Update on Project Activities
This week, our group has mainly been working on finalizing and publishing the various formats of our survey. Romeo was able to translate the online survey on Stanford Qualtrics into Spanish to be used for online distribution via our various channels. Kelli also worked this week to create a one-page, double-sided paper version of our survey for later in-person distribution. She sent this to Alex and Christina and received their approval. Additionally, we set finalized our Spanish Speaking Ambassador focus group for November 7th at 6:30pm.
Our largest project deliverable thus far, however, is likely the online publication of the survey. Since its online release on October 29th, we have had 143 responses, all of which were from individuals in households with internet access. The graphs below summarize the community’s responses to some of the most notable accessibility and demographic questions.
What We Observed and Learned
The article on the Red Hook Wifi Project was particularly interesting and especially relevant this week, considering we are starting to get our survey results back. One of the most interesting components of the Red Hook plan was their focus on providing non-mobile WiFi access, based upon their conclusion that most households accessed the internet via their mobile phones, not via computers/ wireless routers. Thus far, it is unclear how much this pertains to the digital divide in Mountain View, as a lack of internet access could also be attributable to a lack of access to hardware - phones, laptops, desktops, etc.- or a lack of digital literacy. According to our current survey results, 121 respondents use a traditional WiFi router, 44 use a Mobile Provider’s LTE, 19 use public WiFi, and 10 use some other form of internet access.
There is also an interesting juxtaposition in regards to location. Red Hook, Brooklyn- a waterfront community fairly isolated by highways and waterways- was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy and has been working to recover ever since. Mountain View, home to Google, LinkedIn, and Inuit is located in the heart of the booming tech scene and struggles to keep up with the pace of the growing industry. This brings forth the idea that the “digital divide” likely manifests itself in very different ways and subsequently must be addressed in different ways depending on the structure of the community. Ultimately, said issue, while national, is perhaps best addressed on a local scale.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
In terms of where to go from here, our major issue is probably the lack of diversity in survey respondents and, specifically, the lack of response from particular target groups of interest- the elderly, low income individuals, minorities, mono-lingual non-English speakers, and, most obviously, those without internet access. Each of these groups will require a different approach in regards to outreach. Surveying the elderly would best be done in-person at senior centers. The input of mono-lingual Spanish speakers will be included in next week’s focus group. Targeting the other groups will likely require the identification of on-site canvassing locations and in-person surveys. This is ultimately the goal for the next couple of weeks: utilizing the data from our online survey to identify areas of low-response and canvassing these areas to collect survey data.
Our project with the Tech Museum is very closely related to the idea of urban resilience that we discussed in class on Monday. Our project involves collecting stories of climate change adaptation and mitigation - which is a form of urban resilience. Through our interviews, we are learning about different forms of urban resilience in the Bay Area. Although, like we talked about in our discussion on Monday, there are several different categories of urban resilience, our project focuses on environmental resilience in particular. We have been, and will continue to reach out to communities, individuals, and organizations to hear about how climate change is affecting them, but also what they are doing to adapt to climate change, and create resilience within their lives, work, or community. I will now describe an example of a resilience story we have encountered in the community through our project.
One individual we spoke to works in agriculture, and spoke about the negative effects of climate change on the weather and seasons, and how he can’t even remember what “normal” seasons are like. Because of climate change and drought, farmers are grafting their plants and trees more often than in the past. Grafting is the process of training two different plants to grow as one. For example, a farmer might use a plant with a more drought-resistant root structure, and graft it to the top of a plant that produces good fruit. This is a process that farmers are using to make their crops more resilient to climate conditions. By growing resilient agriculture, food supply in the city is generally more resilient, making the urban sphere more resilient in general.
This example represents only one kind of resilience effort - agricultural - in the Bay Area, although there is so much being done. Through our project we are aiming to collect stories of resilience from farmers, urban planners, individual community members, and many others - we can’t wait to collect as many voices as possible and share them with communities through our small part of the exhibition in the Tech Museum.
