Sidewalk Heart

I find new ways to break down complex topics so they’re easy to understand, often through diverse forms of storytelling. 

Affordable housing can cost $1 million per apartment to build in California

Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2020

California has a deep shortage of available housing, particularly for low-income families. One major challenge to fixing the problem is that it’s more expensive to build affordable housing than anywhere else in the country.

We found one project that cost more than $1 million per apartment to build and showed that decisions made by the state government and cities were the key drivers of why it’s more costly in California than elsewhere.

The story: https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2020-04-09/california-low-income-housing-expensive-apartment-coronavirus

Why efforts to end single-family home only zoning in California have failed

Los Angeles Times, 2018 – 2020

California’s housing affordability problems are linked with the state’s climate change goals. To meaningfully reduce prices and reduce driving, the state has to incentivize building lots more homes near jobs and transit. But despite broad support in California for reducing housing costs and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, a high-profile proposal to end zoning for single-family homes only and allow for lots more apartments near transit and job centers across the state failed in the Legislature for three years in a row.

I chronicled the demise of these efforts and identified three key reasons. Many activists for low-income communities of color believed the plan would lead to more gentrification and displacement. Suburban homeowners feared changes to the character of their communities. And legislators and interest groups between the Bay Area and Los Angeles were hopelessly divided on possible solutions.

2018 story: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-housing-bill-failure-equity-groups-20180502-story.html

2019 story: https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-sb50-failure-single-family-homes-suburbs-20190522-story.html

2020 story: https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2020-02-07/housing-bill-sb-50-bay-area-los-angeles-scott-wiener

Here’s how California became the most secretive state on police misconduct

Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2018

California’s laws restricting public access to police misconduct information are the nation’s strictest. This story detailed how they became that way, starting with the shocking story of the Los Angeles Police Department shredding four tons of internal records in the 1970s, and why police union power at the state Capitol ensures they persist. Weeks after the story published, state lawmakers passed legislation to begin to unwind the secrecy rules for the first time and the governor signed it into law.

The story: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-me-california-police-discipline-secret-20180815-story.html

The follow ups: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-police-transparency-bill-passes-20180831-story.html & http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-police-misconduct-rules-changed-20180930-story.html

California won’t meet its climate change goals without a lot more housing density in its cities

Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2017

California’s ambitious climate change goals often are described in terms of the need for huge numbers of electric cars and solar panels. But this story for the first time described in a comprehensive way how Californians will need to change how and where they live, packing into higher-density cities at a rate not seen since World War II to meet the environmental goals.

The story: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-housing-climate-change-goals-20170306-story.html