Update on Project Activities
We began the week with an all-team check-in with Daniela from Brightline and Katie from Clarity on Monday morning, and since then, we’ve made considerable progress on our tasks, submitting a first draft of the “Basics of Air Quality” section of the introduction booklet and final drafts of the educational campaign flyers.
During Monday’s meeting with Daniela, Maya was able to run through her outline for the booklet and confirm that it was in line with Brightline’s vision. Bringing together Meiling’s class presentation as well as the team’s newfound knowledge from informational interviews (which she also compiled into one document), Maya completed a draft of the “Basics of Air Quality” which she sent to Eddie and Daniela on Friday evening. She intends to finish the sections detailing the scope of the project as well as actionable steps that community members can take this weekend, so that next week the team can solicit feedback from SRO tenants and discuss formatting.
Flyer / Social Media
After our meeting with Pratibha last week, Tori and Dani have applied the final edits to the CCSROC flyers that will be hung up in store windows around SoMa and the Tenderloin. Designed to highlight Brightline’s air quality monitoring program, the changes to the flyer better call attention to the main takeaways about the program.After incorporating Pratibha’s feedback, the flyers are a lot less text-heavy and instead rely on visual design and bullet points to convey the information. They provide quick information about the air quality monitors and feature a large QR code to lead tenants to the air quality map of AQI data from the Clarity sensors.
Thus far, analysis of the data has been somewhat consistent with previous observations, though with a few new developments and shifts in where peaks are -- higher AQI peaks and averages around the Tenderloin District, though still with wider, more drastic ranges seen in Chinatown. As elaborated upon in the following, looking into emissions sources to cross-reference this data will be highly informative.
In addition to evaluating the AQI data from the Clarity sensors, Katie suggested that we also compile a list of emission sources in the area to cross-analyze with the data. To do this, Patricia and Dani have started and will continue to add to a list of busy traffic intersections, known diesel generators, and large construction sites across SoMa and the Tenderloin. Using this information, we will better be able to understand the data and draw conclusions about why there may be a spike in AQI in certain parts of the city or during certain parts of the day, such as during rush hour.
As we look to next week, some of our next focuses will be on redesigning the surveys for SRO tenant leaders. Using the insights we received from the SRO tenant meeting, we will begin to make edits to these surveys. We hope to make them more eye catching and intriguing to residents and to place more of a focus on their current air quality situation (the previous survey focused more on the impact of the wildfires on air quality). By making these adjustments we hope to increase resident participation in these surveys and to collect responses that adequately meet and address the current problems and needs of residents.
As we plan to have more media coverage about the work Brightline is doing, another thing we plan to include in the survey is what media outlets (newspapers, radio stations, TV, social media pages, etc) community members engage with the most. Patricia was thinking it would be meaningful for the community see their stories reflected in the media they care the most about.
This week we made more progress on our informational interviews, during which each of us compiled questions tailored to our interviewees and posed questions to learn about these individuals’ experience and knowledge on air quality and environmental justice related areas. From our interviews, we collected information that expanded our knowledge on air quality and EJ so that we can better carry out our work for Brightline. We compiled the notes from our informational interviews into one document that we will deliver to Brightline at the end of the quarter as an additional deliverable. Hopefully, these interviews will facilitate connections between Brightline Defense and Stanford researchers that persist beyond this quarter.
What We Observed and Learned
The deliverables have really come together this week as we approach the end of the quarter; as we continue to work on them, our team has observed the synthesis of the private sector (Clarity), the non-profit sector (Brightline), academia (the professors we’ve interviewed), and community groups (CCSROC and CYC). We believe this collaboration has powerful implications for how we can collectively move towards environmental justice, and are honored to be a part of this work.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
While our project with Brightline isn’t necessarily directly related to housing, it has been interesting to see how the history of housing in the Bay Area has shaped Brightline’s work with SRO tenants today. Past zoning decisions to place low-cost SRO hotels adjacent to busy highways is directly tied to the unique air quality concerns that residents face in SoMa and the Tenderloin, and thus, it was these very housing decisions which gave rise to Brightline’s environmental justice efforts in the area. On top of this, SRO hotels haven’t necessarily been maintained or updated since their construction following the 1906 earthquake, so the lack of air filtration systems in these buildings often means that residents have to keep their windows open despite unhealthy air conditions outside. This means putting themselves at additional risk of respiratory disease and other health concerns. Similar to the case of Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, these conditions only underscore the importance of actually maintaining affordable housing rather than just constructing it and leaving it be. These realities made our group reflect on the importance of revitalizing the existing housing stock in the city, as Preston and Joyce touched on during their presentation on Wednesday.