Resilience as was stated during class, is the ability for a system to handle a shock or disruption and endure livelihood for the people in the city. The reading provided the three examples of approaches for resilience management: engineering, social, and organizational. One of the biggest takeaways from the reading and lecture was that social capital matters a lot in resilience. Social capital is the social network that one has. This can be an issue under resilience because if people are not connected then they may not be able to reach resources that would help them or contact the right people needed. By being resilient and creating social capital, people are connected to others in their community which can allow for mutual growth and a mutual force to combat climate change such as in voting, organizing, farming, and creating connections to companies that also have large impacts. Social capital allows for connections across disciplines and geographic boundaries which is helpful in a large space such as the bay area. Resilience is needed here because it gives low-income communities an opportunity to reach out to people in power positions or to even organize with themselves and create movements for change and to advocate for their communities that are impacted largely by climate change. Another issue that can fall under resilience is gentrification of neighborhoods that have cultural and ethnic/racial roots. Resilience is needed here in order to stop housing prices from rising and forcing people to move, causing cultural shifts and making the affordable housing crisis worse. Environmental racism is also a problem that falls under resilience. Placing toxic chemical waste dumps, trash dumps, or even harmful medical supply dumps near low-income, or predominantly Black/Latinx neighborhoods has had serious health issues. With climate change and these dumps releasing more toxins and pollution, the health risks will be greater for these neighborhoods who can’t afford proper health treatment. Resilience is needed here for their own safety and well-being. In terms of agriculture, resilience is needed in food deserts and in areas of drought. These issues are impacting food access and an economic industry. People’s livelihood depends on the production of these agricultural products and people need these products for their food consumption. Resilience would allow for proper distribution of water sources for these areas while being conservative of water resources. Resilience would allow for solutions to food access. Overall, in all of these issues and many others, resilience is needed for survival. Resilience combats the impacts of climate change and the injustices that are byproducts of this crisis. Particularly, low-income neighborhoods of color are more susceptible to the impacts of climate change and there needs to be community resilience in order to create strategies of mitigation and adaptation and receive proper aid from other communities or organizations.
Considering our project focuses on the impacts and adaptation/mitigation to climate change, the ABAG and MTC should prioritize low-income communities of color as they are the most vulnerable to climate change. Not only are these communities subjected to environmental racism, but they lack the socioeconomic mobility to be able to respond to ever more threatening natural disasters. In specific to California, natural disasters such wildfires,droughts, and sea level rise are all threats to low-income communities of color who may not have the resources to prepare/migrate in response. However, we recognize that our project doesn't solely focus on just low-income communities of color as we are supposed to collect stories of all people in the bay area who have been impacted/mitigated to climate change. We are still currently looking for a balance between stories that elevate voices which need the most exposure versus those who may be most accessible to us.
As we consider topics talked about in class like the four pillars of sustainability, it is important for the MTC/ABAG to preserve the cultural and social aspects of these low-income communities of color as they may be vulnerable to harmful pressures such as gentrification. As of now, both the ABAG and the MTC have created a project called Horizon that won't only look at transportation and housing but at economic development, resilience, and the effects of technological development. These are important topics in that they may explicitly help low-income communities of color since they require the most help in addressing economic and technological inequality. Planning should be careful in that these communities are already facing increasing property values and pressures of the silicon valley to relocate. We suggest that the MTC/ABAG be especially careful in the Horizon project in focusing the needs of its most vulnerable populations.
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 also spent canvassing. Each group tried to diversify times in order to get a different response crowd.
Michelle & Shikha: We plan on doing our canvassing shift this Saturday afternoon. We will be using two iPads and interviewing in the same area of Menlo Park (businesses along the Santa Cruz and El Camino intersection) as there were many small businesses whose managers and workers we didn’t reach in our last shift. A Saturday may have more foot traffic and constant streams of businesses, but it may not have a “peak” crowded time, so going back and forth between businesses will be easier. We plan to go back to two of our interviewees to get some first-person details about their ability to live and/or work near Menlo Park. We may also consider getting some responses from families who live in the area, as understanding what Menlo Park wants is also crucial.
Yesenia & Sarah: We went canvassing along Santa Cruz Ave on Thursday, Nov 1 at about 1:40 pm. We split up because Sarah had the only iPad that was charged. Yesenia collected one last paper survey that was left during the previous canvassing round. Yesenia then decided to charge the iPad in a Starbucks, while Sarah finished her shift at about 2:30 pm. Yesenia continue surveying from 3:15 to 4:15 pm. She was only able to get one survey response as many store workers were either i) occupied with customers ii) talking with each other iii) didn’t feel comfortable filling out the survey while on the job. Sarah was able to collect around 7 surveys total, but realized that there was an influx of people from work/school who started to populate the area around 2pm. Next week, Sarah will be interviewing the people of Bow Wow Meow, whose owner has graciously agreed to have the workers in-shop next Thursday fill out the form, with the potential of a spoken testimony.
