Neighborhood Field Trip
The purpose of this paper is to gain some firsthand experience with some of the topics we’ve been covering this semester, and practice critical thinking and writing by applying concepts, theories and empirical research from the course to real-life situations. There are two parts to this assignment: you need to go on one of the neighborhood field trips discussed below and turn in 2-3 pages of field notes that describe where you went and what you saw and experienced. We will talk more about how to do this in class. The second part of the assignment is the paper itself, which should be 6-8 pages. You will staple both of these documents together and turn them in at the same time. People missing the field note portion of the assignment will automatically lose 50 points from their paper grade.
To write the paper, you will need to focus on one to three topics you observed during your field trip (some examples are: neighborhood conditions, residential segregation, neighborhood effects or employment opportunities). You will do some additional research with census data and other sources to support your observations about the neighborhood. In the paper, you will introduce your topic(s), document the conditions you witnessed, drawing on both your observations and additional sources of data and then discuss them in light of three readings from class which you think help explain, provide context for, or otherwise comment on the conditions you observed and researched. You are free to include additional readings from class, or outside sources, but three readings from class is the minimum standard.
For example, if you visited parts of Richmond, what readings could you use to explain some of your observations about the neighborhood? What do the readings leave out? Are there competing explanations for things you observed? Does census data support your observation that a neighborhood is “poor”? You should draw on anything from class that you think is relevant, and you may bring in outside readings as well. Make sure your discussion engages the readings you choose—simply pointing out that a reading is relevant to something, but not explaining how or why in detail, will not be sufficient for earning a good grade on this assignment.
When thinking about which observations to focus on, remember that a large part of your grade will be based on how well you were able to apply readings from class to them. Therefore, if you saw something that seemed really interesting, but does not link easily to a class reading, it might not be the best choice for the focus of your paper.
Make sure to begin your paper with an introduction that states where you went on your field trip, and the themes and readings you will discuss.
Watch out for stereotypes! Try not to jump to conclusions about what you see. What kind of support do you have for a conclusion you might draw about someone or something? What role do your own biases play? For example, in past papers some students have argued that there was gang activity in a neighborhood because they saw two men standing on a corner during midday. Is this a reasonable assumption? Why or why not? What else could be going on? Can you find additional information about the neighborhood that would help support or disconfirm that idea?
Neighborhood Field Trip Possibilities:
For all three of the possibilities, take notes on what you observe as you pass through the neighborhoods. What can you tell about the neighborhoods you pass through? For example, what does the neighborhood look like in terms of the type and quality of housing and landscaping? What about amenities such as parks and variety of stores? Who is around outside? What are they doing? What is the transportation access like? Are there things to walk to? Would you feel safe walking around in the neighborhood? Why or why not? Is there a police presence? Are there major employers in the neighborhood? Do the types of people getting on and off the bus change along with the neighborhoods? Are there things that signal to you the class status of people and places you see? What are they? What were the richest and poorest neighborhoods you passed through? How could you tell?
Oakland: South Berkeley, West Oakland/Downtown and up to Montclair
West Oakland, Piedmont
Richmond: Point Richmond or Marina Bay (Rosie The Riveter National Historic Site), Iron Triangle/Downtown
You might want to do this project with a friend. Make sure to go during the day. Choose a bus route that travels through poorer and wealthier neighborhoods in the East Bay. Typically, these go east-west, from the “flats” to the “hills” and vice versa. Two suggestions are the #18 bus from Berkeley BART, which travels south and east to its final stop in the Montclair district of Oakland. The #26, which you can catch at the MacArthur, 12th St. or West Oakland BART, travels through west Oakland and up to Piedmont. The 72 M travels into Richmond and ends at Pt. Richmond. You can catch this bus going north on San Pablo at University, but you can catch it from the El Cerrito Del Norte Bart Station to shorten the trip. The 74 goes from Richmond BART (downtown) to Marina Bay and the Rosie the Riveter museum (check times online). These are suggestions; students may choose other routes as long as they pass through poorer and wealthier areas according to census data.
