Update on Project Activities
Last week, Casey attended the healthy corner store coalition meeting at a community center in the Tenderloin (find an elaboration on this visit below). We also received demographic data in the form of surveys and maps from our community partner, which has been helpful in making progress towards our project deliverables.
This week in our group members’ meeting, we solidified some of our next steps in working towards these deliverables. In particular, we are focusing on our literature review, database of potential new developments (including specific recommendations for potential retail), surveys of residents/retailers, an assessment of potential Prop J legacy businesses in the area, and creating a list of criteria for determining whether or not a potential commercial retail would fulfill community needs. We are working on adding to our collective annotated bibliography (and literature review), each reading and analyzing one piece a week each week for the rest of the quarter. This also includes looking at pre-existing projects and retail in other communities that may lend inspiration to new community-serving developments in the Tenderloin. In addition, we developed a game plan for what other data we need to collect surrounding the actual retail spaces available (square footage, for example) for new commercial developments and how we will accomplish this by visiting the Tenderloin again and contacting developers moving forward.
What We Observed and Learned
At the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition (TLHCSC) meeting, the Food Justice Leaders and some members of the general public gathered to discuss the HealthyRetailSF program. First, the merits and faults of each of the existing redesigned corner stores were discussed. According to the Food Justice Leaders, all four redesigned corner stores are doing well. The main criticism was that some of the stores don’t have enough produce or enough variety of produce to encourage people to buy it. It also came up that some of the stores don’t have signs indicating the price of items, which is hard when shoppers have limited funds with which to purchase their groceries.
Next, the coalition discussed which of five corner stores in the neighborhood should be the next to be redesigned. The factors that were considered in a numerical score were as follows--proximity to other redesigned stores, whether the store sells alcohol and/or tobacco, proximity to supportive housing, store owner presence in the store, and store owner presence at the coalition meetings in 2014 and 2015. At the meeting, the Food Justice Leaders also considered size, products already in stock, cleanliness, organization, friendliness of clerks, and safety on that particular block. No conclusion was reached at this meeting.
While nothing discussed at the meeting directly pertained to our project, we got a better idea about what kinds of things the Food Justice Leaders and other meeting attendees considered valuable in a neighborhood corner store. One especially interesting insight we gained was that community members consider variety very important and gave bonus points to stores that carried electronics in addition to grocery items.
The information sent over to us by Ryan centers around food retail initiatives in the Tenderloin. During our meeting with community leaders, we sensed the need for certain food retail initiatives but these surveys and case studies help put the situation into perspective and accelerate our process immensely as the surveys would be difficult to carry out by ourselves.
The first source deals with surveys given to Tenderloin residents asking them about their habits with regard to buying produce. The pie chart showed that an overwhelming 57 percent of residents buy fruits and vegetables from outside the Tenderloin in areas such as the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market, Chinatown, Safeway, and Foods Co. Only 31% of residents surveyed actually buy such products in the Tenderloin. Similar trends were seen with regards to buying meat/poultry, bread/rice, and dairy. The most interesting trend, however, is that alcohol is the only substance that is consumed locally inside the Tenderloin rather than outside.
From an economic standpoint, approximately 80% of Tenderloin residents would buy locally inside the Tenderloin if corner stores actually sold more appropriate groceries rather than alcohol. The survey conducted asking how much residents spent on groceries each month equated to about roughly $200-300 spent per month. If we extrapolate this to all 17,000 households in the Tenderloin (which is poor statistics) then roughly $11 million every year is spent on groceries outside of the Tenderloin. This external spending is being blamed on the poor quality of groceries in the Tenderloin and the expensive costs. The only clear reason for people shopping in the Tenderloin is that its is more convenience especially since going to outside the Tenderloin for shopping requires long walking or a car for transportation.
However, surveys of Tenderloin residents with regards to spending habits is simply not enough information for a food retail initiative given the Tenderloins’ diverse and unique community. The largest population of homeless people are housed in this region, with more than a third of residents living with less than $15,000 annual income. Additionally, a third of residents also live with some type of disability, a number which can be expected to increase as residents age. These demographics offer specific challenges to food security in the Tenderloins. Homeless individuals rely on shelters for food, 15 percent of housing units don’t have full kitchen services, and many residents lack proper nutrition education.
As a result, implementation of a plan for food security in the Tenderloin will have to include more than just chain grocery stores but also nutrition and food preparation programs specifically targeting single-room-occupancy and public services for food access.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
We are beginning to put together our database of upcoming retail/commercial opportunities using the list of pending mixed-use developments in the Tenderloin provided to us by the TNDC. We plan to contact the developers of the individual projects to see what kind of information they can give us about the spaces. After this effort, we plan to go to the Tenderloin and visit each of the developments individually in order to get a better idea of the spaces and what kind of retail they would be able to accommodate. Another crucial benefit of visiting these pending developments in person is being able to see them in the context of their immediate surroundings and getting an idea of what services are already being offered nearby.
