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On the Job Training UCLA Luskin alumni return to campus to share career insights and tips with students seeking full-time and summer work

By Zev Hurwitz

With second-year Luskin students searching for career opportunities and first-year students looking to lock in summer placements, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs presented an alumni panel to give timely advice about what types of jobs might be out there in the public service sector.

At an evening panel discussion hosted by Luskin School Career Services on March 9, 2017, alumni of all three UCLA Luskin master’s programs spoke about working professionally with local governments and how their degrees opened those careers as possibilities.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who has taught as a visiting professor at the Luskin School each winter for more than 20 years, spoke about the opportunities for Luskin students to engage in public service, and he challenged the audience — mostly current Luskin students — to make strides in addressing the world’s issues.

“Five-sixths of the world today is conflict-free,“ Dukakis said. “The challenge now is how do we get the remaining one-sixth to join the other five-sixths? I just hope that, in addition to everything else you’re doing, you’ll be working hard for that kind of future.”

Five UCLA Luskin alumni spoke on the panel, which was moderated by Emily C. Williams MPP ’98, a member of Luskin’s first-ever graduating Master of Public Policy class. Williams noted that the panel’s academic diversity demonstrated the value in having cross-educational opportunities for current students, and she encouraged the audience to enroll in courses in other disciplines.

“It’s really nice that we have this great array of talent from all three departments in the school,” Williams said. “What was nice, for those of us who took classes outside our department, is that we really got to know some of the people outside of our programs, which lends itself to great working relationships.”

Paul Weinberg MPP ’98 is now emergency services administrator in the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Santa Monica. Weinberg spoke about how his schooling — Dukakis’ course in particular — gave him important insight into professionalism.

“Always return your phone calls — I cannot tell you how important that is,” Weinberg said. “You’ve got to find a way to acknowledge people reaching out to you,” attributing that advice to Dukakis. “Also, never say or write anything you don’t want to see on the cover of the L.A. Times. If you think about that now, that is more important than ever because [if] you put something out there in social media, it’s everywhere.”

Nahatahna Cabanes MSW ’13 is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at L.A. Works. As a former Bohnett Fellow, Cabanes had the opportunity to work in the administration of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while a student at Luskin. She said her current job is different from her role in the mayor’s office, but both jobs speak to her interests.

“It’s because I’m a little bit bipolar in term of my interests that I still have the compassion that drove me to social work, but at the same time, I’m a community organizer at heart and I love the world of politics,” Cabanes said. “I sort of balance between the macro and the micro.”

Molly Rysman MA UP ’05 is now the housing and homelessness deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Rysman discussed her experience bringing a priority issue to the mainstream of local politics.

“When I joined [Rysman’s] office, I worked really hard during her campaign to educate both her and her challenger that homelessness was an important issue — because back then you had to actually tell elected officials to care about homelessness,” she said. “Now I get to work on an issue that’s top of the agenda.”

Also serving on the panel were Daniel Rodman MURP ’14, now transportation manager in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, and Everado Alvizo MSW ’08, a former Bohnett Fellow who now works as a project coordinator and registered associate clinical social worker for Special Service for Groups.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at Luskin, said that giving opportunities for current students to engage with alumni is critical in providing a realistic idea of what life after UCLA will be like.

“When we have representatives from an organization talk about their work, they’re going to give you all of the formal, appropriate ‘yes-you-need-to-know’ detailed background about the organization,” Powe said. “When you’re talking to an alum, they’re also going to give you the inside story and they’re going to be honest. The alum knows what the students have learned here, so they can tell them how to tailor their experience to the jobs they’re seeking. I think that’s a very important difference.”

 

 

UCLA Luskin Community Scholars Project Named National Award Winner Students’ study of the distribution of goods in the L.A. area receives American Planning Association’s 2017 professional institute award for applied research

By Stan Paul

UCLA Luskin’s Dylan Sittig, right, accepts the award at the National Planning Conference from Glenn Larson, president of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Each year since 1991, scholars and students from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have worked together with community stakeholders to focus on timely and important Los Angeles regional issues and publish their findings and recommendations.

For their 2015-16 study of the distribution of goods in Southern California, the Community Scholars, a joint initiative of the Luskin School’s Department of Urban Planning and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, has received national recognition in the applied research category from the American Planning Association’s (APA) professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Chosen from a competitive nationwide field of candidates, the project, “Delivering the Good: Strategic Interventions Toward a Just & Sustainable Logistics System in Southern California,” is one of just two projects receiving the AICP award for applied research. UCLA shares the award with the University of Virginia.

