This Friday, we drove to Salinas and met with Jonathan and Lisa from the City of Salinas at their office. After Jonathan gave us an introduction to layout of the city, we went to the Housing Development Consulting Corporation of Monterey County. The President and CEO Starla Warren took us through the metrics of blight and substandard housing and gave us a structural/site conditions survey form that can guide our own survey methodology. From there, we took a driving tour with Fred, from the housing authority, taking us to a site tour of some demolished and rehabilitated housing units. We were lucky enough to be able to enter a unit that was still under rehabilitation. Lisa then joined us with Joel, the Housing Division Supervisor from the City department, an Alisal native whose home we drove past. He gave us an extensive tour of neighborhoods within the ANSRA. After our tour, we debriefed with Lisa about the project description and final deliverables, ensuring we are all on the same page.
What we observed and learned:
On this tour of the Alisal, we encountered a wide range of housing: homeless encampments, trailer parks, pre-manufactured homes, manufactured trailers, multifamily dwellings, single-family dwellings. While driving through, we realized that there was a lack of parking space for the quantity of vehicles visible in the streets, indicating overcrowding was occurring in these neighborhoods. This was also obvious in the tight-knit spacing within the trailer parks. Housing could vary drastically from street to street, ranging from solar-paneled homes with large lawns to cramped duplexes with no front lawn. The public housing projects by both the housing authorities and the non-profits were scattered throughout the city, further highlighting the lack of space to build continuous housing. We noticed that the majority of the housing was underneath 3 stories. Most were only one story because of restrictive zoning laws, contributing to the ever-increasing demand for housing. In fact, almost no new private housing development has occurred in the last 10 years – only 34 units and all were at market prices. In the last 3 years, housing prices have increased 20% as there is no rent control.
It is important to note that the city and housing authorities did not appear to work in tandem on the projects, which we would not have noticed had we not gotten the perspective on both sides in the field. We then realized the survey inventory our project team will create can help the city identify areas of public housing in need of rehabilitation that would qualify them to receive the HUD Choice Implementation Grant.
Critical Analysis and Moving Forward:
Our next focus is converting the structural/sites conditions survey form into a simplified, user-friendly housing inventory survey for the City to distribute to its community volunteer force. In our survey, we need to take into account the differences in housing types and congestion. We also acknowledge that not all evaluations can be made from solely an external viewpoint. For example, Joel pointed out that pre-manufactured homes have a characteristic of unsteady flooring, though they appear sound from the outside. We next want to connect with code enforcement to identify more inconspicuous factors like overcrowding. We are arranging a phone meeting with both the Building Healthy Communities Office and the Salinas GIS experts to ensure that the survey methodology is viable for the community and potentially add to their pre-existing database. We will also have to form a training module as our survey may not be as easy to understand as expected. We are satisfied with where our project is headed and feel that we have clarified a lot of ambiguities and expectations for the continuation of our project. As a side note, we are grateful for the great friendships that we formed today over guac at Mama Lupitas.