Is there anything you might have done differently if you were to embark on your project from the beginning?
We’ve spent this week preparing for our final presentations to the city leaders of Salinas and the Human Cities Expo. We had a conference call with our fellow student-researchers at Hartnell and discussed our sub-project findings, but this discussion led to the realization that our sub-projects have truly branched off in very different ways. Some teams have significantly changed their time frames, or topics since we devised our scope of work, but each sub-project has still produced interesting results. Now, the challenge is to fit five sub-projects’ worth of results into one cohesive yet short presentation.
Designing the sub-projects along parallel paths of inquiry would have made the research and presentation process run more smoothly. If, for example, we had all agreed to examine the same topics but relate them to income (do people of different income levels have equal access to parks? How does an area’s income bracket relate to the frequency of police patrols? etc.), it would have been easier to link our findings together in the end. Additionally, we would have been able to share some data sources amongst the entire group, ensuring greater consistency and decreasing the amount of time we would have to spend looking for data individually.
At the beginning of the project, the roles and clarifications remained unclear and so it would be best to establish that first. However, it was a great way to learn how complicated and broad initial research can be. I would have picked a different methodology by working on the presentation first and continued to fill in with research on what I didn’t know. Carol mentioned that it was better to write first and then to consistently do research and I felt like that advice held true- it sufficiently helps!
What was your greatest learning from your community partner and/or from your fellow teammates?
Was there a particular "a-ha" moment during your project that shifted your thinking about sustainability or community-based work? Or if you cannot pinpoint a specific incident, what major learnings will you take away from this experience?
Our initial trip to Salinas yielded a number of impactful moments. For instance, Sam Pacheco remarked that he had only been to Chinatown once, when he took a wrong turn, during all his years of living in Salinas. This was one of the reasons I (Hannah) chose to examine segregation and patterns of racial distribution in the city. After all, a city with very little interaction between certain racial groups or neighborhoods likely lacks the communication and unity necessary to address pressing issues like the housing crisis. This helped me to realize that understanding the roots of division and exclusivity is essential to building a more sustainable community. This realization also makes me wish that we had worked with a partner who is a part of the Asian American community.
In class, we learned a lot about research and how to conduct it in a community so that it is harmless. We also learned about how urban planners need to focus on the community that they are designing for rather then coming in with outside agendas. Furthermore, we learned that the class material was actually a lot more difficult in practice.
Update on Project Activities
Last Sunday, we had another full team check-in meeting and discussed the progression of our research. Many sub-project teams had gathered most of their data through interviews, literature reviews, and combing through public data portals. As we continued to analyze all we had collected, our thoughts turned to deliverables and the big picture. In class, we chose which sub-project elements will be displayed with maps and started to think about other formats as well, including charts and infographics. On Friday, Hannah and Jose discussed the progress of the Stanford and Salinas teams and clarified a few communication issues. Here are some more detailed descriptions of our sub-project activities this week:
- Public Health: For our sub project, we have covered a wide range of items. First, I was able to establish definitions for food desert, mental health and art. For instance, food desert will be identified via mapping by understanding the incomes of certain communities through the census data. According to the USDA, the root of food deserts is due first by community poverty, meaning certain areas may not have the funding to bring in or continue local businesses. I think this is a wonderful lead to go off of. After establishing the definition, I needed to understand the geography and basically the location of Salinas a little more. Using something as simple as google maps and other online USDA maps, I was able to see the general areas of homes and their proximity to places of agriculture. For example, many of the areas of agriculture are not directly within communities but may surround urban areas. I still need to continue to identify where there are green spaces within urban areas. Interestingly enough, there have been studies/efforts to create community gardens as a way to combat food deserts. However, again I need to establish where. Addresses at this point are important for me to keep track off so that I can relay them to another partner to be mapped.
Lastly, my partner has done interviews about mental health, and overall public health. He is working on contacting the arts council about digitizing the art murals around Salinas and providing the data about the artists. Hopefully we also try to understand if the are art organizations and how close they are to urban communities. Some future things could include contacting: 1. Mosquito Abatement might have the information on parks and geography. 2. Salinas Parks Master Plan from previous years.
