Vega, a current UCLA student and a director of Bruin Shelter, a registered student organization; and Skid Row resident Suzette Shaw.

Lens began the lunch program by noting some alarming homelessness statistics and emphasizing the importance of having the conversation.

“Many of us are familiar with the fact that homelessness is very much on the rise in Los Angeles County,” he said. “In January of 2017, volunteers counted over 58,000 people experiencing homelessness across L.A. County, which is a 23 percent rise over the previous year.”

Lens pointed out that 34,000 of those people are in the City of Los Angeles. Within the city, 25,000 homeless are living “unsheltered” and 11,000 fell into the category of “chronically homeless.

“These are large numbers historically, and they’re large numbers for any city,” he said.

Gallo’s organization, A Community of Friends, works with the local government and other non-profits to provide permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The group, which launched nearly 30 years ago with a grant from the county’s Department of Mental Health, manages 47 buildings and provides in-house services in 18 of those buildings.

Gallo said that her group believes in a “housing first” approach to homelessness and that the model for permanent housing relies on subsidies that enable tenants to pay a fraction of their income in rent, no matter how small that income, without sacrificing the community aspect of living in Los Angeles.

“There really was no housing provider out there that was providing housing that is affordable,” she said. “Our initial founders wanted to create a community where people would have friends.

Earlier this year, L.A. County voters approved Measure H — a tax expected to raise $355 million for homeless services over the next 10 years. The county has developed 21 strategies for addressing homelessness and plans to use Measure H funding to increase housing and services for the county’s homeless. Separately, city voters in 2016 passed Proposition HHH — a bond measure that will directly fund new housing units for low-income and housing insecure Angelenos.

“The 1.2 billion (dollars) from Proposition HHH is for the construction of permanent supportive housing,” Ramirez said. “Where Measure H comes in, it really complements supportive housing because it’s millions of dollars to provide the services. Half the challenge is getting a home for a homeless person — then the hard work begins in keeping them there.”

Ramirez said that the county is hoping to bring in more partners like A Community of Friends to help map out the landscape for new programs and housing units to be funded under Measure H.

“We’re trying to be very inclusive in this process because the county can’t do it alone,” he said. “We’re trying to be inclusive, collaborative and transparent.”

Not all services are being provided at the regional level. Vega helps run Bruin Shelter, which launched last year and currently provides beds for six housing insecure UCLA students. It is the first student-run shelter for peers in the country.

Vega’s personal experience with friends who struggled with homelessness inspired him to take on the role at Bruin Shelter, which helps operate the shelter of Students4Students. Students have access to UCLA medical and social welfare students who provide case management services.

“Our space is kind of small — we’re next to a church,” he said. “We’re currently under construction, hoping to expand, so that we can accommodate more students.”

Suzette Shaw is a resident of Skid Row and knows firsthand the struggles that homeless people can face living on the streets.

“We need to make sure that now that we have the dollars, we are intentionally allocating them and very proactive in allocating those funds to organizations and individuals who make sure that the dollars are addressing the needs of the people,” she said.

Shaw used to run a business and commuted long distances to work to try to make ends meet before moving to Skid Row. She’s now living in a housing unit under her Section Eight voucher, which she had for nine months before receiving a unit. Shaw is very open about her story because people need to have more exposure to homeless in order to address the crisis.

“People tend to stereotype and sensationalize what poverty looks like,” Shaw said. “We have to get real about who we are. We talk about NIMBY-ism, ‘not-in-my-backyard.’ People are either going to live on the sidewalk next to you or else you’re going to make a space for them in the building next to you.”

The issue is one of basic human rights for Shaw.

“I may be poor and I may live on the brink, but I do deserve housing and housing should be a human right,” she said.

The talk was part of an ongoing Housing, Equity and Community series put on by the UCLA Lewis Center, which co-sponsored the event with the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. The Lewis Center plans to hold more events in the winter and spring quarters on housing issues.

Boyle Heights, Gentrification and Beyond

The UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy hosted a panel discussion on Nov. 1, 2017, focusing on the current state of Boyle Heights as a microcosm for a larger conversation about the rise of gentrification and the slew of other issues to which it contributes in Los Angeles. “Gentrification and its Discontents: Boyle Heights and Beyond” included Rina Palta of KPCC News as moderator; Professors Abel Valenzuela and Eric Avila, whose appointments include positions in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning; Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, co-CEO of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors; and Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist. The discussion was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A that included a detailed political history of rent control in Los Angeles from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Access a Flickr gallery of photos by Aaron Julian from the event below.

