Fidel and Matt spoke with Tony over the phone on Thursday afternoon. Tony assured us that he’d soon get the names of the businesses we are to survey next week from Faith in Action. We plan to begin the field work as early as this weekend and will likely engage in face-to-face interviews with the owners for the majority of the month. This has been our main roadblock to any significant progress, so we’re anxious to get started. He’s also working on scanning a few more completed surveys so that we can digitize the data and incorporate it into Fidel’s newly created website.
Tony sent us a follow up email explaining that Urban Habitat and Faith in Action don’t have any data from Redwood City, another target area, so we will begin trying to collect survey and interview data there. We will be visiting businesses along Middlefield between Woodside Rd. and and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and along Bay Road and El Camino. If the business owners are unwilling to complete the survey, we will still conduct and open interview and see if they are willing to share their stories and tell us what it’s like to be a small business owner now. Additionally, we will ask if they have any interest in free legal advice or a free legal clinic that The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights is offering to put on. We have also been put in contact with Jennifer Martinez, the executive director of Faith in Action.
We’ve also begun using the GIS mapping tools offered through the Geospatial Center to organize the data into a map, and utilize audio from the personal testimonies as well as survey data. More specifically, we’re using CartoDB to create and render an interactive map of the surveyed small businesses. Our plan is to humanize the surveyed data by creating personal stories of the small businesses. We are currently considering showing pictures of the businesses’ locations and facts like how long have they been in business, who are their target clientele, and what are their employees’ ethnicities. We are excited to have built the first version of the website and it currently shows three small businesses. The website can be found in the following url: fidelsalgado.github.io/urban-habitat
What We Learned and Observed
This week we’ve collected a healthy number of sources for the literature review. Both Professor Chan and Tony gave us ideas of what type of sources to look for and have really helped to steer our search for additional ones in the right direction. The Public Advocate for the City of New York released a document in 2009 titled “THE SUBWAY SHAFT: How Second Avenue Subway Construction Hurts Businesses in its Path” that summarizes efforts to preserve small businesses being affected by an ongoing MTA construction project. As with the N B St Corridor as well as E 3rd and 4th Avenues in San Mateo, the businesses on Second Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side have served the neighborhood for generations and consist of locally owned and operated restaurants, bars, beauty salons, hardware stores, locksmiths, grocery stores, and bodegas. Mitigation strategies recommended by the Public Advocate include: establishing a fund to provide emergency grants to failing businesses, helping business owners renegotiate their leases, providing property tax abatements to landlords, suspending sales tax and on good and services sold by the businesses, improving advertising, and creating a “Lunch Bus” program for government employees to draw customers back to the avenue. The document also referenced the small business displacement mitigation strategies, each the result a transportation expansion project, of Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Phoenix, and borrowed heavily from these cities’ plans. In Portland, in addition to the many of the strategies listed above for Manhattan’s Second Avenue, the business owners of the at-risk area were invited to attend workshops teaching business management skills and were paired with personal mentors skilled in business strategy. The City also distributed seasonal newsletters and sponsored social media and events along the corridor to encourage residents to shop and dine. Many, if not all of the above tactics could be implemented in our areas of interest in downtown San Mateo.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Tony suggested that we collect personal testimonies of the small business owners in addition to the surveys we’ve already acquired. That would involve us returning to the some of the previously visited businesses and discussing general thoughts on the economic and cultural direction of San Mateo. These testimonies might allow us to fill in some of the survey gaps, as well as just get a better sense of how business displacement is affecting these owners.
For the website, we are planning to keep familiarizing ourselves with CartoDB. We hope to start making the small businesses information more appealing by showing images of the location. Moreover, we would like to able to connect the google survey to CartoDB so that every time that a survey is submitted it automatically renders it to our website. We will first gauge the technical difficulty of accomplishing this feature and then decide to implement it.