“The enthusiasm of the students not only resulted in this excellent final report, but just recently they became involved in contributing to comments on the Clean Air Action Plan,” said Goetz Wolff, an urban planning faculty adviser for the project who has been a part of the program since its founding. Community Scholars also was recently recognized for its 25 years of commitment and service to the community with UCLA’s 2016 Community Program of the Year honor, the Landmark Award.

To ensure the needed breadth of knowledge that the topic of sustainable goods movement required, Wolff said, students — all candidates for the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree in 2016 — were selected from several of the Urban Planning areas of concentration: economic development, transportation and environmental planning. The winning project was focused on the movement and distribution of goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and its disproportional negative impact on local communities, labor and the environment.

“The combination of perspectives and skills resulted in a powerful mix with our community scholars,” Wolff said. The program expanded its knowledge base by bringing aboard Linda Delp, who heads UCLA’s Labor and Occupational Safety and Health program, as a co-instructor.

As part of their research, the students went on several field trips, including a bus tour of the Alameda Corridor, a boat tour of the Port of Los Angeles and a tour of the massive Costco distribution center in the Inland Empire, Wolff said. Teo Wickland, a Ph.D. student in urban planning at Luskin, and Katy McNamara, a doctoral candidate in environmental health sciences at UCLA, served as teaching assistants for the course, which also serves as the capstone project for Luskin MURP students.

In addition, at the Community Scholars weekly meetings held at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, the group heard from experts, organizations and activists concerned about the impact and future of goods movement in the region. “The participants from community organizations also brought their values and environmental, community, labor union and institutional experiences so that we had shared learning and research,” Wolff said.

Student team members who participated in the project were Adriana Quiquivix, Ariana Vito, Diana Benitez, Dylan Sittig, Edber Macedo, Evan Moorman, Gabriel Gutierrez, Kate Bridges, Lindsey Jagoe, Meghmik Babakhanian, Michael Barrita-Diaz, Saly Heng, Sam Appel and Stephanie Tsai.

Bio information on 2016 Community Scholars team may be found in the full report.

The winners of the 2017 awards will be recognized May 9 at the APA/AICP Annual Meeting and Leadership Honors event held in conjunction with the 2017 National Planning Conference in New York, N.Y.

A full list of winners is available here.

A Career of ‘Depth and Quality’ UCLA Luskin scholar Michael Storper to receive the American Association of Geographers’ Distinguished Scholarship Honors

By Stan Paul

The map of Michael Storper’s career-long study of economic geography is characterized by “depth and quality,” according to the American Association of Geographers (AAG), which is awarding to Storper the organization’s prestigious Distinguished Scholarship Honors for 2017.

The UCLA distinguished professor of regional and international development — and longtime faculty member in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning — will receive the accolade at the association’s annual awards meeting in April 2017 in Boston.

Storper’s “outstanding record of scholarly achievement and innovative contributions to the fields of global economic development and geography of urban and regional systems” place him “in a category of scholarship that is truly deserving of this prestigious award,” notes the citation to Storper’s award announced by Douglas Richardson, AAG’s executive director.

The co-author of the 2015 book “The Rise and Decline of Urban Economies: Lessons from Los Angeles and San Francisco” also was cited for the breadth of his research and “highly influential scholarly publications and foundational contributions to economic and urban geography and related disciplines.”

“My current research is about understanding the sharp splits that have opened up between prosperous urban regions and other places, and the future of both of these types of regions,” said Storper, who also serves as director of Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin. “This geography of increasingly separate worlds is also behind the sharp splits in politics and social attitudes that characterize the U.S. and other countries today.”

Storper was previously named to the Thomson Reuters list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.

In addition to his extensive scholarship, Storper was recognized by the Washington, D.C.-based AAG for holding prestigious academic positions, including chair in economic sociology at the Institut des Sciences Politiques in Paris (Sciences Po) and a permanent chair in economic geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Most recently, Storper was awarded the 2016 Gold Founder’s Medal from the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers, IBG). Storper received the honor — awarded since the 1830s and considered one of the most prestigious in the field of geography worldwide — for his “pioneering” research in economic geography.

“I am honored to be recognized for my scholarship thus far,” Storper said, “and this recognition motivates me to continue the hard work of rigorous scholarship and publication on these topics in the future.”

