Using maps and pictures is a great way to tell a story and deliver a message. For Tuesday's Coffee Hour at I-Hotel, most of our groups chose the method of showing the seniors maps and pictures along Kearny Street. Maps are a good way to tell them the location of where we are focusing on, but not all of the seniors actually know where we are talking about when we tell them a street's name. However, when we showed them a picture of, for instance, the intersection of Kearny and Clay, then they know where we are talking about. Most seniors who live in I-Hotel only walk around in that certain area, so they actually don't know much about traffic/pedestrian safety on intersections of Kearny at Sacramento and Clay, which are somewhat further away from Jackson, when compared to Washington and Pacific which are one street away from Jackson. When asked, most of the seniors talked about issues around the area of Jackson Street because they live around there and they walk there the most.
During the interview, seniors said that there are too much cars along Kearny street and that the cars usually drive too fast. One senior said that the intersections at Clay and Washington along Kearny street is the most dangerous. At those corners, many cars make either a left or right turn and they are usually close to the pedestrians. It is also because many seniors walk around that area which is considered their "living room", Pourtsmouth Square. Seniors are more favored to walk more with more time provided rather than walk less with lesser time. They would prefer to increase the countdown time signal rather than adding a bulb-out to make the sidewalks wider. After the coffee hour with the seniors living in I-Hotel, now we have some suggestions on what we can do to make Chinatown, specifically along Kearny Street, a more senior-friendly and safer environment for people to live in.
- Shirley Tsang
The sites that we had visited during Gordon's Land Use Tour are all significant places that marked the history of Chinese people. Out of all the land use sites, the Future Central Subway Station made the greatest impact on me. The construction of the Metro T Line can bring more convenience to people shopping for groceries in Chinatown. Many people, especially of Chinese ethnicity, transport from the area of Visitacion Valley or areas that are nearby to Chinatown to shop for groceries. Often, I see a lot of Chinese people taking the metro and then transfer to the number 30 bus line in order to get to Chinatown. Others would take the 8X bus line, which is also fast since it's an express line, but the Metro T Line would be faster. I think that having a stop for the metro in Chinatown is a great way to reduce the travelling time for these certain people. It also creates convenience for people so that they don't have to transfer and wait for buses. Although I take the Metro M Line to transport back to home, the Metro T Line can also bring me to the Balboa Park Station, which is somewhat near where I live.
Chinatown looks the way that it does today because people fought for what they want. Affordable housing, open spaces like parks, Orangeland, etc. are all things that people fought for. Different organizations helped residents living in Chinatown to fight for beneficial things that can improve their quality of life. There are a lot of affordable housings in Chinatown, such as the Mei Lun Yuen and Ping Yuen. These affordable houses provided many low-income residents a shelter to live under, with a rent that they can afford and won't affect their daily lifestyles. This actually attracted many low-income families to live in Chinatown. Besides from affordable housing, open spaces in Chinatown also brought people together. Each day, I see senior residents hanging out in Portsmouth Square. As Gordon mentioned: "Portsmouth Square is like their [residents] living room in Chinatown." I feel that people in Chinatown have close relationships with one another. Sometimes, I see residents saying "Hi!" or "Good Morning!" to each other when they see each other on streets. This is something that you might not see in other neighborhoods. To me, I think that this is a special characteristic that Chinese people have. From Gordon's tour, I learned that community planning and organizing has a lot to do with people's opinions. Basically, building a community is to satisfy the needs of residents living around the area. That's why it is important to gather different opinions and try to work the best that you can to do community organizing. Having a good community can help improve the quality of people's lives, so that they can enjoy more of their lifestyle.
- Shirley Tsang
On July 22, 2014 we had coffee hour with the seniors at I-hotel. Coffee hour is a time where we can conduct information from the community and address it to its needs (Board of Supervisors). What better way to understand the community needs through those who roam the very streets of Kearny by asking residents? During coffee hour the seniors were very welcoming and eager to share their opinions. In our group most of the seniors suggested that they want more time crossing the streets and wanted to renovate the bus stop. One of the seniors said, “The bus stop blocks my view of being able to see drivers turn when I cross the street to go to the bank.” This concerns me because when we went out to observe the streets we notice how much cars were turning when pedestrians are crossing. Especially when seniors are always grocery shopping in Chinatown they have to worry about everything they carry and safety of their grandchildren.
