We are now in the midst of the applicative portion of our project. We have three interviews lined up for this weekend after a cancellation from the fourth person, and we are really excited to continue with the process! Saturday will be a booked day with interviews from 11:30am-4:30pm. This is the portion of the project we have all been most looking forward to, and so far the interviewees’ willingness to participate has made the scheduling and interviewing process very enriching. We look forward to getting to know more from the interviewees this weekend. Unfortunately, we will be unable to attend the transportation summit due to our busy day in the city. Conducting these interviews means that we have had to accommodate the interviewees’ schedules more than our own, and in this case, foregoing the field trip means more time to focus on conducting thorough interviews and building trustful, respectful relationships with interviewees. We are meeting two interviewees in the Mission. We are going to do one interview in a man’s home, another interview in a person’s offices, and a third interview with a woman that lives in Oakland at the San Francisco Public Library. We are looking forward to the new perspectives we will gain on this issue, as each of the people we will see tomorrow come from starkly different backgrounds and will provide unique stories from their different experiences.
After reading an article Deland sent us this week about evictions in regions of the country other than the Bay Area, it became clear to us that this is an issue that extends far beyond the particular anxieties surrounding the tech industry. Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond attributes the soaring rate of evictions country-wide to the lack of affordable housing, pointing out that while “during the last 16 years, median rent nationwide has increased more than 70 percent,” and incomes, minimum wage and welfare payments have remained stagnant. Though the Bay Area is faced with a particular circumstance of large influx of high-income individuals, the housing crisis is very much a national one.
In addition to regional transcendence, through our correspondences with evictees we have learned that eviction touches people from many walks of life. Of course the poor are disproportionately affected, but we have also corresponded with several people within the tech industry who earn six figures and were still forced out of their homes. Matthew Desmond raises the point that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty,” going on to discuss the consequences often experienced by evicted people, including mental health issues, job loss, and residential instability. For people who already face extreme disadvantages based on race and income, eviction compounds existing hardships, and for socially privileged evictees, eviction sets in motion a multitude of issues.
The fact that eviction does not only impact poor people is a nuance of the situation that we will have to think carefully about how to portray. On the one hand, we would like to represent a broad range of eviction experiences, and on the other, if we give a relatively privileged person the space to vocalize their experience, then we are potentially taking that opportunity away from someone who is even more invisible and silenced in society. Additionally, we have had to confront the reality of disproportionate accessibility — the fact that the majority of evictees who responded to the AMP survey are white, and a good majority of which earn above $30,000 a year, shows that this survey is not able to reach the populations most affected by this issue. We are not able to circumvent this reality as we are, for the purposes of this particular class and project, reaching out to respondents to the survey. However, it is certainly something for AMP and others wanting to do this kind of work to think about for the future.
After a very successful first interview, we continued to schedule our next two weekends of interviews. We have learned some important lessons about scheduling in the process. The first is about the difficulty of all three of us being in contact with different potential interviewees. The three of us share a GoogleDoc which we use to communicate to one another whom we have contacted, whether or not we have gotten in touch, and for when/if an interview has been scheduled. Despite this pretty solid communication model, Jordan and I drove to San Francisco on Saturday morning to conduct an interview that Caroline had scheduled, and the interviewee did not show up. We called him and he was under the impression that the exact time had not been confirmed, though Caroline was certain that they had confirmed. This taught us two major lessons: the first is that the person who will actually be conducting the interview should get in direct contact with the interviewee, and the second is to always confirm by phone or email the day before an interview, so as to save unnecessary trips to San Francisco! That Saturday, Jordan and I had also expected to conduct an interview with an additional person who told us that he was available that Saturday, but he never confirmed a time with us and did not receive our phone calls that day, and has since not called us back. People have busy lives and are unpredictable, and we have to remember to be patient with this, as well as do our part to communicate well with interviewees.
In terms of arranging interviews, we have had about a ⅓ success rate among the people to whom we have reached out. It has been an issue of both conflicting schedules and people not returning our calls -- we have yet to hear back from a person who is not interested in participating. Because of this, we are continuing to make calls and in addition to our three interviews scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday the 21st, we hope to schedule about three more interviews for next weekend.