Segregation: I spent much of this week getting my ArcMap segregation model to work. I had set a goal at the previous weekend’s check-in meeting of making a functional model, and I’m happy to say that this was more or less accomplished. The model allowed me to input the deviational ellipses I had generated for each racial group and get a segregation index for each decade. I also started collecting data that I can use in a correlation analysis of segregation, including GINI indices (income inequality) and data on age, educational attainment, and language fluency. To learn more about geospatial resources on campus, I also attended GIS Day. Speakers discussed interesting topics like drone mapping and AI, but they also provided information about more accessible resources like EarthWorks, an inter-university map and geospatial data repository.
What We Observed and Learned
Now that our research questions have finally solidified and the final presentation is fast approaching, we realize that we must figure out our deliverable formats sooner rather than later. In some cases, our findings can be easily displayed, like mapping food deserts or showing images of local murals. However, some sub-projects deal with incredibly complex issues that are not so easy to depict.
Additionally, we have improved our communication skills by discussing and explaining the technical details of our sub-projects. In this project of projects, it is easy to get stuck in one’s own silo and forget to explain technical terms and methodologies. By checking in with each other regularly, we are forced to practice explaining our research in more accessible terms and to think about how our sub-projects fit together. As some sub-project teams continue their literature reviews, they have found interesting issues that link their sub-project to others, proving how interconnected urban issues really are. Lastly, Anpo noted that keeping a running document between partners is a great way to stay consistent with communication and updating articles.
The lessons we have learned from intra-group communication issues, while frustrating, will be incredibly useful if we apply them to our presentations. One of our presentation audiences is intimately familiar with the city of Salinas but may not be familiar with the details of demographic/spatial research, while the other audience is made up of academics and urbanists who may never have even visited Salinas. In both situations, we will need to clearly and concisely explain unfamiliar topics or methodologies without compromising our findings. Many of our in-class lectures have detailed similar challenges that urban planners face, like communicating with linguistically diverse residents in San Francisco or discussing the financial pros and cons of flood mitigation with local business owners. As we prepare our presentations, it is critical that we include explanations of acronyms and technical terms, geographic and historic context for the city of Salinas, and easily readable graphics. Beyond these considerations, one of the best ways we can prepare is to try to anticipate which questions the audience might ask and prepare to answer them in detail. For now, we are keeping on with our research and it is extremely fascinating to learn how much all of our sub projects rely on one another.
Update on Project Activities
This week, we took a step back from our sub-projects and examined the research questions we were asking. Some teammates were satisfied with their current paths of inquiry, but others had lingering questions that had been eliminated during earlier rounds of research planning. We also discussed how our colleagues at Hartnell had previously expressed interest in studying topics like mental health and public art, policing practices, and socioeconomic status in the Alisal. With Deland’s encouragement, we decided to reconsider these previously voiced ideas and invite team members to propose additional research questions through a shared Google document that we will reference during our Zoom meeting on Sunday.
In the midst of this discussion, we also continued work on our sub-projects:
What We Observed and Learned
One of the most gratifying parts of the research process has been finding so many great databases and archives. As we continue our research and ask more detailed questions about how we should define a “food desert” in the context of Salinas or how we can compare feelings of safety to crime metrics, we have often found resources that provide us with the demographic and spatial data we need, and in great detail. Our community partners, especially Krista Hanni of the Monterey County Health Department, have connected us with resources that will allow us to examine trends in the context of local government policies and even compare our findings across larger geographies.
As we reconsider our research questions, it is crucial that we balance feasibility with utility. We may come up with fascinating questions that could produce useful information for the City of Salinas, but we also need to come up with a well-defined plan to answer those questions within the few weeks we have left. It seems that many of the topics that most interest various team members are areas of expertise or past experience. For instance, Luis mentioned that it would be really interesting, and perhaps empowering, to research different types of public art and how those art forms influenced mental health. Luis also discussed his work with a local arts organization and cited instances of conflict between the city and artists. With this detailed knowledge of arts practices in Salinas, Luis could probably add this topic of investigation to the public health sub-project with little issue. However, trying to do a study on something like precisely tracking individual gang murders and tying them to historical events would also be useful to the city, but it would not feasible with the time and resources we have.
