Update on Project Activities
This week, we had a chance to talk with Jonathan, Andrea Jany, and Carol McKibben. Jonathan’s call gave us more specific directions in regards to what our deliverable is to look like next Thursday, and what we should expect at the visioning session on Thursday. Andrea’s shed some insight on how to devise a questionnaire for the residents, that will be less in depth than the interviews we’ve planned, but allows for us to have a good survey of the residents beliefs in regards to Alisal housing/community. Carol’s call gave us background on the Alisal community in preparation for the interviews we wish to conduct on Thursday. We will be talking with her in person again this upcoming week to flush out more ideas for our interviews.
In addition to these meetings, we started developing a survey on housing situations and housing preferences in the Alisal based on Andrea’s advice and recommendations. We are planning to have a short survey, at the most 1 page front and back, to pass out during the Housing Workgroup meeting on Nov. 16. We want to collect quick quantitative data on demographics of current housing in the Alisal as well as residents needs and preferences for future housing solutions. Along with one-on-one interviews we are going to conduct, this will give us a decent sample size of the Alisal and greater Salinas community. The survey will be in English and in Spanish. Andrea has also offered to give us feedback on our survey draft before Thursday. In addition to the survey, we also contacted the residents we made connections with at the last meeting and asked if they were willing to be interviewed at the next meeting. We already obtained approval from two of these residents. We will ask Jonathan if he can make arrangements for any additional interviewees he can identify. Lastly, we have divided the work for annotating and synthesizing the HTMA document and we met early on Friday to look over our notes and discuss what we have.
What We Observed and Learned
Meeting with Jonathan:
Jonathan described the Thursday deliverable in detail during our phone call with him on Tuesday. What our partners are asking for is a high level summary of key findings and recommendations offered through the HTMA, translated into Spanish, and accompanied with graphics. By our next call on Tuesday, he wants the English version of the high-level findings, so he has time to make suggestions and edits before it is translated into Spanish. Our report will also include infographics that will, in part, beautify the statistical data on the Alisal community, but also focus in on topics like gentrification and overcrowding in a visually-appealing and educational way. When we asked him how the data gathered from the first visioning session will be implemented in the Alisal Vibrancy Plan, he said that that information is used to draft guiding vision statements and guiding principles for the plan. Right now, the team is operating on a high-level basis, but these sessions and further data collected with help with narrowing these vision statements into super specific solutions. On Thursday, we will be making another trip down to Salinas for another visioning session. This session will give us opportunity to talk directly with residents for 45 minutes on specific subjects, such as infrastructure, quality of life, housing, etc. This session coupled with Professor McKibben’s suggestions will hopefully be very fruitful.
Meeting with Andrea Jany:
It was extremely helpful to see the approaches being implemented in Austria to address the housing issues being seen across the world in large cities. Her talk emphasized on the 10 principles being used in the project which are: Awareness (of social housing in the society), Involvement (involve people so they participate in process of social planning, Diversity (diversity in city and of housing estates), Social integration, Environment (integrate into the existing environment, connect w/ rest of city and neighbors already there, have amenities within complex for the rest of neighbors already in estate, Land use, Renovation, Protection (protect residents w/I job), Higher quality, and Funding.
We were able to meet with her very quickly at the end of the talk to talk to her about our project and goals. She said she thought it would be helpful to get more demographics on Alisal and she offered to help us on the questionnaire.
Meeting with Professor McKibben:
Professor McKibben’s focus is more on how Alisal got to be the way it is today rather than solutions. Her main focus during our conversation was for us to realize that we should not be fooled by the similarities in the racial makeup between Alisal and other cities in the United States. The story for most cities getting to the way they are in terms of racial segregation can be traced back to purposeful policies with the intent of segregation back in the 19th century. For Alisal however, the segregation was not purposeful. Alisal is different; it was not deliberately segregated. It was originally settled not by people of color but by whites. It was founded outside of the city limits, which is the reason for its lack of infrastructure. The city did not neglect Alisal on purpose as it was outside of the city limits. The people of color in Alisal were interspersed by whites and class was the big differentiator, not race. Professor McKibben emphasized that we show that Alisal developed in a unique way though it faces many of the same problems as urban Californian cities. The residents of Alisal need to be informed that the area has been this way for 100 years and that those houses were built by people trying to restart their lives, not by the city of Salinas. She suggested questions for our interviews to get a better idea of what the residents believe the reason is for the current conditions of the Alisal. She also gave us insight into what she thinks residents of the Alisal will want in terms of housing. She believes they will want single family housing as currently exists but just better conditions. She also recommended we ask residents: “Do you see Alisal as the community you want your children to live in? Or do you see this as a temporary space?” She thinks they probably don’t want to stay in the Alisal and so they don’t need more housing, just better conditions that allow them to eventually move on. She also talked about the general complications there would be with building more housing in Alisal as it is an area filled with pesticides so there were policies implemented that lead to the lack of housing development in the agricultural areas as they are essentially poisoned.
Professor McKibben’s perspective was very interesting and informative. Some of the members of the group had also just assumed Alisal got to the way it is today in the way urban areas across the United States got to the way they are but Alisal’s story is truly unique. It was also helpful to remind us that it is possible the residents of Alisal do not see their future there and are only there temporarily until they save up enough money to move out. So it may not be the correct approach to simply get more housing in the Alisal, and in fact it may not be possible due to the policies against the development of housing in the area. However, the conditions under which they are living are not the most ideal in terms of allowing the families to move up and out of the Alisal and the community does not sufficiently prepare its youth for a future outside of the agricultural area. There is still change that can be made that is in line with Alisal residents’ needs and aspirations.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
This weekend will not only be spent drafting up the summary of the HTMA document and getting a draft of the infographic, but it will also be spent carefully analyzing the notes from the past visioning session and delving more into the history of Alisal’s creation. These observations will help us fine-tune the research questions we developed in the second week, and turn them into interview questions for this upcoming session. Summarizing the HTMA and cultivating the interview questions simultaneously will allow us to draw side-by-side comparisons of these two approaches to addressing Alisal’s housing crisis, and determine what recommendations can be offered and where. We are planning on presenting Jonathan with an English version of our HTMA summary and accompanying infographics by Tuesday so he can offer his comments, as well as answer any questions we have in regards to our interview process. After we make the necessary edits and get approval, we will translate the infographic to Spanish. The final infographic should be ready by the day of the next Alisal Vibrancy Plan Housing Workgroup meeting on Thursday, November 16. Professor McKibben will also be a resource for helping us with our interview questions. Professor McKibben said she would be willing to meet with us the day of the the next Alisal Vibrancy Plan Session (November 16) to discuss our work at that point. She also offered help on our final report.