Boyle Heights and Beyond

Examining an Issue from Every Side Urban Planning students enrolled in Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project efforts work together to tackle problems of significant scope and complexity

By Les Dunseith

As the curtain lifts on another academic year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students enrolled in one of two group efforts begin to tackle a major planning issue from multiple angles.

Listening, learning, analyzing, synthesizing and debating, the students enrolled in the Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project options will unite by graduation time to produce a shared vision of how best to address a challenge of significant scope and scale.

Exactly how comprehensive are these projects? Here’s the tally from last year:

  • 29 Urban Planning students (now alumni)
  • 20-plus weeks of class instruction
  • 545 total pages (256 pages in one report, 289 in the other)
  • 172 charts, tables, illustrations, infographics and complex data maps
  • dozens of photographs (including a few shot by a drone camera high overhead)
  • hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls and face-to-face sessions

Both of these group efforts are popular among students despite the workload, said Alexis Oberlander, graduate adviser in Urban Planning. In fact, an application and acceptance process is necessary to limit enrollment to a manageable number of about 15 for each.

“Comprehensive projects are more realistic to what it’s like in a professional setting,” Oberlander said of the difference between the group efforts and individual client projects pursued by other MURP students. In the professional world, “You don’t really do anything alone most of the time.”

The group efforts are similar in scope, complexity and instructional approach, but Community Scholars and the Comprehensive Project have key differences.

Community Scholars is a joint initiative of UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education that has been tackling issues related to jobs, wages and worker rights since 1991. UCLA’s Department of African American Studies was involved in 2016-17 too, joining an effort on behalf of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center to produce a report that reflects broad social concerns: “Black Liberation in Los Angeles: Building Power Through Women’s Wellness, Cooperative Work, and Transit Equity.”

“The idea is that students actually get to take the class with activists from the communities who are trying to accomplish the same things but need the guidance of an academic program,” Oberlander said. “And the students need the guidance of activists. So they learn from each other.”

Conversely, the annual Comprehensive Project is managed solely within Urban Planning. The 2016-17 team prepared a report for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which was titled, “Lower LA River Revitalization: An Inclusive Approach to Planning, Implementation, and Community Engagement.”

From concept to completion, a typical Comprehensive Project can stretch over a year or more. Oberlander pointed out that students entering the Luskin School in the fall will decide just six months later whether to register for the next Comprehensive Project, which won’t wrap up until more than a year later.

Thus, now is the time for potential client partners to step forward. “You can come to Luskin and you can get really great research for a third of the cost to hire somebody,” she noted.

The end of an academic year is often a hectic time for Comprehensive Project students. For example, the final presentation to the Community Economics, Health, and Equity Committee of the Lower LA River Working Group was on June 8, 2017. A final (more comprehensive) on-campus presentation took place June 13, 2017, just two days before Commencement.

Public presentations are also typical of Community Scholars. On June 17, 2017, the students gathered at Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles for a rousing public review and reflection on what they had accomplished together.

“It is phenomenal to have the privilege to spend 20 weeks in a room with other organizers and thought leaders who are every day experimenting and making change on the front lines for black workers and black working class families,” said the UCLA Labor Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the 2016-17 project director.

“We didn’t solve the black jobs crisis in this 20 weeks,” she continued. “But what we did do was create the opportunity for us to get closer, to build the relationships, to build an analysis that will help us shape and continue to hone those definitions and our work together moving forward.”

Their report, which like other student research from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students can be viewed online, focused on three aspects directly related to African American workers in Los Angeles:

  • a curriculum on trauma-informed self-care for women served by the Black Workers Center;
  • a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned jobs services center;
  • a mobility study of the Slauson Corridor that paid particular attention to the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues, which a collision analysis found to be among L.A.’s most dangerous traffic locations.

Marque Vestal, a PhD student in history who served as a teaching assistant for Community Scholars, noted that the effort was about more than simply doing great research. While studying under Smallwood Cuevas, UCLA Luskin’s Gilda Haas and Gaye Theresa Johnson of UCLA African American Studies, the students examined issues of race, equality and empowerment through the black radical tradition.

“We suspected that something special would be crafted in that room because every week the laughter amid the planning got louder,” Vestal recalled during the presentation. “So we are here today to share that harvest of laughter and planning.”

