This week, we are moving forward on the survey portions that we can complete without being able to actually survey the community. During our last trip in Salinas, our meeting with the stakeholders (Building Healthy Communities and Code Enforcement) led us to realize that our survey previously was insufficient to capture the nuances of the housing state. Therefore, we spent the rest of the trip reassessing the neighborhoods with this new information in mind, but we were not able to collect any data. However, this was still useful because now we know how to better cater to the needs of the community. Although the process to build the best survey possible is very long, we want this project result to be as valuable as possible to the city and to be more than just a thought experiment. Therefore, we will take the time needed to adjust our survey.
Jonathan from the City of Salinas has also sent us some GIS data from the city’s databases on physical property characteristics for each parcel, which has structural elements such as the number of bedrooms, age of the house, and more that could be useful for an initial analysis of whether the Alisal could qualify for some of the grants they are interested in. This file also has the parcel boundaries for the Alisal area, so our data from the survey will need to fit within these boundaries for it to be integrated back into the database.
Additionally, Jonathan mentioned that he has been thinking about best practices around sustainability and would like us to consider more deeply issues like parking, transportation, affordability and their intersection with housing. If we were to build more high density, which is very sustainable, would this still be comfortable? With the lack of public transportation and parking in Alisal, how could the city respond with regard to these public services if they were to build more housing? How would this affect sustainability?
What We Learned and Observed
Because we did not have a site visit this week, there isn’t as much new information for us to absorb. However, we have learned that we need to consider all the factors at play when it comes to housing such as the issues of transportation mentioned above and also the overcrowding that can occur in public spaces if more housing is built. The trip to the Stanford educational farm was also informative as it helped us learn more about ways to make urban areas more sustainable through city gardens and the self-sufficiency that comes with planting your own food.
We observed that because of the historical inequities of the Alisal area, as Carol discussed with us during our trip to Carmel last week, we need to be sensitive of what the community really wants and understand the difficulties surrounding a very comprehensive survey of all the neighborhoods. Since volunteers will be surveying their own communities, and possibly their own neighbors, and given the current political climate on issues of immigration and deportation, there may be some nervousness on the residents' part to let other people assess their housing. If building codes aren't met, we want to make sure that residents who may be forced out still have resources to support them in finding another home. This will be a tremendously long process, since the City is limited in its capacity currently to help these residents, so we do not want to shake things up too much.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
In the next week, we need to fully process the new GIS data we’ve been given by Jonathan and decide if there are additional variables that we would like from the GIS team at Salinas. Looking over the data will also tell us what information they are missing and should be added to the housing survey. We might also make some summary statistics on what is in the GIS data since they will give us and the City more context on the overall state of housing. Because we did not collect survey data last time, we may need to schedule another field visit if possible. However, the requirements noted by the community groups (having Spanish speakers and community members accompanying us during surveying, and really having the community do the survey instead of an outside group) might make this more difficult. We would like to respect the community’s wishes, so we will do our best to provide some analysis to the City even if we cannot collect data now.
We will also be meeting to begin working on the final presentation and completing the portions that we can do now. Jonathan will also be giving us feedback on our first survey, so we will have to further make some changes on the survey before we hand it over to the community groups. Lastly, we will start incorporating the issues of sustainability and transportation into our final analysis and report, using the GIS data that we were given and also through our own research of the literature that already exists.