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A UCLA Homecoming for Noted Princeton Professor Scholar Martin Gilens will join the UCLA Luskin Public Policy faculty in fall 2018

By Stan Paul

When Martin Gilens joins the Public Policy faculty of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs this fall, he will be coming home.

“Returning to UCLA is returning to my roots,” the longtime Princeton professor of politics said.

The addition of Gilens to UCLA Luskin was announced Jan. 31, 2018, by Dean Gary Segura. Gilens, who previously taught in the Departments of Political Science at UCLA and at Yale, joined the faculty of Princeton University in 2003, where he is professor of politics and public affairs.

“Martin Gilens is an outstanding scholar whose work on race, class, social inequality and their representational effects in the political system has earned him an international reputation and enormous impact in the literature,” said Segura, who noted Gilens’ award-winning books, including 2012’s “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” In November 2017, Gilens released his latest book, “Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It,” with co-author Benjamin Page.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Gilens will be teaching graduate and undergraduate students at the Luskin School, as well as students from across the UCLA campus. His instruction will focus on the politics of inequality, the promise and shortfalls of American democracy, and American public opinion.

“Dr. Gilens’ insights into the dynamic causes of racial, economic and political inequality will strengthen the Luskin School’s ability to design policy solutions to these societal problems,” said J.R. DeShazo, chair and professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. “His study of the political behavior of people and interest groups complements the many Luskin faculty who seek to reduce social disparities in health, education, criminal justice and social policy.”

In addition to his previous post at UCLA, Gilens, who grew up in Los Angeles, has other strong ties to the university. Both of his parents were UCLA Bruins. And “even my grandfather, Nathan, was a UCLA alum, back in the 1920s, before the campus moved to Westwood.”

Much may have changed at UCLA since his grandfather’s time, but “UCLA’s commitment to the highest quality research and teaching has not,” Gilens said. “I’m thrilled to be returning to UCLA.

“As the country’s leading public university, UCLA is providing an exceptional education to tens of thousands of students every year,” he said. “I am extremely fortunate to again be a part of this critically important mission.”

Gilens earned his doctorate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the Russell Sage Foundation.

A Smart Way to Make a SMART Park New toolkit produced by the Luskin Center for Innovation provides a guide for making parks more user-friendly and sustainable

By George Foulsham

The burgeoning world of smart technology includes everything from phones and televisions to thermostats and voice-activated home assistants. Now, thanks to the Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, you can add neighborhood parks to the “smart” category.

The Luskin Center has just released “SMART Parks: A Toolkit” to highlight how technology can enhance the efficiency of — and more comfortable access to — public spaces.

What makes a park smart?

“A smart park uses technology to achieve equitable access, enhanced health, safety, resilience, water and energy efficiency, and effective opera­tions and maintenance,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean at UCLA Luskin, who led a small team of researchers and UCLA students on the SMART Parks project.

The toolkit, which is intended for park managers, designers, landscape architects, advocates and anyone who wishes to learn how technology can be incorporated into parks, is a compilation of technologies that cities and counties can use to make parks smarter.

The 275-page guide is organized by pertinent chapters — activity spaces, digital landscapes, hardscapes, lighting, irrigation, softscapes, stormwater management and urban furniture.

The kit includes a wide range of technologies that can be utilized in parks to provide benefits:

  • Interactive play sets that increase park accessibility for children with physical and mental disabilities by providing language, game and noise settings that can be adjusted by park management to meet community needs.
  • Path pavement materials that are more comfortable for older adults, making them feel welcome in parks and encouraging them to walk, thus improving their health.
  • Energy-generating exercise equipment that charges cellphones while providing users with free access to physical activity.
  • Irrigation controllers that conserve water by optimizing watering patterns in each park area depending on microclimate and soil type.
  • Soils that improve groundwater infiltration and remove pollutants from stormwater runoff, thus improving local water quality.
  • Self-healing concrete that reduces maintenance and replacement needs by preventing and healing cracks in park infrastructure, thus reducing park management costs.

