Today each group outlined their Scope of Work for the rest of the class so that we know what everybody is up to so far and what they will be doing for the remainder of the quarter. First we heard from Natalie, Pete, and Sophie about the San Mateo Medical Center farmer's market feasibility project.
Then Ma'ayan and Sam told us about their plans to work on Caltrain corridor mapping with Friends of Caltrain.
Amy, Laetitia, and Eric shared their plan for collecting community input and redesigning the Lincoln entrance to Golden Gate Park.
Natasha, Caroline, and Jordan told us how they are going to select evictees to interview and laid out their vision for their final multi-media map of eviction stories.
After having spent a productive, informative, and fun day in San Francisco with Janice, we feel a lot much knowledgeable about the scope and vision of our project. We had the unique opportunity of engaging firsthand with our project site and various stakeholders who shared their input about and experience with access to Golden Gate Park. Here is a descriptive itinerary of our day:
2. Next, we walked through Hayes Valley to the office of Parks Alliance, where we met with Steve Schweigerdt, the Development Associate for Parks Alliance. He gave us a detailed overview of the work that his organization does and the structure of their programs and outreach. The Parks Alliance is the result of a union of two other organizations: the Parks Trust, which had a philanthropic focus, and the Neighborhood Parks Council, which was a parks advocacy group. Parks Alliance combines qualities of both of these to be a steward for both policy and parks operation. We heard about lots of the initiatives Parks Alliance is involved with, such as Street Parks, Park Partners, Hidden Garden Steps, community gardens, the Playground Initiative, Pavement to Parks, and Green Connections. While Parks Alliance’s focus is not necessarily on park access and circulation, it was very helpful to hear about what a powerful parks advocate had to say about the current state of SF parks, and the conversation inspired us to think about creative ways we could partner with Parks Alliance to improve the stretches of the park around the blighted Lincoln Way entranceways.
3. After grabbing lunch in Hayes Valley, we picked up our rental bikes at Patricia’s Green and began our bike tour through the Wiggle. It was surprisingly easy to follow the route because of the green “sharrows,” but some of the steep downhill portions of the ride and a few major intersections, such as Octavia and Market, were navigational challenges. While we rode, we noted our levels of comfort depending on the provision of bike lanes and the amount of surrounding traffic. The area from the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park was especially tricky to maneuver. Lucky we had Janice with us or we would have been completely confused by the route! This goes to show how biking in SF is hardly intuitive. On our ride we met up with Ramon Solis, a former intern with SFBC who is still involved in the organization in some capacities. He rode with us for a while and we got to hear about his experience as an intern as well as a lifelong resident of the Sunset District. He explained how the demographics of Sunset are majority Asian and working-class families, and how he think political activism and a sense of community are largely lacking from the neighborhood. This may be a challenge for us as we try to engage more community members and potentially interview people who live on or near Lincoln Avenue.
It is safe to say that biking in San Francisco is a difficult task: in today’s tour we became well aware of the task. We also were able to experience firsthand the problem our project is looking to address, the entrance ways, especially on Lincoln Ave. Some of Alex Cain’s major points include:
1. The crosswalks leading up to many entrance ways on Lincoln Ave. are extremely dangerous and have proven so with multiple bike/car related accidents.
● This is a major issue that we must look to address, these crosswalks serve as a main port into the park and are not properly highlighted to promote the safety of bikers and pedestrians alike.
2. The landing strips of sidewalk that accompany these crosswalks, in a lot of places, do not exist, and where they do are extremely small. This holds true to bus stops on Lincoln Ave. as well.
● This is an important issue to address because the average speed of the cars that pass is roughly 40-50mph, residents need a safe place to gather before attempting to cross the street in either direction. Also, if there were a back up of people, as Alex mentioned, there is not a safe place for a lot of people to stand, thus meaning either people are having to stand in the road or rush through the NARROW entrance ways.
3. Overall car and pedestrian awareness of how to cross the street and what to look for.
● Alex informed us that many cases of accidents have occurred simply because the people crossing the double sided street are not aware of how to do so. There is an island in the middle of Lincoln Ave that serves as a median between the lanes of traffic, most people are not aware of the fact that they must stop in the island to make sure the cars coming in the opposite direction do in fact see them.
● Janice pointed out to us that even though the cars on the side from which pedestrians are crossing notice someone is trying to cross and stop, the cars on the other side headed in the opposite direction are not looking at the pedestrian side of the street.
Inside of the park bicycling can also become very difficult, as there are places in which there are no bike lanes, no crosswalks, narrow sidewalks, etc. A primary example Janice highlighted to us was the MLK entrance way did not actually provide a crosswalk for pedestrians inside of the park, to use a crosswalk, it required us to walk down to Lincoln Ave. and cross there.
