Update on Project Activities
Katie and Justin: We did our canvassing shift at the same time as last week, Thursday from 8 to 10 pm. We targeted Trader Joe’s and Safeway to get ahold of the folks who were working the night shift. We also stopped by Amici’s and Chef Kwan’s since we noted that there were quite a few workers in those establishments the last few times we canvassed. In total, we got around 8 surveys. We dropped off a stack at Amici’s and Chef Kwan’s and will pick it up sometime Sunday.
Michelle & Shikha: Michelle and I did our Saturday afternoon shift last week as well as a Friday morning shift today with Yesenia. On Saturday, we went up down Santa Cruz Avenue as well as around a few side streets. We mostly talked to small business owners, managers, and workers (about 1 per establishment) and got about 7 surveys and 2 in personal stories. On the Friday shift this week, we went to Safeway, Staples, and a few small businesses in that plaza. We got about 15 surveys, mostly at Safeway, and 2 stories.
Sarah & Yesenia: As explained in later sections in this reflection, our schedules could not align for us to canvass together this week. However, we both were able to get out into Downtown Menlo Park this week. Sarah focused on smaller storefronts in Downtown Menlo Park, while Yesenia focused on larger businesses like Safeway. Sarah was able to get around 10 responses on paper during her afternoon, opting out of using an iPad because the older demographic of workers/managers/owners in Downtown Menlo Park seems to be on the more technologically unsavvy side. Yesenia used an iPad in her afternoon in Safeway, as the overall demographic is on average younger and more adept at using iPads.
We brought up the concern to our community partners that with our limited schedules and unexpected difficulties with getting folks to participate in the survey that we would not hit the 100 surveys that we originally agreed upon. Right now, we have conducted 74 surveys;
We discussed what our final deliverables would look like again.
Chris Lepe from TransForm suggested that we create a shareable blog post for us to make this information that we’ve gathered accessible to everyone, not just city council members. Given our current capacity, it may be something we look at if we finish our deliverables early but we want to focus our original final deliverables first.
What We Observed and Learned
In terms of connecting our work to the class readings, housing has a very expansive definition but a limited view in Menlo Park. Most people like the idea of affordable housing but are also attached to the idea of low-density housing, green space, and knowing your neighbors. Some in Menlo Park blame Facebook and Google for raising housing prices and pushing long-term residents out. Others say that even more than housing, traffic will push them out of the area.
This week we learned about affordable housing in California and the history of public housing. Our project relates a lot to the topics we covered this week since our surveys are intended to assess the need of affordable housing in the area. Many of the people we spoke to during the survey talked about how expensive all of the housing was in this area and how difficult it was for them to afford it. They talked about the consequences: working longer hours, driving further, and paying more for rent,
Michelle & Shikha: Friday mornings can be busy, but waiting for workers to serve all customers proved effective. People filled out our survey rapidly, and some even left contact information. People are really fed up with these issues in Menlo Park and were happy to take the survey. We had more lengthy conversations when going to smaller businesses with fewer workers. However, surveying at Safeway was much more efficient than on Santa Cruz Ave because of the density of workers. The difference in Safeway was that workers had less time to fill out the survey. A few still wanted to chat for longer but were wary of their manager nearby. The manager approached Yesenia and Michelle and told us to ask him before coming in next time. He mentioned that he paid his employees by the minute, so we shouldn’t take too much for their time. Still, it was a productive session and the workers were excited to help.
Yesenia & Sarah: Making personal connections with people really helps get what you want! Sarah had a successful afternoon on Thursday with one memorable interaction with the owner of a luxury pet store. After having a lengthy conversation with the owner and building rapport, she gave me access to most of the workers during their breaks for additional surveying. The rest of the afternoon was spent in other shops along the Santa Cruz strip of Downtown Menlo Park as well as the side street businesses. 12:30-2:00 pm on Thursdays is a good stretch of time to interact with workers.
Yesenia had a schedule conflict to go canvassing during the usual time so she ended up joining Michelle and Shikha Friday morning from 10:30 am -12:30 pm. She noticed a great difference between canvassing in a store like Safeway and a small, family-owned business in downtown Menlo Park. Because Safeway is a bigger, busier store than the small, family-owned businesses, the workers were more in a hurry to fill out the survey, which gave us less time to collect testimonies, but more time to survey other workers. The manager was also very wary of us asking workers to take a few minutes to fill out the survey because they are paid by the minute, as mentioned above.
Katie & Justin: Night shift is a really hard shift to cover; people are at the end of the shift and ready to go home. We recognize that our survey is not a priority to them when they either have a family to get back to or a job to finish.
Getting people to fill it out on the spot is a lot more successful than dropping it off and picking it up later. However, when it comes to businesses like restaurants, we want to work around their schedule and accommodate for their needs. If we had more time, we could canvass at different times where restaurants were in a lull (3pm-4pm or 10am-11am), but with the resources we have and the time we are able to dedicate, we had to coordinate some drop-offs and pickups. We do not think that we will have many responses, but the managers seemed to be interested, which is a good omen.
We went into Trader Joe’s, in which we have had success before. We understand the night shift is hard to cover, but we were unable to capture Trader Joes in the last night canvassing session and we thought it was valuable to represent. I (Justin) spoke with the manager, and he allowed us to take surveys, but after I conducted one survey, he reconsidered his decision and cordially asked us to leave because they were busy closing. The manager told us to come back around 2:00 on a weekday when the last shift starts (so that we do not double count the same shift).
We were able to conduct some Spanish surveys. I, Justin, personally enjoyed this because I felt like I could really connect with the person I was interviewing this way. I originally started in English (which I default to), but he did not speak the language. I could tell that he appreciated me speaking his native language. Also, in terms of data, it is important to reflect all languages to the best of our ability to avoid response bias. We encountered a Burmese man that we could not communicate with, but there is not much that we can do in cases like this.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We may have to do one more shift of canvassing to get close to the target number of 100 surveys. We currently sit at 74 surveys, and we are hoping to reach about 90. Katie will go back to pick up a few paper surveys from restaurants downtown. Shikha will lead another shift. Our updated goal is 80-90 surveys.
We met with the community partners again on Friday. They approved the outline for our final report. Our plan is to individually work on these pieces for next week, refine over Thanksgiving break, then meet with the community partners for approval on November 30. Broadly, Katie will be focusing on the literature review, Sarah will be writing about the project background, purpose, and methodology, Justin will work on survey analysis and data visualization, Michelle will compile stories, Yesenia will write summary descriptions of the survey data, and Shikha will work on compiling the powerpoint.
In terms of data analysis, the response spreadsheet will require some amount of cleaning. For instance, some of the questions required respondents to select all that apply, so we will need to make dummy variables. Broadly, we will manipulate the data so we can study it.
The community partners mentioned a few other potential action items. Adina wants us to meet with a business leader in Menlo Park to ensure that they are not surprised by the findings when it is published. We will likely be meeting with this person the Friday after our final presentation, then build our Letter.