More generally, our team met today to nail down our timeline moving forward and to solidify the execution of deliverables. We have chosen the date for our next trip to the Tenderloin, when we will look at pending developments and hopefully survey a number of employees and merchants of existing retail. In terms of our literature review, we plan to each read and analyze a source per week for the next three weeks. Once the review is complete, we will be better equipped to form our criteria of community-serving retail definitions and options.
Update on Project Activities
Firstly, we’d like to say a mournful goodbye to Amabel, but also commend her on her bravery to take care of herself and not stretch herself too thin. In happier news, however, we’d also like to give a warm welcome to the newest member of our team: Paul! We all had an exciting chance to get to know each other on our first excursion together to the Tenderloin this afternoon.
In the Tenderloin (TL), we met with community leaders in a small group setting. The four of us first met with five community leaders, all Tenderloin residents, who work with the TNDC. The group was racially diverse: three African Americans, one Hispanic, and one Caucasian, who have lived in the TL for different amounts of time. Some live in single room occupancy housing (SROs) and some live in affordable housing units run by the TNDC. Each of these community leaders have had significant struggles in their life but were able to recover from those challenges and are doing all they can to give back to the community.
After our meeting with the community leaders, we went to a community meeting with a developer. All community members were welcome to come and ask questions about the proposed building. About ten community members came to the meeting and five or six asked questions or expressed concerns. The community members in attendance were racially diverse--Caucasian, Asian, and African American, and it seemed like people of all of the represented ethnic backgrounds were able to express their thoughts.
What We Observed and Learned
In our first meeting, we were introduced to 5 community leaders within the Tenderloin: Jesse and Sherry, members of the Tenderloin People’s Congress, Don and Steve, Tenderloin Food Justice Leaders, and Darrell, an organizer for a community homeless coalition. After hearing a little from each of these leaders about their lives and how they came to the Tenderloin, we provided more pointed questions about their experiences with services and retail within the TL. When asked about which services were available in the neighborhood and which services were only available outside it became clear that the TL was lacking in many services that went beyond the realm of healthful food access. Some of the services listed were laundry, cleaners, notaries, women specific services, and office supplies. Yet despite the range of lacking services, when asked what kind of service/retail would be most beneficial to the TL, the resounding answer was stores selling healthy, affordable food. It is clear that the proliferation of corner stores in the TL not only exacerbates issues surrounding poor nutrition and associated health problems. For some residents, it’s possible to take public transportation to the nearest supermarket; however, for a community in which many people are elderly and/or disabled it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to reach those same supermarkets.
During the community development meeting, a construction company presented on and answered questions about 1 of the 14 new proposed developments occurring in the Tenderloin area. This confirmed project would be a conversion of the existing parking lot on the 400 block of Eddy street into a residential unit. The new one story building would host 24 units on a 700 square ft plot land and include 9 stalls of parking. The limited parking spaces are an effort by the developer to appeal to residents with no cars and thereby increase public transportation usage. The building would be in accordance with San Francisco’s 12% inclusion ordinance, with low-income defined as a total income of ninety thousands dollars a year per unit of two individuals. Concerns brought up by the attendees of the meeting revolved around the impact the building would have on the outside community and the need for a community space. Comments were made how the building might interfere with sunlight entering residential units where the walls run parallel to the neighboring buildings; the representative responded to those concerns with assurance that a light well would be installed. The community members had a lot of logistical questions that the representative redirected to people he has been working including Claire, Lorenzo, and Dan. Lorenzo stressed that the community desperately needed a communal space for events and meetings, expressing frustration with the current state of existing communal spaces being limited and often times used for storage. Overall the meeting was pretty tense, but most community members left seeming to feel resigned but not angry.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
It was an extremely important step for us to visit and actually connect with community members and leaders in the neighborhood after the conceptual research work that we’ve been pouring our time into until this point. The community leaders were full of energy and offered us an abundance of information stemming from their personal backgrounds and lived experiences in this neighborhood both as residents and community activist leaders. Our notes from the meeting are still fairly messy since we just met this afternoon, but we will have them organized for our post next week.
One of the largest take-aways from these meetings, however, were identifying two specific areas of need within the community and thus potential recommendations for newly developed retail space: the need to address food justice issues and the need for more community space. Throughout our meeting with the community leaders, we kept coming back to the lack of a large grocery store and the plethora of liquor/candy stores in the area. Groceries at corner stores are significantly more expensive than groceries at larger grocery stores, but since many Tenderloin residents often have limited funds and disabilities, they can’t afford to travel to larger grocery stores and stock up. The space where the developer meeting was held is currently the only real “community space” and it was a particularly small, poorly-lit space that appeared mostly to be used for storage.
