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UCLA Luskin Innovator Speaker Series


May 17, 2018 - Parks and Technology

wPublic parks have been a central facet of urban life for more than 100 years. During that time, technology has become integral to our lives – when traveling, at work, at home, and at play. However, technology has not historically been used in park settings. The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation’s recently released SMART Parks Toolkit empowers city planners, designers, and park managers to change that in order to better serve communities. As more people move into cities (about 80% of the U.S. population lives in cities today), urban parks become ever more important because they can improve public health, environmental sustainability, and economic growth. But with a changing climate and over-stretched municipalities, stress on the public park system is increasing. New (and unconventional) tools to help address these stresses, such as 

technological innovation, are critical. SMART Parks: A Toolkit highlights new approaches to addressing typical park problems.

Author: Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Panelists: Tamika Butler, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust; Norma E. Garcia, Los Angeles County (moderator); Robin Mark, Trust for Public Land; and Colin Martin, Cisco.


April 30, 2018 - California Goes Green

California is leading the way on climate change policy, forging a path towards a low carbon future. In this debut policy book, authors Michael Peevey and Diane Wittenberg draw on their time overseeing state agencies to offer an inside perspective on the development of environmental regulations under both Democratic and Republican leadership. The book explores California’s unique experience with smog and resulting efforts to clean the air, solar energy subsidies, climate policies and “subnational” climate agreements as well as the broader impact the state’s regulations have because of the size of its economy.

Authors: Michael Peevey and Diane Wittenberg

Panelists: Fran Pavley, Former California Senator; Professor Ann Carlson, UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment; and Professor Mark Pisano, USC Price School of Public Policy

wApril 19, 2018 - How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

2017 was marked as the deadliest and most destructive year of wildfires ever in California. Over 9,000 fires burned throughout the state, including 950 wildfires in Northern California in October alone. With higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands across the globe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Governor Jerry Brown commented on the six wildfires that ravaged Southern California as the “new normal.”

In Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.

Author: Edward Struznik

Panelists: Douglas Bevington, Environment Now (moderator); Beth Burnham, North Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council; Chad Hanson, The John Muir Project ; Alex Hall, UCLA; Chief Ralph Terrazas, City of Los Angeles

Jan 25, 2018 - Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity

wWe have disrupted the natural water cycle for centuries in an effort to control water for our own prosperity. Yet every year, recovery from droughts and floods costs billions of dollars, and we spend billions more on dams, diversions, levees, and other feats of engineering. These massive projects not only are risky financially and environmentally, they often threaten social and political stability. What if the answer was not further control of the water cycle, but repair and replenishment?
Sandra Postel takes readers around the world to explore water projects that work with, rather than against, nature’s rhythms. In New Mexico, forest rehabilitation is safeguarding drinking water; along the Mississippi River, farmers are planting cover crops to reduce polluted runoff; and in China, “sponge cities” are capturing rainwater to curb urban flooding.
Efforts like these will be essential as climate change disrupts both weather patterns and the models on which we base our infrastructure. We will be forced to adapt. The question is whether we will continue to fight the water cycle or recognize our place in it and take advantage of the inherent services nature offers. Water, Postel writes, is a gift, the source of life itself. How will we use this greatest of gifts?

Author: Sandra Postel

Panelists: Rita Kampalath, Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office; Omar Moghaddam, GeoEnvironment Technologies, Advantek International; Eric Hoek, Water Planet

Nov. 2, 2017 - Conservation for Cities

imageIt's time to think differently about cities and nature. Understanding how to better connect our cities with the benefits nature provides will be increasingly important as people migrate to cities and flourish in them. All this urban growth, along with challenges of adapting to climate change, will require a new approach to infrastructure if we're going to be successful. Yet guidance on how to plan and implement projects to protect or restore natural infrastructure is often hard to come by.

With Conservation for Cities, Robert McDonald offers a comprehensive framework for maintaining and strengthening the supporting bonds between cities and nature through innovative infrastructure projects. After presenting a broad approach to incorporating natural infrastructure priorities into urban planning, he focuses each following chapter on a specific ecosystem service. He describes a wide variety of benefits, and helps practitioners answer fundamental questions: What are the best ecosystem services to enhance in a particular city or neighborhood? How might planners best combine green and grey infrastructure to solve problems facing a city? What are the regulatory and policy tools that can help fund and implement projects? Finally, McDonald explains how to develop a cost-effective mix of grey and green infrastructure and offers targeted advice on quantifying the benefits.

Author: Dr. Robert McDonald

Panelists: Peter Kareiva, Director, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (moderator); Deborah Deets, Landscape Architect, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation; Edith De Guzman, Director of Research, TreePeople; and Jill Sourial, Los Angeles Urban Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy.

