Additionally, this week, each of us had focused on finding several sources that we individually researched for the literary review. Our goal for this was to study similar cities (for example, Menlo Park, Foster City, Los Altos Hills, etc) and analyze their economic development plans, then draw parallels between these communities and Los Altos. Jenn also recommended that we look at Winter Park, Florida because this small town is has a similar feel and culture as Los Altos. Carolyn has visited Winter Park, so she will be doing some research on this sister city to Los Altos.
Going into this project, because of the high average income of Los Altos, we had a preconceived notion that the majority of Los Altos city residents were Apple workers or programmers at Google. Though Los Altos does attract many tech workers and business executives, our research has suggested that a high portion of the community is older. We noticed this first hand during our field visits as some residents are in favor of making the city more modern and upscale, while other residents want to maintain the old fashioned feel of the original city. On a broader level, the dichotomy between the community suggests that there may be opportunities to ensure the community culture and city provided services meet the demands and desires of all residents. We have been developing some potential ways to research this further.
Meeting with Jenn:
Because Jenn was back in town after her vacation, we were able to get together with her to talk about the final steps of putting our project together. Meeting in person again after having worked on some of our own ideas was extremely helpful. She was able to answer specific questions that we had regarding the feedback that we had received on our graphs, as well as make any clarifications on her own comments. One specific question we had for Jenn was on one of her comments on a graph that summarized Los Altos’ average family incomes: while most of the average incomes were six figures, some residents earn significantly less per year. Jenn asked us to omit the $35,000 and below average incomes, because it was under the California average anyways and didn’t add any substantial value to the chart. We argued that this move would contribute to the dehumanization of poorer members of Los Altos. We compromised and chose to omit the <$35,000 incomes from the chart, but decided that it was important to talk about and elaborate on the lower income spectrum of Los Altos in our overall project, providing a textual and research analysis rather than relying on the chart(s).
Next week, we plan on reaching out to homeless shelters in surrounding cities such as Menlo Park and Redwood City, where people from Los Altos may seek out support and resources. By speaking with people who work at these homeless shelters, we’ll be able to identify the demographic of Los Altos’ population that often slips through the cracks and whose needs are often overlooked. While the average resident of Los Altos may have a high income and standard of living, there are residents that have been locked into their homes as the residential prices began to rapidly rise. Jenn described this phenomenon as ‘house rich, but money poor.’ This often occurs with older residents that purchased their homes before the community became affluent, and they are depending on little to no earned income to afford the amenities within the community. By helping to gather a better sense of the population in Los Altos that may fall into this category, we can develop ideas to help serve the needs of this demographic.
Additionally, she offered to set up meetings between us and city commissioners. Each of the commissions focus on different areas, such as transportation, youth, or human rights; we decided that we will be meeting with the Senior Commissioners, as they represent much of the city’s population. By meeting with them, we hope to be able to gain a better understanding of the needs and interests of the older residents in Los Altos.
In order to put together a cohesive and effective report, we need to understand and internalize the story that we want to be telling through this project. At this point, we have a slew of reports, data, graphs, charts, site visits, photographs, and statistics: over the weekend, we will be putting together each of the pieces and see how everything fits in with one another. We think that the meeting with Jenn today gave us a better understanding of the economic condition of the city that we have been noticing in our field visits and data analysis. On the one hand, Los Altos is made up of residents with mansions fit for celebrities like Beyonce to rent for her Super Bowl appearance, on the other hand there are retired residents and families who are struggling to keep up with the increasing affluence of the city. We need to begin describing this narrative through our analysis of our data and personal field experiences.