● There is an obvious “flow” issue for both car traffic and pedestrian traffic that must be addressed in the park to make it a safer place for everyone.
Overall, as a group today we were able to determine that the issue we need to address foremost are the entrances and crosswalks that span across Lincoln Ave. The entrances and platforms before entering the park are simply too small and poorly advertised, and the crosswalks are far too dangerous with little signage for such a large street and port into the park.
Visiting San Francisco today left us well prepared to work on outreach and devising a survey for affiliates of Golden Gate Park and both pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups in order to continue gathering information for ameliorating park access. Having met with Supervisor Tang in City Hall, Steve Schweigerdt at the Parks Alliance office, and Alex Cain at the intersection of 34th and Lincoln, we have a reinforced sense of the wealth of resources available to us and the vested interest citizens of San Francisco have in finding creative and effective solutions to the hazardous park entrances.
Our first order of business for the week to follow is to compile a thorough list of the variety of programs mentioned by Janice, Supervisor Tang, and Steve in order to create targeted survey questions for organizers and members willing and available to speak to us over the course of the next two weeks. At Supervisor Tang’s recommendation, we will reach out to Walk SF to better understand the pedestrian experience at the Park entrances. Steve mentioned to us that Park Alliance helps fund over 100 neighborhood improvement projects, many of whom will prove resourceful in better understanding the needs and desires of constituents, and converting those interests into potential plans to which each may successfully contribute.
Janice was magically able to pull together an incredibly thorough excursion into City Hall and Park Alliance, as well as through the city and the park, over the span of only two to three days. Planning another visit in two weeks will allow us to meet other relevant parties, as well as revisit and spend more time in Golden Gate Park. We will create a survey for pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicle operating visitors of the park who have gone through a variety of park entrances. Janice will forward a survey specifically for SFBC members in time for our visit to the SFBC office, so that we may have a more comprehensive impression of their daily or weekly experience along the nine-mile bike route to and through the park.
Our day today also gave us a better grasp of our long-term goals and final deliverable. We have a wealth of notes, photos, and video material for next week’s midterm presentation, and will be able to compile it into a Google Earth Tour to (literally!) map out our progress thus far. With his permission, making use of Alex Cain’s 34th & Lincoln Facebook page posts and videos will also help communicate the urgency of the need for entrance improvements.
Our project will be predominantly two-sided: the first part will be on-the-ground interviews and the second part will be creative design solutions along Lincoln Avenue. This will culminate in a multi-media presentation that showcases both the evidence of our interviews along with our alternative plans shown through maps. We believe that this approach showcases the comprehensive approach we’ve taken to our work and best integrates our various community partners to explain our final design concepts.
- Amy, Laetitia, Eric
We have made much progress in the beginnings of our project this week. We met with an oral historian, were taught more about GIS from Patricia, the librarian and GIS professional, and we have been exploring different platforms to use for storytelling. Our next step is to meet with Erin and Julia in San Francisco to exchange ideas and start working out the logistics of our project.
When meeting with Erin’s friend, Manissa, the oral historian, we learned interview techniques and how to be engaged in conversation. When we begin to interview those who have been evicted, it can be an extremely emotional conversation to be had. We understand that sometimes people do not wish to go into the traumatic details, so an interview skill we learned is to allow the interviewee lead the conversation by actively listening to them and asking follow up questions. Listening is perhaps the most essential skill we will need to have productive interviews and to guide the interviewee towards the stories we want to get at. We want those who were evicted to know and feel that we are listening to their story, and that it is extremely important. Manissa was extremely helpful in guiding us through what exactly oral history is and how to properly go about allowing people to open up on tape. We learned that prep is essential. Before going in to the interview, we must have a release form, a theme to base the conversation around, and perhaps a few basic questions and topics to go over with the interviewee off the record. The interview should typically start at the beginning, with the person describing basic background information and a bit about their childhood. From there on, we must listen and let the interviewee guide the conversation. After her information session, we all practiced interviewing. It was good to put to use the information we just learned. Going into the actual interviews in the near future, we feel very prepared and excited to help share people’s stories.
During the GIS workshop we were provided with introductory instruction on several different mapping programs that are options for our project. We were drawn towards Google Maps Tours and GIS Online because of the more attractive and user-friendly interface that would be able to reach a wider audience. We were able to get a basic knowledge of the programs during the workshop so that we will be able to start using with relative ease. Although we have narrowed our search for mapping software down to Google Maps Tours and GIS Online, we have still not decided which one of those to use and our next step is to spend time using each of those programs to figure out which one will be the best fit to represent our data set.