Oct. 24, 2017 - Making a Difference Where You Are: Inspiring stories of social innovation and leadership lessons from the grassroots

aDig Where You Are is about the potential in each of us to make a difference in the world by simply taking what we already know how to do and using it to make a meaningful change for the good.  It is about seeing the opportunity in front of you to make something better and then doing something about it.  It is not about wishing you were someone you’re not, but about recognizing and using the talents you have and including those around you in an effort to bring about change. This book is a collection of stories of people who have done exactly this.  They started small and through persistence and grit they ended up creating something that had a big impact on the world.  Even so, what we realize in reading these accounts is that it’s not about the size of the initial effort that matters; it’s that we are engaged and looking out for one another on an ongoing basis – this is what really creates scale in the long term.  Furthermore, as we learn from these stories, there is no right way to start digging where you are and that is why it holds such promise.

Author: Nan Alexander Doyal

Panelists: Kafi Blumenfield, Founding Executive Director of Discovery Cube Los Angeles (moderator); Bill Parent, Lecturer, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Maria Brenes, Executive Director, InnerCity Struggle.

Feb. 22, 2017 - Chasing Water

aWater scarcity is spreading and intensifying in many regions of the world, with dire consequences for local communities, economies, and freshwater ecosystems. Current approaches tend to rely on policies crafted at the state or national level, which on their own have proved insufficient to arrest water scarcity. To be durable and effective, water plans must be informed by the culture, economics, and varied needs of affected community members.

International water expert Brian Richter argues that sustainable water sharing in the twenty-first century can only happen through open, democratic dialogue and local collective action. In Chasing Water, Richter tells a cohesive and complete story of water scarcity: where it is happening, what is causing it, and how it can be addressed. Through his engaging and nontechnical style, he strips away the complexities of water management to its bare essentials, providing information and practical examples that will empower community leaders, activists, and students to develop successful and long-lasting water programs.

Chasing Water will provide local stakeholders with the tools and knowledge they need to take an active role in the watershed-based planning and implementation that are essential for water supplies to remain sustainable in perpetuity.

Author: Brian Richter

Panelists: Liz Crosson, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Angela George, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works; Debbie Franco, California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research; and Greg Pierce (moderator), UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Jan 30, 2017 - What Makes a Great City

aWhat makes a great city? Not a good city or a functional city but a great city. A city that people admire, learn from, and replicate. City planner and architect Alexander Garvin set out to answer this question by observing cities, largely in North America and Europe, with special attention to Paris, London, New York, and Vienna.

For Garvin, greatness is not just about the most beautiful, convenient, or well-managed city; it isn’t even about any “city.” It is about what people who shape cities can do to make a city great. A great city is not an exquisite, completed artifact. It is a dynamic, constantly changing place that residents and their leaders can reshape to satisfy their demands. While this book does discuss the history, demographic composition, politics, economy, topography, history, layout, architecture, and planning of great cities, it is not about these aspects alone. Most importantly, it is about the interplay between people and public realm, and how they have interacted throughout history to create great cities.

Author: Alexander Garvin

Panelists: Cecilia Estolano, Member, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors LLC (moderator); Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Associate Dean at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Professor of Urban Planning; Rick Cole, City Manager, City of Santa Monica; and Vince Bertoni, Director of Planning, City of Los Angeles

Nov. 14, 2016 - Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction

aHere is a wide-ranging adventure in becoming a citizen scientist by an award-winning writer and environmental thought leader. As Mary Ellen Hannibal wades into tide pools, follows hawks, and scours mountains to collect data on threatened species, she discovers the power of a heroic cast of volunteers—and the makings of what may be our last, best hope in slowing an unprecedented mass extinction.
Digging deeply, Hannibal traces today’s tech-enabled citizen science movement to its roots: the centuries-long tradition of amateur observation by writers and naturalists. Prompted by her novelist father’s sudden death, she also examines her own past—and discovers a family legacy of looking closely at the world. With unbending zeal for protecting the planet, she then turns her gaze to the wealth of species left to fight for.
Combining original reporting, meticulous research, and memoir in impassioned prose, Citizen Scientist is a literary event, a blueprint for action, and the story of how one woman rescued herself from an odyssey of loss—with a new kind of science.

Author: Mary Ellen Hannibal

Panelists: Jon Christensen, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (moderator); Lila Higgins, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and H. Bradley Shaffer, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA La Kretz Center for Conservation Science

Nov. 3, 2016 - Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable

aFood waste, hunger, inhumane livestock conditions, disappearing fish stocks—these are exactly the kind of issues we expect food regulations to combat. Yet, today in the United States, laws exist at all levels of government that actually make these problems worse. Baylen Linnekin argues that, too often, government rules handcuff America’s most sustainable farmers, producers, sellers, and consumers, while rewarding those whose practices are anything but sustainable.

Biting the Hands that Feed Us introduces readers to the perverse consequences of many food rules. Some of these rules constrain the sale of “ugly” fruits and vegetables, relegating bushels of tasty but misshapen carrots and strawberries to food waste. Other rules have threatened to treat manure—the lifeblood of organic fertilization—as a toxin. Still other rules prevent sharing food with the homeless and others in need. There are even rules that prohibit people from growing fruits and vegetables in their own yards.

Linnekin also explores what makes for a good food law—often, he explains, these emphasize good outcomes rather than rigid processes. But he urges readers to be wary of efforts to regulate our way to a greener food system, calling instead for empowerment of those working to feed us—and themselves—sustainably.