Car Variation of Neighborhood Tour
Driving around a neighborhood in the privacy of your or a friend’s car is a very different experience than riding the bus, but the advantage is that you can explore more of the neighborhood. If you do a neighborhood tour by car, you need to experience more of the neighborhood and you have to get out of your car at least once! As with the bus tour, you need to make sure to visit poorer and wealthier areas that are fairly close to each other. You can follow a major bus route, or use the census info below to identify appropriate areas. For example, if you are driving in West Oakland, the area adjacent to Emeryville and Mandela Parkway look very different than streets a few blocks south. Find a map of the area, and look for parks and schools, and include these on your tour. Stop at a store or restaurant and go in. Record your observations, paying attention to what you see and experience, as noted above.
Sources of Neighborhood Information
U.S. Census: Determine the zip code of one of the neighborhoods you visit—look at a map, or record an address you pass by and search it on Google. You can then use the zip code to easily look up demographic information about neighborhoods, which you can use to put your observations in context and provide some background about your neighborhood. The easiest option for finding this information (in my opinion) is through the New York Times Census Explorer. You can google this or, go to http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer. The official census website , which contains more detailed information from different sources (but is less user-friendly) is called American FactFinder. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml###
Other neighborhood map sources:
UC Berkeley Urban Displacement project: http://www.urbandisplacement.org/map
Radical Cartography: http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?bayarea
Local Newspapers and Bay Area status reports: The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, The West County Times, The Berkeley Daily Planet, San Jose Mercury News. Organizations publishing “status” reports on the Bay Area with a wealth of demographic and other information about neighborhoods include PolicyLink (this report posted on bCourses in the supplemental materials folder) and Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
Online Encyclopedias: This may perhaps be the only time in your college career that you may use Wikipedia as a source of information for your paper. You may use it to reference historical information on Berkeley, Oakland or other local cities that you think is relevant background for your paper. Historical societies from local cities are another source of information. For Richmond, the Rosie the Riveter Museum and website is an excellent source. Demographic references however, should come from the census. If you are interested in local history, a good book is Berkeley, A City in History by Charles Wollenberg.
Richmond Confidential. A project of the UC Berkeley journalism school, this website is a great source of information about neighborhoods in Richmond, if you decide to do your neighborhood trip there.
Neighborhood Field Trip: An Examination of neighborhood conditions, residential segregation and Racial Differences in the Oakland Area
Social inequalities have profound effects on the distribution of resources, and the consequent access of various groups of individuals to such resources. There are many ways in which social inequalities manifest themselves including neighborhood conditions and racial segregations. To better understand social inequalities, a field trip to the Oakland area is conducted. The field trip particularly covers the are through South Berkeley, West Oakland/Downtown and up to Montclair West Oakland, Piedmont, via the number 18 bus route. Some of the areas studied include 12th Street, Union Street, and Park Boulevard. There were notable differences in neighborhood conditions. The observations of the field study are described, and related to census and other data on the area. Then, these findings are discussed in the context of three of the class readings. These class readings are: ‘Worlds Apart: One City, Two Libraries, and Ten Years of Watching Inequality Grow; The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations; and Are Asian Americans becoming “white?”
Neighborhood Field Trip Description
The first theme is neighborhood conditions. On the area along Mandela Parkway, there was much graffiti on the right-hand side of the road. The houses on this side of the road were also much older one-story buildings. This was in stark contrast to those on the left-hand side of the road which were much newer apartments and set in courtyards. There were no graffiti on the left-hand side of Mandela Parkway. The people in this area were not of any particular racial class. There was a white Caucasian female and a black man. On 7th street, there was a large parking bay to the right of the road, while on the left were a very modern set of apartments, the Mandela Gateway apartments. Just past these apartments was an enclosed parking area. Its wall was entirely covered in graffiti. This area was also characterized by numerous cars parked alongside the road. The area along Union Street was characterized by graffiti on public installations such as electrical meter boxes. There are one-story apartments, and on the right, some apartments enclosed within courtyards. Along 12th street, many of the houses are one-story bungalows. Some of the houses are fenced, while others are not, and most have garbage collection containers outside. On the section between Magnolia Street and Adeline Street, there were residential houses only on the right side of the road, while on the left was the United Methodist Church. All houses along this stretch were enclosed within a fence, either a metallic one or a wooden one.
On the stretch beginning at Chestnut Street, there is a park, Lowell Park. One of the houses opposite Lowell Park appeared to be abandoned. There was much litter and wreckage outside the house. This stretch of the road was the dirtiest encountered. The park had several benches but was otherwise the park was just a large field. Along this stretch were some vehicles parked along the road. Some of the vehicles were very old. Further ahead, there was a section of the street along which there were no residential houses on either side. Along Market Street, the residential houses are mainly one-story buildings. They are fenced in with rail fences. Up ahead, on the left side of the road was an abandoned, undeveloped compound. In this compound was a trash bin. There was also a container which was adorned with graffiti.