The toolkit also includes guidance on how to navigate the challenges associated with the park management process, such as staff training and cost constraints, and pro­vides an overview of potential funding strategies to help create SMART Parks.

“The toolkit’s aim is to address concerns about park underutilization, high maintenance costs, and water and energy waste by rethinking the neighborhood park so that it becomes ‘smart.’ Parks represent assets for cities, but in an era of limited municipal resources and concerns about energy and water usage, they have also been viewed as liabilities,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

The researchers emphasize that the toolkit is a starting point for park managers, landscape professionals, local government, nonprof­its and interested community members to gain information on technological innova­tions and their potential benefits for parks.

More research is needed, they add, to ensure that the technologies and their benefits are appropriate for specific parks.

A downloadable copy of the SMART Parks toolkit is now online.

Suicides by Drugs in U.S. Are Undercounted, Study Suggests Report co-authored by UCLA Luskin professor Mark S. Kaplan finds that a substantial gap between the rates of drug suicides and 'accidental' drug deaths is likely due to misclassification

By Stan Paul

Mark S. Kaplan

The rate of suicides by drug intoxication in the United States may be vastly underreported and misclassified, according to a new study co-written by Mark S. Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The study was published online Jan. 10 in the journal PLOS ONE. The researchers report that the drug suicide rate in the United States rose nearly one-quarter (24 percent) between 2000 and 2016, and the accidental opioid and other drug intoxication death rate increased by 312 percent. This rate gap suggests an increase in suicide undercounting, according to the multidisciplinary international team of researchers led by Ian Rockett of West Virginia University School of Public Health.

“Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to serious under-resourcing of state and local death investigation systems throughout most of the U.S.,” said Kaplan, whose research has focused on using population-wide data to understand suicide risk factors among veterans, seniors and other vulnerable populations. Kaplan added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported more than 63,000 drug deaths in 2016, up from 52,000 in 2015.

“Many of these deaths were probably suicides, yet reported as accidental self-poisoning rather than intentional self-harm, particularly among the middle-aged,” Kaplan said.

The researchers report that suicide notes and psychiatric history, including a prior suicide attempt or diagnosed depression, are much more important in helping medical examiners and coroners identify drug suicides than suicides by more violent and obvious methods. The new research further shows this evidence is absent in a large majority of suicide and possible suicide cases.

“A suicide note, prior suicide attempt or affective disorder was documented in less than one-third of suicides and one-quarter of undetermined deaths,” the research team reported in the study. The researchers cited larger prevalence gaps among drug intoxication cases than gunshot or hanging cases.

“Our incorporation of undetermined deaths, as well as registered suicides, not only provided a window on the nature of suicide misclassification within the undetermined death category, but within the accident category — as a much larger reservoir for obscuring drug intoxication suicides,” the researchers wrote in the report.

The opioid epidemic in the United States is also exacerbating problems with suicide accounting, the researchers report. And that severely impedes the understanding and prevention of suicide and drug deaths nationally.

The team analyzed data from the Restricted Access Database in the National Violent Death Reporting System, which is administered by the CDC.

The Goal: Making Diversity Redundant UCLA Luskin alumni, faculty, students and staff gather for a daylong diversity recruitment fair showcasing programs and commitment to social justice

“You need diversity because it is excellence and its absence is a sign of intellectual weakness and organizational incapacity. So what we do here today and what we do at Luskin makes the country, Los Angeles and the world a better place.”

— UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was happy to host the second all-school diversity recruitment fair at UCLA. But, in truth, he would like to see it become redundant.

“I am hoping and believing that we are getting very close to the verge of making it redundant in what Luskin does,” said Segura, who has devoted his academic life to studying issues related to the issues highlighted by the fair.

“By your arrival next fall, Luskin will indisputably be the most diverse school of public affairs in the United States,” Segura said to an audience of students who have applied, or are thinking of applying, to one or more of the School’s three professional graduate programs in public policy, social welfare and urban planning.