“And there’s always the people who rise to the top with any group project who end up being the leaders,” Oberlander said. “They are usually the ones who are still working till August after they have graduated, making sure the client has exactly what they need.”

The instructor of the L.A. River project was Diana Varat JD/MA UP ’08, a planner and attorney who was part of the Luskin School’s adjunct faculty for the year. A rotating instructor approach is used for Community Scholars too. In 2015-16, UCLA Luskin’s Goetz Wolff led an analysis of the distribution of goods in Southern California that went on to win a national applied research award.

For the L.A. River project, students looked at gentrification, access and community impacts as part of their detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls of redeveloping the Lower Los Angeles River that runs through 14 cities from Vernon to Long Beach.

“As the potential of the Lower L.A. River becomes more clear, communities along the river are at a critical juncture,” said Alex Linz MURP ’17 during concluding remarks. “By committing to sustained community engagement and empowerment, river-adjacent cities have an excellent opportunity to showcase the Lower L.A. River both as a local and regional reflection of community pride.”

For 2017-18, the Comprehensive Project team will work with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs on the issue of transit-oriented development. Community Scholars will tackle homelessness and housing.

 

Getting an Early Start on Social Welfare Lessons Master of Social Welfare graduates share advice with incoming UCLA Luskin students who will be serving vulnerable clients and populations

By Stan Paul

Even before the fall quarter had begun, the new class of first-year UCLA Luskin Social Welfare master’s students was already learning the lessons that will become the foundation of future careers in social work.

“Ten years ago I was sitting exactly where you are,” said Tara Chandler MSW ’09, now a social worker in mental health care, as she and a panel of recent Luskin grads shared practical advice about their roles as mandated reporters for the children, families, senior citizens, dependent adults and others they serve as professional social work practitioners.

The seminar for the incoming cohort of Social Welfare students was one of two half-day sessions designed to help students understand the role of social work and their mandated obligations when working with clients and families, said Michelle Talley, a field education faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who works with first- and second-year students.

Joining Chandler were Luskin Social Welfare alumnae Bridgette Amador ’11, Aiyanna Rios ’08, Malena French ’11 and Jolene Hui ’11, all of whom have moved up to positions as administrators and supervisors “in record time,” Talley said. In addition, Hui, who spoke on ethics and confidentiality issues, is director of membership for the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which governs the School’s MSW program, Talley said.

Session topics included mandated reporting of child abuse and elder abuse, domestic violence, suicide, and related legal responsibilities. The idea is to support students who had already begun internships a month before school begins, Talley said. “This is to help students, as they may encounter issues directly or indirectly at their placement,” she said, explaining that students participate in several modules to help them understand complex social justice issues.

The new cohort brings a broad range of experiences to the programs. On average, most of the students have one to three years of experience — either as volunteers or working in a service capacity, Talley said. This includes participation in research studies on adolescent and social anxiety, working with children and older adults, as well as working with a mental health agency providing case management services. Some of the students come from careers in teaching or law, or even as a behavior specialist, working with children with special needs and their families.

For UCLA Luskin student Tina Nguyen, who will be interning in a mental health setting in Los Angeles, the sessions served as a helpful refresher.

“For people who have worked with children or in mental health, you see that daily, so what they are talking about is very effective,” said the Orange County resident who has worked with children and adults in a nonprofit organization.

First-year student Brian Stefan said he was encouraged by the alumni presentations and plans to use his MSW to continue working in suicide prevention, outreach and education in the Los Angeles area. The L.A. native has had previous experience as a volunteer and a staff shift supervisor for a suicide prevention center. Stefan has also done volunteer work as a co-leader for a grief support agency and for the L.A. Mayor’s Office Crisis Response Team.

“The speakers sharing their passion and commitment to the social welfare field is inspiring,” Stefan said. “It’s amazing how much can be done with a Master of Social Welfare [degree] at UCLA.”

 

Progress and Equity: It Takes a Village During a panel discussion on policymaking in the Trump era, local leaders advocate for targeted community action rather than relying solely on mass protests  

By Aaron Julian

Determination and the call to purposeful action were primary themes at UCLA Luskin during “Equitable Policymaking Under a Trump Administration,” which featured local leaders whose work presses for the rights of minority and underrepresented groups in the greater Los Angeles community and beyond.