How to Build an Affordable Home: Start With the Framework UCLA urban planner provides recommendations for easing existing barriers to affordable housing, one of California’s most pressing issues

By Stan Paul

For UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs scholar Paavo Monkkonen, making housing affordable in California starts with a vital building block: the state’s Housing Element framework requiring cities to meet existing and projected local and regional housing needs.

“This system performs an almost symbolic function at present,” said the associate professor of Urban Planning who also earned his Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree from Luskin in 2005. “Cities that do not meet their housing targets face no consequences, and cities that do meet them reap no reward.” Monkkonen delivered a lecture and white paper on the topic Dec. 1 at the UC Center in Sacramento.

Two other areas of focus on this pressing problem for the state are expanding public participation in the planning process and shifting some decision-making from local to state and regional levels, according to Monkkonen. His lecture, “Understanding and Challenging Opposition to Housing Construction in California’s Urban Areas,” was moderated by Ben Metcalf, director of the California Department of Housing & Community Development.

“The current planning environment is stacked in favor of better-off individuals and single-family neighborhoods at the expense of renters and multi-family housing,” Monkkonen wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sacramento Bee the same day as the lecture. On the neighborhood level, opposition has continually hindered housing needs. “When interests with time and money block or downsize projects in wealthy neighborhoods, it pushes new development into dense parts of cities and increases rents throughout the area.”

In urging that the state takes steps to “democratize” the planning process, Monkkonen explained that planners need to have input from a more representative group of citizens such as families, low-income renters and young people — groups that may not have ready access to public hearings and planning meetings.

In his white paper, Monkkonen included a section on understanding opposition to housing construction and density. The list shows how opposition focuses on three formal systems — planning, legal and political — as well as informal influences and tactics to “shape what can and cannot get built in California’s cities.”

Monkkonen outlined a number of ways opponents to new housing impede construction through the planning process. These include commenting in public meetings, letter writing, social media, petitions, appeals or filing historic designations for properties or districts.

Legally, projects may face lawsuits to invalidate a permit or policy or be challenged through the California Environmental Quality Act.

Politically, ballot initiatives can be used to place a moratorium on development, and efforts to recall council members may be initiated. Opponents can also lobby for state laws affecting specific city rules, Monkkonen observed.

In his presentation Monkkonen:

  • Outlined policy recommendations for land-use reforms concerning housing directed by the state.
  • Described how limiting the supply of new housing creates less-affordable housing.
  • And pointed out how the issue of housing supply is generally misunderstood.

Monkkonen emphasizes this in the abstract to his white paper: “The debate continues despite robust empirical evidence demonstrating that supply constraints — low density chief among them — are a core cause of increasing housing costs.”

Among his recommendations to the state on how to push back against local constraints on new housing is one favoring “by-right” approval of projects. Projects that comply with current zoning laws may bypass regular approval processes where these processes are a “persistent hindrance to regional housing needs.” Monkkonen cited California’s density bonus law — an example of by-right approval — wherein developers may be incentivized to include affordable units in exchange for an increase in density.

Monkkonen believes that his work may prompt state government action and provide a guide to addressing the affordable housing issue in California.

“I was excited to be able to present this work in conversation with Ben Metcalf,” said Monkkonen, adding that the state’s director of housing and community development was very receptive to his policy recommendations. “He said his department is releasing a state housing plan next week that actually mirrors a lot of my analysis.”

Monkkonen’s white paper is available online.

For more information on California’s Housing Element Law, please visit the California Department of Housing and Community Development web page.

‘A Leader in Validating Diversity’ UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to host its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair

By Stan Paul

“Diversity and excellence are not mutually exclusive.”

For Gerry Laviña, director of field education and associate director of the D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, those words by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. made “a clear statement and immediately said to our community that Luskin values diversity.”

In Los Angeles and around the world, “diversity is a social justice issue,” Laviña said. “And now we have seen this being challenged.” The unequal playing fields of opportunity and wages — as well as institutional barriers and discrimination — are the issues Luskin students and faculty members grapple with as practitioners and scholars every day, he said.

Laviña, who also serves as the faculty co-chair of the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) Committee in Social Welfare, and advises the Luskin dean on related issues, said that, ideally, the products of the students’ and School’s continuing efforts are inclusive and equitable situations in which diversity and diverse viewpoints are valued.

“Luskin is a leader in validating diversity — look at our students, the communities we serve, the student orgs, the research centers, D3, the Gilliam Social Justice Awards, our Diversity Fair, etc. Yet, we always have more work to do,” Laviña said.

