California’s housing and environmental justice challenges were the focus of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute’s fifth annual policy briefing held at The California Endowment in Sacramento.

Over 80 representatives from legislative offices, community organizations, staff and students were welcomed to the May 1 event by Amada Armenta, the institute’s associate faculty director and associate professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“At LPPI, we like to say that all issues are Latino issues. And we know that to address these issues, you need data,” Armenta said. “Our research is led by a Latino team that draws on their personal experiences, as well as their deep expertise, to produce research that shines a light on communities that are too often ignored so you can serve your constituents through targeted and data-driven policy interventions.”

Paving the way for a more equitable environmental landscape

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara opened the session, followed by a panel moderated by Silvia González, co-director of research at the Latino Policy and Politics Institute. The panelists — who included Miguel Miguel, policy director for Pacoima Beautiful, and Teodora Reyes, a community organizer for Voces Unidas en Pacoima — discussed the complexities of environmental challenges faced across the state by communities like Pacoima and explored community-based air monitoring systems and the barriers to equitable access to clean air.

The discussion’s goal was to pave the way for a more equitable environmental landscape in California, emphasizing collaboration among diverse stakeholders to bolster community-based enforcement programs and promote lasting change.

During the panel, Rosario Majano, a research analyst at the institute, also highlighted the concerns of small business owners, emphasizing that environmental issues directly impact their operations and sustainability, making their involvement crucial in the push for cleaner air and healthier communities.

Rosario Majano seated at table with microphone; brick wall in background
UCLA’s Rosario Majano discusses the environmental concerns of small business owners.

‘Doubled-up’ homelessness: Latinos in L.A. County

After the panel, Deyanira Nevarez Martinez, co-author of a recent Latino Policy and Politcs Institute report on the full spectrum of Latino homelessness, presented her team’s research highlighting the high prevalence of “doubled-up homelessness” in the Latino community, where individuals share often overcrowded and substandard housing due to economic hardship or housing loss. Latinos are three times more likely to experience this form of homelessness compared to non-Latinos. Moreover, in Los Angeles County, the number of individuals experiencing doubled-up homelessness is 3.5 times the number of those experiencing traditional forms of homelessness like living in shelters or on the streets, with Latinos accounting for 77% of all doubled-up individuals.

Latino Data Hub: Better understanding the U.S. Latino population

Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, co-director of research at the institute and director of the Latino Data Hub, closed the program with a presentation of the new digital data platform developed by the institute’s research team. The Latino Data Hub is the only tool providing in-depth information on Latino populations, meticulously disaggregated by race, citizenship status and other important Latino subgroups.

Lila Burgos in discussion with three event attendees
Lila Burgos (center), deputy director of the Latino Policy and Politics Institute, speaks with attendees at the policy briefing.

More than 20 UCLA students attended the briefing as part of institute’s leadership fellowship curriculum. In her remarks, deputy director Lila Burgos noted the importance of the gathering in their education: “Today, I see experts, scholars and students who are the future leaders. I see the staff for elected offices who have the knowledge, passion and power to change the trajectories and lives of our communities.”

Wide shot of about a dozen student standing outside the state Capitol
Latino Policy and Politics Institute student policy fellows outside the state Capitol in Sacramento.

In addition to the annual policy briefing, the student fellows had the opportunity to attend a panel at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office to learn about its role and work. Smaller groups of students also visited five legislative offices, where they met staff and discussed the policy implications of the institute’s research findings. The direct engagement allowed them to experience legislative environments, learn more about the Legislature’s priorities and understand how the institute’s work supports the creation of equitable policies for communities of color across California.