In the next week, we look forward to making further progress on our deliverables and hope to solicit feedback from SRO tenant leaders. We are also in the process of scheduling a meeting with Ka Yi and Sharon of CYC, which should provide further context on the needs of the community.
Update on Project Activities
Within these past two weeks, our project has really started to transform into its final stages, we are starting to design our final deliverable and are awaiting feedback on what would be the most helpful for us to dive into in the few weeks we have left in the quarter. We spent a significant amount of time in the early stages of the project getting acquainted with the goals of the work that was being done and listening to and transcribing interviews, but the work has really shifted towards sharing our analysis of themes we have seen in the previously conducted and transcribed interviews and creating a final product that can hopefully be used for future research or constructing community resources by Climate Ready North Fair Oaks (CRNFO).
One of our group’s biggest accomplishments has been putting all of our coding of each transcript for the North Fair Oaks and Redwood City community members together in one master file in NVivo. This was a challenging step for us to complete, as we were working with a software that we are all unfamiliar with. The challenge mainly arose when our codes were not identical and thus would not merge into one project. This error involved going back and fixing capitalizations and punctuation in each person's code a few times to ensure that we all matched up our work to do effective analysis of the transcripts. Once this step was complete, it was really exciting for us to be able to see how our hard work over the past few weeks came together.
From this new master file, we have been able to analyze trends in the interview and discover overarching themes to help guide our project and share information with CRNFO. This involved breaking down the interviews and collecting “remarkable quotes” as well as compiling our initial findings and statistics on how often each theme was mentioned, and what kind of commonalities people shared as far as stressors, resources, and information.
Moving forward to Friday of week 7, we will present our findings and gather feedback from stakeholders in our control group with CRNFO. Preparing for this has involved meeting as a team and with Stephanie to discuss the research and findings of our analysis, coming up with an agenda for how we will conduct the control group, deciding how to highlight our work in a way that is helpful for CRNFO, and lastly, establishing what we are hoping to gain and making sure we will ask the right questions to prepare for the final stages of our project. The ultimate goal of the control group presentation is to share our findings, but more importantly, to get feedback from the community members to help us create a deliverable in which we can figure out how to best serve the communities that are being impacted most by both the pandemic and climate change related factors.
What We Observed and Learned
Our analysis of the interviews has taught us a lot about what the communities we are engaging with are going through and how they are handling navigating these challenging times, sometimes without the resources they need. The statistical breakdown of common themes across interviews, paired with the remarkable quotes, have really helped paint a picture of the hardships and places where people need help.
In our research, we found that 100% of the interviews mentioned resources- how they have been unhelpful, how some are unaware of the resources that may be offered to them, or how they are limited when it comes to accessing both COVID-19 updates as well as wildfire information and resources. We saw that the two most mentioned compounding stressors are social interactions and physical health, both being very important when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic and wildfires.
We paid special attention to the wildfire-Covid relationship, because this is something that CRNFO is particularly interested in understanding through the research that we are doing. We found that people were really struggling with navigating both events at the same time, and that brainstorming ways to help communities cope with the effects of a wildfire in the midst of a pandemic will be very important in the success of these communities in the future. This information has really helped shape what we will share with the control group as well as how we can better provide resources for those at risk or with limited access.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We have learned a lot these past few weeks about the communities that are surrounding the Bay Area and the ways in which special attention needs to be paid towards vulnerable groups during catastrophic events that may become increasingly more common. Compiling all of the interviews has been so helpful for identifying trends and understanding what are the biggest issues at hand for these areas.