Katie & Justin: We went canvassing along Santa Cruz Avenue Thursday, November 1st around 8:00 to 9:30 pm. We went as a pair since Katie had a hot spot on her phone and Justin needed to use it to administer the surveys as well. Our goal was to focus on restaurants and businesses that were winding down at this hour. In total we got under 10 surveys. We mostly wanted to experiment with alternative times to avoid major rushes. We surveyed Juban, a Japanese restaurant, Baskin Robins, and Walgreens, but had trouble getting ahold of folks who were busy working in the kitchen. We left surveys at Subway and an ice cream parlor. Katie administered surveys through the iPad and Justin administered surveys through an iPad and paper (when out of range from Katie’s hotspot).
What We Observed and Learned
In terms of connecting our work to the class readings, urban agriculture is not within the scope of our project. However, the idea of urban resilience brought up the idea of community trust and social capital, which is valuable to Menlo Park. When surveying managers in Menlo Park, many showed pride in their businesses and providing for their clientele, despite their complaints about the housing and transportation issues needed to get to the area. The downtown culture of Menlo Park may add to community familiarity, which may have this converse effect of not wanting to create seemingly drastic but necessary changes to downtown that accommodate more workers.
There could be some extrapolations between urban resilience and transportation as well. Looking at the “organizational perspective,” a key factor of a well-operating system is one that takes into account public attitudes. Although it could still use more traction, public transport is integrated in the norm of Bay Area communities more than in other California communities, such as the Central Valley or Los Angeles. It’s also a topic of advocacy for TransForm, Friends of Caltrain, and other non-governmental agencies. Creating more accessible public transport therefore fits within social constructs of Bay Area workers and has the mixed use of governmental maintenance and NGO oversight. Our project directly ties into framing the need for improved public transportation, which operates within a resilient organizational framework.
Michelle & Shikha: We have no new findings to report this week yet in terms of surveying, but will add our next shifts to next week’s reflection.
Yesenia & Sarah: iPads are finicky! Yesenia ran into trouble with charging her iPad, which meant she had to recharge at the local Starbucks while Sarah canvassed. We also have found that people are less inclined to fill out a survey on an iPad due to the small font, hard accessibility for older people, and proximity of interviewers to them while they fill it out. Next week we will retry the paper copies, so that the people who want privacy when filling it out can do so. Since Yesenia had to charge her iPad, she canvassed from 3:15-4:15, which is not a good time because that is peak time for people getting out of work/school to go into Downtown Menlo Park for coffee/food/other goods.
Katie & Justin
* 8pm-10pm is actually a really difficult shift to do because most businesses are closed and many restaurants are in the process of closing up, thus are not interested in doing surveys (they probably want to go home). For those we were able to talk, we sensed a fatigued tone (in strict contrast to the enthusiasm expressed by people earlier in the day). Not only does this make people less likely to open up personally, but it also could reflect poorly on our study as people view responding as more of a chore.
* We did not receive much verbal feedback. Nobody would be potential candidates for testimonies.
* We need to print out more spanish speaking surveys/develop an approach that is inclusive of spanish speaking workers who work in the kitchen
* Big box stores like Trader Joe's and Walgreens are easier to canvass, but we need to develop solutions to allow for our survey to reach a wide scope of audience.
* Some restaurants told us to come back later after people left. When we came back, they would be closed. At first we thought that there was an elusive window just before official closing, but upon further inspection, this window does not really exist, as businesses really start the process of shutting down before they officially close, and have no desire to take an optional survey.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We look forward to our final week of data collection. Our community partners have expressed quality interactions and data over a fixed number of surveys, though we still hope to get close to our original goal of 100 surveys. We will meet at the end of next week to review conclusions and move into a focused analysis face, though we’ve had preliminary discussions about our conclusions thus far.
When we (Katie and Justin) were canvassing, we realized that restaurants in the downtown area like Chef Kwan’s had many workers but because of the fast paced work environment, asking workers, even for just 5 minutes, to fill out the survey was not realistic. We recognize that we cannot interfere with workers’ job duties. Restaurants like these would be better for dropping off a stack of paper surveys and collecting later (even if this has a lower response rate). Stores like Walgreens and Trader Joe’s have more worker flexibility. Katie and Justin plan to go back to Trader Joe’s at night to survey the night shift (before closing).