The other primary work we are gearing up to accomplish is selecting the specific people to be interviewed. After the GIS workshop, we have a better sense of how these stories can be visually and spatially represented, which will influence how we think about which stories to connect and juxtapose. Additionally, after meeting with Manissa, we are thinking about these stories in slightly new ways. She defined oral history as a tool for filing in the gaps in the “big man’s” history, and also noted that people’ personal stories will serve as the textures of these maps. With these ideas in mind, we will go about (this weekend) selecting those people from the surveys who seem, collectively, to represent aspects of the eviction story that are most salient and/or underrepresented. Natasha also attended the “Ghost Stories” event last Friday in the Mission and got a glimpse into what kind of histories we might be recording. She was struck by how some of the community members knew one another through their shared experiences, and how much of a sense of solidarity and support could be felt in that space. Many times throughout the night, speakers told members of the audience, “Call me when the cops come to remove you from your home, I will stand beside you.” The two dominant groups of people represented were those who had grown up in San Francisco and those who were transplants, who had found their “chosen families” in this city. We believe that representing both of these populations will provide a holistic representation of the ways in which San Francisco is home to people, and therefore what loss of home means to different people in the city.
We have made progress this week, but are still in the preliminary stages of the project. This week we will continue researching the social media storytelling platforms to decide which one is best fit for our project. We will also more thoroughly GIS Online and Google Maps Tours to decide which mapping program we will use to continue on with our project. We will also browse through the data to select several candidates for interviews whose stories we believe would be particularly impactful. Our goal is that after we have met with Erin and Julia next week, we will have decided what mapping program and storytelling social media program we are going to work with so that we will be able to start gathering interviews and videos and making more tangible progress towards completing our project.
- Natasha, Caroline, Jordan
Update of Project Activities
This week, we opened email correspondence with Aaron Aknin, the Assistant Director of the City of Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Commission. We have arranged to meet with Mr. Aknin on Thursday 2/6 at his office in City Hall. We hope to learn from this meeting more about the current TDM challenges the city faces as well as the steps that are being taken to resolve them. Any information that we can collect will have applications for the greater scope of our project. By learning from the TDM strategies that cities like Palo Alto are pursuing, we can begin to assemble a list of effective policies that other urban centers can implement as well.
On Wednesday 1/22, our group met up with Adina for a two-hour whole-class workshop on the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. We learned how to use Google Earth and ArcGIS to read data from Excel spreadsheets, map data points, and generate interactive “tours” of the information. While Ma’ayan has used this software before, neither Adina nor Sam had much prior experience with either program. This session was particularly helpful for our group because the bulk of our final deliverable will require generating maps with the software.
After the workshop, we touched base with Adina before parting for the day. We informed her our our upcoming meeting with Mr. Aknin, and we are hopeful that she will join us on the 6th. She told us of two upcoming city council meetings that might be pertinent to our project. On Monday 1/27, the council will discuss Palo Alto’s proposed parking permitting project in the Downtown neighborhood. Early in February, there will also be a meeting to explicitly discuss TDM strategies for the city. While next Monday’s event might be too tedious for our purposes, we look forward to attending the latter. Additionally, we have tentatively set up a meeting with Adina for Thursday 1/30 to go over our Scope of Work and discuss our timeline for the rest of the quarter.
Lastly, Ma’ayan shared with Sam a chapter from an Urban Planning textbook, Sustainable Transportation Planning. The chapter, appropriately titled “Transportation Demand Management,” outlines the rationale behind TDM, lists the tangible benefits it can provide, and gives concrete examples of policies that urban centers have pursued to improve mode share. We hope to use this source as a springboard for later research into TDM policies and methods that we can provide for the cities and regions along the Caltrain corridor.
What We Observed and Learned
For Sam, becoming familiar with the GIS programs was a major eye-opener for the work that lay ahead. The sheer volume of data that will have to be fed through Google Earth and ArcGIS will take a long time to analyze, format properly, and map. Additionally, once our data is properly formatted in the program, we will have to develop a justifiable method for displaying it visually. For example, if we want to show Caltrain ridership by income level, we must decide on our scale and provide rationale for the decision. A lot of critical thinking as well as data entry will be required to produce the visuals we need for our final deliverable.
For Ma’ayan, the introduction to using the GIS Business Analyst tool was very eye-opening. Such a program that provides Census/ ACS Community Survey information for populations surrounding specific points (as in our case, the Caltrain Corridor) will be helpful for understanding the surrounding communities. Moreover, the visualization of distance that takes into account drive time and traffic is also a nice shortcut for an otherwise tedious task for our final deliverable.