Our expectation of conducting all interviews in peoples’ homes has also been put to the test, as, despite our requests, some interviewees have suggested their workplaces as preferred sites for the interviews. We have been sensitive to these requests, and although we make our preference known, our priority is to respect the wishes of the interviewees, as they are already granting us the privilege of listening to, recording, and disseminating their stories. After having gone through the often traumatic experience of being forced out of their homes, we do not want our presence to feel like another source of invasion. This has also come up when asking interviewees if they feel comfortable with Melanie recording the interviews, as KALW is a fairly prominent radio station and will certainly make their stories public. Deferring to the interview is definitely our rule of thumb.
We had a busy and productive Week 7 and accomplished the goals we set out last week. We are in good standing to complete our project in two week’s time. Our work this week was characterized by on-the-ground action and fieldwork. Last Sunday, we allocated a day to complete our interceptor interviews of parkgoers in Golden Gate Park. This was a fascinating experience in which we approached passerbys along the Lincoln Way sidewalk and in the immediate park vicinity to determine their frequent access routes and transit methods into the park. We stationed ourselves at the major intersections we are focusing along Lincoln Way, especially 34th and Lincoln, where we could catch pedestrians as they entered the park. This ensured that they would have a relevant experience about pedestrian access, as they had just crossed the busy Lincoln Way on foot. There is also a meandering dog walking and jogging path in the park, between Lincoln Way and MLK Drive. We spent a good deal of time along this strip stopping pedestrians. In each case, we would approach a pedestrian and briefly introduce our project, saying something like, “Hello, we are a group of Stanford students working on a project to increase bike and pedestrian access to Golden Gate Park. Do you have two minutes to answer a few questions?” This was a generally successful approach, although a few people flat-out denied our request. Our questions were as follows:
-Are you a resident of the Sunset District? If yes, how long have you lived here?-How often do you visit the park?
-Which entrances do you typically use to enter the park?
-What modes of transportation do you typically use to access the park?
-Please describe your experience as a pedestrian along Lincoln Way.
-What would you like to see improved to enhance your pedestrian experience?
These interviews focused mostly on pedestrians, as cyclists were actively cycling and were hard to stop. In general, we found that Lincoln Way is avidly used by the residents of the Sunset District to access the park simply because it is the most convenient route into the park. In fact, the people we interviewed represented a diverse array of demographics but each reported a similar story: they visit the park frequently via the simplest route. While these routes may not be the safest, the pedestrians are still glad to have any park access. More analysis of these interviews will follow below.
On Friday, we had another big day in San Francisco. In the morning, we taught a workshop-based class for Mr. Stuart Streepy’s 8th grade Social Studies class at Lawton Alternative Middle School. We modified our midterm presentation for the class, editing it to be more relevant for the audience. After introducing our project, we paused to have a brainstorming session with the class about their biking and pedestrian experiences in the city, especially in the Sunset District. We gathered a lot of helpful information from the students, who were very excited about our work and had fresh ideas. We polled the class using a version of the questions listed above, including how often they visit the park and by what means. The students are frequent parkgoers, and by every means of transportation, especially biking and walking. We then introduced some design concepts that can be applied for traffic calming and street revitalization to give the students some background to basic street design principles. In the style of a charette, we split the class into groups of three and four, giving each student a blank map of the intersection at 34th and Lincoln and some colored pencils. The students came up with their own design recommendations, some of which were very innovative (a raised bridge seemed to be the most popular idea!). Each group reported back, and we debriefed from the exercise. We are very grateful to Mr. Streepy as well as to Lisa Periera, a mother at Lawton Middle School who helped organize our workshop.
