Over the past two weeks the two primary accomplishments of our group have been developing a more comprehensive Scope of Work and visiting the city of Milpitas with our community partner Alex. Our visit not only helped us visualize the future innovation district and its surroundings, but lead us to understand the implication and impact that this innovation district will have on the surrounding culture, physical characteristics, and development of the city of Milpitas. As mentioned in Plan Bay Area which we read this week, a major goal of future development of the Bay Area it to address the spatial mismatch between jobs and housing. In Milpitas, we saw a shockingly high amount of new housing and housing developments. These housing developments mainly target young couples and their children. Families living in these housing developments tend to be highly educated, which in the Bay Area means they are likely to have tech jobs. Based on what our community partner Alex, told us these new residents are most likely driving a long distance to go to work in San Jose or to even further cities. This indicates a mismatch of jobs and housing, and the creation of the innovation district can effectively alleviate this problem by bringing suitable jobs to those Milpitas residents, so that they do not have to commute. A reduced commute is both sustainable, as it reduces the per-capita gas emission, and important to improve the resident’s quality of life, as they spend fewer hours driving to work each day.
Additionally, this visit helped us to further understand the social equity issue that has been a primary focus for our project group and a key problem addressed in Plan Bay Area. Alex told us that one tech job typically brings five jobs in the service sector. We observed that the city currently does not have many retail stores and restaurants, and the only grocery store we saw was a bargain grocery store at the edge of the city. It would be beneficial for the city if the service industry started thriving as the innovation district takes off, offering more service sector jobs for residents. One consideration that would need to be made is where these employees will live and whether or not there is an appropriate amount of lower-income housing currently available in Milpitas or plans exist to build more. Additionally, it is quite obvious that many of the current restaurants are run by older Milpitas residents including many immigrants. It is important to keep the current residents in mind as Milpitas is one of the most diverse areas in the Bay Area, with a majority Asian and Latinx population. We are wondering to what extent the current local community would be affected by the development of innovation district. In this week’s Department of Transportation Meeting workshop, we witnessed first hand how important it is to think about different stakeholders and take their needs into consideration. This lesson is something we will take with us as we continue to help create a plan for the innovation district.
This week’s class also showed us the importance and effects of zoning and urban planning. It is interesting to see how city planning influences the ambiance of the area. In the case of Milpitas, we see that its Main Street has mostly one story buildings and a lot of empty lots. Additionally, there is also an industrial park in Milpitas that is currently occupied by churches. Both cases indicate either a lack of urban planning or a failure to execute on the plan.
Moving forward, we are very excited about our meeting with Christina Briggs, the director of the Innovation Planning Committee for the Fremont Innovation District. We have drafted a list of questions that hopefully address all our concerns regarding social equity, the housing problem, and integrating the transportation system into the planning process. We have also begun a conversation with two members from the Seaport Innovation District in Boston, and we hope to learn more from them about integrating a city’s unique location and culture into the plans to develop an innovation district. In the coming week, our team will be focusing on drafting our research paper.