Manville on Building Equity Into ‘Congestion Pricing’

A Los Angeles Times column about equity issues surrounding “congestion pricing” as a strategy to manage traffic and cut emissions cited Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. Discouraging driving while encouraging mass transit use is the right thing to do, the column noted, but it asked whether charging for access to the roads creates a burden on lower-income communities. Manville argues that it is possible to put a price on driving while also maintaining a commitment to economic fairness. “The fact that pricing could create equity problems doesn’t mean it must. Nor does it mean that, for the sake of equity, all roads should be free,” he wrote in Transfers magazine. “Few equity agendas in other areas of social policy, after all, demand that all goods be free. Almost no one, for example, suggests that all food be free because some people are poor. Society instead identifies poor people and helps them buy food.”

Yaroslavsky Assesses Candidates’ Plans for Tackling Homelessness

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about plans to combat homelessness put forth by Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, who are vying to become L.A.’s next mayor. With Election Day two months away, the candidates have offered details about their ambitious proposals for sheltering the city’s unhoused, including cost estimates and strategies for clearing bureaucratic hurdles. “I don’t think either of those plans will accomplish what they say they are going to accomplish in a year … but I think it’s good to set the goal,” said Yaroslavsky, who served as a city councilman and county supervisor in his decades of public service. Yaroslavsky proposed a single, countywide homelessness executive empowered to budget money and make land-use decisions. “Let the city and the county create a new paradigm, set a new template of political collaboration and cooperation and effectiveness,” he said.

Pierce on Heat’s Impact on Quantity, Quality of California’s Water

A Los Angeles Times story about Central Californians who are bearing the brunt of the state’s dwindling water supply cited Gregory Pierce, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. Drought, heat, agriculture and overpumping have parched communities and contaminated water sources. Few anticipated the dire impact of heat on water quality, and some residents are at risk of running out of water entirely, said Pierce, who directs the Center for Innovation’s Human Right to Water Solutions Lab. On KCRW’s “Press Play” and Minnesota Public Radio, Pierce weighed in on how the state is bracing for an expected 10% loss in water supplies over the next two decades. Radical proposals include a giant pipeline ferrying Mississippi River water across the Rockies, but that would be prohibitively expensive and politically untenable, he said. More feasible approaches include calling on consumers to step up conservation, expanding stormwater capture and wastewater recycling, and cleaning up contaminated groundwater.


Manville on L.A.’s Reluctance to Crack Down on Reckless Driving

A Los Angeles Times column on rising anger over speeding, stunt driving and street racing in L.A. cited Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning. In the wake of a high-speed crash in South Los Angeles that killed five people, residents from across the city are weighing in with stories of unchecked reckless driving in their neighborhoods. In mid-city Los Angeles, residents’ pleas for street safety improvements that would protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have gone unanswered, Manville said. On Melrose Avenue, “almost every weekend, we have burnouts and stunt bikers and all sorts of people driving dangerously,” he said. “We should enforce speed limits, but the best speed limit is a road that doesn’t let you speed. But our city engineers and City Council members for some reason think we need to have highways running through our neighborhoods.”


A Graduation Milestone for Luskin Public Affairs Majors

UCLA Luskin’s undergraduate Class of 2022 had the distinction of beginning a school tradition: the in-person exhibition of yearlong research projects that are the hallmark of the bachelor of public affairs program. During the Public Affairs Capstone Showcase in June at UCLA’s Royce Hall, graduating seniors shared their work on capstone projects benefiting more than 50 internship hosts, including UCLA research centers, Los Angeles government officials and agencies, state legislators, and nonprofits with local, national and international reach. Through poster boards and digital presentations, students at the showcase summarized their research and recommendations for an audience of peers, faculty, staff and internship partners. Rebecca Crane, who earned her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2021, served as the capstone instructor, guiding the students through a three-quarter journey that honed their skills in applying public affairs course concepts to real-world problem-solving. Students who produced exceptional work were honored with the Public Affairs Experiential Learning Outstanding Capstone Award after review by a faculty advisory committee. The Class of 2022 is only the second graduating class in the Luskin undergraduate program. Members of last year’s cohort presented their capstone projects in a virtual setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

View winners of the Outstanding Capstone Award along with other honorees in the 2022 Luskin Undergraduate Awards Program.

View photos of the Public Affairs Capstone Showcase on Flickr.

