Our group will be conducting surveys around Palo Alto to better assess changes in local housing preferences. These preferences will be motivated by a variety of factors such as affordability, proximity to work or commercial centers, or family size. Historically, single family residential housing has dominated Palo Alto, but due to increasing housing prices and the growing job market, people may prefer higher density, cheaper housing. We will design and distribute a comprehensive survey asking locals about their current living situation, and any changes they would like to see in the future. From this data, we will create a report on the shifting housing preferences of locals, and what factors are driving these changes. The report will include several theoretical personas that are expressing similar housing or transportation problems as the surveyed locals. Based on our findings, we will suggest a course of action to alleviate the burden for each of these demographics. The results of our research project will influence the final content in the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan Update.
We recently met with Adina Levin from Friends of Caltrain, and Elaine Uang from Palo Alto Forward to discuss the first steps in designing our survey. The four of us will come up with comprehensive survey questions, addressing housing and transportation preferences of locals. These questions should distinguish relevant demographics by income, current housing, transportation, race, ethnicity, and what changes these people would like to see in housing and city planning. To help us develop these questions, Adina and Elaine provided us with an intensive list of papers and articles on the current/predicted housing and transportation situation in the region. Our group will finish the literature review by next Wednesday and begin to discuss questions types, survey locations, and inherent biases.
We understand that people are busy and are rarely going to go out of their way to fill out a survey. Therefore, we are designing multiple survey types across multiple mediums to maximize our collected data. We will collect data in person from densely populated regions in Palo Alto such as University Avenue and the local Farmers Markets. Since people are walking by in rapid succession, we should plan to have a short, quick to fill in survey with a handful of important questions. In contrast to a longer, more comprehensive survey that provides specific lifestyle information from each participant. We are also going to design and distribute surveys on social media. This may include Facebook, Google, or other websites where everyone in a certain radius can answer questions relating to their current lifestyle as well as any changes they’d like to see. However, we think an interactive component will likely result in more people being willing to answer questions. This can come in the form of question games, quizzes, and other player participating strategies to make the survey seem more worthwhile.
We plan on meeting with Elaine and Adina this Monday to discuss survey questions. There is a short deadline to design the web and paper surveys, because we are meeting with Palo Alto’s Planning Director, Hillary Gitelman on October 18th. She will ultimately determine which of our questions are appropriate, and more importantly, which questions are missing. This is the day of our midterm presentation, and therefore, will require quick incorporation and summarization of the relevant criticisms received. Shortly after the meeting, we will be implementing our finalized surveys online and around Palo Alto to collect the data.
Once we collect the survey data, we will analyze the results and begin to design the report and visuals. The visuals will likely concern geospatial housing and transportation changes people requested, as well as the personas mentioned above. The report will summarize our findings and suggest actions to Adina and Elaine for how to better modify the Palo Alto’s proposed housing plan over the next 13 years.
The experiment requires us to gather objective, coherent data on the current and future housing situation in Palo Alto. However, all surveys are inherently biased due to the questions chosen by the project managers (us). We will work with our correspondents, and other members of Palo Alto to develop encompassing, open ended, and revealing questions to provide what we feel, will be a comprehensive data set.
Also, the sites themselves provide specific demographic interactions that may not reveal the full scope of Palo Alto citizen preferences. We will try to survey as many people as we can, from a variety of sites including; markets, busy intersections, email server lists, Stanford faculty and local alumni. The validity of our findings is highly dependent on our sample size.
Background Information and Reading
The City of Palo Alto has recently published a Comprehensive Plan Update, listing their future development projects through 2030. Cities are required by the State to summarize current and future issues (and solutions) in the following sectors: Land Use, Transportation, Housing, Natural Environment, and Safety. Palo Alto also included Community Service, Economics, and Governance sections beyond the requirements of the state.
For this project, we are interested in the current and future housing patterns around the city. Currently, single family residences dominate the housing distribution in Palo Alto at around 61%. This is not to say Palo Alto isn’t well planned in other respects. Below is a map of the Palo Alto region, colored to show land use distribution. The two business districts (grey) are directly north and south of the main residential centers (yellow). Green spaces are equally spaced across the residential regions and there are plenty of recreational sites. The main commercial centers are built along El Camino Real in addition to the Stanford Shopping Center. The noticeable issue is the lack of affordable housing to accommodate the increasing work force.