After visiting Lawton, we made our way across town to the SF Bicycle Coalition Headquarters, where we met up with Janice again. At the office, we engaged in three interviews with members of the SF Bike Coalition who had volunteered their time to speak with us. This was very enlightening and gave us the opportunity to ask long-time city bikers about their visions for bike accessible streets as well as their thoughts on bike deterrents. One of the interviewees founded a bike advocacy group called Wheel Kids, which hosts summer camps for children to learn about bike safety and participate in fun biking activities. It was helpful to widen our outreach base and make these important connections.
Finally, we met with Nicole Schneider of Walk SF, a pedestrian safety nonprofit which does great work in the city advocating for better walking experience. She directed us to some key resources, such as the MTA’s traffic control data, the benefits of road diets, the pedbikesafe.org countermeasures site, and the Transit Effectiveness Program, among others. She helped us brainstorm some creative design concepts which we hadn’t thought about before. It was a stellar end to an active day!
Other than our day trips, we are also steadily receiving results from our online surveys and are starting to code all this data into a cohesive and comprehensible format.
Our interceptor surveys in Golden Gate Park last week allowed us to have direct contact with various residents of the Sunset District within Golden Gate Park. We interviewed a young European male pursuing studies at the University of San Francisco, and an elderly man who had lived in the Sunset District for more than forty years and walked his dog in the park every day. We also spoke to a middle aged woman who worked at the Stanford Medical School and strolled through the park with her young son as well as a couple with an infant and dog that had once lived on the northern side of the park and were just about to cross into the park from the Sunset District, where they had been living for a decade. They all agreed that they would benefit from improving the entrances along Lincoln Way, and had their own individual perspectives drawing from their personal experiences crossing the intersection.
The family of three mentioned that the Fulton access to the park was even less pleasant than our area of study, pinpointing the lack of entrances along the northern perimeter of the park. When we spoke to Janice between our SF Bicycle Coalition member interviews this afternoon and made note of their comment, she stated ‘people will use the entrances where they are placed, even if the infrastructure is lacking.’ She further elaborated that within the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition projects, it was invariably true that placing bike lanes within the city and placing safe, intuitive, and bike lanes within the city were two different projects.
Janice’s comment related strongly to our workshop with the Lawton Middle School 8th Graders, whose design ideas ranged far and wide, and sometimes very pragmatically opposed the design ideas we had been discussing with experts over the past few weeks. For example, when we mentioned bulb outs, an extroverted student exclaimed that they interrupted his skateboarding and frequently caused him to trip whenever he was gliding down the street. The founder of Wheel Kids, Tim Hurley, himself later stated that he was not a big fan of bulbouts as well as a bicyclist, for the very same reason that the middle schoolers had mentioned.
Nicole provided us with an amazing list of resources to supplement the reflections and recommendations we had received today from the different community members. One that stood out was the pedestrian hybrid beam (PHB), a sign of a bright neon color that flashes to stop oncoming traffic when activated by a pedestrian. The PHB was first introduced to San Francisco by Supervisor Tang herself, providing a serendipitous moment of cohesiveness where we were consciously reminded of how much of a collective effort this project has been.
From this point in our project we have gathered extremely valuable data for taking the remaining steps toward completion. As stated above, we have received a wide range of data from many different groups of people; business owners, commissioners and supervisors, middle age park goers, and children from the Sunset District. As well as collected first hand accounts in navigation of the park and surrounding areas by visiting the site multiple times.
Today proved extremely valuable in gathering information from children in the area that may have or may not have truly thought about the danger surrounding entering the park, but to our surprise the children seemed to be on the same page as we are. We hope to really capitalize on the fact that all demographics of people in this area seem to hold a uniform view of accessing the park and the unsafe conditions that come with this task. This uniform idea will prove of great importance in stressing the necessity and validity of our project and we will definitely incorporate all of the data we are able to collect during this process.
Another aspect of this week that will be incorporated into our project is the data collected from the interceptor surveys we were able to conduct last sunday. These surveys were extremely informative as to the general opinion people hold of pedestrian accessibility. We found that community members of Lincoln Way found it very difficult to cross the streets and the safety regulations currently in place just do not suffice. This corresponds directly with what we hypothesized would be the response from the community members of the Sunset District, but definitely adds a lot of strength to our project.
