This week our class reached an exciting milestone where each team presented their project scope of work developed in collaboration with community partners. Each team described the background information for the project, their detailed plan for outreach and data collection, as well as the broader significance of the project within the context of Bay Area sustainability. From here on out, we plan to delve deeper into our projects and dive right into fieldwork!
Update of Project Activities
This week, Sam and Ma’ayan finalized their scope of work and began data collection. As with all procedures on GIS, our work will likely take us ~4 times as long to complete as we expect it to, so we decided to get a head start on our data collection and cleaning process. After many arduous hours meeting with each other and Patricia in Branner Library, yesterday Ma’ayan met with Kris, the Government Information Librarian in Green, and she explained how to find and download the data that we need from the Social Explorer website. Now that we have the process, and site down, we need to make sure the GEO_FIPS codes correspond from the Social Explorer data and our desired shape files. After we confirm this, we can begin to download our data en masse and map it out!
In addition, we met with Adina on Thursday and discussed our final deliverables and how they will be used to get a better sense of our project goals. In this case, the maps will be used to test whether mode shares have historically changed since 1990. This will show Caltrain not only the past, and current, mode share amounts, but will also give us a better sense of the potential mode share shifts that are possible to achieve through TDM programs, employer incentives, and policy tools-- which is where the second deliverable, the TDM report, comes in. This discussion and gave us more ideas on how we shall be visually organizing our map. We haven’t finalized the design, but once we get the data and start mapping it, we will have a better sense of the different kinds of narratives we can show through our maps.
While at first, we were struggling to find our data, with the support of some Stanford staff, we have found the relevant Census data from 1990, 2000, and ACS data from 2011. With this, we will be able to effectively communicate trends and changes. We are hoping to find some reliable estimation data to project future changes, but is an extension for our project if we complete it with time to spare. The projection aspect could also be where someone could pick up from our project and continue our work.
What We Observed and Learned
During the weekend, Ma’ayan and Sam reviewed a Caltrain annual rider survey with 2900 responses conducted in July that asked riders their thoughts on Caltrain’s performance and suggestions for future improvements. Seeing this extensive research and the results the study garnered, we decided that for the sake of our research questions and scope of work, we would not conduct similar intercept surveys, as we initially believed. Upon seeing the other student presentations, we realized since we were missing this survey component, we were lacking elements of community interaction that are pivotal to service learning.
In our meeting on Thursday, Adina mentioned a variety of different events and sessions happening around the Bay Area right now that are related to our project (EIR public readings, forums at SPUR, various relevant city council meetings). With this in mind, we decided that for our project, each of us will attend one of community meetings/ panels every other week. In addition, upon completing our research, we will also write letters explaining our findings to various city councils and working groups addressing the issues we are focused on. Since a huge component of our project is public outreach and spreading the results of our work to as many people as possible, these letters will serve a pivotal role.
Today we will be editing and formatting our scope of work, and submitting it to Deland, Carly and Adina tonight. In addition, next week we have our meeting with Aaron Aknin from Palo Alto to discuss current traffic problems and potential solutions Palo Alto is currently investigating to solve them. We will inform him on the nature of our project as well, and see if he has any resources which could be of use to us. In addition, we will be collecting our data and starting to compile our map within the next week. Accordingly with our self-set goals, we will be deciding which TDM programs and municipalities to study for our final report this week.
Update of Project Activities
This week, we finally left The Farm. I (Pete) attended a community meeting at the Fair Oaks Community Center. The meeting was organized by the Fair Oaks Forward Parks Working Group. The Parks Working Group, of which Priscilla is a member, is developing ways to fulfill the North Fair Oak’s Community Plan’s goal of increasing green space and community gardens. There is a clear nexus between these efforts and the goals of our farm stand project.
The following day, Natalie and Sophie toured the Fair Oaks Health Center (FOHC). They stood in the parking lot, on the very asphalt that may one day host vendors of local, healthy produce.
Other major tasks for the week included finalizing our Scope of Work, drafting a survey for FOHC patients and staff, and conducting phone interviews with Collective Roots and the West Coast Farmers Market Association – two organizations which operate farmers markets at health facilities on the Peninsula.
Observations and Learnings
At the community meeting, I was able to watch community planning in process. County officials reported on concepts for redesigning several blocks of Middlefield Road in the heart of NFO. Representatives from the Trust for Public Land presented some ideas for how parks can transform communities and then introduced a participatory mapping exercise. Community members divided up according to the section of NFO in which they resided. Each table had a map of the area. Community members placed stickers to mark where they lived, where they played, places they loved, places about which they had concerns, and places where they’d like to see parks. In the discussion that followed several themes emerged. For instance, there was consensus that fields at the Fair Oaks School, which community members have access to after school hours through a joint use agreement, need more public restrooms.
On their visit, Natalie and Sophie were able to see the physical layout of the FOHC campus. Priscilla showed them an outdoor patio that could potentially provide a space for farmers market-related events, as well as a conference room where we can conduct our focus groups with staff. The health center, which just opened in December, boasts a dental clinic, a wellness center, and adult and child primary care among other services.
On Tuesday night, I hopped on my bike outside the law school and started navigating rush hour traffic towards the Fair Oaks Community Center. I went a long way in six miles. Middlefield Road took me through Atherton. I always know when I’m in Atherton because of the walls that surround the properties. Forbes recently named Atherton the most expensive housing market in the nation. The median housing price is $6.67 million. Atherton, Menlo Park, and North Fair Oaks were all part of what was called Fair Oaks, until the early 1900s when the first two incorporated. North Fair Oaks remains unincorporated.
I knew when I had entered NFO because the walls disappeared, the trees thinned, and the street came to life. Businesses, many with signs in Spanish, shed as much light as the occasional street lamps. I started walking my bike along the curb, in part to see what I could see, in part to avoid being terribly early, and in part because the bike lane had disappeared. I passed auto body shops, pay day lending operations, corner stores, liquor stores, a supermarket, taquerias, pupuserias, and – incongruously, immediately before the Dumbarton Spur – the lonely Connoisseur Coffee Company. A Costco sits next to the Community Center. I wondered who shops there.
At the community meeting, Priscilla and the other organizers were anxious, wondering if residents would show up. Folks trickled in. Some took headsets to listen to the live translation. No one touched the snacks until the end, which required some restraint on my part. I distributed stickers and took notes and tried to make eye contact and smile. I thought about the string of meetings that preceded this one and the string of meetings that would follow. I was looking at the raw materials of community planning: a mix of heady ideas, mundane details, disagreement, and hopefully consensus and change. It was a good night.