In addition to UCLA Luskin’s outstanding faculty, Segura cited the School’s wide array of groups, caucuses and organizations — including the D3 Initiative (Diversity, Disparities and Difference) — and new programs, new hires and ongoing searches for new faculty focused on racial inequality, multicultural planning and immigration policy, among other areas of expertise.

The many UCLA Luskin student groups, along with their classmates, alumni, faculty and staff, came together again this year to organize the Dec. 2, 2017, event.

“At some point, the study of class and racial and sexuality differences as an understanding of public policy, social well-being and urban issues is not a niche, it is the discipline,” Segura said. “It’s 70 percent of the population.”

Joining the dean in welcoming fair attendees were faculty leaders in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, along with a panel of Luskin alumni representing all three graduate programs.

Making her pitch to candidates for the Master of Social Welfare professor and department chair Laura Abrams focused on recent tax legislation passed by the U.S. Senate.

“What does the tax bill have to do with social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?” she asked. “Everything,” came a soft voice rising from the audience, stealing a bit of Abrams’ thunder.

“That was on my notes,” quipped Abrams, who explained that the bill would directly attack Social Security, Medicare and “all the public benefits that are the foundation of our social welfare system.”

She then asked who would deal with the costs of economic hardships on the front lines.

“Social workers!” she answered emphatically, adding, “We are going to have to be the ones who pick up the pieces of those who are displaced, who are homeless, who are pushed into the criminal justice system, who don’t have enough to eat and who don’t have housing.

“So,” Abrams added, “we need all of you, not just those entering social welfare, but the planners and the policy makers because you are the future that is going to have to fix what is happening today.”

Manisha Shah, associate professor and vice chair of Public Policy, highlighted the expertise of Luskin faculty in areas such as health policy, education, immigration, inequality, science and technology.

“We have a lot of flexibility in the department based on what your interests are and what you want to do, what type of policy arena you want to work in,” said Shah, who cited the department’s mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches to evidence-based policymaking and analysis.

Vinit Mukhija, professor chair of Urban Planning, said that diversity and excellence are not trade-offs in outlining the holistic approach his department — which will soon celebrate 50 years at UCLA — takes in making admissions decisions. Urban Planning emphasizes not only grades but also a student’s personal statement, recommendations and the importance of relevant work experience.

Mukhija, who studies informal housing and slums in the global north and south, explained his own interest as a planner in finding ways to improve living conditions in slums, and his goal to “learn about them to change our ideas about cities and about our design ideas, our rules and to have more just cities.”

Also providing information and encouragement were recent graduates of the Luskin School’s programs who participated in a series of discussions with aspiring students.

Panelists were asked what motivated them to apply to Luskin in their chosen disciplines.

“Communities of color are not always exposed to urban planning although we’re often experiencing the negative effects of what actually happens,” said Carolyn Vera MURP ’17, who was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Vera, who now works at a transportation consulting firm, said that when she moved back to Los Angeles following her undergraduate years, she didn’t recognize the city she grew up in, citing the effects of gentrification. Vera said urban planning is such a diverse field and, “I knew I wanted to stay in L.A. and work with my community.”

It was homelessness that brought Cornell Williams MSW ’12 to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“I was homeless for a year. I had a college degree and I was sleeping in the park,” said Williams, now a psychiatric social worker for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and clinical director of the Jeffrey Foundation in Los Angeles. “Like a lot of our clients and people we have the passion to serve, I was stuck in that position and I had no knowledge of resources and access.”

Williams said the experience forced him to ask tough questions about himself and his future. “I came to one of these events and had an interest in all three programs,” but he said that Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of D3, “was a big part of helping me conjure or stir the gifts inside of me to choose social welfare.”

Williams said UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare gave him the flexibility to work in “every environment you can think of, and I’ve worked in a good number of them myself.”

The day’s events also included breakout sessions led by a number of the School’s sponsoring and organizing student groups: D3, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

Attending the event was recent UCLA graduate Vanessa Rodriguez, who said she hopes to enroll in the MSW program next fall. Rodriguez, who grew up in Boyle Heights and has worked with children with autism, said she has always had a passion for helping people. She said her reason for pursuing an MSW degree would be to work with women and victims of domestic abuse.

