School launches Livable Cities Lab

George Tita

George E. Tita is the director of the new Livable Cities Lab. Photo by Karen Tapia

LCL addresses issues of housing, public safety, equity

As cities nationwide grapple with housing, public safety and social equity, the School of Social Ecology has launched the Livable Cities Lab, a research center dedicated to addressing those issues.

“Irvine and municipalities throughout the country are facing a housing affordability/availability crisis that threatens to destabilize local economies,” says LCL Director George E. Tita, professor of criminology, law and society and urban planning and public policy. “Evidence suggests that the nation’s decades long crime decline may be reversing during a time of heightened tensions within communities regarding the fair and equitable balance between protection and control. At the macro-scale, corporations and investors alike are beginning to realize that caring about issues pertaining to the environment, social accountability and fair governance are not only good for the world and its inhabitants, it is good for the bottom line. Thus, we will engage in the promotion of entrepreneurs, faculty and students seeking out opportunities within the social enterprise space.”

LCL, he says, was launched to leverage the academic expertise of UCI faculty and students in order to engage policy makers and stakeholders around three important issues: 

  • providing dignified housing for all, 
  • creating and maintaining safe communities, and 
  • promoting social enterprise as a way for faculty and students to see their research and ideas contribute to the greater good. 

“In our school, we emphasize science-driving solutions,” Dean Nancy Guerra says. “We focus on important social and environmental challenges but we know that nothing exists in a vacuum, that everything is connected: zoning as a social justice issue, housing as a crime issue, for example. What we try to do is connect systems together as they bear on people’s lives and the LCL is a way that we can bring together researchers, students and practitioners from various perspectives to try to create more livable cities.”

The LCL will bring together leaders from academia, government, nonprofit organizations and industry to identify emerging obstacles that inhibit the creation of dignified housing and just and equitable safety, Tita notes.

Through partnerships with resources across the university, grants and contracts, the LCL is engaging the community to design, implement and evaluate science-driven solutions to pressing and immediate needs, he adds.

An example is a partnership with Mercy House, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support services for the homeless. Three students from the school’s Master’s of Public Policy Program — Amanda Sharry, Judith Teruya and Allan Winger — last year undertook a Capstone Project and produced a report, evaluating Mercy House’s faith-based partnerships. Mercy House commissioned the study. The study is available online.

For more information about the LCL, contact Tita at or visit the website.

Mimi Ko Cruz
Director of Communications