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Matute on Prioritizing Safety of E-Scooter Services

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Dot.LA about Superpedestrian, an e-scooter startup that aims to prioritize rider and pedestrian safety. Some e-scooter companies have faced lawsuits from riders over bodily injury and death. Superpedestrian says it has spent years improving its technology to protect vulnerable pedestrians and alert the user when they are breaking the rules. According to Matute, focusing on safety makes it easier for cities to adopt micro-mobility like e-scooter services. “Having self-regulating technology like Superpedestrian has is really attractive to cities because they can approve scooters to go in without worrying so much about users behaving badly,” he explained. “People have died because of vehicle system failures, brakes not being up to snuff.” Superpedestrian recently made its debut in Los Angeles with 5,000 LINK e-scooters.


All Parking Is Political, Shoup Says

Distinguished Research Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup was featured in a Bloomberg article arguing for the abolition of free parking. According to Shoup, drivers are subsidized at the expense of everyone else, and there is “no such thing as free parking.” He proposed pricing street parking according to market value, including desirability of the space, time of day and the number of open spots. Then, he suggested spending the revenue from street parking to better the surrounding neighborhoods. Parking is the most obvious way to make progress on issues including affordable housing, global warming, gender equity and systemic racism, Shoup said. Now, the pandemic has challenged modern notions about parking in America, with many parking lots converted into restaurant spaces and dramatic decreases in traffic. Shoup sees this as an opportunity to facilitate a dialogue about parking in order to make cities more equitable, affordable and environmentally conscious. “All parking is political,” he concluded.


Monkkonen Debunks Myths of High-Density Housing

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was featured in a Mel Magazine article about the stigmatization and gentrification of high-density public housing areas. For years, the Cabrini-Green low-income housing project in Chicago was associated with crime and violence. Today, the complex has been renovated into a modern-looking mix of both subsidized and market-rate dwellings, but the stigma around public housing persists. According to Monkkonen, “the stigma and belief that these large complexes are doomed to fail … is a distinctly American point of view.” He pointed out that in places like Hong Kong, France and Scandinavia, government-subsidized housing is more common and culturally accepted. “The common narrative around higher-density living and public housing, and why it became untenable, is a belief that residents didn’t take care of their home,” Monkkonen explained. “But the reason it fell apart was a totally different one. The products of the policies created poor conditions.”


Yaroslavsky on Permit Parking Dilemma

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Los Angeles Times article discussing the permit requirements and restrictions that regulate parking across the city. Yaroslavsky came up with the idea of permit parking more than 40 years ago for residents in neighborhoods where street parking is dominated by customers trying to access nearby businesses. “Cities throughout our region have required developers to provide parking for their customers or residents. Eliminating such requirements in order to reduce development costs may be a good idea in theory, but it has consequences,” said the former city councilman and county supervisor. Yaroslavsky said that without parking requirements, car owners will be forced to circle neighborhoods to find curbside parking, and some businesses that rely on curb parking may lose customers. “The government should be careful before eliminating all parking requirements, because if it turns out to be a mistake, it can’t be corrected,” he concluded.


Manville Weighs in on ‘Duplex Bill’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the prospects of Senate Bill 9, which would allow for multifamily homes to be built in neighborhoods currently zoned for standalone houses only. Under the “duplex bill,” owners would be able to subdivide their properties and build up to four homes on each formerly single-family lot. According to Manville, SB 9 is a key opportunity to build housing in California, if it can survive the political process intact. “[Two recent] amendments are basically a step away from the bill’s original vision,” he explained. “A bill like SB 9 was always going to produce the most housing when there weren’t restrictions on who might occupy the housing that gets built on one of these parcels.” Manville added that in the new version of SB 9, “now you’re talking about a homeowner that wants to be a developer, and that’s very different from a homeowner that’s looking to sell their parcel.”


Turner on Building Heat Resilient Communities

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner joined the America Adapts Podcast and the Smart Community Podcast to discuss ways to build heat resilient cities and address heat inequity. According to Turner, heat governance is in its infancy. “We don’t have institutions that are responsible for regulating heat at the local, state or federal level,” she said. Turner explained that there is a difference between the acute problem of extreme heat risk and the chronic problem of the urban heat island effect. “Not all urban heat is extreme, and not all extreme heat is urban, and you can’t necessarily solve both at the same time,” she said. Turner also discussed the tradeoffs of different heat interventions such as cool pavement, which effectively combats the urban heat island effect but is “not a substitute for shade.” She recommended engaging with communities to learn how people experience heat in order to make cities better places for people to live.


Roy Fears Housing Crisis Growing Worse

Professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare Ananya Roy spoke to the New York Times about the affordable housing crisis and growing issue of homelessness in California. While the eviction moratorium has been a “safety net of sorts” for communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a “postponement of the crisis, rather than a solution,” Roy said in a lengthy interview. “Its disappearance will be sure to expand and expedite evictions.” Roy, director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, called for “full rental debt cancellation and public investment in housing for working-class communities.” She predicted that the economic impact of the pandemic will result in a “housing crisis worse than the Great Depression,” prompting mass evictions and exacerbating homelessness. To avoid this, Roy recommended that the government buy and convert vacant and distressed properties into low-income housing, a solution that is faster and less expensive than building new housing.


Upzoning Won’t End Single-Family Housing, Lens Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens was featured in a Star Tribune article about how zoning affects housing affordability. Many advocates for racial equity and housing affordability are pushing cities across the country to remove zoning requirements that restrict areas to single-family housing only. In some cases, they have been met with opposition from those who fear that removing these requirements would result in the destruction of single-family neighborhoods. Lens pointed out that upzoning does not require the addition of duplexes and triplexes but merely removes a long-standing prohibition and gives landowners more flexibility. “Ending single-family zoning doesn’t end single-family housing, and there’s no real reason why we prioritize single-family housing in such a way,” he said. “You can’t have true integration of race and income without a variety of housing types.”

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Turner on Challenges of Regulating Urban Heat

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner joined the Talking Headways podcast to discuss different ways to regulate urban heat. The regional urban heat island effect is a climate phenomenon affecting urban areas with buildings and pavement that absorb and radiate heat, making these regions hotter than surrounding areas. However, Turner noted that thermal images that show land surface temperature can be misleading because they don’t illustrate how people are actually exposed to heat. “When I see interventions being proposed like tree-planting programs, I think we need to be careful and say, yeah, we might be providing shade that will be good for pedestrian thermal comfort — shade’s super important — but we’re not addressing the urban heat island,” Turner said. “What we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket, shifting from one climate zone to a fundamentally different arrangement of trees and buildings that would actually be cooler.” 

Listen to the Talking Headways podcast

Manville, Taylor on How to Get Traffic Under Control

Urban Planning faculty members Michael Manville and Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the return of L.A. traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels. “Traffic is a product of people having places to go,” said Manville, but he noted that “it’s the last few vehicles on the road that are responsible for most of the delays.” Manville argued that congestion pricing is key to reducing traffic. “Traffic congestion arises because there’s excess demand and scarce road space,” he said. He also pointed out that congestion pricing can be used to increase equity “because the absolute poorest people don’t drive … [and] no one suffers from congestion more than people stuck on a bus.” Taylor added that “when traffic demand is near or above the capacity of the street and highway system, any changes — adding or subtracting relatively few cars — can have a significant effect on delays.”

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