One of the most straightforward ways our project connects to urban agriculture is public health. When we visited Salinas, we noted that there seemed to be plenty of liquor stores and other establishments, but limited access to large grocery stores or fresh produce. Despite Salina’s being the “salad bowl” of the country, it also suffers from poverty and hunger on a large scale. According to California Institute for Rural studies, in 2010 Monterey County produced $4 billion in gross profit. However, nearly 25,000 individuals earn incomes lower than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and as a result face dramatic food insecurity (Kresge, 2011). During our trip to Salinas, community members mentioned that there are no adequate and accessible grocery stores to choose from. It is without mention, that food deserts within low income urban communities have a negative effect on the city’s public health.
The homes in some parts of the city were very dense, and many of them housed multiple families at a time. Community members mentioned that the “green space” in some regions consisted of small, simple parks and only provided the bare minimum. The addition of urban agriculture pockets such as community gardens would provide access to fresh produce and healthier food options for nearby residents, as well as increase the amount of green space and variable (planning, spatial use, land use pattern things (sorry am looking for a good word right here lol)). This would also have a positive effect on residents’ health, whereas the larger commercial farms surrounding Salinas create a lot of negative health impacts (i.e. increased rates of asthma and other respiratory issues due to pesticide use).
The rise of agricultural technology (AgTech) in Salinas and the urbanization of existing agriculture has created tensions between commercial farms and local farmers and growers. For example, Taylor Farms has a growing presence in the city and has plans to incorporate AgTech into their work. This incorporation would provide jobs for residents, but a portion of those jobs would involve operating machinery and working with agriculture indirectly, only furthering the divide between residents and their land and agricultural history. The educational aspect of urban agriculture could mitigate this loss of agricultural knowledge, and supplement the environmental learning that younger residents working with machinery may not otherwise engage with.
Although urban agriculture could have a lot of positive impacts on under-resourced residents in Salinas, we struggled to weigh those benefits against the negative impacts that it could have on the community. An increased possibility of gentrification is one of the clearest impacts we noted. Green spaces are great additions to communities, but can also contribute to beautification and improvement efforts that drive up the price of housing in the surrounding areas and result in existing residents being displaced. We’ve already found that Salinas has a number of “redevelopment” projects underway, which oftentimes are either located in more affluent parts of the city or in regions with high populations of minority groups (which will then be at risk of gentrification). The addition of green spaces created through urban agriculture could be a potential gateway to more of these “redevelopment” projects.
It also doesn’t make sense to expect many Salinas residents to start growing food on their own lots when many of the lots in the city would be too small to accommodate urban agriculture, and many people are renting rooms and living in very dense, overpopulated homes. Furthermore, a lot of them work in the agricultural industry daily, and may not be inclined to do agricultural work for free or think of it as an educational/relaxing space because their careers revolve around it.
However, in a recent study, low-income employees in the agriculture industry wished they had employee gardens to combat farmer food insecurity. Another way could be to include farmworkers in urban planning and implementation of garden projects. By doing this it could potentially target specific communities by addressing their needs such as the elderly, children, large families within single households, and students. This potential co-creative process could allow a healthy and steady flow of information from community members to urban planners as mentioned in lecture. It is also suggested that wide-scale community gardens can reduce crime, improve neighborhood aesthetics, create leadership development and youth engagement (Kresge, 2011), not to mention create a more resilient community.
Salinas is composed of diverse communities, and part of our project has been centered around understanding that diversity and the way sub-groups within the city interact with the environment. The ideas proposed in this study are applicable to the city’s unique sub-groups, especially low-income farm workers. This application creates a more resilient community, and demonstrates improvements in public health.
Most of us didn’t have direct experience with urban agriculture, but we had some examples of ways we’ve seen it manifest at Stanford. For example, Arrillaga dining has a small greenhouse on the second floor, and a small community garden outdoors. Jasmin has also participated in gardening through her cooperative living space, which had a house garden that was integrated into the community. A point to note for the co-op garden is that it was created because they had the privilege and campus resources to make it part of their living experience. For a city like Salinas, with such a high poverty rate and many low-income residents, adding high volumes of small urban agriculture spaces would be much more difficult.