Among the staff and student volunteers who made the day a success was second-year MSW candidate Marisol Granillo Arce, who said she had attended a number of Luskin diversity related fairs before applying. Granillo Arce, who now also works as a graduate researcher for the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said it is exciting to meet future agents of change and tell them: “You’ve got what it takes to be a social worker, urban planner, and public policymaker.”

Granillo Arce added: “I think that individuals thinking of applying get the unique opportunity to know the staff, professors and students in the different departments. It is truly inspirational. You end up leaving the fair more confident and inspired.”

UCLA Study Finds Price of Freedom Too High for Poor L.A. Families While bail companies made millions in profit, hundreds of thousands of residents in poor communities remained behind bars awaiting trial, according to researchers

By Stan Paul

Between 2012 and 2016 more than $19 billion in bail was levied on individuals arrested for felonies and misdemeanors by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), according to a new study conducted by the Million Dollar Hoods Research team based at UCLA. Of this, $17.5 million in cash went to the court and more than $193 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits were pocketed by bail bond agents.

The report, “The Price for Freedom: Bail in the City of L.A.,” is the work of Kelly Lytle Hernandez, interim director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and two UCLA graduate students: Isaac Bryan, a master of public policy student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Terry Allen, an education Ph.D. candidate.

In California, those who are arrested for crimes, in most cases, have the right to freedom prior to trial if they can post bail determined by the court. Money bail is the mechanism for this freedom, which is also intended to ensure that the accused will appear for all court pretrial and trial proceedings.

Of the total of bail assessed — nearly $4 billion for each of the years in the study — approximately 70 percent was unpaid, meaning that nearly a quarter of a million people remained in custody before arraignment and trial. This percentage, which translates to more than $13.5 billion that went unpaid, also represents overwhelmingly those unable to pay — the poor. According to the study, disproportionately bearing the burden of the actual dollars paid for bail bonds were women, “namely black women and Latinas, representing mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends and wives of the accused,” the researchers said in the report.

“This is an astounding toll that Los Angeles residents — not yet convicted of any crime — are charged for their freedom,” said Hernandez, also an associate professor of history at UCLA and one of the nation’s leading historians on race, policing, immigration and incarceration. “It’s no wonder that so many Californians remain imprisoned before trial simply because they cannot afford bail. This is an extraordinary amount of wealth taken primarily from low-income, communities of color.”

Of almost $200 million paid for bail bonds, Latinos represented $92.1 million, African Americans $40.7 million, and whites $37.9 million, the study’s authors reported. Among communities studied, four out of the top five were located in South Central Los Angeles and the greatest amounts of bail paid were in city council districts with the highest unemployment, with homeless individuals making up nearly $4 billion of the money bail levied in the areas studied.

The information, obtained through public records act requests fulfilled by the LAPD in March of 2017, was broken down by City Council districts “so elected officials can see how much their constituents are paying to a private industry that doesn’t generate outcomes,” Hernandez said.

Bryan, who served as lead author of the report, is a second-year MPP student at UCLA Luskin.

“I think the bail report will revive a conversation on the economic sustainability of such a wide net in pretrial incarceration, the morality of such a punitive system reaction to poverty, and the disparate racial impacts associated with the current money bail system,” he said. “I am hoping it is the final push that is needed to spur policymakers toward a more equitable pretrial system.” Bryan is also serving as a David Bohnett Fellow in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Reentry, established in 2015.

Hernandez said that other states have found other non-monetary ways to ensure that the accused will return to court. Six states currently use an algorithm to help determine risk to public safety and risk of flight, Bryan said. New Jersey, for example, uses such a risk assessment tool. Prosecutors are still able to disagree with the algorithm, which may require another hearing before a judge.

According to Hernandez, the alternatives have “functioned well, if not better than money bail.”

But, for L.A., most people are not able to pay money bail, according to the researchers. For those who pay bail bond agents, that money — typically about 10 percent of the bail amount levied — is never returned and additional fees apply, the research team reported. “Among them, many individuals as well as their families and communities are simply too poor to pay the price of freedom,” they conclude.