In this spirit, the Luskin School will be hosting its first schoolwide Diversity Recruitment Fair starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. The all-day fair at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom and the Luskin School will bring together the departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning for an informative program of interest to prospective graduate students, especially those underrepresented in higher education and professional fields.

Throughout the Luskin School’s history there have been diversity events and programs organized by student groups, said Laviña, who is on the organizing committee of academic advisers and staff as well as student diversity group representatives.

Diversity is a common thread at Luskin that runs from students and faculty to staff and alumni, all of whom are part of organizing the event. Luskin’s Leadership Development Program is also helping to organize and sponsor it.

“We have talked about it for a few years and this year decided to join together — pooling resources, knowledge, people power — to benefit each department and Luskin overall,” Laviña said. “We need to do more work collectively and across departments, so this will be a wonderful, concrete way to do so.”

Delara Aharpour, a second-year master of public policy (MPP) student representing the public policy student group Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE), said she was happy to see UCLA Luskin making a concerted effort on diversity. “It makes us really proud to be part of this program,” Aharpour said. “We all believe in making the School accessible to everyone.”

Other groups participating are Social Welfare’s Diversity Caucus and Planners of Color for Social Equity, an Urban Planning organization.

“We hope this is our largest, most successful diversity fair as well as an example of the great work that can be done when all departments have the opportunity to collaborate with each other,” said Ambar Guzman, a second-year master of social welfare (MSW) student representing the Social Welfare Diversity Caucus. “My hope is that prospective students will get a sense of the collaborative and supportive community we have continued to build within the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” she said.

Jackie Oh, a second-year master of urban and regional planning (MURP) student representing Planners of Color for Social Equity, said that the purpose of the diversity admissions fair is to demonstrate to prospective applicants the department’s commitment to social justice and urban planning, and to reach out to those historically underrepresented graduate programs. The fair’s workshops are meant to be both informative and geared toward strengthening the applications of aspiring planners, especially those of color, Oh said. Information on financial aid and statements of purpose will be available at the fair.

“The opportunity to network with our current students, staff and alumni welcomes our visitors to the department and helps them envision joining our community and advancing their planning interests at UCLA,” Oh said. Among participants in the event will be Ed Reyes, Urban Planning alumnus, Luskin Senior Fellow and former longtime Los Angeles City Councilmember.

Interim Dean Lois Takahashi explained why diversity is so important to the mission of the Luskin School: “At the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, we see diversity and excellence as mutually reinforcing dimensions of education, research, and public/community engagement. As such, we are committed to supporting diversity in ideas, in people and in projects across the school.”

For information, schedule and registration, please visit the Luskin Diversity Recruitment Fair web page.

Global Change Should Stem from Local Leadership Author and academic Benjamin Barber says cities present the best hope of solving the world’s problems

By Zev Hurwitz

While voters weigh the prospects of which presidential contender is best suited to address the big issues in 2016, one academic thinks the real change-makers are at city halls — not the White House.

During an Oct. 26 lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Benjamin Barber, a noted political theorist and author who holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, lectured on his philosophy that the key to addressing major global problems is tackling those challenges from the local level.

“Common sense problem-solving pragmatism makes cities the most useful governing institutions in the world as compared to the 19th Century ideologically based national politics of … countries all over the world,” Barber said.

Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty and community members, Barber asserted that cities are uniquely positioned to address every major challenge facing the international community because these issues are no longer specific to individual nation states.

“Every problem we face is a problem without borders,” said Barber, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors. “Cities are positioned to address every major problem we have globally.”

The lecture’s title, “How Cities Trump Trump: Urban Pragmatism vs. Toxic Campaign Demagoguery,” was meant “to draw you in, the same way MSNBC does: with Trump,” Barber said, noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric claiming an international conspiracy to undermine American sovereignty is flawed and “toxic.”

“Trump is right in pointing to the loss of sovereignty, but where he’s wrong is thinking that it is due to stupidity,” Barber said. “We need to learn how to accommodate, not how to scapegoat.”

Nationalized global power, the way Trump describes it, started disappearing after World War II and hasn’t existed since, Barber said.

“Sovereignty, the jurisdiction of a national government over all of the issues its people face, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, in any country claiming to be sovereign,” Barber said. “We are still responding to these global, borderless problems with sovereign nationally based governments.”