“The work we are doing now is more important than ever before. If there is a bright light [of the Trump election], it is that a lot of people have been mobilized to do something,” said panelist Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation.

Furthering Ali’s point, Romel Pascual, executive director of CicLAvia, shared the message imparted to his staff the day after the election of President Trump. “Our work is so much more important than ever before. Because what we do is we bring people together,” he said.

Sonja Diaz MPP ’10, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was the moderator of the May 11, 2017, event and discussion. The Equitable Policy Symposium was hosted by Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity, co-chaired by Emma K. Watson and Jessica Noel, second-year students in the Master of Public Policy program.

Diaz directed the conversation with questions about how to ensure that the rights of minority communities are protected and how each panelist’s work has changed in the wake of the presidential election. A sense of community, paired with organized mass mobilization, was the panelists’ unanimous response.

Funmilola Fagbamila, activist-in-residence for the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and arts and culture director for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, pressed that the work of an activist has not changed, instead it has become more amplified. Fagbamila also noted that the same protesting and organizational techniques employed by Black Lives Matter were being used nationwide in resistance to the election’s outcome.

“Be willing to have conversations with folks in your own communities who don’t get it,” emphasized Fagbamila. “We need numbers, and in order to get numbers … we have to be willing to be in communication with each other.”

Immigration reform was a pillar of Trump’s presidential campaign, and Los Angeles has been a battleground site in the wake of executive actions by the president.

Jordan Cunnings of the Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project discusses the communal effort and work of countless activists since the election. Photo by Les Dunseith

Jordan Cunnings, an Equal Justice Works fellow for the Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project, gave her perspective on the local reaction, including spontaneous protests. “Everyone came… It was very powerful to see everyone coalesce,” Cunnings said about protests at LAX that followed the first of the Trump administration’s immigration bans. The communal effort and work of countless activists has made a difference, she said.

The LGBTQ community has also been impacted, said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. She has led the Los Angeles LGBT Center through an era of “unprecedented growth,” which has significantly increased the center’s ability to serve the Los Angeles community.

Jean noted an evolving strategy since the election. “Marching is great, gathering is great… but that is not enough,” she said. While resisting legislation and initiatives proposed by the Trump administration, the center has also been active in allying with groups such as labor to push for positive change.

Panelists said positive change can have different meanings, ranging from effective reform to making communities safer to spreading awareness of socioeconomic disparities between ethnic and social groups in areas such as imprisonment and poverty.

“Resources should go into places that influence people into coming together and not just straight to putting a cop on the street,” Pascual insisted. More policing does not necessarily build community or safety, he said.

Torie Osborn, principal deputy for policy and strategy for Supervisor Sheila Kuehl of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, noted that the Affordable Care Act had added coverage for the mentally ill and people with drug addictions. A repeal of the ACA, and the aid that came with it, would negatively impact many people with the greatest need, she said, including the homeless and those recently released from prisons.

“We have got to look at the unlikely allies who we do not think will be under our tent,” Pascual said about the need to be resourceful. “The takeaway I have gotten from my experiences is to build a big tent.”

During a Q&A that followed the panel discussion, topics included weighing the relationship between safer communities and gentrification, and the current state of the two-party political system in the United States.

Despite Ongoing Meningitis Outbreak, Vaccination Among Gay Men Remains Low Limited 2-dose completion among HIV-positive men puts them at particular risk, new study shows

Despite a yearlong outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease in Southern California primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, less than 27 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated for meningitis.

The findings released Thursday, March 30, 2017, by the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health call for more education about the disease and more places offering immunization throughout Southern California at venues where gay and bisexual men socialize.

More than 500 men were interviewed about their knowledge of the meningitis outbreak by UCLA Luskin’s Ian Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, and teams of researchers who visited venues throughout Los Angeles County. Most of the canvassers were current UCLA students or recent graduates.

“Our rapid-response research suggests that coordinated efforts to standardize data collection about sexual practices in conjunction with immunization will enable better tracking of meningitis vaccination among gay and bisexual men,” said Holloway, who is also the director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center.

Meningococcal disease is often characterized with sudden onset of high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, stiff neck and confusion, which can lead to rapid septic shock and death if not treated quickly. Vaccination is highly effective and can prevent the disease. The current outbreak in Southern California is the second in the area in recent history. A 2014 meningitis outbreak led to the deaths of three gay men in their 20s.

