Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner was featured in a National Geographic article about the importance of shade in cities like Los Angeles that are growing hotter due to climate change. Urban design in Los Angeles has prioritized access to the sun, with many city codes determining how much shadow buildings can cast. However, climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves, increasing the risk of heat-related death and illness. Furthermore, predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods have fewer parks and trees and less access to shade than white neighborhoods. While asphalt and concrete absorb and release captured heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, planting trees and creating shade can keep buildings cooler, lowering the risk of heat-related illness. “The really simple thing, if you care about making people more comfortable, is just to offer more opportunities for shade,” Turner said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the persistence of racial segregation in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. New research has found that many regions of the U.S. were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990. Reversing the legacy of segregation is a slow process, said Monkkonen, director of the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “It’s a self-perpetuating process, where people are relegated to less attractive parts of the city, and then they’re associated with those parts of the city,” he said. There are also stark disparities in income, home values and life expectancy between residents in segregated communities and those in more integrated areas. Monkkonen said that, while some communities are working to develop proactive policies around fair housing and development, many researchers aren’t convinced that 2020’s reckoning with race will significantly move the needle when it comes to segregation.
In a Washington Post article, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Brian Keum discussed the mental health and body image of Asian American men who face stigma and stereotyping. While there has been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Keum noted that “the constant invalidation of being overlooked and ignored” is a more subtle everyday violence that affects Asian Americans professionally, politically and socially. Keum explained that Asian American men are aware of “the stereotype of being emasculated, effeminate, less attractive, less manly, falling short of the white hegemonic masculinity ideal in the United States,” which negatively affects their psyche and body image. Without healthy outlets, Asian American men cope with shame on their own, sometimes through substance abuse, suicidal ideation, aggression or risky behavior, he said. An emerging network of Asian-focused mental health support programs aims to address stigma and promote mental health and well-being among Asian American men.
Research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst was cited in a Star Tribune opinion piece about racial disparities associated with police presence and crime. Weisburst co-authored a paper that looked at changes in police force size, crime and arrests in 242 large American cities over nearly 40 years in order to draw conclusions about the impact of police presence on different populations. They found that “investments in law enforcement save Black lives … but at the cost of more low-level ‘quality of life’ arrests and all the insults and injuries of intensive policing.” The authors calculated that, on average, one homicide is prevented per year for every 10 to 17 additional police officers employed, but the number of street arrests for low-level offenses, especially for Black civilians, also increases with greater police presence. The paper concludes that “Black communities are simultaneously over- and under-policed.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap appeared on a Fox11 News panel discussion about the growing fight for social justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and other Black victims of police brutality. Watching the cell phone video of Floyd’s final moments was like “watching a home movie that I was sorry to see,” Leap said. “Why are we watching this again and again?” Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd’s murder, but the fight against systemic racism continues. “What was so upsetting about recent events and what happened in Minneapolis that had affected people here is that trust is so easily shattered,” Leap said. “We need real change … so that people can feel safe.” The panel discussion took place after an episode of the documentary series “Rising Up” that focused on parallels between the Floyd case and the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police.
Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto has been named a recipient of the 2021 Chancellor’s Arts Initiative, a program to advance arts-related research that is timely, relevant and original and that increases public awareness of the arts at UCLA. Umemoto, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, is one of 12 faculty members to receive a grant under the $150,000 program sponsored by the Chancellor’s Council on the Arts and the Office for Research and Creative Activities. Priority was given to projects that contribute to UCLA’s larger commitments to sustainability, anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion. Amid a rise in anti-Asian violence in America, the Asian American Studies Center in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Center will spearhead a multimedia and multiperforming arts event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871, which involved the lynching of 19 Chinese immigrants. In addition to spoken narrative based on an original script, the project will feature body movement artists and a soundscape that draws from culturally diverse acoustic instruments and computer-generated sounds. This community engagement piece will include a pre-performance workshop and a post-event reception with speakers, performers and invited guests sharing historical accounts of racist violence against Asians in Los Angeles and linking the experiences of the past to the present. The Chancellor’s Council on the Arts also announced the launch of GO ARTS UCLA, an online platform that brings together the full array of UCLA arts and humanities events and research in one central location, underscoring the role of the arts at the university and within Los Angeles’ cultural ecosystem.
Evelyn Blumenberg, urban planning professor and director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, was cited in a Bloomberg Government article about President Biden’s efforts to promote equity in his administration. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged to consider the needs of minority communities when evaluating old projects or considering new ones, but he has also acknowledged the hurdles that exist — including in the Transportation Department itself. The department’s employees are 74% male and 70% white, and these demographic trends have been consistent for at least 20 years, if not longer. Many transportation projects have negatively impacted lower-income people and communities of color, an issue that has been exacerbated by the lack of diversity in transportation policy officials. Blumenberg commented that the transportation needs of low-income communities have only been “sporadically addressed” on the national level.
A San Diego Union-Tribune article cited a report by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) that highlighted the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latinos and other minorities in California. Latinos account for nearly half of the San Diego County residents infected by COVID-19 in the past year, but only 1 in 5 people vaccinated so far are Latino. CNK Director Paul Ong authored the report, which found that “Blacks and Latinos in California were more than twice as likely to have trouble making monthly rent payments than white people.” The report also pointed out that 23% of those who could not pay rent in the initial months of the pandemic were Black and 20% were Latino. “These systematic racial or ethno-racial disparities are the product of systemic inequality,” Ong wrote. “People of color, low-income individuals, and those with less education and skills are most at risk.”
Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a ProPublica article about how to make the COVID-19 vaccine rollout more racially equitable. In some locations, people 75 and older have been prioritized in the vaccine distribution, a strategy that ignores the fact that Black Americans have a shorter life expectancy than their white counterparts and are therefore less likely to receive the vaccine. Research has also shown that Black people who die from COVID-19 are, on average, about 10 years younger than white victims. “If you [allocate the vaccine] strictly by age, you’re going to vaccinate white people who have lower risks before you vaccinate Black people with higher risks,” Reber explained. “If you’re trying to avert deaths, you would want to vaccinate Blacks who are about 10 years younger than whites.” The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black Americans is expected to further exacerbate the life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans.
A new study by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin assesses four vulnerability indicators used by public agencies to identify neighborhoods most in need of pandemic-related resources and services. The choice of indicators used in prioritizing the COVID-19 interventions has implications for how many people of color and minority neighborhoods are served, the study found. Race and ethnicity are important because people of color encounter multiple dimensions of inequality that are only partially reflected in the indicators, said CNK Director Paul Ong, who led the research. The study aims to help ameliorate a policy dilemma. “Despite the reality that African Americans and Hispanics have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19, the 1996 Proposition 209 prohibits the state from explicitly using race as a factor in the provision and distribution of pandemic relief and coronavirus vaccines,” Ong said. Of the four indicators assessed, an index measuring pre-existing health vulnerabilities is the most likely to be inclusive of people and neighborhoods of color, the study found. It also recommended that public agencies develop new indicators tailored to the unique policy goals created by the pandemic. The research was conducted in partnership with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the UCLA BRITE Center for Science, Research and Policy, and the public interest research group Ong & Associates.