We are really excited to learn even more after talking to the stakeholders- it’s one thing to listen to interviews and observe, but it’s going to be another helpful component to have real discussions with those heavily involved and impacted. After the control group, we hope to have a better idea and understanding of what we need to propose in our final deliverable and how we can help serve these communities better.
Doing this research has been particularly helpful in getting a look at personal stories of the people who make up a large part of the discussions in our class meetings. The people who shared their stories through these interviews are from places that have been especially hard hit by not only the pandemic and climate change, but also by the effects of increasing inequality in the bay area, and though it has been heartbreaking to learn what these communities are facing right now, it has been so interesting to be able to learn about this alongside our class discussions of gentrification, housing insecurity, and the compounding factors of Covid-19.
Update on Project Activities:
As of last Friday:
What We Observed and Learned / Critical Analysis:
We had initially planned to share our complete survey results with Alex today, but because we have not gained any more survey responses since sending the survey to the initial 25 and we have not sent the survey to the remaining 13 recipients yet, we will postpone that to our next meeting. The experience of surveying all of these individuals has once again underscored the value of patience, especially when it comes to financial matters that require considerable discretion and compliance with legal regulations.
We were excited to finally schedule the interviews and learn firsthand how grant recipients have spent their grants and endured the COVID pandemic. In scheduling the interviews, we had to be flexible in terms of both timing (our interviewees so far both requested early morning interviews) as well as format. One potential interviewee requested that video not be recorded, even though we had specified that we would not be releasing recordings to the public — a reminder to us that respecting interviewees’ privacy and preferences are of the utmost importance. Since many of our hoped-for interviewees did not respond to our request for an interview, we will tailor our list of interviewees accordingly. Fortunately, we had prepared for this scenario in selecting our initial list, lining up a series of backup interviewees in every category of business.
Our first interview today went smoothly. We made sure to apply the oral history guidelines suggested by Baylor University’s “Introduction to Oral History”, and we gained a number of valuable insights that will guide our analysis moving forward. First, the business owners emphasized the inherent pride that came from owning their own business and being a part of the local community — elements that are hard to quantify and not always fronted in discussions of economic vitality, but that have wide-ranging ramifications for political and psychological well-being. Second, the business owners described the dilemma of reopening and potentially gaining more customers, and remaining closed to protect their own health. We are sure that they are not alone, especially since microenterprises require significant hands-on contributions from the business owners, and expect to see many other of our interviewees express a similar sentiment. Finally, echoing the complaints of many business owners around the U.S., our interviewees expressed frustration both with the lack of clarity around reopening and masking policies and the fact that the responsibility of enforcing COVID guidelines had fallen to them. Their insight reminds us that fully addressing economic vitality goes much further than financial assistance and extends to high-level public health decision making. Much as efforts to rectify racial and socioeconomic inequities ripple into environmental sustainability (as we saw in Oakland’s ECAP plan), sound public health policy has positive externalities that ripple into business vitality especially during COVID.
Moving forward into our upcoming interviews, we expect many businesses to respond with similar sentiments about their pride in being a small business owner, the reopening dilemma, and the frustration around public health guidelines. Nevertheless, we know different business owners may have different opinions about some of these, so we will remember to keep an open mind as we complete the interviews.
As we are reaching the final weeks of this project we will start to pivot into more analytical work and work on the final deliverables. As the remaining 13 businesses have been contacted by the fiscal agent, Enterprise Foundation, and have set up times to pick up the remaining checks by early next week we are planning on sending out the survey a day or two after they receive their checks. This slight delay in the delivery of the survey is to allow the businesses to have a couple of days to utilize or plan to utilize the funds before they answer survey questions related to how they are allocating the funds.
We will continue to develop the geospatial analysis and analyze additional facets that have changed from 2008 to 2020. Additionally, we are planning on conducting the remaining interviews as soon as possible so we can transcribe them and incorporate these businesses’ narratives into our presentation to both the Milpitas Economic Development and Trade Commission as well as the class.