Despite the outbreak and vaccination recommendations from the California Department of Public Health, the majority of respondents interviewed by the UCLA team were not protected against meningitis.

Holloway noted that HIV-positive people are at particular risk for developing serious health issues if infected with meningitis and are recommended to receive a two-dose primary series of meningitis vaccination. Few HIV-positive men surveyed by Holloway’s team had received two doses of the vaccination.

“Primary care doctors who treat gay and bisexual men and HIV-positive people should talk to their patients about the ongoing outbreak and make sure they receive the full recommended dosing,” said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs at APLA Health.

The study praises the efforts of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Immunization Program, which distributed free vaccines, and of participating community-based organizations such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the LA LGBT Center, but researchers concluded that more needs to be done.

In addition to Holloway, study authors include Elizabeth Wu and Jennifer Gildner from the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, and Vincent Fenimore and Paula Frew from Emory University.

Learn more about Ian Holloway and the meningitis study in this video:

L.A.’s Economic Slide: A Who-Done-It Written Over Several Decades UCLA Luskin's Michael Storper and Zev Yaroslavsky unravel the past and future of the city at Town Hall Los Angeles gathering

By Stan Paul

Los Angeles has long been the setting for detective stories and Hollywood noir, but the real who-done-it is the region’s economy over the past several decades, according to UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researcher and author Michael Storper.

There are false leads and possibly a smoking gun to be found in solving how Los Angeles — a leader among cities for most of the 20th century — began an economic slide after 1970, falling behind regions such as the Bay Area.

Storper, the distinguished professor of regional and international development in the Luskin School’s Department of Urban Planning, put the city’s economic history under a magnifying glass during a conversation with former Los Angeles city councilman and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky on Feb. 8, 2017, at a gathering of Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonprofit leadership forum founded in 1937.

“1970 is an interesting moment; it’s not just an arbitrary date,” said Storper, whose comments reflected research from his recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles.” “It’s pretty much the time when what we call the old economies about the middle of the 20th century, based principally on manufacturing, began to shift in what we would now call the new economy.”

Just the Facts

“We started with a simple fact that you can see,” said Storper. “We observed that in 1970 the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles were about equal in what we might call their wealth and development level,” using per capita income as a way to measure wealth, he explained. “Today the Bay Area is still number one, but we’re number 25 out of the regions that have more than 2 million people. That’s a really big slippage that does not put us, frankly, in the best of company.”

The time period in question included the IT revolution, finance revolution, “flipping the switch” for more globalization and the development of advanced services, Storper said. So, the Bay Area is now 30 percent richer than Los Angeles. “What that suggests is that the Bay Area somehow managed the transition more successfully than we did here in Southern California,” he said.

Since 1970, the Bay Area gave birth to Silicon Valley, refocused its economy in finance, landed several IT-related corporate headquarters and is currently winning in biotech. By contrast, greater Los Angeles lost high-wage aerospace and defense firms, as well as several corporate headquarters. “We grow in light manufacturing, but light manufacturing is the low-wage part of the economy,” he added.

And, while L.A. has Hollywood, or as Storper calls it, “the bright star, our super-dynamic, supernova,” it is not enough to float a region of 18 million people. “It has huge positive benefits, but it’s just not big enough,” he said.

“We have to ask ourselves, why is this happening, given that L.A. was the envy of the country and the world for much of the 20th century?” Storper said. “And, if you look at L.A., if you roll back the film to 1970, we had more engineers; we had a vibrant entrepreneurial culture; we had more tech firms; we had equal education levels; and we, in many ways, had better infrastructure than the Bay Area did.”

Storper said he is often asked if there is some kind of “optical illusion” at work, given that the Bay Area’s housing is so much more expensive than in L.A. Are people really better off in Northern California?

“The answer is yes,” Storper said. “When you correct for cost of living of each part of the part of the population at each income level, and the amount of money they spent on housing, they still come out with having somewhere between 20 to 25 percent higher per capita income than we do.”

Another question Storper is asked: Is it because L.A. is so much bigger? No, it’s not a question of geographical scale, Storper said. “Seventy-five percent of the population of the Bay Area lives in counties that are higher in per capita income than our richest county, which is Orange County. They have regionwide prosperity up in Northern California.”

Then Who Done It?

Storper said he and his co-researchers started looking into the different core sectors of the economy: aerospace, information technology, entertainment, finance, logistics, trade and biotech. They found very different stories about how IT and biotech firms, business leaders, leadership groups and public agencies use the resources of their regions to establish a foothold in the new economy.