Undergraduate Capstones 2022

Monkkonen on Factors Behind Southland’s Rent Spikes

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about rising rents around the state and country. Of the most expensive places for renters in the U.S., two Southern California cities are in the top five, according to a recent report. In Glendale, the average rent is $4,472 per month, a 36.32% increase from 2021. In Santa Monica, the average rent is $4,357, up more than 15%. Monkkonen said a city’s composition of renters and homeowners is a key factor. “Why is Santa Monica more expensive than Beverly Hills for renters? It may be the case that Beverly Hills has extremely expensive properties, but it’s owner-occupied and their rental properties are small and older,” he said. “If you have two cities where the demand for living in the city is similar, but city A has newer, larger rental units, then the rent’s going to be higher there because of that.”


Astor on Parents’ Shaken Trust in Police Response at School Shootings

The New York Times spoke to Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor about an altercation between parents and law enforcement at an Arizona school. A man believed to be armed had approached the campus, prompting a lockdown; he was taken into custody and no students or teachers were hurt. However, concerned relatives who arrived at the school clashed with police officers, demanding access to the campus. Three people were arrested, two of whom were shocked with stun guns. Astor said widespread media coverage of the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where the police response was heavily criticized, has led to deteriorating confidence in law enforcement’s effectiveness in this type of crisis. “You can see these parents don’t trust the police because of everything they’ve seen or heard,” but that narrative is not necessarily accurate, Astor said. Police can help change that narrative by being transparent and trustworthy, he said.


Cohen on the Marketing of Psychiatric Disorders and Drugs

Social Welfare Professor David Cohen spoke to the science podcast Mind & Matter about the growing use of psychiatric drugs, marketing tactics used by major pharmaceutical companies, and what we are learning about long-term health effects on adults and children. Cohen linked the widespread use of anti-depressants such as Prozac to a multi-pronged effort by the “psycho-pharmaceutical medical industrial complex” to convince people that their struggles in life are due to a brain disorder. “We have created and trained generations of people to think that their distress, their misbehavior, their difficult choices, their oppression, all the problems of living as a human being are probably medical problems that have a medical solution,” he said. “That’s the dominant view today, that we are surrounded by mental illnesses.” Drugs can be a legitimate way for some individuals to function well in life, Cohen said, but he cautioned that patients should understand the medical risks and profit motives surrounding powerful prescription drugs.


Manville on Musk’s Pitch to Ease Traffic

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to New York Magazine about Elon Musk’s Boring Company, which proposes alleviating traffic congestion through the construction of tunnels beneath U.S. cities. Musk has argued that this type of underground network could whisk drivers across town in a fraction of the time. Manville countered that if the tunnels succeeded in easing traffic above ground, city streets and freeways would then become more attractive to the same drivers, and congestion would return. An example of this induced demand is the expansion of Interstate 405 through Los Angeles’ Sepulveda Pass, which was meant to reduce traffic but instead lured more motorists to the freeway’s added lanes. Manville, who leads traffic research at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said a wiser course of action would be to implement congestion pricing for drivers traveling on existing roads and provide more alternatives to low-capacity vehicles.


Report Finds Latino Representation Lacking in State Government Appointments

A new report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (LPPI) offers an in-depth picture of the state of Latino representation across the California governor’s leadership cabinet and influential state governing bodies. Latinos make up 39.1% of the state population but only 18.4% of executive appointees, according to the report. Among all women, Latinas remain the most underrepresented. The report also found a lack of Central and Southern California voices on executive boards and commissions. These influential state governing bodies play a critical role in advising the administration, establishing statewide policy priorities and regulatory standards, and determining the allocation of billions of dollars in public resources. The report noted that Latinos who do serve on these bodies tend to be more recent appointments: 70.7% of Latino appointees were appointed in the last four years, while non-Hispanic white appointees are more likely to be legacy appointments carried over from a previous administration. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include limiting these legacy reappointments and issuing an executive order that sets directives for reaching proportional representation of the state’s diverse constituencies across race and ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and geographic residence. “Without representation in these bodies, the myriad of policy reforms necessitating a Latino lens evolve into a universal approach that can leave Latinos worse off,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz told the Sacramento Bee. “Our elected leaders have an obligation to do more to ensure the state’s diverse Latino population is truly represented as architects of state policy and rule-making.”



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