Having the opportunity to meet with people like Nicole Schneider of Walk SF always amazing. The professional insight is priceless for developing our project, and as stated above, in meeting with Nicole we were able to learn the benefits of road diets, gain access to MTA traffic control data, and brainstorm design concepts which we had not previously considered. This information and insight will be incorporated into our project design as well as contribute to the portion of our project representing how concerned people are about pedestrian safety, and the willingness they show in helping our project anyway they can.
With the combination of the middle school childrens outlook and first hand accounts and the professional insight from members of the community and organizations like Nicole from Walk SF, we will be able to look at our project through yet another lense. The many different views we will be decoding will set us up for an extremely thorough and well rounded project proposal. We could not be more excited to not only be helping the Sunset district and other surrounding communities, but interacting with the people and creating valuable relationships.
Update of Project Activities
Last Friday afternoon, I (Natalie) had the chance to meet with a different stakeholder in our project: Preet Kaur, a sophomore here at Stanford and an intern of Priscilla’s at FOHC, has officially joined the farmers market team. Priscilla’s idea for the farmers market project was one of the things that originally attracted Preet to the FOHC internship, and she has been eager to get involved. In my meeting with her, we mostly discussed logistics of the project, but I made a point of extending the conversation to overall goals and purposes. Preet’s main point of involvement for the time being is survey distribution. With strong Spanish skills and a set schedule for being at the clinic, Preet has already proven to be a huge help in growing our sample size. Just today she collected 30 responses and seemed to enjoy herself while doing it. She texted me from the clinic:
After this quarter, I’m sure Preet will play a big role in carrying the farmers market project forward. Getting to work with her at this stage is very important in terms of establishing some continuity within our project.
Another major effort within this past week has been finalizing our plans for the two focus groups we are holding next week. Our staff focus group is going to be held on Tuesday during the lunch hour, and our patient focus group will be on Wednesday evening from 5-6pm. We have already received 23 RSVPs from the staff and plan to break them up into two smaller groups to facilitate conversation. We have contact information from a few patient surveys that we can use to recruit for the patient focus group, but Priscilla is facilitating the majority of that recruitment.
Pete has recently conducted two more phone interviews with Collective Roots and the Ecology Center. The Ecology Center referred us to Phat Beets (haha), a food justice collective in Oakland, for additional support and information. Additionally, these conversations have led us to re-evaluate our initial concerns over market management. Previously, we were thinking that having FOHC staff manage the market would be infeasible, but we now feel that this idea deserves more attention.
Observations and Learnings
After collecting our first pilot round of 14 surveys, I (Natalie) sat down with them and went to work coming up with a useful way of coding the information and putting it into an Excel spreadsheet. With only 14 responses accounted for so far, it’s impossible to make any statements about trends, but there are hints of interesting things going on. For example, 12 out of 14 said they would shop at a market at FOHC, but these same people indicated that they are satisfied with the produce offered at their current grocery stores. So while people may not be opposed to the idea of a farmers market at FOHC, they may feel that it is not particularly necessary. In terms of what items they’d like to see at the market, fruits are favored over vegetables, and there is very little interest in eggs or milk. Nine out of the 14 indicated that they would shop at the market even if they didn’t have an appointment at the clinic that day. I found this to be encouraging – I imagine a future challenge to be getting people to come to the clinic for the sole purpose of purchasing food. We’re excited to log more survey data and see what we can find.
The presentations given by Dara and Eli in class on Wednesday were great supplements to the work and reflection that we’ve been putting into our project. Eli’s direct question to our group about how our farmers market would address food access issues in North Fair Oaks was particularly thought provoking. While it does seem like we are putting effort into the physical, economic, educational, and cultural components of food access, I wonder if we are doing this in a way that is specific enough to North Fair Oaks. I personally don’t feel as though I have a good handle on what the particular food access issues are or how the residents of North Fair Oaks perceive them. It seems like there are a lot of stores around, including corner stores and larger chains – so it is a price issue? A nutrition literacy issue? A lack of time? Hopefully as we move forward with our surveys and focus groups, we will be able to answer these questions more explicitly.