The conditions beginning at Park Boulevard are much more different. The house designs are different and are mainly two-story buildings. They appear to be multi-residential apartments. In this area, there are services which were not present in other areas such as dry cleaner services and massage parlors. Up ahead, there was also some graffiti on the walls of an enclosed area. This area appeared to be some cultural center since there were also artistic paintings and graffiti inside this area. The number of cars parked along the roadside or in driveways was not that large. However, most of the houses have well-manicured front lawns and driveways, which are larger in size. As the road moves towards Piedmont, there are fewer houses and the landscape is greener. In Piedmont, there is an assortment of stores including gas service stations and banks.
According to census data, the area on the map corresponding to the neighborhoods visited comprises a predominantly black population. This is especially so for the area around 10th and 12th streets. Census data from factfinder indicate that the Black and African American population has the highest proportion, at 38.5% of the total population (Census.gov).
One of the important readings that provide insights into the conditions I witnessed is Worlds Apart by Neuman and Celano. They use the case of two libraries, Lilian Marrero, and Chestnut Hill libraries. Their description of Germantown Avenue on Chestnut Hill and Allegheny Avenue in the heart of the Philadelphia Badlands (Neuman and Celano 14) strikes profound similarities with the observations made through the field study. They speak of how the area along Germantown Avenue is beautifully maintained with many pedestrians enjoying this streetscape. This is the same case with Park Boulevard. The area along this street is beautifully maintained. As has been noted, the lawns in this area are well-manicured. There is an increase in the green vegetation as one moves further away from Market street and towards Mountain Boulevard Piedmont. Moreover, street benches are occasionally noted along Park Boulevard, and this resonates well with the notion of pedestrians enjoying the landscape as envisioned by Neuman and Celano (p. 15). Another feature that they highlight in these up-end affluent areas is the presence of a range of stores featuring spas, restaurants, banks and much more. In the field study, I noted that in Park Boulevard, there are many more stores and in fact, this is where I first store a drycleaners store or a massage parlor.
This is just one aspect of the neighborhood conditions. On the flip side is the poorly maintained nature of the poorer sections of the town, including the areas along 10th Street, 12th Street, and Union Street. During the field trip, I noticed that these areas are adorned with much graffiti. There are few businesses with most of the houses being residential ones. There are also few social amenities such as churches. In their own study, Neuman and Celano indicate that in the Allegheny Avenue of the Philadelphia Badlands, the historic buildings such as churches and residences are but skeletons of their former grand structures (p. 15). The same could be said about the houses in Oakland area. Many of the houses are old houses, some of which are dilapidated and yet others abandoned. Neuman and Celano also discuss graffiti which adorns high walls and gang activities whereby young men are seen hanging around street corners. In the current case, there were several cases of young men hanging around corners, though it was not immediately evident that they were peddling drugs. One of the areas where the young men seemed particularly suspicious was along 12th street, just along the park. There were three young men standing in between two cars, one of whom was wearing a black jacket, with sagging jeans. Though it was not apparent that they were dealing in drugs, they did appear very suspicious.
Residential segregation is manifested in both the population distribution and the neighborhood conditions. As noted, there are significant differences in the neighborhood conditions that are well-studied by (Neuman and Celano). In the current field study, there are pronounced differences between West Oakland and Piedmont. The areas are also physically separated by streets. Map data indicates further instances of residential segregation, such as the presence of a Chinatown, which is predominantly occupied by members of the Asian community (91%) (The New York Times). This marks the residential segregation evidenced through population distribution.
The Piedmont area, Glenview area, and Montclair area are dominated by white populations, with a percentage of more than 70% whites each. Segregation can be understood as arising out of some factors. One such factor is income, whereby high-income families live spatially further away from low-income families (Reardon 23). The income distribution figures obtained from census data indicate that more than 40% of the households in the West Oakland area earn an income of less than $30000. In most areas, the proportion is actually much higher than 40%. For example, for census tract 4028, the proportion is 79% (The New York Times). In contrast, in areas such as Piedmont, only very small percentages of the population earn an income of less than $30,000. For instance, in the Piedmont area, census tract 4261, the proportion is just 3%. In the Glenview area, the proportion earning less than $30,000 is about 12% and 16% respectively. On the flipside of this data is households earning more than $200000. There are very few households in the West Oakland area that earn above $200,000. The proportion in most of these areas is 0% and 1%. For Piedmont, more than 20% of households are earning above $20000, with the peak being in census tract 4261, where 46% of the households earn above $200000. Based on these figures, it, therefore, appears feasible that as per Reardon, (23) residential segregation is due to differences in income.
