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Turner on Effects of ‘Cool Pavement’

KNX 1070 spoke with V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning, about Los Angeles’ “cool pavement” project, part of an initiative to test strategies to adapt to climate change. The city has been pouring reflective coating on dozens of roads, and Turner is among the researchers measuring the effects. “Cool pavement is working. It greatly reduces surfaces temperatures,” she found. But she noted that the energy reflected from the cooler surfaces are radiated out and can be absorbed by the human body. As a result, pedestrians walking on “cool pavement” surfaces during the middle of the day may feel warmer, Turner found.


 

Monkkonen Research Informs New Model for Affordable Housing

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times juxtaposed a Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) plan to meet housing construction requirements with recommendations from Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Gov. Gavin Newsom promised to combat the affordable housing crisis in California with construction of 1.3 million new units of housing. The op-ed, written by the managing director of Abundant Housing L.A., accused the SCAG plan of “disproportionately dumping housing into the sprawling exurbs” while leaving wealthy cities with massive job pools alone. Critics say the SCAG plan will create a housing and jobs imbalance that will lengthen commutes and lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Working with Monkkonen, Abundant Housing L.A. researchers built a different model for distributing housing requirements that minimizes sprawl, prioritizes accessibility to transit and creates affordable housing where people want to live and have opportunities to work, the op-ed said.


Loukaitou-Sideris on Psychological Accessibility of Parks for Seniors

Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the BBC about the growing trend of parks designed for older adults. Inspired by Chinese parks with machines for gentle stretching and strength training, governments around the world have started building playgrounds to improve health among older populations. Loukaitou-Sideris stressed the importance of accessible design. “Often older adults feel not welcome in parks that are primarily designed for younger populations,” she said. “In other words, parks are not psychologically accessible to them.” After studying park use among older adults across different countries, Loukaitou-Sideris found that “park location, design and amenities most influence use among senior citizens.” Senior playgrounds encourage exercise, social connection and time spent in nature, improving health and effectively reducing the cost of public healthcare. Golden Age Park, the first park designed for seniors in Los Angeles, was created using guidelines set forth in Loukaitou-Sideris’ research and will open Saturday, Nov. 2.


ACSP Honors Umemoto for Leadership, Integrity, Solidarity

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) has honored Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto as the winner of the 2019 Marcia Feld Award for Outstanding Leadership. At the group’s annual conference, held Oct. 24-27 in Greenville, South Carolina, the ACSP honored faculty and students who have distinguished themselves or made major contributions to the planning profession. Every other year, the Marcia Feld Award recognizes a Faculty Women’s Interest Group colleague for outstanding leadership within the ACSP organization. “Quietly, with great talent and courage, [Umemoto] made an indelible mark on the organization and its ability to respond to the challenge of diversity,” said the awards committee, which described her as a “beacon of integrity and solidarity and an agent of positive change.” Although Umemoto was unable to attend the conference, she expressed her gratitude for the award and commented, “Each generation lifts up the next, and I’m very grateful to so many people who have helped me both professionally and personally.” Umemoto said she hopes that the award elevates the importance of research on diversity. A recent UCLA Luskin graduate was also recognized at the conference. Esteban Doyle MURP ’19 received the 2019 Ed McClure Award for Best Master Student Paper, which recognizes superior scholarship in a paper prepared by a master student in an ACSP member school. Doyle’s paper, “The Unequal Dangers of Walking to School,” presented a quantitative analysis of child pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Los Angeles and related their occurrence to neighborhood and built environment characteristics. 


Yaroslavsky on Future of Single-Home Neighborhoods

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured on an episode of 89.3 KPCC’s “AirTalk” about the future of California housing policy. The state’s affordable housing crisis has increased the pressure for bills like SB50, which would increase the density of housing in single-family neighborhoods close to transit lines. The bill was shelved in the last legislative session, but a second iteration is returning with provisions that Yaroslavsky called “very minimal and cosmetic.” The need for affordable housing is dire, he said, but “there hasn’t been a thorough discussion about what the SB50 bill does.” According to Yaroslavsky, “New construction in California is not going to produce affordable housing — it produces high-end housing, market-rate housing.” He criticized SB50 for failing to “demand anything in return from the landowners” and suggested setting aside 40 to 50 percent of new units for affordable housing. “If you rezone all the single-family homes in California, you’re not creating more affordable housing but you are destroying communities,” Yaroslavsky said.