“There’s a really strong business leadership group in the Bay Area,” Storper said. “We didn’t really know where things were going, but the Bay Area Council got on it early in the 1980s and said, ‘The future is in being the high-tech, high-wage, and high-skill economy. We’re never going to make it in manufacturing again. We’re too expensive and there’s no way to roll that back significantly,’ so they pushed a high-road vision for the Bay Area.”

And the Bay Area Council wasn’t acting alone, relying on business leadership networks. Storper said his researchers looked at the major firms of both regions and asked who sits the boards of directors.

“What emerges is an absolutely striking difference,” Storper said. “In the Bay Area it’s highly networked. They are all networked and talking to each other because they are all on each other’s boards of directors.” Not so for Los Angeles. “You look at L.A. and that’s not the case,” he said. “It’s a bunch of separate communities.”

In addition to industry, scientists and university-based researchers are more networked in the northern part of the state, said Storper, citing a seven times more per capita tendency for a university-based researcher to start a firm or to patent something that becomes commercialized in the Bay Area.

“And it’s not because our universities aren’t as good,” he said. “It’s because theirs are more connected than ours.”

For Storper, the core issue is whether we can “rebuild and change the way we do things and in particular rebuild our human connectivity” in order to be innovative and move forward in the new economy.

An Eyewitness

“I think that Michael’s book is one of the most important pieces of literature I’ve read on Los Angeles in an awful long time,” said Yarosklavsky, former Los Angeles councilman and five-term county supervisor, who spoke following Storper’s economic overview. “What it did was hold up a mirror to us those of us in public life, the private sector, stakeholders in the community. It said, ‘Here’s what’s been happening in the last 40 years.’”

Yaroslavsky, who was born and raised in Los Angeles and who has lived a public life as a civic leader, offered his observations.

“There are a lot of factors in why this happened. I think public investment is a huge piece of this puzzle,” said Yaroslavsky, who currently serves as director of the Los Angeles Initiative based at UCLA Luskin.

Investment in transportation is a prime example, according to Yaroslavsky. “Starting 1970 the BART system was under way,” he said. “By the time we cut the ribbon on the first 4.4 miles of the subway in Los Angeles, it was 1993.”

Going back to the early 1970s, Yaroslavsky said that San Francisco had plateaued while Los Angeles seemed to be on a roll.

“The Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, the space race, and the aircraft and aerospace industries were a backbone of the regional economy, and there was no thought that this would dissipate any time soon,” he said. “As a result, San Francisco’s business leaders looked ahead to position their region for the economy of the future, while Los Angeles’ leaders were looking in the rear-view mirror, searching for ways to preserve aerospace, manufacturing, and other industries that had carried it since the war years.”

Yaroslavsky said that, within a span of 20 years, these portions of L.A.’s economic base had diminished or disappeared, while the Bay Area was on its way. And, he said, L.A. is still playing catch-up.

He also pointed out that much of the political power in the state was based in Northern California, citing the influence of Northern Californians as U.S. senators, state legislators and assembly speakers for half of the 40-year period.

“These were important in that considerable public resources were invested in the north to provide infrastructure for the burgeoning industries of the future,” he said. “The Bay Area had a focused vision of where they wanted to go, and their federal and state representatives partnered with them to help make it happen.”

Southern California did not have a similar cohesive, focused civic leadership with a road map of where they wanted to go, Yaroslavsky said. In fact, during this period most of the remaining Fortune 500 corporations that called L.A. home left.

But Yaroslavsky said that there are signs that Southern California is turning the corner, mentioning several voter-approved measures in the last six years that will provide hundreds of billions of dollars of transportation infrastructure investment in this region.

Political power has also shifted in Southern California’s favor, he said. “The leaders of our legislature are both from L.A. county. The region seems to be working more collaboratively in recent years than in the past.”

Yaroslavsky said L.A.’s economic future is promising, but cautioned that this cannot be taken for granted.

“We are competing with other metropolitan areas along the coast, across the country and around the world,” he said. “Investments in our infrastructure — transit, harbor, airports, and communications are critical to facilitate private sector expansion. Public education and housing costs also heavily influence where private investment is made.”

Examining Voting in L.A. at the Neighborhood Level Researchers at UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge produce maps to document the county’s voter trends and behavior

By Stan Paul

All politics is local.