Reardon further postulates that residential patterns in segregation may contribute to a rise in school segregation by income, albeit this is yet to be verified (p. 23). Nonetheless, the disparities in education in the various areas of the field study tend to follow disparities in income. For example, in the Piedmont area, more than 98% of individuals are high school graduates, 84% Bachelor’s degree and 46% Masters (census tract 4261). In contrast, in the West Oakland area, only 7% of individuals have more than a Master’s degree, with high school graduates at 73% and Bachelor’s degree holders at just 20% (census tract 4016) (The New York Times). In some of the other areas in West Oakland, Master’s degree holders are as low as 2% of the population with the highest proportion being 7%. This highlights how the disparities in education follow patterns in income disparities, and how this, in turn, conforms to residential segregation.
Apart from the differences in neighborhood condition and residential segregation, there are also racial differences. In the areas of the neighborhood study, many of the areas which were disadvantaged were mainly occupied by blacks and African Americans. This is in contrast to the Piedmont area, which is predominantly composed of a white population. Most of the population tracts around 12th Street and Union Street reveal a population of predominantly black individual. For example, census tract 4013 has a population of 42 % blacks, while whites are just 22%, and other groups much less. Census tract 4027 has 75% blacks, and just 2% whites (The New York Times). As one leaves this area and enters Park Boulevard, the population of blacks drops while that of other groups increases. For example, for census tract 4054, the population of blacks is 24 %, which is less than that of Hispanics (30%) and Asians (32%). Census tract 4055 has just 16% blacks, and 45% Asians. Moving towards Piedmont and Montclair, the population drop for blacks is even more significant, with the population of whites increasing. Census tract 405, the Glenview area, to the left of Park Boulevard, the population is 69% whites, 14% Blacks and 10% Asians. In Piedmont area, census tract 4261, the black population drops to just 1%, with the white population being 74% and the Asian population 19%. Another area with a noticeably high number of Asians and whites is the Glenview area, this time to the right of Park Boulevard. This area, census tract 4049, has a population of 57% while that of Asians is 215. That of blacks is just 6%.
One reading that can help to expound and understand on this
finding is that by Min Zhou. Zhou talks about the Asian Americans becoming
white. As part of the qualitative evidence of such a phenomenon occurring, Zhou
notes that many Asian Americans have moved next to or married whites (p. 29).
Indeed, this is well reflected in the data collected concerning the population
distribution in the Oakland and Piedmont areas. In many of the affluent areas
such as Piedmont, the Asian population is second to the white population. This
indicates correlations in population distribution between the two ethnic
groups. Cultural values and patterns are not readily identifiable for use in
analysis of the levels of similarity between the white population and the Asian
American population in the areas discussed above. Such information would have
easily been synthesized in light of Zhou’s arguments. Regarding settling down,
however, one can note that the findings of the field study readily reflect
Zhou’s sentiments. Zhou notes that Asian
Americans with sufficient education, job skills, and money are able to, upon
arrival, move into white suburban neighborhoods (p. 35). Those who do not have
these resources at their disposal work intensively and accumulate savings. They
then move out of inner-city ethnic enclaves and into white suburban
neighborhoods. Based on the data collected, this is indeed the case with the
white suburban neighborhoods such as Glenview and Piedmont exhibiting a large
proportion of the Asian population, which is second to the white population.
Census.gov. QT-P3 – Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin: 2010. 2010. 10 April 2016. <http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF>.
Neuman, Susan B. and Donna C. Celano. “Worlds Apart: One City, Two Libraries, and Ten Years of Watching Inequality Grow.” American Educator 36.3 (2012): 13.
Reardon, Sean F. “The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations.” Whither opportunity (2011): 91-116.
The New York Times. Mapping America: Every City, Every Block. 2010. http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer. 10 April 2016.
Zhou, Min. “Are Asian Americans becoming “white?”.” Contexts 3.1 (2004): 29-37.