We’ve set up a meeting with Tony for next Thursday morning from 9-10 at Kaffeehaus in San Mateo. We hope to have a Project Scope of Work draft by then to ensure that our project is useful to our community partner and to receive specific feedback of ways the community partner can support our project.
This weekend we plan to digitize the survey and turn it to a Google form. Next week, we will copy current survey data onto the google form, including translating Spanish surveys into English.
We are hoping to go into San Mateo the first week of February to begin surveying small businesses. By that time, we will have a shortened version of the survey that we can use for businesses that refused to do the old survey.
Throughout the process, we will also be conducting a literature study to identify other reports that have investigated small business displacement. We would like to find studies that have tracked small business displacement as part of overall gentrification as well as those that have looked into various solutions to prevent small business displacement.
What We Observed and Learned
Tony emailed us a 2005 case study on Silver Spring, MD titled Minimizing Small Business Displacement in a Revitalization Zone, conducted by the Urban Studies and Planning Program at the University of Maryland. The study identifies the issues facing small business owners brought on by the County’s redevelopment effort. Many were struggling to adjust to the negative externalities of the revitalization effort, such as the disruption caused by construction activity, losing market share to the new businesses, rapidly increasing rent, and insufficient exchange of information both among local businesses and between the businesses and the county government. Many of these issues are extremely pertinent to the situation currently unfolding in the B Street Corridor in downtown San Mateo. But rather than a county-funded revitalization effort like that of Silver Spring, San Mateo’s business displacement is being driven by the Bay Area’s transformation into an affluent region centered around the tech-industry. Many of the small, ethnic businesses in the B Street Corridor will either choose to relocate due to lack of clientele and lower profit margin, or be forced to leave because of failure to adjust to the new market. Nonetheless, the Silver Spring case study asserts that small ethnic businesses provide affordable goods and services unavailable at larger retailers, as well as aspects of diversity and stability to the local economy, proving that loss of these businesses is more than just a sentimental issue.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
The Silver Spring cast study cited poor exchange of information as a critical issue regarding small business displacement. Many owners didn’t take advantage of county assistance programs either because they were unaware or they believed that the programs were inaccessible to them. Others lamented about the excessive paperwork required by the programs, and claimed the process took too long to justify the work needed to see benefits. It is for this reason we are significantly shortening the length of the survey and converting it into an online Google Form. We also plan to meet face to face with owners to reaffirm the survey’s intent in tracking gentrification to minimize the negative impacts these small ethnic businesses are seeing.