Because the power spheres are organized differently in the 21st Century, the real power — and driving force for change — lies in cities, which Barber said is euphemistic for all regional and local governance, not necessarily individual municipalities.

Cities have a unique interest in driving solutions to global issues because “the problems of cities and the problems of the globe are very much the same.” To illustrate this point, Barber pointed to two major issues: climate change and terrorism.

Most of the world’s population, in the 21st Century, lives in cities, and most cities are within proximity to bodies of water, meaning that much of the world’s population has a vested interest in combating climate change and rising sea levels. In addition, Barber said, 80 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from cities. Because the cause and the effect are both specific to cities, cities are best suited to address that challenge.

About terrorism, Barber said that problem-solving must come from local leadership because terrorists almost exclusively target cities.

“Nobody has attacked a pecan farm in Sacramento,” he said. “They come after cities because that’s where the people are. Terrorism is aimed at cities because cities represent everything that terrorism rejects.”

In order to address major global challenges, Barber said, cities, and their leaders, need to practice collaboration with interlocutors locally and with other cities.

“Cities work by consensus, by collaboration, by building bridges and working with everybody,” he said.

Barber spoke about his involvement with the Global Parliament of Mayors, an international body of local leaders that convened for the first time in September. There was a need for “enacting common urban legislation, not just best practices.” According to Barber, the United Nations’ model of organizing nation-states based on their sovereignty has stymied opportunities for problem-solving. The Global Parliament of Mayors has potential to be a unifying force beyond international borders.

“This is a founding seedling for what, in time, can become a genuine governance organization — a kind of U.N. body,” he said, calling the ideal for the organization to be a body that is “defined by the natural collaborativeness of cities” and their capacity to work with one another.”

The Department of Urban Planning organized the lecture and the Department of Public Policy co-sponsored it, with assistance by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA departments of History, Philosophy and Political Science.

Mark A. Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, introduced the speaker, saying that the lecture “couldn’t be more timely.”

“Much of the American public, and our own faculty and students in the Luskin School, have felt intense frustration over the years of policy stalemate at the national level,” Peterson said after the event. “Dr. Barber presented the possibility of a different pathway for addressing major issues — problems for which there seems little prospect of making progress through congressional and presidential action, regardless of the results of the 2016 elections.”

Peterson also noted the application of Baker’s philosophy in Luskin’s curriculum.

“The motto of the Public Policy Department is ‘advancing knowledge in the public interest’ — an essential requirement for understanding the causes of societal problems and identifying interventions that mitigate those causes,” Peterson said.

“However, the actions to be taken, whether by national governments or subnational institutions, are necessarily determined by governing institutions embedded in political processes, ideally with full opportunities for democratic choice and accountability. All of these elements are features of the Public Policy MPP curriculum and prominent in Dr. Barber’s scholarship and public engagement.”

Barber has authored 18 books, including 1995’s best-selling “Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World” and 2013’s “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

Soham Dhesi, a first-year Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student attended the event. Like Peterson, Dhesi said she found parallels between Barber’s lecture and her Luskin coursework in urban planning.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is urban planning — haven’t cities already been built?’” Dhesi said. “This is an answer to how cities can be important tools to address these global problems.”

Dhesi referenced the histories and theories of urban planning and course discussions on grassroots movements and individual participation in change-making, saying she found application of Barber’s views on the potential for cities to lead the way.

“Citizens, through their participation in the city, can bring about change,” she said. “Cities are a way for people to participate, which is harder to do at a national level. This goes in line with what we were learning in class about community development.”

A Landmark Honor for UCLA Luskin’s Community Scholars Urban Planning project recognized as 2016 UCLA Community Program of the Year for impact on Los Angeles

By Stan Paul

For more than a quarter-century, a unique UCLA community outreach experiment has brought UCLA Urban Planning students, faculty and community stakeholders together to focus on jobs, wages, workers and many other important Los Angeles issues.

The Community Scholars — a joint initiative of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education — began with the first evening class in 1991.

“The very first class was a totally an experiment,” said UCLA Urban Planning instructor Gilda Haas. Haas and Urban Planning lecturer Goetz Wolff continue to teach in the program, and both have been a part of Community Scholars from the beginning.

Haas said it began with conversations on rethinking economic development in Los Angeles and “how the university could be more helpful to the community.”

Community Scholars has won the Landmark Award as the 2016 UCLA Community Program of the Year, an award recognizing UCLA programs that have made a significant impact in the communities they serve throughout many years of service.

