The LABC Institute is at the forefront of original, primary research on topics that promote sustainable development and nurture healthy communities in Los Angeles. Our efforts have led to significant, influential studies that have helped shape the city’s public-policy conversation.
A Livable River
Since 2012, the LABC Institute has emphasized the need to develop livable communities that include a substantial workforcehousing component as a part of a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region. Livable communities are those which have a balanced mix of residential and commercial uses, tied together through public transit connections, bicycle and pedestrian paths, and mobility hubs. Rapid expansion of the Los Angeles transit network is providing an incredible opportunity to widen the developable footprint around transit stations and connect livable communities like never before.
While we work to incentivize high quality, livable development in the region, it is critical to expand the supply of affordable and workforce housing for those earning between 50 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (“AMI”). In Los Angeles County, annual funding for lower-income affordable housing (80 percent AMI or below) has fallen dramatically, from $732 million in 2008 to $164 million in 2013—a 78 percent decline in just five years (California Housing Partnership Corporation, 2014). Workforce housing, which is affordable to those earning between 80 and 120 percent of AMI and essential to housing moderate-income residents such as teachers, public servants, and young employees, has similarly suffered from a lack of supply and funding. Without an increased supply of affordable and workforce housing, Los Angeles could see much of its workforce—and subsequently, economic activity—depart to regions with less cost-burdened housing markets.
The Los Angeles River revitalization presents a unique opportunity to develop underutilized land and build new transportation connections, creating a cohesive series of sustainable, thriving, equitable communities throughout Los Angeles County. Successful redevelopment along the river will be a key component of the region’s sustainable growth strategy for years to come.
This report explores the numerous opportunities for development along the river and into the surrounding neighborhoods, and begins with a look at the past and present conditions of the LA River and its adjacent communities. It is followed by a summary of the potential the river holds for revitalization and sustainable development and a brief analysis of the multitude of strategic efforts that have taken place to plan for growth along the river.
Sharing Solar's Promise: Harnessing LA's FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity is presented by the LABC Institute and authored by a joint team of USC and UCLA researchers led by Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and Dr. J.R. DeShazo, Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.
The report finds that a significantly expanded feed-in-tariff (FIT) rooftop solar program in Los Angeles would create thousands of new jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, with particular benefit to residents living in traditionally underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles. California leads the nation in solar job creation with over 47,000 workers, accounting for about one-third of the nation's total solar industry employment. Across the state itself, job growth in the solar sector (8.1%) outpaced overall job growth (1.7%) in the past year, a trend that is expected to continue.
To date, more than 40 percent of the current project applications for the FIT program - also known as CLEAN LA Solar - are located in Los Angeles' solar equity "hot spots," or neighborhoods with abundant rooftop space for solar installations and also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. The report calls for the FIT to be expanded from 100 to 600 megawatts, and to include incentives for solar developers and property owners to focus much of that growth in low-income communities.
FIT 100 in Los Angeles: An Evaluation of Early Progress is presented by the LABC Institute and authored by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, under the leadership of its Director, J.R. DeShazo, Ph.D., and Alex Turek, Project Manager at the Luskin Center. In 2013, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) embarked on a pioneering feed-in tariff (FiT) program, by which electric power generated by solar rooftop installations on commercial, industrial, retail and multi-family buildings is sold to the LADWP for use by residential and business customers. This program was achieved after five years of advocacy efforts done by the CLEAN LA Coalition. The report finds that the 100-megawatt FiT – the “FiT 100” – is on track to meeting its considerable economic and sustainability goals by 2015, including:
• Creating more than 2,000 jobs
• Generating approximately $300 million in direct investment in the City of Los Angeles
• Displacing as many as 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases from the environment annually
• Powering more than 21,000 homes
These successes come despite the FiT paying the lowest power rates of any comparable program in the
country, averaging 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.
2013 Livable Communities Report: A Call to Action
Introducing the Opportunity Index and Proposed Solutions for L.A.'s Project Financing Challenges
In October 18, 2013, the LABC Institute released the Livable Communities: A Call to Action, authored by Paul Habibi, Professor of Real Estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Business and a Los Angeles real estate developer. Commissioned as a follow-up to the 2012 study, Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles, the report provides a detailed analysis of the opportunities and challenges associated with developing livable communities in Los Angeles County - a critical factor in maintaining the region's economic competitiveness.