The healthy corner store initiative that Eli mentioned reminded me of the importance of not getting stuck in one track of thinking when other ideas are worth entertaining. While I stand behind the idea of having a farmers market at FOHC, there are many corner store and tiendas throughout North Fair Oaks. Maybe a similar corner store initiative could be applicable and effective here. It is easy to forget that there are other ways to achieve the same goals, and remembering this can be the key to making progress and implementing the most useful, appropriate strategies.
Natalie, Pete, and Sophie
Update on Project Activities
While last week’s activities were driven by our GIS work, this week revolved around our TDM and TMA research. After enjoying the long weekend, Ma’ayan and Sam regrouped at Branner Library on Tuesday to conduct their first interview of a TMA from another metropolitan region. The pair sat down for a lengthy telephone interview with Chris Romero from the Contra Costa Center Transit Village. While Ma’ayan steered the conversation, Sam recorded the audio and took notes. The model that the Transit Village follows is unique it is funded and operated entirely by the building owners of the complex, and not by specific employers or a governmental organization--more on the CCC later.
Ma’ayan and Sam spent the next hour performing field calculations on our intersections from last week (see previous post). Ma’ayan continued this work on Thursday, and Sam will wrap it up on Saturday. By the beginning of next week, we expect to have completed our commute-to-work maps and to begin analyzing the data. Later Tuesday evening, we conducted another phone interview, this time with Joanna Hewitt, an assistant working with Jessica Zenk, the Senior Director for Transportation Policy for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The SVLG is an organization of some of the largest employers in the nine-county region. We scheduled the interview with Jessica’s office in hopes of learning more about the SVLG and about any companies that maintain or are a part of a TMA. Additionally, we hoped the SVLG could share with us any data that employers have collected about their employees’ commuting trends. Unfortunately, Joanna quickly informed us that, through her own experiences, employers generally refuse to share their commuter data with other entities. And the two TMAs that she shared with us--the Moffett Park Business Group in Sunnyvale and the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton--we have already contacted and hope to interview.
On Wednesday evening, Ma’ayan and Sam attended a meeting of the Joint Powers Board Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of Caltrain, for which Adina serves as the Vice-Chair. The meeting lasted an hour and a half and included a presentation by a Caltrain representative of the Caltrain Strategic Plan, a collection of guiding principles and goals to improve the system over the next ten years. The Plan is still nascent and a preliminary draft was presented to the CAC for feedback. One interesting tidbit that came out of the evening was that Caltrain ridership was up nearly 10% for the month of January. While the meeting taught us the current challenges that Caltrain faces and gave us a snapshot of the citizens advisory process, it did not directly address our research questions. The evening took a cruel, ironic turn for the worse when we discovered that the next two Caltrains had terminated that evening, forcing us to bike from San Carlos back to campus!
What We Observed and Learned
Our interview with the Contra Costa Center Transit Village was insightful because of the TMA’s unique structure: as mentioned previously, the CCC’s TMA is funded and operated by the property owners. The Village consists of 125 acres of land owned by 14 individuals and hosts roughly 6,000 employees. Through a $0.05/sqft charge on leasable space collected from the fourteen landlords, the TMA drew roughly $267,000 to spend on its programs last year. Currently, 12% of CCC employees commute to work using BART, and 30% use some form of alternative transportation. The TMA has been awarded grants for subsidized parking permits for employees and, most recently, the installation of 24 charging stations for electric vehicles. Additionally, the Village owns a 5-car car-sharing fleet and a “green fleet” of bikes and segways for use during the day. The TMA was established 26 years ago in compliance with a state TDM ordinance and due to parking constraints in the Village: with only 3.3 parking spaces per 1000 sqft, the complex simply could not house enough cars for its employees to drive to work. Chris and her team receive feedback on their TMA through surveys conducted every three years. The surveys generally have a high turnout of 40%.