Keith Parker, assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said that Community Scholars was selected because of the “longstanding commitment to economic and environment sustainability and the work of labor, community organizations in greater Los Angeles over 26 years.”

The Community Scholars program serves as part of a capstone project for 15-25 master of urban and regional studies (MURP) students each year. And, while the yearly two-quarter research seminar serves as a graduation requirement for the students, the program also recognizes the role the community plays in shaping development policy in L.A.

Past Community Scholars project topics have included manufacturing, banking, Walmart, home-care workers, immigration, green-collar jobs and the right to health in South Los Angeles. Although looking at industries in L.A., at their core, these topics focus on the human dimension and are “concerned about working people,” Haas said. For example, the project for the first year was Accidental Tourism, and it focused on the hotel and restaurant industry, specifically unions and workers.

The most recent project was dedicated to longtime Urban Planning professor Jacqueline Leavitt, who had served as the director of the Community Scholars program since 1999 until she passed away in November 2015. The most recent report was led by Goetz Wolff, “Delivering the Good: Strategic Interventions Toward a Just & Sustainable Logistics System in Southern California,” and served as the client project for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

“Delivering the Good” focused on the movement and distribution of goods, via the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the disproportional negative impact on local communities, labor and the environment.

As for future topics, Wolff said, “They bubble up, issues that arise in the community. They all look at what will it take to improve L.A.”

Haas said that a number of students who have participated in the program have gone on to become research staff for labor unions and community organizations.

“People learn to appreciate, listen to and communicate with others,” Haas said. “This is a good role for a university and students.”

The award was presented Oct. 13 at the annual UCLA in Downtown L.A. reception at Los Angeles City Hall.

Gentrification and Displacement in Southern California UCLA urban planners release online mapping tool to help analyze impact of developments near Los Angeles area transit projects. The goal? ‘Progress that is fair and just’

By Stan Paul

A team of researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has created an interactive mapping tool to help community leaders better understand the effects of new light-rail and subway projects and related developments — especially on low-income communities.

Researchers view the project as a resource to help communities and policymakers identify the pressures associated with development and figure out how to take more effective action to ensure that new construction isn’t always accompanied by current residents being priced out of their neighborhoods.

The Southern California portion of the joint UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project on gentrification and displacement in urban communities is available online.

“There has been a strong interest in neighborhoods around subway stations and light-rail stops,” said Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a professor of Urban Planning. “These locations have the potential for extensive private investments because transit gives people an alternative to using cars. This is particularly attractive to today’s young professionals.”

However, according to Ong, the downside to this “upscaling” is that changing the character of a neighborhood with additional transportation options can lead to lower-income disadvantaged households being pushed out.

“Sometimes, landlords aggressively — and perhaps illegally — force them out,” said Ong, who is also a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Higher rents make it difficult for low-income households to move into the neighborhood, so we see a net decline in their numbers. They are replaced by those who can afford the higher housing cost — people referred to as ‘gentrifiers.’”

Ong said that most of those who can afford higher housing costs do not purposefully want to displace people living in poorer households, “but, nonetheless, gentrifiers are a part of the larger socioeconomic process.” The goal of the Urban Displacement Project, according to the researchers, is not to stop neighborhood change because many people can benefit from these developments. “The challenge,” Ong said, “is ensuring that progress is fair and just.”

The UCLA team, funded in part by the California Air Resources Board, created a database for the Los Angeles County region that included information on demographics, socio-economic and housing characteristics in neighborhoods that are near transit projects and those that are not.

Key findings by UCLA researchers for L.A. County include:

  • Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification.
  • Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households.
  • The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods.

Users of the mapping tool can examine neighborhood-level data on racial/ethnic composition, which areas have seen upscaling, gentrification, population density, percentage of people living in poverty, median household income and level of education. More specific data is also available, including the number of households with a Section 8 housing voucher and low-income housing tax credits.

“Our goal is that local and state governments will use the information to guide decisions regarding public investments that are just; community groups will use the information to help tell their stories of preserving the best parts of their neighborhood; and engaged citizens will become more aware of critical issues facing society,” Ong said.

As part of the study, the Bay Area team analyzed nine case studies and the UCLA team looked at six more in L.A. County to capture geographic diversity and to examine different stages of the gentrification and displacement process.