In trying to search for pedestrian safety improvements along Kearny Street, we sought out those who are both most knowledgable and at risk: seniors. Urban Institute fellows went to the I-Hotel Senior Housing, which is located on Kearny St and Jackson St., this past week to host a focus group. My group created a map of the street, complete with pictures, in order to collect the first hand recollections and stories from the seniors. Many of the seniors I talked to had opinions about the safety conditions on the street right outside their house. One senior even said that we should fix all the streets since they are all bad. A major theme that many seniors echoed were the dangerous right turns by cars that just barely miss the seniors. They also suggested longer crossing times as it is hard for many of them to cross the street in time. All the seniors were very vocal about the safety surrounding their house. One of the seniors I spoke to was a taxi driver and reflected on his aggressive driving style of the past. Chiming in, another senior added that she, too, had an aggressive driving style that much matched the style of drivers now; she did not care about the seniors crossing, sometimes even speeding up as to inch the seniors forward quicker. Now being a senior herself, she understands both the mentalities of drivers and those of pedestrians and hopes that more drivers can be respectful and cognizant of the needs of the community
On a recent tour with Gordan, he told the group of us to always look up and look down to truly become acquainted with Chinatown. As I was reflecting on my past visits in Chinatown, I realized I do exactly the opposite. I have often walked through Chinatown as if I were on a secret mission, swiftly dodging residents and merchants. I rarely took the opportunity to look up and look around at all the history that surrounded me.
The story that stood out to me the most out of all the ones Gordon told us included the land use battle revolving around Mandarin Tower and the Willy Woo Woo Wong. Walking around Chinatown as a child, I had always wondered why Mandarin Towers stood stories higher than all the other surrounding buildings. I learned that the Mandarin Towers was developed before the current zoning laws were created. Overall, I learned how interconnected many land use battles in Chinatown are. The creation of the Mandarin Towers spurred new discussion around the now, Willie Woo Woo Wong playground. This playground for many, including myself, served as one of the sole play areas in Chinatown that children frequented. After the creation of the Mandarin Towers, the developers wanted to turn this central playground into a parking lot for the new residents of the towers. The Chinatown neighborhood always seems to be swaying in this gray area between maintaining its cultural integrity and staying true to its current residents as well as continuing to develop economically and cater to new generations of San Franciscans and Chinese-Americans alike.
Chinatown's senior population may make up the majority of pedestrian traffic through the bustling neighborhood. From their experiences, some of the most used streets and intersections are not as safe as they should be. The walk to and from various places like the grocery shop on Stockton and the open space of Portsmouth Square, proves difficult when each and every intersections endangers these seniors. Cars speed down Clay and Washington catching the momentum moving downhill, even through Kearny, as they transition from highway to residential streets. Watching as each car speeds down the street, these seniors refuse to cross until they know they will have a full green light, half a light just isn't even. Even with a full green light, they would prefer an extra five seconds just to add a sense of security and well being when crossing a wide and bustling street like Kearny.
When I go to cross a street I look both ways ensuring my safety. But what is to stop a racing car zooming up to me without me noticing. This is what often occurs with these seniors. Cars often speed up to an intersection, and often not braking early enough coming up to a green lighted right hand turn. Late braking combined with slow moving and low visible seniors can essentially cause dire accidents. Intersections like Clay and Kearny is a prime example. Car zoom past as they turn into and down Clay, sometimes having to brake extra hard as they neglect the pedestrians walking across. SImiliarly, the intersection that connects Columbus to Montgomery is a scary cross for any pedestrian. An almost blind turn for the vehicle as they zoom down Columbus and into Montgomery. A scary situation for anyone when a vehicle can easily run an yellow or red to endanger any pedestrian attempting to cross.