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) have taken that phrase to heart in an effort to determine the impact of voter behavior.

Silvia Gonzalez, an Urban Planning Ph.D. student at Luskin, and fellow CNK researchers have gathered data to create a map of all eligible voters by neighborhood in Los Angeles County. That data was then filtered to produce maps showing the percentage of registered voters and actual voters who turn out at the polls.

“My doctoral studies focus broadly on understanding patters of socioeconomic inequality, how these are constructed and reproduced in societal, economic and political context,” Gonzalez wrote in her proposal for a UCLA summer research mentor fellowship grant. Gonzalez, who also is assistant director of CNK, said that her interest is in “community power,” including the impact of voting.

The team has culled data on areas of Los Angeles with various majority ethnic groups, such as Latinos, who represent a significant percentage of the L.A. population. Other areas studied include those with a majority population of Asian, African American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White.

“This work will help organizations dedicated to political and civic engagement, and will show where there are opportunities to increase those rates,” said Paul Ong, CNK director and professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Asian American studies at UCLA. The data show general trends and also voter behavior within various groups, said Ong, who is serving as Gonzalez’s faculty mentor.

For example, by creating a gender parity index that reflects the level of female voter participation compared to men, the researchers studied who is more likely to vote in L.A. County. Turns out that it’s women, following a nationwide trend, according to Gonzalez and her CNK colleagues.

Among voters of all ages, the CNK researchers found that in Los Angeles, 52 percent of millennials (ages 21-34) registered in both 2012 and 2015 had not voted in the 2012 election cycle. About 1.1 million were registered in both 2012 and 2015. Actual voting percentages increased progressively in older age categories with seniors (65+) having the highest registration-to-voter turnout ratio, with voters comprising about 75 percent of the more than 850,000 registered in 2012 and 2015. More total millennials were registered, however, so the actual turnout between millennials and seniors was relatively similar in number, according to the researchers.

Ong said that this is a long-term project with a goal of building a database and disseminating results that the public will find useful. “We are very interested how political engagement plays out for communities,” he said.

The impact of their research on this year’s general election in November may not be that significant, Ong, said, but it may prove useful in the long term. The researchers will integrate neighborhood voting patterns from November’s election as soon as the data becomes available.

Team members include Gonzalez; Alycia Cheng, CNK analyst; and C. Aujean Lee, CNK research assistant and Urban Planning doctoral candidate.

Data sources for the maps included the October 2015 voter registration roll counts and November 2012 voter history file from the L.A. County Registrar, the 2010-14 American Community Survey population estimates by tract and the 2006 L.A. County Geographic Information System (GIS) data portal. Low population or non-urban areas were excluded.

The maps may be viewed online.

The mission of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge is to conduct basic and applied research on the socioeconomic formation and internal dynamics of neighborhoods, and how these collective spatial units are positioned and embedded in the Southern California region. The CNK emphasizes the study of diversity, differences and disparities among neighborhoods, and it explicitly covers immigrant enclaves and minority communities.

CNK examines neighborhoods through multidisciplinary lenses and through collaboration with community partners. Equally important, CNK is dedicated to translating its findings into actionable neighborhood-related policies and programs, and to contributing to positive social change.

A Guide to Turn the L.A. River Green UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation creates a toolkit to help communities navigate paths to improving the river’s greenbelt

By George Foulsham

If you’re looking for an example of what communities can do to take advantage of the land that adjoins the Los Angeles River, look no further than Marsh Park — 3.9 acres of greenway in the Elysian Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, not far from downtown.

The park features trees, green infrastructure, play and fitness equipment, a walking path, picnic tables and an open-air pavilion, all built around a large industrial building that houses a company that takes modular shipping containers and turns them into residences for the homeless.

The park also serves as a gateway to the L.A. River and is one of the case studies used by researchers from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in preparing a new Los Angeles River Greenway Guide. The guide is now available online.

“The L.A. River Greenway Guide consists of 14 case studies that highlight different parks, pathways, access points and bridges that have been constructed along the river,” J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, said. “What we have tried to do is to identify successful examples of improvements in the river greenway and then identify the challenges and the obstacles that those improvements faced so that other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and, sometimes, their failures.”