The 2013 report comes amid a backdrop of steep cuts to funding for affordable and workforce housing from local, state, and federal funding streams. It provides detailed public policy recommendations for overcoming those challenges and incentivizing the development of much-needed workforce housing in the region, which is defined as housing affordable to families earning between 50-120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).
To identify areas with the greatest development potential, the 2013 report introduces the Livable Community Opportunity Index, a unique new tool to analyze the market potential to develop "Livable Communities" around transit stops. The Opportunity Index scores each of 104 station areas across Los Angeles County's light rail (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, and is made up of six key demographic and market indicators - population, housing density, income, employment, transit ridership, and land values - to evaluate whether a given market can support the type of development that would relieve the region's workforce housing shortfall.
With case studies on the Orange Line and Crenshaw Line Station areas, the report concludes with specific recommendations for policymakers related to project financing and development incentives, and are designed to narrow the financial gap illustrated in the two case studies that would encourage developers to pursue workforce housing in target areas near transit, serving both workers as well as current and potential employers.
2012 Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles
In October 2012, the LABC Institute released Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles, produced in collaboration with Paul Habibi, Professor of Real Estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Business. The report was guided by a Livable Communities Advisory Committee composed of public- and private-sector housing and transportation leaders, and was commissioned as a follow-up to the LABC’s 2008 Workforce Housing Scorecard for Los Angeles.
The report examines the current supply of workforce housing in Greater Los Angeles – an issue critical to the region’s economic competitiveness – in light of the housing crisis and economic downturn from which L.A. is struggling to recover.The report finds that failing to adequately address the widening housing affordability gap will cause the region to become far less attractive to current and future employers, and less competitive against other metropolitan areas where quality workforce housing is in far greater supply.
Proactive public policy solutions are critical to meeting the need for workforce housing and ensuring Los Angeles remains a world-class destination for the nation’s leading employers and talent. Chief among these solutions is support for the expansion of the region’s transit system and the encouragement of housing development along rail and rapid bus corridors – not simply near transit stations.
The study finds that improving connections to the transit system for people living near these corridors links them to job centers, and makes the development of workforce housing far more feasible. Connecting workforce housing to employment centers also creates “livable communities” that lower transportation costs, travel time, regional congestion, pollution, and other negative side effects of our workforce housing shortage.
Empowering LA’s Solar Workforce: New Policies that Deliver Investments and Jobs
In November 2011, the LABC Institute released Empowering LA’s Solar Workforce: New Policies that Deliver Investments and Jobs, produced in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and other partners.
The study found that Los Angeles has a significant “workforce in waiting” trained for clean-energy solar jobs in installation, design, sales and more. These jobs are the result of numerous training programs run by a variety of organizations such as Homeboy Industries and IBEW Local 11. It’s estimated that 2,200 people are trained each year in Los Angeles County alone.
Many of these training programs are located near “hotspots” – areas with great potential for solar-power generation – that coincide with areas of high unemployment and economic need. These include areas in the San Fernando Valley, east Los Angeles, and areas west of downtown, including Hollywood.
Finally, the study found that city leaders have failed to enact energy policies to take advantage of this ready resource, and put L.A. residents to work. LADWP has one of the weakest track records in solar-power generation among major California utilities, generating less than one sixth as much solar power per customer as the state leader, Southern California Edison.
Making a Market: Multifamily Rooftop Solar and Social Equity in Los Angeles
In April 2011, the LABC Institute released Making a Market: Multifamily Rooftop Solar and Social Equity in Los Angeles, produced in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and other partners.
This study found that a solar feed-in tariff (FiT) program on apartment rooftops could provide up to 300 megawatts of clean power within city boundaries over the next 5-10 years – enough to power 30,000 homes. In addition, creating a well-designed multifamily solar rooftop program in low-income neighborhoods not only would create jobs, but it can reduce the costs of housing for low-income residents in the form of reduced energy costs or rebates.
The study built on previous research by UCLA and the LABC finding that a city-wide 600-megawatt solar program on commercial and residential rooftops would generate $2 billion in local investment, create thousands of jobs, and have an impact of as little as 19 cents a month for the average residential LADWP customer.