|From:||trevor burrowes <email@example.com>|
|Date:||Tue, 25 May 1999 10:19:07 -0700 (PDT)|
|Subject:||Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space" -Reply|
> Trevor, > Its seems like the poor are in somewhat of a pinch. We can't develop the > countryside because we need to preserve the natural environment and we > don't want > high density housing too near the park because it harms the natural > environment. As it's seeming to become clear, this "question" is too general. Each situation is different. And I'd like to say a little bit about my own. My major training is in fine arts (BFA, MFA, Yale Art School) and might have equipped me for conventional success. Instead, I've found common cause with the less affluent and powerful, first in my native Jamaica, and, subsequently, in East Palo Alto, California, where I lived for 16 years. Nevertheless, I'm primarily guided by aesthetic considerations, a point of view which I've not thought was paramount among EJ constituents (I may have been wrong.). In any event, my path has been realtively lonely. For a long time (concentradedly, during the past 15 years) I've been a crusader for open space and place sensitive development in East Palo Alto, a "minority majority" city which, demographically, fits the profile of an "inner city," although it is exceptionally rural to be in a major metropolitan area (the SF Bay midpeninsula). A catalyst for focused effort in East Palo Alto was my year studying architectural history at UC Berkeley. This led me to see the relevance of East Palo Alto to regional history, with emphasis on the history of its visual environment (cultural landscape). I felt that being able to appreciate its beauty, land and history (as few seemed to) empowered a vision of leadership which could chart a course other than the destructive sprawl taking place around it. A vision for work which called upon the "low" skill level of many residents, a large number being recent immigrants. A vision of self-sufficiency and micro-enterprises. Toward this, I was the founding director of the East Palo Alto Historical and Agricultural Society (EPA HAS) between 1990 and 1997. Among the outcomes: a great surge of publicity about East Palo Alto's unique agricultural and historical legacy; a community garden, now in its seventh year, blossomed from a garbage-strewn field; environmental educational was begun in a few schools; hundreds of "historical" tours were provided; trees were protected within developments; a historical coloring book was given to each child within the local elementary school district. And much more. The work of EPA HAS coincided with a great surge toward crime eradication and regional integration for East Palo Alto. Our major achievement, however, was based on a decision to transfer our farmers market coordinator to the role of outreach coordinator for the Weeks Neighborhood Plan project, jointly embarked upon by EPA HAS, Urban Ecology and the RTCAP of the National Park Service. The Weeks Neighborhood is the last significant remnant of the Little Lands utopian movement which had colonies throughout the west. Asian Americans had transformed but continued the suburban/agricultural legacy of its original "Euro" inhabitants. Today, EPA HAS hoped that the current multicultural residents would be able to benefit from a landscape which was clearly supportive of a high quality of life. The Weeks Plan is based on collaboration with neighbors, city officials and the lead organizations mentioned above. It aims to accommodate the volume of residences required by the city's General Plan, but guide this development to be consistent with the cultural and ecological wealth of the neighborhood. The ideas of EPA HAS and the Weeks Plan have been positively regarded as examples of trench work toward applying asset-based, proactive development in communities. Time will tell to what extent, or how best, low income communities like East Palo Alto can benefit by these approaches. I'm not clear what would be a better alternative. Trevor Burrowes
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