“Also, we want to focus in more detail on the phenomenon of commercial gentrification, which leads to the closing down of mom-and-pop stores and ethnic small businesses in some neighborhoods,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, principal investigator on the Los Angeles team. Most of the existing studies focus only on residential gentrification said Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean of the Luskin School.

For example, the UCLA team looked at studies based on the “live experiences of real communities” such as six disadvantaged neighborhoods located near Los Angeles Metro Rail stations. The also examined the impacts on Asian-American businesses near transit-oriented developments, as well as the impact of new outlets such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks on ethnic small businesses in L.A.’s Chinatown.

Loukaitou-Sideris said the researchers discovered one important difference between the strategies used by Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“We found that Bay Area municipalities have in their books many more anti-displacement policies than municipalities in L.A. County,” she said. “However, we do not know yet how effective these policies have been in limiting displacement.”

UCLA Luskin Researchers Receive Statewide Recognition Study on parks for senior citizens receives 2016 Academic Award of Merit from the American Planning Association’s California chapter

By Stan Paul

A team of UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty and student researchers has received statewide recognition for a project to foster and fulfill the need for senior-friendly parks in U.S. cities.

In June, the researchers, led by Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, received the Award of Excellence (Academic Award) at the 2016 American Planning Association’s Los Angeles Section Awards Gala. The long-term project, “Placemaking for an Aging Population: Guidelines for Senior-Friendly Parks,” was among the “best of planning” entries representing work from cities, nonprofits, consulting firms and individuals in APA’s Los Angeles chapter, one of eight sections in California. The project is funded by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and the Archstone Foundation.

The study has been selected for a 2016 Academic Award of Merit by APA’s California chapter. The award will be presented at the organization’s state conference in October.

In addition to providing evidence for the physical, mental and social needs that parks provide to seniors, the study includes case studies from the U.S. and around the world, as well as guidelines for planners and designers of senior-friendly spaces. The researchers also conducted focus groups as part of the study so that older inner-city residents could have their voices heard and share their firsthand information and perceptions.

“Seniors are a heterogeneous group in in terms of age, physical and cognitive capacities, and socio-cultural capacities,” the authors stated in their Design Guidelines Overview chapter. “Thus, prior to the creation of a senior-friendly park, the preferences and needs of the likely prominent users should be identified and addressed in the design.”

As a statewide award winner, the project is now eligible for consideration for the 2017 National Planning Awards.

The UCLA Luskin team also included Social Welfare professor Lené Levy-Storms and Madeline Brozen MA UP ’11, associate director for external relations for the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, and program manager of the Complete Streets Initiative. Luskin graduate student researchers, who have since graduated from Luskin, were Lynn Chen Ph.D. SW ’13 and Urban Planning Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) graduates Liz Devietti, Hannah Gustafson and Lucia Phan. Lia Marshall, a doctoral student in Social Welfare, also was a member of the research team.

Planning a New Future for Tacubaya UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students use their capstone project to provide guidance to Mexico City as it re-envisions one of its neighborhoods

By George Foulsham

Within the heart of Mexico City sits the bustling neighborhood of Tacubaya, population 5,000. Centuries ago, the area was considered rural, but in the mid-19th century urban growth in Mexico City swallowed Tacubaya and it became one of the poorer neighborhoods in a giant metropolis.

Tacubaya of today is defined by intersecting transportation lines that transformed the once-sleepy neighborhood into a central transit hub for thousands of commuters who swarm the area at various times of the day and night. Crime, poverty, unemployment and informal housing are all painful evidence of a community that has suffered from neglect and a lack of investment. Freeway development and an absence of a cohesive community plan have led to a dearth of public amenities as well.

It’s a town that could use help — the kind of help that urban planners could provide.

To address Tacubaya’s issues, the Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Vivienda (SEDUVI), an agency within the Mexico City government, hired international consulting company CTS EMBARQ to help design a new development tool, El Sistema de Actuacion por Cooperacion (SAC). Translation: a performance system by cooperation. The hope is that EMBARQ’s SAC will help revitalize Tacubaya by providing incentives for developers, thus stimulating new affordable housing development and improving transportation while avoiding pitfalls such as congestion, gentrification and displacement.

Enter the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, specifically master’s students from the Department of Urban Planning. Luskin student David Leipziger worked at the World Resources Institute and established a relationship with several EMBARQ offices. Leipziger asked EMBARQ if there might be an opportunity to work with one of the company’s offices around the world. They suggested Mexico City.