The report may be accessed online.

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.

 

Guiding the Next Gen of Leaders UCLA Luskin welcomes new and returning Senior Fellows from the public, private and nonprofit sectors

By Stan Paul

For more than two decades the Senior Fellows Leadership Program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has matched the School’s students with professionals.

UCLA Luskin Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students have enhanced their academic experience with real-world, practical applications by making direct connections with individuals working in their areas of interest.

This year is no exception. Now in its 21st run, the program has fielded an outstanding class of fellows representing a wide range of professional expertise. The 2017-18 class includes a former U.S. Congresswoman, a current U.S. Foreign Service officer, the president of a popular local news media and cultural outlet, and an advocate for children’s rights.

“We are particularly proud of this group of Senior Fellows in part because it’s one of the largest groups of new and returning fellows,” Dean Gary Segura said in his opening remarks at an Oct. 26, 2017, welcome breakfast marking the kickoff of the 2017-18 Senior Fellows. “We are overwhelmed by your generosity. More importantly, we are overwhelmed by your willingness to share some of your valuable time with the next generation of leaders in Los Angeles and beyond. And, I mean by that, the 575 young people that make up the student body of the Luskin School of Public Affairs.”

Among the returning Senior Fellows is David Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles Drew University of Medicine. Carlisle, who also is an adjunct professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, served as keynote speaker for the gathering at UCLA’s Faculty Center.

“This is one of the most wonderful activities that I do every year … and I look forward to coming back because of the interaction with young people that this program provides,” Carlisle said to Luskin student mentees, faculty, staff and guests.

In his presentation, Carlisle, who has served as a Senior Fellow since 2007, stressed the continued importance of the mentor program. In an economic sense California is experiencing a “golden age,” Carlisle said. But “we are still challenged by meeting demands cultivating personal capital in the state of California and the United States … human capital. And, there are too many places in our state where people are still challenged to participate fully in the economic engine that is the state of California.”

For second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning student Sonia Suresh, an interest in affordable housing development and working with homeless populations led to her choice of Anita Nelson as a Senior Fellow mentor. Nelson is the CEO of SFO Housing Corporation, a Los Angeles-based organization committed to providing housing and support services for homeless and low-income people.

“We had a great conversation on our backgrounds and interests, as well as the type of affordable housing her organization builds,” said Suresh, who is also a member of Planners of Color for Social Equity at UCLA Luskin. “We have set up a day for me to shadow her and her development team.”

Second-year Master of Public Policy student Bei Zhao and first-year urban planning student Alexander Salgado were partnered with returning fellow Steven Nissen, senior vice president, legal and governmental Affairs, for NBC Universal.

Zhao, a native of China who has worked in investment banking in Beijing, said that the breakfast and mentor program provided the opportunity to talk about participants’ backgrounds and professional experience. She said she was amazed by Nissen’s experience bridging the private, public and nonprofit sectors, “which is also the direction I want to build for my own career.” Zhao said she hopes to apply her public policy and finance experience in the public sector of a nonprofit organization.

Nissen and his mentees have already planned on continuing their conversation. “At the end of the breakfast, he invited us to visit NBC Universal for further meetings … which shows his generosity for the future generation,” Zhao said.

The Senior Fellows Leadership Program is part of the Luskin School’s Leadership Development Program which is led and organized each year by VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development.

In addition to Nelson, new members of the Senior Fellows are:

  • Elizabeth Calvin, senior advocate, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Rick Cole, city manager, city of Santa Monica
  • Efrain Escobedo, vice president, civic engagement & policy, California Community Foundation
  • Christine Essel, president and CEO, Southern California Grantmakers
  • Jennifer Ferro, president, KCRW
  • Anne Miskey, chief executive officer, Downtown Women’s Center
  • Erica Murray, president and CEO, California Association of Public Hospitals
  • Rick Nahmias, founder/executive director, Food Forward
  • Seleta Reynolds, general manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation
  • Michelle Rhone-Collins, executive director, LIFT-Los Angeles
  • Lynn Schenk, former Congresswoman, California 39th Congressional District
  • Dan Schnur, director, American Jewish Committee; former director, USC Unruh Institute of Politics
  • Heather Joy Thompson, diplomat-in-residence based at UCLA Luskin; Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department
  • David Wright, CEO, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

More information on the Senior Fellows Leadership Program, Senior Fellow bios and a full list of returning Senior Fellows are available online.

