This week we pulled our resources together to design the initial survey draft. We also took a drive down to Salinas to meet with other stakeholders including:
Deputy City Manager
Building Healthy Communities Director
They provided unique perspectives/insights to the city of Salinas and further enriched our understanding of the socioeconomic and demographic paradigm in the city. With the input we have received so far, we are confident in moving forward with the second version of the survey and the database platform; they gave us a better idea of what to include and how to incorporate it. We are also excited to receive more data from the GIS department showcasing ownership of homes, bedrooms and sizes of houses, which he said he could provide. This information coupled with the data that we collect will provided for an in depth multilayered GIS enabled database that will be critical in the analysis leading to grant applications.
We will also be visiting Prof. Carol this coming weekend to further discuss the history of Salinas and continue to stay on the same page through every step of the project’s progression.
What We Learned and Observed
Today (February 10) we visited the Alisal and city council house to speak with the Mayor of Salinas, Building Healthy Communities, CHISPA housing management, and a GIS data collection expert. Our meeting with the mayor was an overall enjoyable and enriching day trip. Mayor Joe Gunter was lively and candid, clearly bewilderment on and proud to have been elected mayor of the city in November 2012. Given that Salinas is mostly composed of Hispanic residents, the mayor conveyed that he understood the implications of being a white male representative over his jurisdiction. Mayor Gunter cited low voter turnout as the reason behind his seat. With Mayor Gunter and the assistant city manager, we learned more about the hierarchy of city council (the mayor acts like a chairman over the city, while the city manager acts as the CEO) and we learned about the bi-monthly public city council meetings where residents voice their opinions and concerns, and how crucial yet restrictive an agenda is in terms of facilitating the city council meetings that leaves predetermined, strict time slots for each topic.
Our meeting the GIS expert instilled confidence in our current trajectories and gave us more data options to work with. We noticed that the Building Healthy Communities representative was reluctant and almost skeptical of our positions there, as outsider Stanford students attempting to make change in a city that wasn't ours. However, she was open to helping us develop a survey that would be simple, useful, and non-abrasive. We originally planned on presenting our survey through Google Forms, with the assumption that most people have access to have smartphones. Though the Building Healthy Communities representative confirmed that most do have access, she illuminated that they may have limited data coverage- an additional cost we did not anticipate. With this information, we collaboratively decided that a print-out version of the survey would be most effective.
Finally, we took a tour of the Alisal. We saw major overcrowding-- small houses directly behind small houses right next to small houses, all occupying one block without rest. Front lawns were cluttered in some spaces, and in others front lawns were kept meticulously neat. Sometimes, we would see small trailer park patches on the periphery of house clutters, adding to the crowd. There were playgrounds interspersed for children, and we passed a couple of small parks. Those small lots were, for the most part, the only green places the residents could enjoy. From our tour, we learned that we may need to have a more specific metric for exterior evidence of housing conditions. In mentally “rating” each home, as residents would have to for the survey, it was apparent that the lines between good, fair, poor, and substandard can be very ambiguous. The people we met with also helped us brainstorm that cars, parking spots, and converted garages are strong indicators of overcrowding- a variable we weren’t sure how to quanitify.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
From our meetings with CHISPA and Building Healthy Communities, we realized that resident input is important for our project to be valuable in the long term for the city. They discussed a previous program by the Visiting Nurses Home Association to collect health data from the residents that required six months of public discussion, but in the end, it was incredibly successful because it was community-led and community-based. Especially in our current political climate, in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, many residents may be suspicious of people walking around their neighborhood and conducting a survey. We need to ensure that we have community buy-in for us to be able to accurately gauge the housing conditions of the Alisal. Our next steps are editing our survey to take into the input we got today (including more measures of overcrowding for example) and building a training module for the residents. We will also be sending our survey to Building Healthy Communities and CHISPA to get feedback from them on what we can improve and discussing what features should be in our training module. The GIS team will additionally send us demographic data about the city that they already have so we can figure out what has been recorded previously and does not need to be in our survey. Our next steps include finalizing our survey and drafting a training module that includes how to respond to passerby that may question the purpose of our survey. It is very helpful that we now have a wealth of more contacts to receive advice from; this project is truly becoming a community initiative.