“Mexico City seemed to make the most sense for us because of the proximity, and the students just had a lot of interest in what we could be doing,” said Shafaq Choudry, who graduated in June with her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP). “There are a lot of parallels that run between the congestion issues that Mexico City faces and L.A.”

Out of this inquiry came a “really fruitful partnership,” according to Choudry, and a 2015-16 capstone project for 16 Luskin MURP students. EMBARQ and Mexico City officials agreed to work with the Luskin students, who studied Tacubaya in the fall 2015 and winter 2016 quarters and provided a detailed report on recommendations that could help officials design a road map for the future of the neighborhood.

The research initiative was arranged by Leipziger and sponsored by Stephen Commins, a lecturer in Urban Planning and associate director of the Global Public Affairs program at UCLA Luskin.

“The capstone projects provide the students with the opportunity to apply the different analytical and research skills that they have learned in the program to a practical, complex set of problems that are similar to what they face as planners,” Commins said. “A key goal is to have applied knowledge and this is what this project entailed.”

Once the details were finalized, the Luskin students conducted extensive research about the context and history of Tacubaya.

“We then took the steps to identify what areas of expertise that CTS EMBARQ provides, and how we could fill in the gaps,” Choudry said. “It worked out well because we’re a group of 16 and everyone is coming with their own interests. And they want to take ownership — what section am I going to be contributing to? And when it’s your thesis project, you really want it to be a reflection of your own interests and your unique research that you want to put out there into the world.”

So 16 students divided into four groups. The teams broke down their daunting task (most capstone projects require a full academic year, not just two quarters) into four categories: incentivizing inclusive housing development; integrating informal housing (any form of shelter outside of government regulation); enhancing mobility and access; and revitalizing public space.

All capstone projects can be challenging, especially when the focus of the research is several thousand miles away, Commins said. “There is a struggle to get focus early as well as the challenge of working remotely,” he said. “As the work progresses, there is a tension between wanting to be thorough and having limited time.”

Choudry said the students very quickly realized that the project would offer important educational and life lessons.

“As the project started to progress, we had to make sure that whatever we were researching and recommending in our findings, that they complemented one another,” Choudry said. “Then, at the end, we’re not producing four separate reports. That was a process in itself. I found it fascinating.”

Another challenge: Only four of the 16 students could fluently speak and read Spanish. “Google translate is a very good tool,” Choudry said.

The students traveled to Tacubaya in shifts, one group going in early December and the others during the second week of January.

“It was intense,” Choudry said. “That was our only opportunity to see the site, start documenting it, talking to as many people as we could.”

The students arranged interviews and established workday schedules with EMBARQ. “At the end of all of this,” Choudry said, “we had to determine what deliverables we would be able to bring to them in the next 10 weeks. It put the pressure on all of us.”

After two visits, countless meetings and hundreds of hours of research, the UCLA Luskin students produced an executive summary and a set of recommendations designed to inform and assist CTS EMBARQ and Mexico City officials with the task of improving life in Tacubaya.

Among the students’ recommendations:

  • Creating a more participatory process that includes Tacubaya residents in housing development decisions.
  • Establishing cooperative methods of ownership in informal housing developments to prevent future displacement.
  • Investing in bicycle paths and traffic-calming measures to help ease congestion caused by heavy traffic surrounding the transit hub.
  • Developing public spaces that fit the community’s needs and desires while designing a future that embraces environmental sustainability.
  • Creating a tiered public benefit zoning system to provide an incentive for development.

The students’ final recommendations have been submitted to CTS EMBARQ. “They were very pleased with the report,” Choudry said. “Our hope was that this could help inform their work, moving forward. That’s how we thought the implementation of this report could be seen. What we’ve done is handed it all off to EMBARQ, with the trust that they may carry it forward to the officials in Mexico City.

“As students, we get to play this role of, this is our client, but we have this opportunity for them to hear a voice that they might not be able to incorporate as easily, given the relationship they have with the city,” she added. “What we realized as a class was that we can push the bar further. And whether or not EMBARQ incorporates this into their final recommendations, at least we gave them some food for thought.”

Commins said the Tacubaya Capstone project is a great example of how students can fulfill the UCLA Luskin mission.

“Their presentation was indeed representative of the commitment of our students to engage in real-world questions, to dig into the complexities of urban planning in Mexico City, and to propose specific approaches that are both attuned to the needs of a diverse population and grounded in the specific political/regulatory/environmental context of Tacubaya,” Commins said.

Read the students’ full report.