Matute on L.A. Public Transit Boom

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the expansion of mass public transit in Los Angeles. After several years of declining ridership, Metro ridership dropped by 70% at the beginning of the pandemic. However, the city took advantage of the opportunity to accelerate construction of public transit projects like the Purple Line, which will extend from downtown Los Angeles to Westwood. Matute called the Purple Line extension “the most important transit project in America, outside of Manhattan” because it links L.A.’s high-density corridors. It also may offer a quicker route than a personal vehicle, unlike bus options that double or triple commute times if they don’t have a dedicated traffic lane. Although transit in L.A. has predominantly been used by those trying to minimize costs, the new Purple Line expansion will be significant in that it also offers a time advantage, he said.

Manville Endorses Parking Reform in California

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville co-authored a StreetsBlog article about the possibility of parking reform with Assembly Bill 1401, which would eliminate minimum parking mandates for buildings near public transit in California. “Eliminating parking requirements is the simplest, most effective step that California can take to reduce carbon emissions, make housing more affordable, and increase production of homes for families across the income spectrum – all at no cost to the public,” wrote Manville and co-authors Anthony Dedousis and Mott Smith. Some opponents of the bill argue that eliminating parking requirements could harm affordable housing production by making California’s density bonus incentives less valuable. However, the authors pointed to the success of parking reform in San Diego, which eliminated parking requirements in 2019 and saw record increases in the amount of new housing built, including over 1,500 affordable homes in 2020. They see AB 1401 as an opportunity to “learn from San Diego’s success and take parking reform statewide.”

On L.A.’s Gridlock in Politics and Traffic

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville were featured in a Capital & Main article about the political forces that often derail Los Angeles’ efforts to solve its transit crisis. The gridlock comes as climate change is increasing pressure to transition to greener, faster and more equitable mass transit. Transit-oriented cities like Boston and New York “did not divorce the automobile; they were married to transit from the start,” Manville said. Now, Los Angeles is trying to accomplish the same feat through electoral politics and public policy. As a county supervisor 20 years ago, Yaroslavsky proposed the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit system, which was expected to carry 7,500 riders daily when it first opened in the San Fernando Valley. By the time Yaroslavsky left office, the Orange Line was carrying 30,000 per day. “Today, if you tried to get rid of the Orange Line, people would lie in front of the tractors,” he said.

Manville Examines Impact of Gentrification on Rent

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville was featured on KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” in an episode about the impact of housing supply on rent prices. “It’s important to separate this big question of gentrification with the question of what happens to rent,” Manville said. His research has shown that adding to the housing supply lowers nearby rent, but he explained that the trend is “not always easy to see because developers like to build in places where rents are already rising.” Considering neighborhoods where housing demand is already increasing, Manville asked, “Do you want newer residents moving in and displacing residents in the existing housing, or do you want them to be in brand-new housing where, while they will change the neighborhood by their presence, they don’t put as much pressure on the existing housing stock where a lot of the current people live?”

Manville on ‘America’s Disastrous Experiment With Parking Requirements’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville wrote an article for The Atlantic about the disastrous impact of parking requirements in American cities. Zoning laws that require homes and businesses to include space for parking cars have created “an unreasonable, unaffordable and unsustainable city,” he wrote. “American urban history is stained with tragic missteps and shameful injustices, so parking requirements are hardly the worst policy cities have tried. But they are notable for how much needless damage they have caused, over a long period, with few people even noticing.” Manville argued that parking mandates make driving less expensive and development more so, which in effect prioritizes the needs of cars over the needs of people. He concluded, “In an age of ostensible concern about global warming, it shouldn’t be illegal to put up a building without parking and market it to people without cars.”


Climate Research Brightens an Elementary School Campus

The research of Urban Planning Assistant Professor V. Kelly Turner has helped to create a colorful gift for the children of Fernangeles Elementary School. A new mural melding art with science, and reflecting inspiration from youth in the community, was installed on the school’s Sun Valley campus this spring. Called “Beat the Heat,” the mural depicts a park with shade trees and a large purple paleta melting under a bright sun — all painted with a solar reflective coating that reduces surface temperatures up to 30%. Turner conducts research into the effectiveness of this coating as a climate change intervention that cities can use to combat the “urban heat island effect.” At Fernangeles Elementary, schoolchildren watched as Turner “took the temperature of the building” with a thermal camera that demonstrated the effect of the cooling paint. Turner then used the camera to measure the heat signatures of walls, the ground and a picnic table on campus, giving the students a real-world lesson in climate science. Artist Kristy Sandoval designed and painted the mural based on ideas conceived by youth from the environmental justice nonprofit Pacoima Beautiful. Mural collaborators include Dora Frietze-Armenta, Yesenia Cruz, Nicole Martinez, Diego Ortiz and Veronica Padilla of Pacoima Beautiful; Fernangeles Elementary Assistant Principal Carolina Gonzales; art historian Lizy Dastin; and Creative Paving Solutions, which manufactured the solar-reflective paint. The mural is the second spearheaded by Turner as part of a “green intervention” aimed at starting a conversation about climate change. The first, a massive rendering of the Greek god Zeus, was installed in South Los Angeles in 2019.

