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Tiny homes and floating apartments: California mayors' reply to the growing homeless problem
Ideas are plentiful; execution is another story.
- As the homeless population soars in California, city mayors are contemplating a variety of initiatives to combat the problem.
- San Francisco mayor London Breed has published the most extensive list of solutions, including supportive housing, eviction prevention, and rental subsidies.
- Other mayors are creating tiny home villages and even considering a floating apartment complex in the San Francisco Bay.
In November 2018, mayors from Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego gathered in downtown Sacramento to discuss California's growing homeless problem. In an event sponsored by CALmatters and local public radio stations, the four mayors pleaded to then-governor-elect Gavin Newsom to provide more resources to combat the surge of California residents living on city streets.
Since then it's only gotten worse. Last month it was announced that the state's homeless population had grown 16 percent from 2018. This has been met by public outcries for officials to do more, yet what that more is remains ambiguous. In Los Angeles, where I live, it often amounts to residents crying out for the removal of the numerous tent cities under highways and in public parks. "Get them out" does not result in effective legislation.
In response, California mayors are proposing a variety of solutions. What actually gets initiated remains to be seen — in recent years, Angelenos have approved two tax hikes to combat homeless while last year the city spent over $600 million on the issue. Still, the numbers of homeless people rise.
Below are what some mayors are aiming to do. Residents need to remain vigilant in holding their leaders accountable on this issue.
Mayor Don Sedgwick Discusses California's Homeless Crisis On Fox Business
Laguna Hills mayor Don Sedgwick points to a growing consensus when contemplating the homeless problem: the rent is too damn high (along with the cost of buying homes, property taxes, and general cost of living). Homeless numbers in Orange County do not match Los Angeles County, but there's an even bigger increase in his city: it's bumped up 43 percent in 2019.
In a strange encounter on FOX Business, Sedgwick's answer to the homeless issue is to better train high school students for higher degrees and vocational fields. When pushed specifically about the problem, the "proven conservative" blamed liberal policies before offering to help the homeless "with a hand up and not just a handout."
While that reply amounts to not much at all, Sedgwick is accurate when claiming that the legalization of recreational marijuana shifted the illegal drug business to methamphetamines — an issue plaguing Skid Row as well. An observation without a solution is impotent; we'll have to see what policies Sedgwick actually enacts. At the moment, he seems more concerned with his 2020 congressional run against Katie Porter than addressing homelessness.
Mayor Garcetti Asks Sacramento and D.C. for Help With LA's Homeless Crisis | NBCLA
The fact that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had to take time out to reply to the notion that the homeless problem began "two years ago" is ridiculous, but instead of punching back, Garcetti invited the president to walk Skid Row to discuss real solutions. One of them, recently re-offered by California Representative Maxine Waters, — the Ending Homelessness Act of 2017 — focuses on affordable housing through rental assistance, increasing homeless services, and the construction of low-rent housing throughout the country.
Though Garcetti didn't create the problem, his administration has not performed well. That said, he did take full responsibility for this fact, adding that he plans on adding services throughout the city, including bathrooms, showers, storage units, sanitation teams, even tiny homes. While a promise to build more facilities is also on the table, some are skeptical — not to mention critical — of more construction in a city that already boasts 50,000 vacant homes.
In a bit of good news, more than 20,000 homeless individuals were helped into residences in 2018. However, this silver lining also makes the citywide increase in overall numbers even more startling. If any city is proof of income disparity — craft cocktail bars and boutique hotels are slowly creeping into Skid Row, making a mass cleaning out inevitable — look no further than Los Angeles.
London Breed, mayor of San Francisco, speaks during a San Francisco Pride event attended by Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California and 2020 presidential candidate, not pictured, in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer approved an $11 million plan to erect tents and trailers, as well as other facilities, throughout his city. He's using the 2017 construction of a homeless shelter following a Hepatitis A outbreak as proof. While most of California experienced a massive rise since 2018, San Diego saw its homeless population drop by 6 percent, a statistic Faulconer credits to the shelter program.
In March, San Francisco Mayor London Breed published a longform article about her city's "bold approach" to homelessness. After listing facts about the overall problem, she notes that San Francisco spends roughly $250 million every year to supportive housing, eviction prevention, and rental subsidies. Like Los Angeles, the tech boom has made her city practical impossible to afford.
Breed's plan focuses on keeping people housed, in part by building 5,000 more units per year, as well as through a proposed commercial tent tax (it was defeated in June). Breed's extensive plan also includes investments in affordable housing stock, the expansion of the city's Good Samaritan rent law, the improvement of mental health and addiction treatment centers, and the creation of more stable housing opportunities.
Her plan, by far the most thorough of any California mayor, has not been met with open arms by all residents, some of whom want to see quicker action — preferably, not in their backyard. The continual problem of homelessness in the public square: build it, just not here. Considering Breed grew up in San Francisco's public housing projects, hopefully her will proves stronger than that.
Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, California, visits the SiriusXM Studios on July 26, 2018 in New York City.
Photo credit: Matthew Eisman / Getty Images
Silicon Valley's largest city has seen its homeless population rise by 42 percent over the last two years. Mayor Sam Liccardo has been proactive, knowing that his district houses some of the most profitable companies on the planet — a place where no one should be in need. Starcity plans on becoming the largest co-living apartment complex in the world, featuring (relatively) affordable rents; Liccardo's administration has also secured permits for two tiny home villages.
Continuing to dream up inventive solutions, Liccardo is now promoting a floating apartment complex. Not only would this push back sea level rise, which could flood the entire San Francisco Bay region, but it could make for a unique solution for some of San Jose's 4,300 homeless residents.
Garcetti and Liccardo might fancy small homes, but Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs prefers tiny trailers. The 28-year-old has already launched a pilot universal basic income program in his city. While his city's homeless only numbers 900, his goal is to build 300 tiny trailer units in order to house them. Of all the mayors listed, Tubbs seems most inclined to avoid platitudes and put plans into action, which is exactly the attitude needed to combat this growing problem.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Russian astrophysicists propose the Casimir Effect causes the universe's expansion to accelerate.
- Astrophysicists from Russia propose a theory that says dark energy doesn't exist.
- Instead, the scientists think the Casimir Effect creates repulsion.
- This effect causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
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