Our immediate objectives are clear. Next Wednesday 1/29, our group is to present on our Scope of Work, a document that outlines our project and how we propose to produce its deliverables. In preparation for that presentation, Ma’ayan and Sam will meet on Sunday to prepare the Scope of Work and finalize our personal timeline for the rest of the quarter. At that meeting, we will also email Adina to fill her in on our situation, confirm our meeting time for next week, and ask about information on the two city council events that she brought up at our last meeting.
By this time next week, all of the preparatory work should be done, and our actual research will begin!
- Ma'ayan and Sam
Part 1: Update of Project Activities
Over the course of this week, much of our time and effort went towards addressing the logistics behind our research methods, working at our project site, and tackling some of our overarching goals so that we can move forward with clear next steps. We focused on several questions that we had around the issue of farmers’ market organization regarding management, budgeting, vendor recruitment, and the potential use of EBT and WIC. These questions included:
We also began reaching out to other Bay Area resources to help us answer these questions. We were able to make contact with Nicole Wires, the Manager of Community Initiatives for Collective Roots in East Palo Alto. She has agreed to have a conversation with us in the coming week. We plan to ask her the following questions:
Moving forward, we are going to begin looking at other markets that operate in Redwood City in order to identify vendors and potential dates and times when they are already traveling to the area. We want to look at markets that exist in low-income areas with demographics similar to North Fair Oaks, but we also plan to look at markets in more affluent areas. This may help us find vendors that are more financially viable and capable of engaging in a riskier market endeavor. Survey design and writing is also an important next step so that we can begin gathering the information we need to plan the market. Lastly, we need to tour the clinic and visit the area with Priscilla. As soon as we agree on a date and time, we will finally get the chance to see our project site.
Part 2: What We Observed and Learned
Priscilla was able to clear up many of our lingering preliminary questions when we met on Wednesday. Importantly, we learned that the clinic does not have a budget for operating and managing a farmers’ market, so management will have to remain internal. This factor narrows our options for market design and implementation. In discussing survey design and execution, Priscilla suggested approaching patients in the waiting rooms of the clinic and how we could organize this based on average waiting times in each department. She is going to solicit this information from the clinic departments and pass it on to us.
The phone call with Carle Brinkman from the Ecology Center answered many of our EBT questions. We learned that WIC includes both the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and a fruit and vegetable check program. The former is much easier for farmers markets to participate in than the latter. Studies show that recipients redeem FMNP benefits at a much higher rate when those benefits are distributed at farmers markets. The process for accepting WIC is different from the process for accepting CalFresh. In terms of vendor certification, vendors do not need to be certified to accept EBT at a farmers market. Communication with and education of vendors about EBT is critical, and the Ecology Center has materials for that purpose. The POS should be centralized, well-marked, and operated in a way that reduces stigma, an issue that I had not thought of but agree is very important so that all customers feel comfortable at the market and can benefit fully.
We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Priscilla currently has a few other student volunteers working with her at the clinic. She is introducing all of us via email, and it seems as though we may be able to work together on a few aspects of our project. One volunteer is bilingual and may be able to assist us in Spanish translation. Another has offered to administer surveys if there are peak hours when we are not available. Having this additional help could prove to be very important as we deal with the time limitations of one academic quarter.
Lastly, the GIS workshop was incredibly useful. What a wealth of information! Now that we know it’s there, we plan to use the Business Analyst tool to gather information about the North Fair Oaks community at large and perform the mapping necessary for our project.
Part 3: Critical Analysis
At the start of our most recent meeting, Priscilla brought up the issue of time and asked us very directly if we thought that the project deliverables were realistic. While all of us are very excited about the potential of this farmers’ market, it is becoming clear that we need to prioritize and do what will be most useful for the clinic, especially if we can set them up to carry the project forward after the quarter has ended. This conversation tied back in with the “How Do You Define Service?” activity that we did in class and the question of whether or not we can actually provide something that we would consider “service” to a community in such a short period of time. Priscilla mentioned treating it like a farm stand at first, then building it into a market. This struck me as a good approach to the entire process – construct a focused, strong foundation and allow it to grow from there.
In reflecting again on the “Reconsidering the Margin” reading, it became clear that we need to acknowledge our reliance on our community partners as windows into the communities we are trying to serve. Priscilla is likely quite different from our target population; she, too, is existing “outside the margin” and is also working to engage her community in the same way that we hope to. It is important to remember that she is adding another lens that may or may not be reflecting the North Fair Oaks community. There is no doubt that she is an invaluable resource and thinks about these same issues. However, the fact that we are three full weeks in and have yet to see the clinic, visit the area, or talk to a single community member has become a bit of an elephant in the room, and we are really looking forward to taking our next steps.
- Natalie, Pete, Sophie