Our group has completed an intensive literature review of the papers provided by Friends of Caltrain and Palo Alto Forward. This included six blogs, eight reports, and two book references. The following section summarizes the relevant findings.
All articles concerned housing issues, but varied between policy trends and housing preference surveys. In the survey articles, researchers found that more individuals want a larger house, and more walkable community. Unfortunately, the two preferences are often exclusive, with larger houses leading to sprawled, expensive, suburban neighborhoods, and walkability leading to higher housing densities. However, people of all ages generally preferred walkability over house size. They would be willing to live in smaller units, if the surrounding community resources were ideal. The articles found that people are more willing to walk in areas with lower vehicle activity, and more public transportation. This is the result of the cultural shift from the culture of the late 1900’s, which favored automotive-based suburban development, to that of the millennials and from the increase desire for the retiring adults of the Baby Boomers generation to move into smaller houses (Benfield). The housing shortage situation may improve over time as cities reevaluate their zoning plans and design neighborhoods with larger populations densities in mind. Regarding the policy articles, researchers suggested changes to CEQA, LEED, and other major zoning influencers to allow for improvements in existing infrastructure, and more multiunit housing projects.
The Foot Traffic Ahead Report found that categorizing cities as suburban or urban is an outdated methodology. A city is comprised of walkable urban or drivable suburban regions. The report analyzed the top 30 urban cities in the US, and found that higher education and housing prices are significantly correlated to city walkability. The creation of these “regionally significant walkable urban places” (Leinberger 8) are essential to improving the quality of life and housing in Palo Alto; one major observation that particularly fit Palo Alto was that technology-based companies, for which the city is known for, are often the driving force of such development as these companies thrive off of the innovative and collaborative environment that walkable urban development creates (Leinberger). However, to ensure that this development results in dense walkable housing with a high quality of life, Palo Alto’s City Comprehensive Plan has shown the importance of improving pedestrian infrastructure, including bike lanes and the use of trees to create separation between roads and pedestrian sidewalks (United)
Approximately 80% of homeowners in Palo Alto make more than $125,000 a year, and 80% of households are single family residential. The city is housed for the wealthy, but employs thousands of people from all income categories. Based on 2012 RHNA reports, the amount of multiunit complexes or low income housing being built in Palo Alto is far too low to accommodate population growth. A growth mind you, that has slowed from one of the largest in the state (13% in 2005) to one of the smallest (3%) due to low housing available and age splitting (mostly elderly or young individuals that do not breed live in Palo Alto, with 68% of households having neither in each category) (Richardson). California’s housing market has not recovered from the 2008 crisis. As a result, new housing permits are far lower than the growing population. Pre-2008 housing was projecting over 200,000 houses a year- in California, but has dropped to 100,000 as of 2015.
After the literature review, all four of us met with Elaine and Adina after class to discuss survey questions. We mostly discussed upcoming work (found below), but also discussed our grasp of the readings. Elaine put us in contact with Tiffany Griego, the Planner for Stanford Research Park, important for its large role in employing many of Palo Alto’s workers. Since this area is a focus of our project, we will contact her for past survey data in the area, as well as use her input to design our survey questions. Based on the readings, our questions should concern housing, transportation, and community design.
We are preparing our survey questions for Palo Alto’s Planning Director by October 18th. This includes surveys of different lengths, as well as online versus paper versions. In preparation for the midterm presentation, our group will have to quickly summarize and add Gitelman’s comments to the slideshow and Scope paper. We will likely incorporate questions used in the articles we read; modifying them to be relevant to Palo Alto’s housing and transportation settings. The goal is to ask specific questions targeted towards individuals who commute in and out of the City of Palo Alto as well as individuals living within the city. We want to figure out what our interviewees think would be beneficial to their daily commute to and from work.
We will conduct sample surveys the weekend of the 21st to evaluate the clarity in our questions. Members of our group have identified representatives from different walks of life, and will give them the sample survey to collect criticism. Based on the feedback, we will finalize our survey and run in-person trials the 28th and 29th of October. As of now, we will survey three sites in person; CalTrain Station, Farmers’ Market, and University Avenue. We feel these three sites represent a diverse samples size, with the first specifically catering to those dependent on transit, but are willing to explore other options if our data collection is limited. Elaine has generously provided a popup park tool kit to make us seen approachable in public.
Adding the excess criticism given by the Planning Director on the day of the midterm will likely be a challenge, as we have exactly 30 minutes from when the meeting ends, to when class starts. At least two of the four of us will be modifying the PowerPoint while we are in the meeting to maximize available time. Another issue is sample bias. Specifically, we are collecting site data on Halloween Weekend. This may lead to a spike in single family homeowners (with their kids) that are quite happy with their current living situation. We are hoping the large influx of commuters through the CalTrain Station will give us an equivalent concentration of non-local housing preferences.