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IURD TOD Displacement Study Funded by California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) selected a project led by a team of UC Berkeley researchers composed of IURD Associate Director Karen Chapple and IURD faculty affiliates Daniel Chatman and Paul Waddell and a team led by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Paul Ong of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to develop ways to measure and predict the potential displacement of low-income communities of color as a result of increasing investment in transit-oriented development (TOD). The proposal is titled Developing a New Methodology for Analyzing Potential Displacement.

The award was announced at the ARB's June 27 meeting, where a total of 11 research projects was approved.

The project, which will run two-plus years at a cost of $696,000, is intended to assist agencies as they move to finalize their Sustainable Communities Strategies under SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, passed in response to AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. TOD is one of the major tools that regions are employing to meet AB 32's greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, yet there is scant knowledge of the effect of new development around transit on people already living in these areas, especially low-income communities of color.

The displacement methodology project is part of a larger displacement impact/prevention package that will receive an additional $600,000 in funding and in-kind staff support from the state's two largest metropolitan planning organizations, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments (MTC/ABAG) ($250,000), and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) ($350,000) to support refinements of parcel databases and analysis tools and community engagement as part of a planned "early warning system" for displacement.

"Surprisingly little is known about the relationship between transit-oriented development and social equity," the project's authors note, due to challenges in collecting data to measure impacts and the limited scope of previous studies. There has been work showing strong links between TOD and gentrification, but no explicit findings on displacement. Studies of gentrification's relation to displacement found that, counter-intuitively, low-income households tend to remain in place, at least for the first decade after gentrification has occurred. But there is a lack of information about two key features of displacement: whether it might be taking place, not from rent increases driving out minority households, but from high rents preventing them from moving in; and whether the displacement is merely delayed and is taking place over a longer time horizon than most studies' 10-year window. Given the long time frame of most transit investments, a 10-year horizon may be too short to detect significant effects.

Contra Costa County Supervisor and ARB Board Member John Gioia praised the project as something that would show governments "how to avoid displacement" and "help inform policy" around the state. "It is very timely that we adopt that today," he said during the discussion leading up to the final vote approving the project.

This project is crucial because it represents the first time that sustainability planning around the state will be examined through the lens of social equity. It is also noteworthy because it involves a close collaboration between the research teams and MTC/ABAG and SCAG, who are playing an active role in developing the final products so that they will be easily incorporated into their own analyses.

The researchers will first create a database of land use and other data to better model how different types of transit investment affected past patterns of change, including demographic changes, gains or losses of mobility, and rates of displacement. Working with staff from MTC/ABAG and SCAG, they will then use that analysis to develop a model to predict future changes resulting from TOD investments. The predictive tool will be incorporated into MTC/ABAG and SCAG models, in addition to being available as a stand-alone tool for the public to use. Researchers will also use the predictive tool to identify potentially effective strategies to prevent displacement. The team will create and share a report on their methods and a description of promising anti-displacement strategies identified in their analysis.

Members of the project team have extensive history working with MTC/ABAG, SCAG and other influential metropolitan planning organizations, as well as deep experience in the fields of modeling, TOD, displacement, land use, and transportation.

From UC Berkeley, Chapple is a pioneer in researching gentrification and affordable housing in TODs and advised MTC/ABAG on affordable housing allocations for the Bay Area Sustainable Communities Strategy. In addition to publishing on a wide range of effects of smart growth, Chatman is leading an ARB research project analyzing the economic costs and benefits of smart growth strategies. The third member of the UC Berkeley team, Waddell, researches the impacts of land use regulations and transportation investments on land use, resource consumption, and the like, and is currently working with MTC to apply his UrbanSim land use model to analyze the impacts of alternative land use and transportation policies for the Bay Area Sustainable Communities Strategy.

From UCLA, Loukaitou-Sideris's work has included work with SCAG and LA Metro, and on Caltrans studies of TOD along light rail lines in LA County. Ong has conducted extensive research on spatial inequality and has advised numerous agencies on data design. He has evaluated effects of TOD on commute distance and has developed baseline information around TODs.

This project is housed in the Policy Impacts and Investment Research Cluster of IURD's Sustainable and Inclusive Regions Initiative: SIRI.