Katie and Justin went to a Chinese restaurant around 9:20. Despite having a large workforce and no customers in the restaurant, the manager did not want us surveying. Katie pointed out afterwards that this response may arise from different cultural beliefs on what is expected at work. Katie spoke with her and dropping off paper surveys may be a possibility.
I know from personal experience what it is like to be working late and having to close up. Workers are not happy to see people come in just before closing because it means that it will take longer to finish. There is really no reason for them to stay to answer an optional survey. People may be more than unenthused about helping, but may be actively resentful towards us because they see us as preventing them from getting home on time after a long day, which can fuel deep personal feelings (which challenges our integrity as researchers). In contrast, when going in the middle of the day between rushes, workers have more disposable time, and in fact may want to help.
Looking forward to our goal of 100 surveys, we hope to survey about 50 people this upcoming week. This means that each pair has to survey 17 people at least. Using what we learned from our trouble finding available workers to survey this week, we are optimistic that we can achieve this goal by changing our canvassing times to earlier, yet less busy hours.
This past weekend, our group visited the Palo Alto Caltrain Station and the Giltelman Farmer's Market to deliver our housing/transportation surveys. We spent two hours at each site, distributing paper surveys, conducting interviews, and receiving feedback. In total, we collected 43 surveys and 10 personal interviews. While we gained valuable insight, the total number of individuals we surveyed was below our goal. As a result, our group is planning a second distribution venture this coming weekend (discussed below). From our observations, people understood the questions and rarely voiced criticisms concerning the survey itself.
Our experiences with locals and commuters were interesting to say the least. Generally, the elderly were more willing to participate in our survey, and provide verbal feedback. At the farmer’s market for instance, older generations were more opinionated concerning housing and transportation issues. Caltrain individuals were more likely to participate in the survey because they were stagnant until the train arrived. Unfortunately, we did not prepare properly, and ran out of surveys in the first hour. All people seemed to be aware of the low housing variation and high housing costs in the Palo Alto. However, their survey answers suggested a preference towards larger, cheaper homes in walkable neighborhoods. Our literature review suggested the answers would be contradictory. Though most of the responses and interactions were predictable, we did observe interesting behavior in a few individuals. For instance, a man described his non-profit organization, which happened to be conducting similar research. Though he mentioned how difficult finding survey participants was, he refused to take our survey and left without providing any valuable information.
We met with Deland and Elaine last Monday to discuss project progress and next steps. The following section describes the tentative plan for the next few weeks leading into Thanksgiving break.
This weekend, our team is distributing paper surveys at the Stanford Shopping Center, and the California Avenue Farmer’s Market. We are hoping to double our current dataset, and expand surveyed demographics. The mall event is scheduled for two hours on Saturday, followed by a Sunday morning excursion to the Farmer’s Market. By the beginning of next week, we will have finished our in-person surveys and have given the revised online survey to Adina and Elaine for email distribution. Between the paper surveys, online surveys, and personal interviews, we are hoping to have surveyed over 100 individuals.
Our team will begin developing our final products. As we approach Thanksgiving break, we are processing the data and drafting a final article for Adina and Elaine. At the latest, we would like to submit a completed draft, with personal vignettes, to both our stakeholders before break.
Based on our survey data, we are concerned that we have not collected a representative data set from surveyed individuals. We cannot derive conclusions at this time, but most of our local residents are skewed towards elderly. Hopefully, our work this weekend will expand our age and employment demographics. Our stakeholders mentioned that the age and racial demographics in the Cal Ave. Farmer’s Market are different than our previous two sites. We understand that Palo Alto, on average, is split between the elderly and youth. However, the extreme ends of these demographics are unemployed, and may not be the most valuable information sources for developing Palo Alto’s housing and transportation network.
Also, a lengthy 23 question survey requires rather complex data analysis. As a result, we will have to deliberate amongst ourselves and stakeholders to decide what significant trends are of concern. Are we more interested in housing and transportation preferences across age demographics, employment statuses, or housing and transportation types? Most of our data is segmented based on individual completion rates. The significance trends we identify for some questions may not be observed in other questions with few responses, or different demographics.