Next week we plan to attend the food justice coalition meeting with the TNDC and some of the community leaders we met with this Friday. We also got the phone numbers for Sherry, with the Tenderloin People’s Congress, and Steve, a food justice leader with the TNDC and will be following up with specific community needs around retail development.
In the meantime, we have reached out to our community partners Lorenzo and Ryan about survey data that will be of use to us in our continued research and analysis of the needs and opportunities around community-serving commercial businesses in the TL; when we first met with Lorenzo and Ryan, they encouraged us to focus mostly on pre-existing surveys and data because there have already been a myriad conducted and in these cases, not having to reinvent the wheel is of much benefit both to this project and to the community. Once we have this data, we will then also be better equipped to delve deeper into renewed first-hand research and overall analysis.
I. Update on Project Activities
On Monday we met with Lorenzo Listana and Ryan Thayer, our community partners from the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). Lorenzo and Ryan outlined good times to visit the Tenderloin and attend coalition and working group meetings within the community (second Mondays of the month during the early afternoon for steering committee meetings and every Thursday afternoon for the food justice working group meeting). Amabel and Jenai are bottom-lining contact with our community partners and have set up another meeting next Friday to connect with them and any other community members directly, as well as begin becoming accustomed to the neighborhood where we’ll be working throughout this quarter. The week after next we plan to attend the food justice and/or community steering committee meeting on Thursday and will update our schedule moving forward.
Our group (Sonja, Jenai, Casey and Amabel) also met independently on Wednesday evening to get to know each other in our team context and begin on our project’s scope of work.
II. What We Observed and Learned
The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) is an organization that manages affordable housing and provides other services, such as providing healthy foods, in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. The TNDC works primarily on anti-poverty and social justice campaigns that focus on leadership development and capacity building within the Tenderloin neighborhood community.
With around 39,321 residents, the Tenderloin is the most densely populated neighborhood in San Francisco. Among this population, over ¼ live on an income of less than $10,000 per year and ⅓ with a disability. Given these statistics, it was surprising to become aware of the conditions and resource restraints that many residents live with. One of the most surprising things we learned was that the Tenderloin does not have a grocery store, meaning that residents’ food shopping either takes place in corner stores or in grocery stores in other neighborhoods. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Tenderloin inhabitants live in Single-Room-Occupancy residences, meaning that they lack access to full cooking facilities. There are three types of SROs; 1) Rooms with a burner and an oven, 2) Rooms with electric sockets and accessibility to rice cookers and kettles, and 3) Rooms with poor electricity and do not allow for any cooking inputs.
III. Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
Since the correlation between cooking facilities and healthy eating is strong, we have identified that the implementation of kitchens into the Tenderloin community is an area of focus. We plan to research the availability of kitchen spaces within buildings and the possibility of building community kitchens within high occupancy areas.
Another area of focus is the availability of fresh produce and healthy food products within the Tenderloin area, specifically the food that is on sale in corner stores. We would like to increase the accessibility and selection of healthy foods within the immediate area in order to allow for residents to take up healthy and sustainable diets. This will require discussions with corner store business owners and partnering with neighbourhood revitalisation agencies in order to assist with the corner store transformation process. We will also converse with members of the community to gain a greater understanding of the changes they would like to see.
The third area of focus relates to education and marketing strategies. Although it is essential for healthy resources and cooking facilities to become accessible to Tenderloin residents, it is particularly important to ensure that these resources are sustainable and will continue to be used by the community. We would like to identify methods with which we could educate the community, perhaps by creating cooking programs/classes for residents and also teaching residents the importance of eating a healthy diet to maintain a positive lifestyle. Ideally, we would be able to include the younger members of the population, such as students in high school, so that they will become involved and invested in the revitalisation project.
In the past few years, the diverse Tenderloin neighborhood has undergone immense demographic shifts reflective of much of San Francisco. Although the influx of technological companies and workers has the potential to provide much needed resources, there is also the danger of gentrification as well as what Ryan called “mental displacement”, a phenomenon where residents who are safe from physical displacement no longer feel at home in an area due to the cultural shifts and retail changes taking place. One of our major tasks in this project then is to work to determine community needs around retail spaces and businesses that serve these needs.
After talking with Lorenzo and Ryan about the work that the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation does within the community, it became clear how dependent their work is on strong interpersonal relationships with locals. As we move forward and begin to clarify our scope of work, it will be important to keep our work and outputs grounded by the voices and opinions of those who live within the Tenderloin.