Street Art Meets Climate Science in the Big, Blue Face of Zeus Massive mural in South L.A. is painted with a surface-cooling coating to start a conversation about our warming world

By Mary Braswell

The gigantic mural at the corner of Avalon and 62nd in South L.A. is super cool. The face of the Greek god Zeus painted in electric blues against a black background looks down as people walk by on the sidewalk and cars pass on the street. At 72 feet wide and 27 feet high, the street art makes a big, bold statement in a neighborhood of warehouses and loading docks.

It also literally cools down the brick wall it’s painted on.

Created with a solar reflective coating that reduces surface temperatures up to 30 percent, the so-called eco-mural aims to tap into the popularity of street art to start a conversation about climate change, said V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Project leaders V. Kelly Turner, left, and Lizy Dastin. View more photos from the “cool art” mural project on Flickr.

Turner conducts research on urban design and the environment, including the effectiveness of cooling surface paint to combat the “urban heat island effect” that drives up temperatures in cities. She does extensive work with the city of Los Angeles, which is testing the reflective coating on streets in every council district.

“L.A. has the first-of-its-kind cool pavement project. And we’re also a vanguard for supporting the street arts,” Turner said. “But no one’s ever done a street art intervention or mural using cool paint.”

To make that vision a reality, Turner reached out to street art advocate Lizy Dastin, who teaches art history at Santa Monica College. Dastin recruited muralist Eric Skotnes from the activist art collective Indecline, whose work blending graffiti art and classical figures has been commissioned on spaces across the United States and as far away as Israel and Peru.

By the time the mural Turner envisioned was unveiled — on an October day when temperatures in Los Angeles hit 95 degrees — the list of collaborators included artists, urban planners, climate scholars, community activists and entrepreneurs. But as Skotnes put the finishing touches on the towering face of Zeus, the excitement was tempered by the gravity of the underlying issue.

Turner cited research showing that extreme heat leads to more deaths than all other weather-related hazards combined. The danger is especially acute in cities, where buildings, roads and parking lots trap heat during the day and hold on to it into the evening, making afternoons and nighttime temperatures unnaturally hot.

In Southern California, cities often run 9 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the undeveloped regions that surround them. By 2021, as climate change intensifies, Los Angeles could experience an additional 60 to 90 days of temperatures above 95 degrees every year, UCLA research shows.

Facing that grim prospect, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has commissioned several urban design interventions — including planting trees and applying cool paint to roofs and streets — to fulfill his pledge of lowering citywide temperatures by 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2035.

To help the city gauge the effectiveness of the cool pavement strategy, Turner travels across the region to collect field data on the reflective paint. She has attached 100 tiny sensors to key fobs and placed them in trees in Ontario, Watts and Fresno. Along with collaborator Ariane Middel of Arizona State University, she has accompanied a temperature-sensing robot named MaRTy as it trundled down the sidewalks of Pacoima and Ontario to measure how the average pedestrian would feel the heat.

While other studies have focused on surface temperatures, the research by Turner and Middel is the first to determine the cool pavement sites’ “mean radiant temperature,” a more accurate predictor of thermal comfort for humans. The suite of measurements includes surface and air temperature, long- and short-wave radiation, wind speed and humidity.

The two researchers found that cool pavement surface temperature is lower than untreated asphalt at all hours, but mean radiant temperature can be almost 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher in the afternoon. Turner noted, “Cool pavement is not a panacea but one tool of many in making climate-adapted cities that are less hot.”

It’s all part of what she calls a “fantastic urban experiment.”

“Anytime a city does something like this — green interventions, let’s call them — as scholars, it’s incumbent on us to evaluate them using the tools of science,” she said. “We are really doing what’s called ‘adaptive management’— do, learn from doing and adjust.”

Turner is a social scientist who identifies urban design problems and builds teams to develop answers. That skill was clearly evident in the network she built to make the South L.A. mural a reality.