Update on Project Activities
Oral Histories Team
What We Observed and Learned
The oral histories team had its first week of transcribing and translating full interviews that were recorded prior to our start date with AEMP. This experience gave us insight into the importance of adaptation in the face of the unexpected. Since our interview outreach efforts have been generally unsuccessful, Cindy has provided us with alternative methods of contribution that still feel meaningful, even if they don’t exactly match the deliverables that we agreed upon at the beginning of the quarter. We recognize the importance of adaptation within an organization that relies on the responses of many potential interviewees who may be very busy or lose interest in being interviewed. Therefore, it has been an unexpected but valuable lesson to envision a plurality of ways to contribute to this organization. Having switched gears to focus our efforts on post-production, we have gained new insights this week. For example, Nate recognized the importance of translating English into Spanish in a way that would generally make jargon/terminology more accessible. Additionally, Nate and Shania worked on translating idioms and phrases that captured the full context of what the interviewers and interviewees were discussing. For Sarah, she observed the seemingly easy yet actually intense work of transitioning raw interview audio into a presentable format. The process requires so many steps--from audio editing, translating, transcribing, double-checking the AI transcription provided by Otter.AI, and shortening the interviews into digestible formats--it has become evident that there is so much work that goes into both pre-interview outreach and post-interview production.
From the sound visualizer team, we got the chance to hear some more about the work happening on AEMP’s side, particularly with refactoring the codebase into React. Although this project has been going on since March, it sounds like there hasn’t been much movement on the tech end of things. Especially since AEMP is a horizontal collective and entirely volunteer-run, Chris wondered how they remain accountable to the people being impacted, namely those being displaced. Since working on tech can be very removed from people’s lived realities and experiences of harm, even as those of us in tech benefit materially from our proximity to it, it seems like there is a need to be more direct mechanisms for those of us in tech to interrupt the violence we are complicit in perpetrating, and to repair harms. Chris will continue to think about ways to flatten hierarchy and what accountability to those marginalized truly looks like.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Preston and Joyce’s presentation, as well as the material covered in Week 7 as a whole, felt very relevant to AEMP’s line of work. Since AEMP hears primarily from tenants, it was interesting to hear the perspective of stakeholders who build affordable housing. Something that our group noticed was the dissonance between the visions of AEMP interviewees and people involved in public-private partnerships for affordable housing. AEMP generally emphasizes the need to remove profit from housing in order to create a just system in which everyone has a roof over their shoulders. On the other hand, public-private partnerships have a much more moderate approach toward housing justice solutions. When Sarah posed the question of whether abolishing extractive housing systems would be possible and may even be better than public-private partnerships, Preston mentioned how large of an industry real estate is, and how difficult it would be to dismantle it. As we continue to study different schools of thought around housing justice, we grapple with the balance between being both radically imaginative and also tethered to the reality of deeply ingrained housing injustice practices. We also wonder how AEMP interviewees would respond to the public-private housing model. Certainly, it has benefitted many residents in ways that purely public housing often has failed to do. That being said, taking a small percentage of money from investors who still enjoy a disproportionate amount of wealth and privilege seems similar to the controversial practice of colleges receiving funding from investors of polluting, racist, and/or unethical corporations. Is it more effective to utilize these investments to push forward equitable agendas like sustaining housing security, or can we take more bold action by challenging the entire model of how housing is managed and distributed? The issue becomes even more complicated when taking into account that every city is very different, thus calling for locally-informed and locally-made responses to housing reform. Housing is a massive web of complex stakeholders and histories, and it can feel overwhelming to try to find solutions as students who have limited experience in housing practices. However, Week 7 certainly challenged us to think critically about newer solutions that have been implemented to address the housing crisis in the Bay Area.
Update on project activities:
For the BAC User Testing team, Romuald and Sarah have received responses from some of the community members we reached out to, and now we have eight interested interviewees! This is very good news for our project, but a very large and sudden increase in our workload. We have done some preparation for these interviewees; six of them are Spanish speakers, so two new unBox members with Spanish language fluency have joined our interview team to help us make sure we conduct the more effective and professional interviews that we can. We’ve translated our protocol document and consent form to Spanish and will be scheduling interviews in Weeks 8 and 9 of the quarter.
