Public Policy Analysis

Below are recent Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) projects completed by students studying Public Policy Analysis at Pomona College.


Effect of the California Environmental Quality Act on housing availability in Claremont

Benjamin Reicher ’22; Advisor: Richard Worthington

Amid the affordable housing crisis in California, the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act is often blamed for lack of housing construction. CEQA requires residential projects to undergo review (with costs passed on to developers) for environmental impacts; resulting in a Mitigated Negative Declaration, or a more costly Environmental Impact Report if serious impacts are anticipated. CEQA also allows for lawsuits to challenge conclusions of review. Critics claim that mandatory review and litigation financially burden developers and discourage construction, particularly of affordable multifamily housing. My project sought to quantify CEQA’s impact on multifamily developments in Claremont, with a hypothesis that impacts are not substantial. I met with officials from the City of Claremont Planning Department, researched the City’s archive database, and conducted interviews with 2 companies that perform CEQA reviews for the City. I compiled data on 18 residential developments that underwent CEQA review, by analyzing EIRs, City Council minutes, and other documents. 11 received MNDs, and 1 was CEQA-exempt designated low-income housing. 6 received EIRs, only one of which was after 2000. None faced CEQA lawsuits. While individual CEQA review costs were difficult to obtain, the Planning Department estimates the cost of CEQA review as 0.2-5% of total construction cost. Thus, my research indicates no substantial impediment to housing from CEQA, which comports with statewide studies.


Politics on the Los Angeles River

Younsook Jang ’19; Advisor: Heather Williams

The County of Los Angeles was built on the floodplains of the alluvial Los Angeles River. Several destructive floods in the early 1900s prompted the channelization of the river, during which its path was straightened and 80 percent of the riverbed was covered with concrete. In the 1980s, an artist began a grassroots movement to restore the LA River to a more natural state. Today, the trend of environmentalism and regional coordination in urban planning has galvanized mainstream political support for LA River revitalization. I analyzed past and present-day media coverage of the LA River, and developed a preliminary hypothesis: that the original environmentalist vision for restoration had morphed into an anthropocentric movement for urban revitalization. In order to see the current state of the LA River, and to understand what “blight” conditions the revitalization initiatives address, I explored the river myself. The most recent major breakthrough in the Los Angeles River Revitalization movement was the selection of the Alternative 20 plan to redevelop the 11 miles that run adjacent to Downtown. Thus, I narrowed my focus to the segment from the headwaters to First Street. I also interviewed those directly working on the LA River Revitalization initiative to parse through the interorganizational politics of the movement. I chose the blog platform to compile my field notes, interviews, and reflections.
Funding Provided By: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies


A Semi-simulation using Generalized Estimating Equations to Determine the Number of Visits Needed to Retain Statistical Significance

Jessie Levin ’18; Mentors: Eleanor Pullenayegum (McMaster University) and Brian Feldman (Hospital for Sick Children/University of Toronto)

Background:Paediatric clinical trials are arduous and costly due to the frequency of study visits, as patients may need to miss school. While it would be ideal to remove study visits, researchers risk sacrificing statistical power. Objective:To determine the minimum number of study visits needed to maintain reasonable precision. Methods: Generalized estimating equations were used to build a semi-simulation model where the predictor was the age of first joint bleed and the outcome was joint scores based on the Canadian Haemophilia Prophylaxis Study (CHPS) dataset where patients received quarterly joint health assessments for the first five years and semi-annually thereafter. To identify the minimum number of required visits, we removed half of the visits randomly or in an alternating fashion and compared the results with the intact dataset using robust standard errors (RSE) and estimates. Results: The relationship was preserved in the elbows, right knee and in the left ankle based on the RSE and estimates in the random dataset based on the estimates. Randomly removing half of the visits resulted in a larger increase in RSE for 5/6 of the analyses compared to the analyses where data was removed systematically. Conclusions: This data suggests that with the reduction of number of visits, the estimates decrease the precision and may no longer reflect the full model. Further investigations will see if reasonable precision is preserved when fewer visits are dropped.
Funding Provided By: STEMPREP Project (Southern Methodist University)