Marsh Park is one of the 14 case studies used by Luskin researchers to create the L.A. River Greenway Guide. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

The guide highlights four types of projects: bridges across the river, pathways along the river, community access points that connect communities to the river, and parks next to the river. It looks at the history of various efforts, identifies the challenges faced in each of those projects and spells out how those obstacles were overcome, leading to successful riverside gateways.

One example of useful information provided by the guide is a section on overcoming the hurdles associated with ownership and governance issues, with hints on how to deal with easement, maintenance and permit questions.

The guide will be unveiled at a free event, “A Night at the L.A. River,” on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., in Los Angeles. It is co-sponsored by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. The event will include a panel discussion on the “L.A. River Greenway Through Public-Private Partnership,” featuring Michael Affeldt of the L.A. mayor’s office.

The L.A. River, which starts in the Simi Hills and meanders 51 miles to the Port of Long Beach, has been called one of Los Angeles’ most ill-used natural treasures but also a neglected eyesore that looks more like a deserted freeway than a river.

In recent decades, concerted efforts have sought to revitalize and repurpose the river and its adjoining greenbelt. Graduate student researchers and scholars at the Luskin Center, part of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, are working with stakeholders, communities and organizations in an attempt to create a new future for the river and its environs.

The Luskin students, guided by DeShazo, deputy director Colleen Callahan and project manager Kelsey Jessup, produced the toolkit after receiving feedback at a workshop hosted by the Luskin Center earlier this year. Participants included staff, advocates and leaders from the communities, as well as nonprofits, government agencies, elected officials, policymakers, business and business associations, and academics, researchers and students.

The Luskin students have met with representatives from the communities that border the L.A. River, seeking their input and concerns. The new guide reflects the Luskin team’s research and recommendations.

“We think about the L.A. River greenway as an opportunity to enhance a 51-mile stretch adjacent to the L.A. River,” said Andrew Pasillas, a Luskin researcher who graduated in June with a master’s degree in urban planning. “In choosing a range of focus for the guide, we first held a lower L.A. River workshop which over 100 community residents and organizations attended. We heard from them what would be most beneficial in their efforts to develop projects, talking about these specific development processes and where they stumbled in the past.”

According to DeShazo, the researchers studied examples of successful projects — often near the northern part of the river — and “we thought about how those opportunities could be realized in the lower parts of the river where there are fewer river amenities and the greenway is more incomplete.”

The guide, Jessup said, is also a nod to what has already been accomplished.

“The Luskin Center’s Greenway Guide aims to do two important things,” Jessup said. “The first is to document the incredible work that has already happened along the river. Organizations have been implementing projects along all 51 miles and there is no real way for anyone to learn about all the projects, the details and the incredible work that has happened.

“Our second goal,” she added, “is to provide a resource for community members, government agencies and anyone who wants to do a project — to better understand the challenges that come with doing a project along the river and to come up with solutions to overcome those challenges.”

The researchers studied the history of the river — why it was ignored for so many years and what helped transform the region’s approach from what had been nothing more than a flood-control mechanism.

“Revitalizing the river has been challenging because there has been a long history of isolating it from the public,” Pasillas said. “Stretching back to the early 1930s and ’40s, there was a series of devastating floods that led to the thought process that we have to place concrete on the river itself to protect people.”

“There’s been a disconnect between the people of Los Angeles and the river,” Jessup said. “A lot of people don’t even know there is a river, and if they do, they think it’s this concrete channel that is in the way and dividing communities.

“But there’s been a shift over the past few decades and a lot of communities are seeing the river as a resource and an opportunity, especially along the greenway, for health, transportation, environmental and economic benefits,” she added. “The Luskin Center started this guide because we saw an opportunity to complement some of the other efforts that are being made to help connect the community to the river.”

According to the researchers, the guide is an example of how the Luskin Center can help communities in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California overcome obstacles.

“We hope that this guide can serve to empower communities by bringing forth the voices of river-adjacent communities that have never been heard before,” Jessup said. “The idea of a complete river greenway is the equitable distribution of different project types for different communities and residents to enjoy.”

UCLA and the Luskin Center chose to take on the guide because of the university’s expertise in urban planning.

“We bring together skills — whether it be ecology, park design or financing expertise — needed to help bring these projects to fruition,” DeShazo said. “We are very committed to engaging with Los Angeles and the communities that make up Los Angeles and working with them to make sure their vision of their section of the greenway is realized.”

The L.A. River Greenway Guide was made possible by donations from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Bohnett Foundation and the California Endowment.

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

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