From what I have heard, dangerous problems can be easily fixed. Longer lights and slower speeds is the best solutions. But a better system in pedestrian management will work too. Implementing a longer lead system or even the scramble system can ensure pedestrian safety
Today we had coffee hours with the seniors that live at I-Hotel. Before the actual coffee hour, we prepped pictures and maps for visuals so the seniors have a better understanding of what we were talking about. Some of the major problems the seniors addressed was that the lights change way too fast. A grandpa said that he is able to cross the street on time right now, but he doesn't know about later when he ages. The streets that most of them walk on is Jackson street and Kearny to buy groceries. They also feel that, that is the most dangerous intersection because cars would make a sharp right turn which makes them feel unsafe. Some Ways the senior thought about fixing the problem is to enforce the speed limit and to put a crossing guard for seniors. They said that they can also punish the people for rushing red light. Another suggestion a senior gave us was to have a bulb out because it decreases the length that they have to walk. Even though it is not much difference, a feet or two is a big difference for the seniors. The seniors were very enthusiastic about putting benches on the streets because when they get tired, they have somewhere to rest up. Not only is it good for resting, it will also be nice decoration in Chinatown. Coffee hour was very interesting because we were able to get the insight of the seniors. Their ideas and suggestions are very important because they are a big part of the group that uses Kearny street often.
As a resident of North Beach, walking to CCDC's office on the outskirts of Chinatown for the past six weeks has been rewarding. I've had the opportunity to observe Chinatown outside of what I had already seen growing up and to support many local food establishments.
This past Tuesday, as I prepared to participate in a pedestrian safety focus group at the historic I-Hotel, I was excited to interact with seniors who can share a different perspective and experience of Chinatown. As an able-bodied and young healthy individual, I do not often think that Chinatown’s steep hills affect its senior residents or that I have the ability to quickly cross the street without the fear of being hit by a vehicle. While listening to my group of seniors share about their daily activity, I am reminded of why it is crucial to include everyone in the community at the table when talking about or making decisions on community development. For example, they share that it is dangerous for seniors to cross Kearny going up Jackson St. because many cars make right turns without looking out for pedestrians. However, they use Jackson St. most often to walk up to Stockton St. for groceries or restaurants because it's convenient and gives them access to all other parts of Chinatown such as Broadway.
These seniors may seem shy or quiet, but their everyday experiences in Chinatown inform organizations such as CCDC on how they can continue to support Chinatown residents. They most definitely informed me on how much they can contribute to what makes a community. In essence, they are a Chinatown asset because they see and experience Chinatown in a very different way than someone like me who visits Chinatown for groceries. Participating in this focus group was worthwhile on a late Tuesday afternoon because I gained an understanding of their daily Chinatown experiences.
This morning as I walked through Chinatown, I expected to see the usual routines of many Chinatown residents and visitors: grocery shopping throughout Stockton St. and stopping by the occasional bakery or take-out dim sum shops. Normally I would be joining in these activities as I am a frequent visitor of San Francisco's Chinatown for fresh produce and meats. This morning however, I was on my way to a different activity. Today I visited the Community Tenants Association (CTA) meeting and witnessed seniors socializing and sharing community knowledge such as health & wellness information. This morning's meeting included karaoke, an English lesson, and current news. I also had the honor of sitting in on their board meeting as members go through a process of discussing important points and voting on them. I didn't find any signs of Facebook, Twitter, or even internet, this group simply uses the power of their networks to share information and mobilize for campaigns and protests concerning tenants/housing rights. Immediately I understood the significance of their networks because this generation of seniors may not have an understanding of social media like the younger generation, but they too have identified their networks as a strong asset and they organize for community issues via community meetings and phone calls.
Overall what I took away is that CTA is an association that supports community members through housing disputes and they also provide a sense of community and camaraderie for folks. Historically they have already accomplished much for San Francisco Chinatown's residents and they will continue to have many more successes in the coming years as the city continues to develop and as tenants refuse to allow displacement/gentrification.