Water Justice for Mobile Home Residents UCLA Luskin School study highlights substandard water service and quality in California’s mobile home parks

By Stan Paul

Gregory Pierce

Although California officially recognizes the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water for all citizens, the Human Right to Water law passed in 2012 has no teeth, according to Urban Planning researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In a new study, co-authors Gregory Pierce MA UP ’11 PhD ’15 and Silvia González MURP ’13 looked at drinking water access and quality in mobile home parks, a significant but often overlooked segment of the California population.

“Right now, I don’t think state and local policymakers are focusing nearly enough attention on this issue,” said Pierce, an adjunct assistant professor of urban planning and a senior researcher on water and transportation initiatives at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

The study, published this month in the journal Environmental Justice, is titled “Public Drinking Water System Coverage and its Discontents: The Prevalence and Severity of Water Access Problems in California’s Mobile Home Parks.” Co-author González, who has collaborated with Pierce on a number of drinking water-related studies, is a doctoral student in urban planning and assistant director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin.

Although some existing research broadly suggests that water service and quality in the state’s mobile home parks is substandard, Pierce and González said that a lack of literature and targeted studies on the subject spurred their research, which is based on a range of quantitative and qualitative sources, including more than 1,300 news reports related to mobile home water access.

Silvia Gonzalez

The study concluded that mobile home parks are:

  • likely to incur more health-related violations than other systems
  • four times more likely to experience a significant service shutoff (more than 24 hours)
  • 40 percent more likely to rely on groundwater, a known risk for reliability and quality

In their report, the authors said they were surprised to find that available data on water system reliability suggests that mobile home parks in California are as likely as the general population to be served by community water systems. The authors pointed out that mobile home parks are more likely to have small water systems, a characteristic well-documented to diminish access.

“This demonstrates that any deficiencies in water service in parks are indeed problems for which the public sector maintains oversight and authority to rectify,” the researchers said in the study.

Pierce and González also found that evidence on affordability was less conclusive, but it suggested that the cost of drinking water could pose an “outsized” burden on some mobile home park residents who, because of reliability and quality, may purchase bottled water, which is more expensive than alternative water sources.

Pierce, who presented the study findings at the 2017 Water and Health Conference held Oct. 16-20 at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, said that he hopes progress will be made in the coming years, “but the trend is not promising at this point.”

“The key message I tried to convey is that access issues faced by mobile home park water systems reflect inequities both in the governance of drinking water systems more generally and in landlord-tenant relations in mobile home parks,” Pierce said. “A lot of the issues faced by tenants are caused by landlord neglect.”

González pointed out that, specifically in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s most unaffordable housing markets, residents also experience the pressures of gentrification and displacement.

“As manufactured housing becomes an increasingly important affordable housing option, policymakers need to ensure these residents aren’t being put at a disproportionate health risk, and address accessibility and affordability issues when they are,” González said.

The article is available online.

Bringing Experience, Expertise to Problem-Solving Professions Four scholars join UCLA Luskin’s faculty in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning

By Stan Paul

Four new faculty members will add a wide range of knowledge and expertise to the world-class faculty of UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, as of the 2017-18 academic year.

The four will expand research and teaching in public policy, social welfare and urban planning at the Luskin School, with expertise in areas including housing and spatial inequality, labor and human capital impacts of climate change, health disparities for marginalized populations, and youth and urban violence.