For the BAC Content team, Wesley and Kei have continued to wrangle with unBox’s database in order to validate sites of public free food distribution. We have become familiar with the setup of the database, but it is pretty easy to get bogged down with messy data. As a result, data validation for free food distribution has taken longer than expected. However, we met with our point person, Charlie, to clarify edge cases and minute details about our work. Furthermore, we outlined a plan for the next steps to gather data on other food resources like CalFresh and WIC (both SNAP supplemental programs).
The SNAP interview team has completed their second interview after making some adjustments to their preliminary questions on the heels of their first interview. The interview benefited from this adjustment and we were able to block out a good portion of time for the online user feedback. We are further adjusting our interview for future iterations based on some new content we have received from our team in the form of alternative user guides. We will incorporate user feedback on a condensed pamphlet and an executive summary into the lattermost part of our interview.
What we observed and learned:
The BAC User Testing team has learned a couple of things: one, that the pace at which we had anticipated receiving interest from interviewees was not one we predicted or planned for accurately. Our timeline of progress will need some serious tweaking; we may have been overly ambitious in the beginning, so it’s beneficial for us to revisit that timeline and revise our expectations! Two, not all of our skills can be utilized in all of the same ways, or on all of the same projects. For example, Romuald will take the lead on our two English interviews as a result of his lack of Spanish skills, and Sarah will merely be a note-taker in the Spanish interviews as a result of her proficient-but-not-fluent skill level. While this feels like a burdensome distribution of workload for the native Spanish-speakers on our team, our unBox partners have encouraged this in an effort to put interviewer comfort and confidence first. We’ve been taught that users will be more open to speak their minds (and we, thus, will receive more authentic feedback on our resource!) if they know the interviewer is a competent and comprehending individual. What started out feeling like a disappointment for the Sustainable Cities team is actually an exercise in community accommodation and respect.
In working with the data, the BAC Content team has in a sense gotten a taste of some the issues social workers face as they track down information for their clients. Namely, many sites of free food distribution are constantly changing so it’s hard to stay up to date on the most current information. COVID has further complicated it as many food distribution sites opened up temporarily, but either moved to a new location or shut down. It is valuable insight to have for building BAC, which is mainly aimed at helping social workers.
The SNAP interview team found that making small but fundamental adjustments to our interviewing process opened up a lot more time and continuity in the interview. There are still adjustments that should be made with the notetaker in mind. The interview was originally structured under the assumption we would be recording, and modifying the process for note-taking is important to our data collection. We also face a similar challenge as the BAC interview team in terms of a possible native-Spanish speaking interviewee. We are conscious of this issue as creating a larger work load for our unBox team in supporting the influx of BAC interviews, and are actively searching for possible solutions reaching into our own networks for suitable support.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward:
Next steps for the BAC User Testing team will involve transcribing and collating findings from our eight interviews. Throughout this process, we hope to rely more on our unBox partners from guidance and recommendations for how these deliverables could be more thorough or helpful. For the most part, our partners are students and volunteers like us, but they have been managing this organization longer and more deftly than we have. For this reason, we hope to ask for and incorporate their feedback on our portions of the project, and to not get carried away when they let us take the lead on certain deliverables.
The next steps for the BAC Content team is to wrap up the validation of free food distribution sites. From there, we have outlined a plan to gather data on two resources that are both SNAP programs: CalFresh and WIC. The goal is to provide information on BAC so that people can register with these two resources. In essence, it is like making BAC a one-stop shop for food resources so that it is not only a directory of food distribution sites but encompasses all the ways in which someone could find food. The plan involves identifying the best method for data collection, whether this be web-scraping their sites or manually building a spreadsheet. Once we have done some more research on the two programs, we can proceed to collect data accordingly. Finally, we also look forward to our group members’ interviews and will do our best to sit in on them when possible!
The SNAP interview team is excited to incorporate the new documents into their last iteration of interviews. The pamphlet and executive summary are an acknowledgement of the differing needs of the SNAP online user base and we think incorporating these will help us capture more nuanced feedback in terms of what is missing, in excess for our, as well as to provide more full-spectrum online support for SNAP participants. We are also actively searching for new interviewees and hope to find four more participants before completing the interview process.