One task from last week that remains unfulfilled is to locate employer data that can be fed into our GIS model. We hope to contact Adina this week to brainstorm ways to obtain this data. Otherwise, our goals for next week are to conduct more telephone interviews with TMAs and to analyze our residential commute-to-work results. Also, we plan to attend the TDM presentation at Palo Alto City Council on Monday, 2/24.
Until next week!
Ma’ayan & Sam
This week has been extremely productive and fruitful for our group! After weeks of speaking purely conceptually about our project, training and preparing for oral history interviews, selecting interviewees, and contacting our interviewees to coordinate interviews, we have finally reached the stage of directly interacting with evicted people. After searching for a diverse group of people that we thought would have compelling stories, we selected fourteen people to contact. We were able to successfully reach ten of them through e-mail or phone call, and received six responses thus far. Each person has agreed to interview with us, and have lined up interviews with the following people:
We conducted our first interview which was a very moving and enlightening experience. It served as a wonderful introduction to the work we’ll be continuing to do, and we are very excited to keep meeting new people and hearing new stories. It was also a great opportunity to test out equipment. We realized that the recorders provided at Meyer were littered with white noise and were generally lower quality than the IPhone recorder. The iPhone voicememo app actually works incredibly well for recording high quality sound. Melanie Young from KALW has offered to give our first recording a listen and give us feedback on it, and if she approves of the sound quality, we will continue to use this technology as it is quite convenient to operate and to upload to our computers.
This week specifically has been extremely learning-focused; we have let our interviewees and those affected by eviction teach us more than we could have simply read. Through the initial contact with our interviewees via phone and email, we already began the learning process. Even more, in our first interview we earned more in depth about the emotional stories of evictions. Our first interviewee, Nancy, took us on a journey through her story. She was very educated about Ellis Act evictions and San Francisco’s politics, and was able to share a very unique perspective on housing issues in San Francisco.
Through our work with those that were evicted, we have truly learned the justices that need to be done. We are doing a service by doing the mapping project becuase it will be an effective tool to education other people in the Bay Area on these issues. Service learning means more than just volunteering a few days at a non-profit. Service learning requires immersing ourselves in the problems that arise and using the knowledge we gained to help to facilitate a solution. The mapping project is our small step to a solution for no-fault evictions.
This week marked a major milestone for our group, as we conducted our very first interview! The process of scheduling this interview in particular was an exercise in perseverance and open-mindedness, as the interviewee was quite terse and incommunicative over email, sometimes responding with one word responses. After requesting to interview over skype or gchat (to which we responded that we are conducting in-person interviews, preferably in the interviewee’s home), she requested that we come to her workplace, in Emeryville. At this point, we had some significant doubts about carrying the interview through. We wondered, “Do we really want to travel all the way to Emeryville to interview a person who won’t be enthusiastic about speaking with us?” Luckily, on her google plus profile, we noticed that she worked at a place called the Estria Foundation, which works with graffiti artists and muralists to create public art in order to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. Though admittedly some assumption-making took place on our part, we decided to drive to Emeryville to conduct the interview, as her line of work led us to believe that Nancy would potentially be passionate about issues of social justice.
We arrived at the Estria office and received a tour of the facility and cups of coffee from Nancy’s partner, Jonathan. The studio was filled with spraypainted canvases and other pieces of artwork, as well as photographs of all of the projects the organization has worked on. Nancy arrived, and we introduced ourselves and small-talked for a while while she settled in. It became apparent to us that allowing someone to be interviewed in their own space, a place in which they know how to navigate far better than we do, is really instrumental in their comfort in the interview. She chose a small conference room and she and I (Natasha) talked through the release form, the project, and what her role was within it while Jordan tested out the microphone on his iPhone. We then began the interview. I had created a list of questions to use including:
Afterwards, Jordan took several photographs of Nancy standing in front of murals and canvases, holding her dog, etc. She mentioned that she would be open to having us photograph her in her home next time we are in the city. We were sure to tell her that we would share the audio recording with her, and that she was invited to our final presentation at the end of the quarter. She was very eager to see where the project was going and what the outcome would be, so we were glad to be able to invite her to a showcase of our work.