At left, artist Kristy Sandoval paints the image she designed with inspiration from youth who were asked how they like to keep cool. At right, an infrared image shot by Urban Planning Assistant Professor V. Kelly Turner shows hotter surfaces, including a metal bench, in yellow and cooler surfaces in purple.


A Case for Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

A Los Angeles Daily News op-ed written by UCLA doctoral student Nolan Gray featured Urban Planning faculty members Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The piece focused on minimum parking requirements mandating that homes, offices and shops include parking spaces, as well as on Assembly Bill 1401, which would prohibit California cities from imposing these requirements within half a mile of transit — an area where residents, shoppers and employees are least likely to drive. Nolan pointed out that developers already have an incentive to include parking in order to lease or sell a space. Shoup noted that minimum parking requirements are a key culprit in the state’s affordable housing crisis because the cost of including parking gets added to rent and mortgages. Manville added that providing off-road parking is associated with a 27% increase in vehicle miles traveled and a significant increase in emissions, since people are encouraged to buy and drive cars instead of choosing more sustainable transportation options.

Storper on Post-COVID Life in Cities

An article in Econ Focus about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life in cities mentioned a 2020 paper co-authored by Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper about the predicted short- and long-term effects of the pandemic. In their paper “Cities in a Post-COVID World,” Storper and co-authors Richard Florida and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose examined the pandemic and resulting lockdown as a forced experiment and made predictions about the social scarring and need to secure the urban built environment against future risks. They argued that despite opportunities for remote work, online shopping and other alternatives to face-to-face interactions, the demand for urban amenities will remain strong after the virus-induced lockdowns are lifted. “It is highly unlikely that COVID-19, despite its high levels of devastation in certain cities, will derail the long-standing process of urbanization and the economic role of cities,” they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if cities will not shrink or die from the COVID pandemic, they will certainly change.”

A Virtual Showcase for Urban Planning Students’ Research

UCLA Luskin’s annual showcase of research completed by graduating master of urban and regional planning students is a virtual affair this year. The 2021 Capstone Poster Session features brief videos of MURP students presenting the yearlong projects that helped client organizations overcome a planning-related challenge. This year’s capstone projects address pressing issues facing cities and regions, including safer streets, equitable community investments, protection from wildfire and the preservation of urban green spaces. “Academic research is often labeled abstract and lacking practical application. That is certainly not the case with these applied planning research projects,” Urban Planning faculty member Taner Osman said in an introduction to the video presentation. Twenty-nine students participated in the virtual poster session, which was shared with alumni, peers, current and past clients, and potential employers. Using research and scholarship to advance solutions to real-world problems is a priority in each of UCLA Luskin’s programs. Graduating public policy and social welfare master’s students, as well as the School’s first graduating class of public affairs majors, are also completing rigorous capstone projects that pair them with community partners to provide hands-on problem-solving. Their work will be shared with a broader audience at the end of spring quarter.


Ong Featured in APA Tribute to Groundbreaking Urbanists

Paul Ong

The American Planning Association (APA) featured the work of UCLA Luskin Research Professor Paul Ong in a tribute to Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who have shaped the nation’s history and communities. Ong, director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, was one of 12 planners, architects, historians and community organizers who have “influenced our built environment, fought for historical and cultural preservation, and championed social justice to help make great communities for all,” the association’s Planning magazine said. Ong joins a list including modernist architect I.M. Pei, statesman Norman Mineta, Vietnam Wall designer Maya Lin and racial justice attorney Manjusha Kulkarni, who co-founded the hate crime reporting center Stop AAPI Hate. As a UCLA researcher and educator, Ong has specialized in urban planning, social welfare and Asian American studies, with a focus on labor, environmental justice and immigration. Over the past year, Ong has examined the direct and indirect impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on people and communities as part of the COVID-19 Equity Research Initiative at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The initiative focuses on systemic racial and class inequalities with the goal of developing insights that will lead to a just and fair recovery. The APA said its list of honorees, compiled in consultation with Asian American Studies scholars, is “intended to shine a spotlight on the many ways that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have built careers in service of their communities, especially in the face of adversity.”