This “Voice of the Community” report highlights the priorities, views, and values that were identified by Greater Washington residents during a one year partnership between neighborhood participants, Santa Clara University, SanJosé State University, CommUniverCity, and Catholic Charities. The primary objective for this report is to effectively capture the stories, values, concerns, and aspirations of community residents and, additionally, for the report to serve as a widely shared reference and platform for positive change that can be undertaken in future partnerships.
Three San José State University teams took part in assembling the material you will read in this report. Chapter 3 includes some of the most significant and commonly mentioned findings from this work. In the Fall 2013 Professor Chuck Darrah engaged his undergraduate anthropology students in personal dialogues with community residents by employing ethnographic methods that document- ed the values and culture of the neighborhood. In the same semester, Professor Fernando Burga, a faculty member in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, led ten graduate students in a community assessment of Greater Washington, the purpose of which was to accurately capture current community conditions and priorities. With substantial and lively input from many community residents, five priorities were identified.
These priorities were presented to a final review attended by residents, community members and municipal staff composed of more than forty poster boards showcasing graphics, GIS analysis, mappings and findings as well as recommendations for planning policies and projects to be under- taken by community leaders. The priorities were focused on the following themes:
1. Fostering healthy lifestyles 2. Improving walkability and pedestrian activity 3. Supporting informal retail 4. Promoting affordable housing 5. Identifying the needs of middle school students.
Next, in the spring of 2014 faculty member Rick Kos led another graduate planning student team in Spring 2014 on a “listening tour.” The objective was to further refine the neighborhood priorities and to ensure that representatives from all geographic areas of the larger Greater Washington community had a chance to weigh in. The students organized, facilitated, and documented the outcomes of four community meetings and participated in a community-wide Sustainability Fair where, using interactive materials, they invited neighborhood residents to share their primary concerns and aspirations for the community they call home. You will see many images in this report that capture the experience of this collaborative process. In the end, they were able to identify a few additional priorities, as well as confirm those captured by Prof. Burga and his team, as well as a few topics that were mentioned so often by community residents that a list of “views and values” was created. This list can be found below. “Neighborhood priorities” are action items that can be the basis for launching community led projects to improve neighborhood livability. We have defined “views and values” are underlying and interrelated principles that are of concern to many Greater Washington residents.
Provide more financial and staffing resources to community youth centers.
Reduce presence of prostitution to create safer public places.
Reduce conflict between residents and address chronic issues tied to homelessness.
Create more options for affordable, high quality food to eat and open spaces suitable for the children to play.
Support informal businesses so that they become active investors in the neighborhood.
Improve street lighting and reduce crime in order to foster safer walking in the GreaterWashington neighborhood.
Examine the potential for a middle school within the Greater Washington area.
Views and Values:
Many residents believe that their voices are underrepresented in city decisions and there is a split view on the benefit of past city investment in the area.
It is clear that residents place an extremely high value on education and English language. ability as the pillars to success. They also believe that local neighborhood institutions should provide these services regularly and fully.
Local mothers are recognized as a primary source of volunteerism, vigilance, and community engagement in the neighborhood.
Residents tend to view police with distrust.
The first chapter in this report provides an overview of the partners and Collaborative Neighbor- hood Planning process undertaken during San Jose State University’s one year involvement in Greater Washington. Chapter 2 presents demographic information and maps to tell the story of the neighborhood from a quantitative and spatial perspective, along with a brief history of the area. Chapter 3 provides findings from the anthropology class, the community assessment and listening tour activities and suggests a set of next steps that an organized and supported group of neighborhood leaders can consider to make their priorities a reality.