The idea for the project came in the middle of the night, she recalled. She immediately sent predawn emails to Dastin, a friend from their days at Wellesley College and founder of the street art advocacy venture Art and Seeking, as well as research partner Middel, who conducts climate studies as director of the SHADE Lab at Arizona State.

Armed with a thermal camera, Middel captured the heat signature of the finished mural, swirls of yellow, orange and purple that showed the effects of the cooling paint.

“That’s the most exciting part. The art exists in the visual spectrum and the infrared,” Turner said. “It’s interesting from an artistic perspective because it’s a different artistic parameter, a challenge for the artist.”

Muralist Skotnes developed the Zeus concept in tribute to the building owner, Amped Kitchens, whose logo includes a lightning bolt — the god of sky and thunder’s weapon of choice. The building houses a community of Los Angeles food makers who rent state-of-the-art production, packaging and storage facilities. Owners Mott Smith, a UCLA alumnus, and Brian Albert are advocates of sustainable urbanism and eagerly offered their 1920s-era building as a canvas for the mural.

The solar reflective coating was donated by Creative Paving Solutions of Arizona, and the project was underwritten by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation and the nonprofit Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

Turner sees the mural as an eye-catching way to raise public awareness about the urgent need to adapt to a warming world. But she says her end goal is to offer practical, data-based solutions for cities like Los Angeles.

“As a human environment geographer,” Turner said, “my passion is trying to think through how to make this research more useful for a city planner who needs to figure out, ‘OK, I’ve got this intersection, how can I make it cooler for people waiting for the bus?’ ”

The “cool art” mural as seen in infrared, left, and to the naked eye. Photos by Ariane Middel

Manville on Public Transit Investment and Ridership Trends

In a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s new high-speed rail proposal, Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, highlighted the challenges of implementing public transportation improvements in cities primarily designed for automobile travel. San Diego recently proposed two tax increases to fund billions of dollars in bus and rail investments, but experts worry that it will follow the example of cities like Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, which invested heavily in public transit only to lose riders. Manville describes Los Angeles as a “cautionary tale,” explaining that “you can’t take a region that is overwhelmingly designed to facilitate automobile travel and change the way people move around just by laying some rail tracks over it.” To avoid decreases in ridership, transportation experts recommend making it harder to drive by eliminating street parking, ending freeway expansions, limiting suburban home construction and implementing policies like congestion pricing.


Lens on Governor’s Struggle to Meet Housing Goals

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was featured in a Los Angeles Times article describing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lack of progress on his goals to tackle California’s housing crisis. While Newsom’s campaign platform included plans for the construction of 3.5 million new homes by 2025 and a Marshall Plan for affordable housing, critics have pointed out that the state still faces a shortage of 1.7 million affordable rental homes. Newsom’s largest success so far has been a new statewide cap preventing large rent increases, and he argues that he remains committed to fixing California’s housing problems. Nevertheless, the state’s homelessness crisis has become even more pressing since Newsom took office. “It seems like a pretty meaningful failure — either a failure of commitment or a failure of effort,” Lens said. 


Kaplan on Infrastructure for Suicide Prevention

In a Santa Monica Daily Press article, professor of social welfare Mark Kaplan discussed strategies for suicide prevention. Since September 2018, five people have taken or attempted to take their own lives in parking structures in downtown Santa Monica. Experts have found that barriers, cameras and signage can serve as prevention measures in parking structures. “It’s often an impulsive act, and there’s research showing that people think twice if there’s a barrier,” Kaplan explained. “That doesn’t mean people won’t go elsewhere or take their own lives some other way, but you can at least erect barriers that reduce the possibility of this happening again.” Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online.


Manville on Benefits of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Sierra Club article about the prospect of congestion pricing in major U.S. cities. Earlier this year, paralyzing traffic delays in New York City prompted the state to approve a plan to implement congestion pricing by 2021, and Los Angeles recently approved a two-year study to investigate the feasibility of the traffic-management strategy. By charging people to drive on traffic-clogged roads, congestion pricing encourages people to drive at different times, carpool or take public transit, all while reducing carbon emissions and raising revenue for transportation projects. Manville explained that congestion pricing is “the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce [congestion]. So either we can do this or everyone has to stop complaining.” Manville reiterated his support for congestion pricing as one of the most viable solutions to traffic gridlock in a Shift article.


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