Author: Baylen Linnekin

Panelists: Clare Fox, Executive Director, Los Angeles Food Policy Council (moderator); Paula Daniels, Co-founder and Chair, The Center for Good Food Purchasing; and Allison Korn, Clinical Director, UCLA Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy


Oct. 25, 2016 - Strong Democracy

Democratic political theorist Benjamin Barber has written in books like Strong Democracy and Jihad vs McWorld about the crisis in liberal democracy and the nation-state. In recent years, he has focused on the extraordinary role cities are playing in both local and global governance and in the revival of democracy. Coming from his book If Mayors Ruled the World, the idea for a Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) has taken root. Last month in The Hague, the GPM was formally inaugurated with 70 cities and 25 urban networks participating. The voice of cities now has a global megaphone and a platform for common action, and offers a powerful response to the paralysis of gridlock nation-states and national political parties.

Author: Benjamin Barber

aOct. 25, 2016 - Surviving the Anthropocene

Surviving the Anthropocene - An insider's view of the emergence of humanity's planet-scale power surge and the many prescriptions for avoiding calamity.

Through an odd set of circumstances, Andrew Revkin is both one of the leading chroniclers of Earth's human- dominated age and, as one of 35 members of the Anthropocene Working Group, one of those tasked with assessing whether it deserves status as a geological epoch.

Author: Andrew Revkin

Oct. 13, 2016 - Environmental Bonds for Equitable Community Benefits

aA systematic analysis of spending under Proposition 84, the last major environmental bond approved by California voters, which in 2006 authorized $5.4 billion to improve parks, natural resource protection, and water quality, supply and safety. Most of that money has been spent. And for the first time ever, we have good enough data to ask some crucial questions.

Where was that funding spent? Who benefited? And was the spending prioritized as voters expected? The report  analyzed $2 billion spent on 2,174 projects in California communities and found decidedly mixed results.

Author: Jon Christensen

Panelists: Alfredo Gonzalez, Program Officer, Resources Legacy Fund (moderator);Alf Brandt, Senior Counsel for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; and Alina Bokde, Executive Director, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust

Apr. 22, 2016 - Drinking Water: A History

aWhen you turn on the tap or twist the cap, you might not give a second thought to where your drinking water comes from. But how it gets from the ground to your glass is far more complex than you might think. Is it safe to drink tap water? Should you feel guilty buying bottled water? Is your water vulnerable to terrorist attacks? Considering the water contamination disaster in Flint and with springs running dry and reservoirs emptying, where is your water going to come from in the future?

In Drinking Water: A History, professor James Salzman provides answers to these questions. Bloody conflicts over control of water sources stretch as far back as the Bible yet are featured in front page headlines even today. Only fifty years ago, selling bottled water sounded as ludicrous as selling bottled air. Salzman weaves all of these issues together to show just how complex a simple glass of water can be. His book also highlights how drinking water relates to the most pressing issues of our time- from globalization and social justice to terrorism and climate change- and how humans have been wrestling with these problems for centuries.

Author: James Salzman

Panelists: J.R. DeShazo, Director and Professor, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; Stephanie Pincetl, Director and Professor-in-Residence, California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA; Noah Garrison, Environmental Science Practicum Director, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; Chris Solek, Programs Director and Senior Scientist, Council for Watershed Health

Jan. 25, 2016 - Parking Managment for Smart Growth

aThe average parking space requires approximately 300 square feet of asphalt. That’s the size of a studio apartment in New York or enough room to hold 10 bicycles. Space devoted to parking in growing urban and suburban areas is highly contested—not only from other uses from housing to parklets, but between drivers who feel entitled to easy access. Without parking management, parking is a free-for-all—a competitive sport—with arbitrary winners and losers. Historically drivers have been the overall winners in having free or low-cost parking, while an oversupply of parking has created a hostile environment for pedestrians.

In the last 50 years, parking management has grown from a minor aspect of local policy and regulation to a central position in the provision of transportation access. The higher densities, tight land supplies, mixed land uses, environmental and social concerns, and alternative transportation modes of Smart Growth demand a different approach—actively managed parking.

This book offers a set of tools and a method for strategic parking management so that communities can better use parking resources and avoid overbuilding parking. It explores new opportunities for making the most from every parking space in a sharing economy and taking advantage of new digital parking tools to increase user interaction and satisfaction. Examples are provided of successful approaches for parking management—from Pasadena to London. At its essence, the book provides a path forward for strategic parking management in a new era of tighter parking supplies.

Author: Richard W. Willson

Nov. 19, 2015 - Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneruship, Getting Projects Done

aIn Start-Up City, Gabe Klein, demonstrates how to effect big, directional change in cities—and how to do it fast. Klein’s objective is to inspire what he calls “public entrepreneurship,” a start-up-pace energy within the public sector, brought about by leveraging the immense resources at its disposal. Klein offers guidance for cutting through the morass, and a roadmap for getting real, meaningful projects done quickly and having fun while doing it.

This book is for anyone who wants to change the way that we live in cities without waiting for the glacial pace of change in government.

Author: Gabe Klein

Panelists: Ashley Z. Hand, AIA, LEED AP BD+C; Seleta Reynolds, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)