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Monkkonen on Plan to Zone for 1.3 Million Homes

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about a state requirement that Southern California cities and counties plan for the construction of 1.3 million new homes in the next decade. The Southern California Association of Governments — which had proposed zoning for just 430,000 new homes during that period — must now determine how to fulfill the commitment in neighborhoods across Los Angeles, Orange, Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Monkkonen argued for new housing in places where the demand is highest, such as Los Angeles’ Westside and other areas with strong job growth. To do otherwise would be “a travesty of planning,” especially given recent efforts to increase penalties on local governments that do not comply. Monkkonen said it’s unclear whether the law, which requires zoning for new housing but does not guarantee that the construction will take place, will have a significant effect on the region’s housing shortage.

Pay Heed to Housing Assessment, Monkkonen Urges

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, laid out the high stakes of an upcoming reassessment of the region’s housing needs in an editorial for Urbanize Los Angeles and a conversation on LA Podcast. California cities are required by law to increase housing stock to accommodate population growth, based on a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) conducted every eight years. In the past, the process has created anomalies like the “Beverly Hills loophole,” which allowed Beverly Hills to zone for just three housing units while the city of Imperial, with a smaller land area, half the population and lower income levels, was assigned 1,309 units. In the podcast, beginning at minute 54:40, Monkkonen explained RHNA’s history and next steps and spoke about the differing interpretations of “fairness” in allocating housing. He urged the public to engage with the Southern California Association of Governments to insist that the next round of assessments meet social and environmental goals.


 

Elected Officials Blocked Progress on Housing, Monkkonen Says

The Los Angeles Times spoke with UCLA Luskin’s Paavo Monkkonen about a vote by the Southern California Association of Governments to restrict residential building in the region. The decision undercuts Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledge to build 3.5 million new homes to ease California’s affordable housing shortage, the article noted. “What happened was emblematic of what’s been happening with housing planning for decades in California,” said Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. “A group of elected officials firmly committed to opposing change — in this case building more housing of any type in their city — used a seemingly technical process to block progress.” The story cited a 2013 study that found no clear link between Section 8 voucher holders and increased neighborhood crime — a connection sometimes cited by residents who object to construction of affordable housing in their neighborhoods. That study was conducted by Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy.


 

A New Tool to Help Plan for Expected Growth in Electric Vehicles Luskin Center’s Plug-in Electric Vehicle Readiness Atlas informs investments, policies and plans to meet consumer demand

More than 82,000 electric vehicles were registered in Southern California between 2011 and 2015. The number of new plug-in electric vehicles registered there during 2015 increased a whopping 992 percent from 2011.

Now, a report produced by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation forecasts continued exponential growth in the electric vehicle market, with more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles expected to hit Southern California roads by the end of 2025.

This forecast assumes that over time more residents of apartments and other multi-unit dwellings will be able to charge at home. The report, the Southern California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Readiness Atlas, can help make that happen, according to J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation.

“We wanted to provide a tool that decision-makers can use to accommodate forecasted consumer demand for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure,” DeShazo said. For example, the atlas provides planners with critical spatial information for meeting charging demand in multi-unit residences and other places. It can also help utilities identify where utility upgrades may be needed to accommodate additional electricity loads.

The atlas documents the concentration of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in a given neighborhood, visualizes how that concentration varies over the course of a day, and projects PEV growth over the next 10 years for each of the 15 sub-regional councils of government within Southern California.

With support from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the California Energy Commission, the 2017 atlas is an update to the first Southern California PEV Readiness Plan and Atlas created by the Luskin Center for Innovation in 2013. Recognizing that the plug-in electric vehicle market has changed considerably in the last five years, the updated atlas helps decision-makers plan for future changes.

“Like the region’s first PEV plan and atlas, the 2017 update can help open people’s eyes to the promises and challenges posed by electric charging stations,” said Marco Anderson, a senior regional planner with SCAG. As a liaison to cities in the region, he has seen how many cities used the first atlas to find local partners for charging station sites.

The new maps include the following spatial information:

  • the locations and sizes of workplaces, multiunit residences and retail establishments that could potentially host PEV charging
  • the locations of existing charging infrastructure, including the number of charging units/cords and level of service
  • and the locations of publicly accessible parking facilities to fill in gaps in PEV charging, particularly in older urban cores.

