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100 Ways: Space

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Published May 15, 2019 11:35 AM


Los Angeles Breathing Easier

Clean Air

The heavy smog of Los Angeles in the 1970s was the stuff of national news. Photos show people wearing gas masks while walking. In response, L.A. — and UCLA in particular — has birthed and continues to produce the most significant technologies aimed at cleaning the air: smog-check equipment, air-quality filters and fuel-injection technology (which has reduced automobile pollution worldwide).

Today, the city’s air is more than 70 percent cleaner, according to Professor Suzanne Paulson, director of the Center for Clean Air at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). Thanks to emissions controls and other developments, she says tailpipe emissions are between 400 and 1,000 times cleaner than in L.A.’s hazy heyday.

Paulson was among the UCLA scientists who helped develop cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, slashing ozone levels in the 1990s. She calls it “the single most effective thing we’ve done” to clean up the air. Her group has documented air-quality risks near freeways, leading to new land-use and building policies.

The California Energy Commission recently awarded IoES researchers $1 million to study the impacts of indoor air quality on disadvantaged communities. Others on campus are focusing on reducing emissions that are harmful to the planet, such as a device that improves the energy efficiency of hydrogen vehicles and a technique that turns carbon dioxide emissions into a new form of concrete.

While progress is being made, Paulson notes that L.A. is still not meeting some clean-air standards. “We don’t have clean air yet,” she says. The work will go on.


Showplace for Sustainability

The Luskin Conference Center

The opening of the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center was a milestone not just for the campus, but for the entire state. The Luskin Center is only the second building of its kind in California to earn a LEED Platinum rating, the highest green certification.

The hospitality industry is not known for sustainability. The state of California estimates that an averagesized hotel purchases more products in a week than 100 families do in a year. Waste generation can reach 30 pounds per room per day.


Drought-resistant landscaping in front of the conference center.

The Luskin Center is different, demonstrating that sustainability is not about sacrifice or even trade-offs. As faculty member and environmental economist Magali Delmas puts it, “In this place, there is no compromise between sustainability and beauty.”

A professor in the Anderson School of Management and in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Delmas has done extensive research on the benefits of LEED-certified green buildings. “We feel better and are more productive in LEED buildings,” she says.

UCLA chief sustainability officer Nurit Katz M.B.A. ’08, M.P.P. ’08 notes that in addition to the use of natural light and insulated glass for energy savings, the restaurant and landscaping make Luskin Conference Center a living laboratory for sustainability. “We practice what we teach,” she says.

For instance, Plateia restaurant offers California wine on tap, replacing glass bottles. The table settings bypass linens for reusable table mats. The landscaping emphasizes drought-tolerant plants. The center transit island has a broken curb to allow water to soak in and replenish groundwater.

Appropriately, one of the first major event in the center was the October 2016 environmental conference “Earth Now, Earth 2050.”


Shoup Dogg

The Parking Guru

Parking is not just a Los Angeles problem — it affects cities across the nation. UCLA Professor Emeritus Donald Shoup has long been aware of this, and he’s tried to make others aware, too. He changed the phenomenon of parking when he introduced a radical new approach: adjusting on-street parking prices in relation to demand, and using parking revenue to pay for public services in the community.

“Parking is the single largest land use in most cities, and small reforms can produce big benefits,” he says.


Donald Shoup.

After decades of looking into parking in Southern California, Shoup found that free street parking leads to more driving, traffic, fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. To solve these problems, he pushed for putting an appropriate price on parking — which also gives cities a new revenue for the surrounding community.

Some of Shoup’s policy recommendations have become state law in California and are in the federal tax code. His ideas have been implemented in a number of cities, including downtown Los Angeles, where L.A. Express Park includes 6,000 meters that charge variable prices to regulate supply according to demand.

Another example of success from paid parking is Old Pasadena — previously a commercial skid row. Parking meters were installed, and the subsequent revenue went toward local public improvements. The result? A popular shopping destination.

“Some people agreed with me at the beginning,” Shoup says, “but now it’s becoming just a flood of cities that are reducing or removing off-street parking requirements.”

This UCLA pioneer of parking policy even has a nickname inspired by a pop culture icon: Shoup Dogg.

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