Kenya Covington, who has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at Luskin, was officially appointed to Public Policy in July. She has taught courses at Luskin on housing policy, research methods, forces of urbanization, social inequality and urban poverty. This summer, Covington completed her second online version of the school’s popular undergraduate introductory public affairs course, which she developed. The course is a requirement for the public affairs minor.

Covington, a former longtime professor of urban studies and planning — and 2015 Distinguished Teacher of the Year — at California State University, Northridge, studies social and economic inequality associated with the structural makeup of metropolitan areas. Her work suggests ways to better utilize social and urban policies that likely mitigate disparities in economic opportunity. Covington earned her Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Latoya Small joins Luskin Social Welfare as an assistant professor from her former appointment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Social Work. Her research addresses health disparities and social justice issues for marginalized populations at the intersection of poverty, mental health and behavioral health. In her work related to HIV, women and children, she has looked at ways to empower HIV-infected youth in South Africa to maintain their medicine regimes and promote the avoidance of risky behaviors, while encouraging family participation in their health care.

Small earned her Ph.D. at New York University Silver School Of Social Work.

Karen Umemoto, formerly of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, is expected to hold a joint appointment with Urban Planning at Luskin and the Asian American Studies Department. Umemoto, who holds a doctorate in urban studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focuses her teaching and research on planning and governance in multicultural societies, race and ethnic relations, youth and urban violence, and community building.

At the University of Hawai’i, Umemoto taught courses on public policy and planning theory, community planning, community-based economic development, diversity and multiculturalism in planning, and qualitative methods and evaluation.

Jisung Park will join Public Policy as an assistant professor in January 2018. Park will also be a member of the faculty of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. His research agenda includes the labor and human capital impacts of climate change, the prospects for long-run climate adaptation, and environmental determinants of economic mobility.

Park, a Rhodes Scholar, earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, where he is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. He has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on American economic policy, and environmental economics and policy.

“Such an exceptional group of new faculty will bring tremendous opportunities and expertise to the Luskin School and our students,” Dean Gary Segura said in announcing the new faculty. “All three departments will benefit from these new colleagues and their path-breaking research and pedagogy.”

UCLA Luskin Public Policy Professor Named a Brookings Institution Fellow Randall Akee is among the first class of scholars and experts awarded two-year terms as David M. Rubenstein Fellows

By Stan Paul

Randall Akee

For Randall Akee, conducting research with restricted-use U.S. Census data has meant time-consuming travel back and forth across the country to Washington.

But a two-year residence in the nation’s capital as a Brookings Institution Fellow starting in September 2017 will allow the assistant professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to spend more time working on issues of income inequality across racial and ethnic categories. While there, he will also collaborate with a number of Washington-based American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians.

“It will also, hopefully, foster additional collaboration with agencies that collect data on these populations,” said Akee, citing the Indian Health Service and the Department of the Interior.

Akee, who also holds an appointment in American Indian Studies at UCLA, is among 10 outstanding early- and mid-career scholars and experts selected for the inaugural class of the Brooking Institution’s David M. Rubenstein Fellows. The new fellows will focus on one or more of Brookings’ five research programs. These include economic studies, where Akee will be positioned, as well as governance studies, foreign policy, metropolitan policy, and global economy and development.

The program is funded by a multimillion-dollar gift from Rubenstein, co-chair of the Brookings board of trustees, and co-founder and chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group.

“I believe strongly not just in Brookings’ work to improve governance locally, nationally and globally, but in the Institution’s commitment to fostering diverse thinking in the ranks of public policy researchers and practitioners,” Rubenstein said in announcing the new fellowship program in March 2017. “Finding solutions to the complex challenges we face requires new and innovative thinking that reflects a variety of perspectives, disciplines and experiences.”

In addition to conducting in-depth research and analysis, fellows will have the opportunity to learn about advanced communication tools designed to maximize both the reach and impact of their scholarship. Akee said he is looking forward to working with the century-old nonprofit public policy organization’s experts and staff on research dissemination techniques and methods.

“Overall, I expect it to be a very productive time,” said Akee, who is also a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, as well as a number of organizations and institutes focused on his interests in labor economics, economic development and migration.

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