Agriculture in Salinas has, up to this point, been a limiting factor on the city’s footprint. It isn’t necessarily something that’s been integrated into central parts of the city, as urban agriculture would be. Because of these space constrictions, we discussed the possibility micro-agriculture or greenhouses, that could potentially convert parts of existing green space (underused parks etc.) into community gardens to be used by residents.
Kresge, Lisa. “Food Insecurity among Farm Workers in the Salinas Valley, California.” Home, California Institute for Rural Studies, 2 Dec. 2011, www.cirsinc.org/rural-california-report/entry/food-insecurity-among-farm-workers-in-the-salinas-valley-california.
Update on Project Activities
This week was mainly devoted to delving into our small group projects. We each gathered data from the census and other reliable sources and began some analytical work. We plan to bring a summary of each of our sub-projects to Sunday’s video conference with the Hartnell team and our other community partners so we can better see how each project is fitting together/overlapping and work through issues as a group. For clarity, we plan to give a brief summary of each sub-project in these weekly reflections:
* Segregation: Hannah compiled data tables and shapefiles from the 1980-2010 censuses through SimplyAnalytics, which has proven to be a really useful tool for quick, customizable visualizations. She found that race/ethnicity data is actually available at the block group level as well as the tract level, so she plans to use the block group data to get a more granular picture of residential distributions in Salinas. Next, she joined these data tables and shapefiles in ArcGIS and began segregation index calculations by generating deviational ellipses for each racial/ethnic group in each year.
* Transportation: TBA
* Crime: Jasmin and Jose started combing through crime statistics from 1993-2013 that were gathered from an online resource. We prepared questions and sent emails to both the police chief and east side commander to try to set up meetings with them about collecting more qualitative and quantitative police department data.
* Public Health: TBA
What We Observed and Learned
Getting into the nitty-gritty details of data analysis led some of us to reconsider even the variables and categorizations we chose. For instance, the segregation sub-project divides the Salinas population into white non-Latinos, Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans. Those categorizations initially seemed perfectly logical, but they failed to account for mixed race people and Latinos of Asian and African descent. Based on preliminary research into the demographics of Salinas, it seems like these mixed populations have historically been very small, but it is still troubling (especially to the mixed-race sub-project lead) that these groups are often re-categorized or left out of demographic analyses.
As we take a detailed look at our data, we are also finding new opportunities. One group member attended a geocoding workshop with Stace Maples and found that it may be possible to build an address locator for the 1930 census enumerator logs. Also, one of our colleagues at Hartnell, Jose, found detailed monthly crime statistics from the Salinas Police Department that we can use to create infographics. We have realized that there are many useful tools and data sources hidden amidst more conventional resources, and we will keep our eyes open for more of these great finds as we continue our research.
As we become more deeply involved in our respective sub-projects, it will become easy to succumb to a sort of tunnel vision. Although our topics are linked together by policy, history, and (of course) place, they each have their own specialized terminology, documentation, and data sources. Therefore, regular cross-group communication is essential now more than ever. Despite understanding this, we are still struggling to meet and communicate in a timely manner. We did not meet in-person at all this week, and it seems that illness, class/work schedules, and misunderstandings led us to cancel two planned meetings.
To get back on track, we would like to meet on Sunday morning, before the video conference, and discuss communication norms, goals, and work schedules. Hopefully, this discussion will get all of us back on the same page and help us move forward with minimal stress so we can create the best deliverables possible.
To that end, we are also getting a better idea of how our deliverables will look. Many of the steps in our analysis process are interesting, but they may not be the most illustrative or accessible parts of the project to display. We need to turn deviational ellipses, monthly crime reports, and acronym-riddled transportation plans into understandable, cohesive visuals. On the cartographic front, it will be important to limit both the number of maps and map layers so viewers are not overwhelmed by data. Bringing in written summaries and graphs through Esri StoryMaps or Carto could be an effective way to guide viewers through our analyses while still allowing them opportunities to explore based on their own interests. We want our deliverables to provoke curiosity and help people see their hometown in a new way.