 

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Students Help Solve Real-World Problems At annual springtime welcome day and networking event, MURP students showcase their research in capstone projects designed to help clients

By Stan Paul

Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students don’t have to wait until they graduate to identify and solve real-world problems. Working with clients and agencies, the students tackle issues in their respective fields long before receiving their diplomas from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The capstone projects — yearlong research efforts — were on display April 6, 2017, at the department’s annual open house, during which prospective students are invited to meet current students, alumni, faculty and project clients. Each student project was represented by a poster that, to be effective, needed to easily convey information and be attention-grabbing.

“We have some students investigating the impact of a potential new bus line, looking at the role that accessory dwelling units might play in addressing the housing crisis,” said urban planning capstone instructor Brady Collins UP PhD ’16, citing a few examples of the nearly 40 displays. “One student is looking at the often overlooked, but important, role of women planners and planners of color in the history of Los Angeles. So there’s a really wide spectrum of different types of projects and different types of problems that the students are addressing.”

During the fall and winter quarters, Collins guides the second-year students from concept to completion. During the spring quarter, the students, who also work with urban planning faculty mentors, prepare their presentations for clients.

“It’s an intensive course,” Collins said. “We spend the first quarter looking at research design and research methods, how to write a literature review, how to conduct research. And we look at different ways of writing a policy report, or writing something that’s a little bit more focused.”

The projects can be based in Los Angeles or elsewhere, and may be with a planning firm, public agency or a nonprofit group. “UCLA has a reputation in the City of Los Angeles, so a number of organizations actually put their name in the hat and say: ‘We want a student from the master’s program to work with us. This is the problem or the research need that we have. And if there’s a student in the group that meets that, we would love to have them on board.’”

The reports and accompanying posters may also serve as a pathway to a job, Collins said, demonstrating to potential employers that “this is the knowledge and expertise that I have — this is what I am capable of doing as a planner.”

Alumnus David De Rosa MURP ’10, who works as a senior urban and transportation planner in Los Angeles, served as an evaluator for the projects. De Rosa said he was impressed by the quality of the posters, which seem to improve each year. “It’s an important skill in urban planning to communicate a complex issue in a simple way to be understood,” he said.

One example was “Planes, Trains, and Storm Drains: The Effects of Transportation Infrastructure on Water Runoff in Los Angeles County,” a project examining the region’s many transportation modes. Student Aviv Kleinman, whose client is the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), looked at ways the county can recapture storm water, and at policies that can be more sustainable.

“Water is precious,” Kleinman said. “Even though we had a really wet year this year we’re certainly going to be facing drought in the future. We already know what that’s like and it’s really important to recharge the ground water.”

Caitlin Dawson’s project, “Turning the Blue Line Green: Implementing Green Places along Metro’s Blue Line,” is designed to help Los Angeles County Metro implement sustainable projects along pathways. Dawson wants to improve the experience for people on bikes and on foot who commute to transit centers. Solving this so-called “first last mile” problem will involve partnerships with communities, she said.

“Basically, what I’ve been looking at is how they can implement them through ‘tactical urbanism,’” Dawson said. “That’s a way to implement projects that are short term, and kind of try out strategies to see if it’s a long-term thing a community might want to do. It’s coordinating with a lot of community stakeholders.”

Among the faculty touring the displays was Vinit Mukjiha, chair of urban planning.

“I enjoyed seeing how our students were able to address real-world challenges and practical planning problems through sophisticated research projects,” said Mukhija, who also served as a student project adviser. “Their work was a good representation of both the range of challenges planners face and the wide array of research methods available to help address them.”

He also noted the interaction of current and future students.

“It was also nice to see the exchange of ideas between graduating second-year students, first-year students who are getting ready to think about their capstone projects, and admitted students who are raring to start their professional studies,” Mukhija said.

In other welcome day events, the UCLA Luskin’s Department of Social Welfare hosted newly admitted students at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom on the same day. And the Department of Public Policy welcomed its admitted students on Monday, April 10, 2017, with a full slate of activities.

Prospective students for all three departments had the opportunity to tour the UCLA campus and hear from current students about the Luskin experience. They also were offered the opportunity to sit in on alumni panels and learn about student groups and resources, from financial aid to alumni services.