By Karla Martinez
The LUPA Project was ready for another adventurous day (on August 14th, 2017) as Daisy E. Ramirez— Health Educator at Riverside University System-Public Health (RUHS-PH)—and I headed to downtown Riverside for our LUPA Field Day with the REC Route students. The REC Route stands for Recreation, Education and Culture and is aimed towards offering free and accessible transportation to youth from the eastern Coachella Valley so that they can “access various recreation and enrichment activities.”
Adventure No. 1
We began our field day at the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers located in the County Administration Center in downtown Riverside. As we walked into the Board chambers, I felt nostalgic as in 2015 in that same place I was presented with the Young Lady of the year award for District IV. I was thrilled to see other youth like myself enter such a paramount room. As the youth were seated into the audience chairs their expressions reflected amazement at the grandness of the chamber. The Clerk of the Board, Kecia Harper-Ihem gave us a presentation of the operations that occur within the chamber and encouraged the youth to stay involved and strive to one day have an opportunity to become one of the future Supervisors for the County of Riverside. She even invited them to seat at the dais where the Supervisors conduct their agenda and proceedings.
We then headed to the Planning Department where Riverside County’s Principal Planner, John Hildebrand talked to the youth about the planner’s advocacy role for healthy and sustainable communities. He explained to the youth how the general plan plays out when planners plan communities and how in their everyday life they see elements of the general plan. The meeting with John was meant to mentally prepare them so that throughout the field day they could identify elements of the general plan and built environment as we visited different sites.
Adventure No. 2
Our next stop was the Harada House, a National Historic Landmark located on 3356 Lemon St, home to Jukuchi and Ken Harada. They were two Japanese immigrants who in 1915 challenged the Alien Land Law and won the right to keep their home. Ironically, in 1940 the Haradas were taken to an internment camp in Utah and forced to leave their home behind. As we drove to our next stop, we asked them to envision themselves as Japanese Americans being rounded and transported to an internment camp without much explanation but based on their ethnicity.
Adventure No. 3
The next stop was Tio’s Tacos. This Mexican restaurant is owned and operated by local artist Martin Sanchez who art installations are created out of recycled and salvaged materials. This location was a site to visit because we wanted the youth to experience Riverside’s local art. As we took pictures and explored the “outdoor museum,” we sensed the youth’s gratitude for having the opportunity and accessibility to enjoy local Mexican art and culture. We proceeded to have lunch and discussed the connections among the locations we visited and the planning elements John presented to the youth before we embarked on our field day.
Adventure No. 4
After lunch, we visited the Parent Navel Tree: A Landmark created to protect the first citrus fruit ever grown in California. The purpose of going to this location was to highlight the importance that landmarks have in our communities. In this case, the youth was able to see how the City of Riverside has conserved the Parent Navel Tree for almost 200 years after its plantation for all visitors and residents to see.
Adventure No. 5
Our last stop was one of the RUHS facilities, the Health Administration Building (HAB). We began our tour by visiting the Public Health Lab where one of the lab’s staffers went over the lab’s mission and responsibilities. He asked the youth about disease outbreaks that occurred in their area and educated them about healthy habits they can practice to stay healthy and prevent disease outbreaks. Although many of us were equally terrified as we were intrigued, the goal of the lab tour was to expose the youth to the diversity of functions within public health.
We continued the tour with a presentation by epidemiologist Salomeh Wagaw who gave us a brief overview of the epidemiology branch. Salomeh engaged the youth by sharing her experiences as an epidemiologist and the departments association with public health. Additionally, while touring the Injury Prevention Services branch we learned about different programs such as: Teen Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program, Low Cost Car Seat Program, and Safe Routes to School program. We then proceeded to our last stop, the Public Health Administration offices. While in the administration office we were introduced to Chief Health Strategist, Michael Osur. Michael gave us a warm welcome and spoke with the youth about their ambitions and how he got his start in land use planning issues. He explained that because of his leadership on the Healthy Riverside County Initiative, the American Planning Association presented him with a National Planning Excellence Award.
We concluded our LUPA field day with a Planning 101 presentation by Healthy Communities Planner, Miguel Vazquez. Miguel presented a planning exercise consisting of designing our ideal communities with toys. Each student had a chance to share the concepts behind their model. As a team Daisy, Miguel and I enjoyed the opportunity bring to life the art that is planning within our own county and with local youth! I am thrilled to have been able to be part of this LUPA adventure and anticipate introducing more youth to Land Use Planning in the future.
Karla Martinez has been a youth journalist with Coachella Unincorporated for 5 years where she writes articles about community health and community advocacy in the eastern Coachella Valley (ECV). She has collaborated with KQED on a series of podcasts and stories about access to public transportation for ECV residents. She first began her work with the Land Use Planning Awareness (LUPA) Project in 2014 while in high school and has continued to be an active participant. She was selected as the Young Lady of the Year award for Riverside County District 5 in 2015. Karla is currently going into her 2nd year at UC Davis where she is majoring in Community and Regional Development.
By Miguel A. Vazquez, AICP with notes from Linda C. Dalton, PhD, FAICP
Young voices returned to the 2015 American Planning Association California Chapter's Annual Conference in Oakland California. This year's theme "Rooted in Authenticity" was the perfect backdrop to highlight the amazing work that young social entrepreneurs--who belong to Generation Z--are doing in the Sacramento area. Maiti King and Zelia Gonzales, leaders from the Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance, spent the morning of October 5 sharing insights about their authentic approach to unite youth from around Sacramento. Following a brief video interview about youth engagement with three of their friends, they lead a robust conversation about ways to engage youth in planning processes. Linda Dalton from the California Planning Roundtable was in attendance and was very kind to share her summary notes for this post:
Issues and Challenges
"Although, I am only a generation older than Gen Z'ers, I still sometimes forget that they are searching for a voice and place in their community too. The presentation was a good reminder that, when we do our jobs, we are really planning for the next generations and their input is not to be ignored."
The session entitled "Hear Me! Gen Z’ers with Millenials’ Voices" was organized by LUPA team member Miguel A. Vazquez. Maiti King produced the video below which is posted with her permission.
Have you ever wondered who makes the decisions of how your community is built? Or why it’s said that where you live affects how long you live? During the fourth session of BHC ECV’s Youth Summer Program 2015, eleven young women and men learned various answers to these questions. Through the lens of land use planning, they were able to see the connection between the places where they live and community health. They also learned how to get involved in the decision making processes of community health. The three-hour session was held on July 23rd at the Mecca Library in Riverside County.
LUPA’s team members, Miguel Vazquez and Daisy Ramirez, lead a discussion about the importance of knowing why land use planning is a key ingredient for building healthy communities. They began the session with the question: “If you had a super power to change your community, what would it be and why?” The participant’s answers ranged from having the ability to communicate effectively to having the intelligence to make a difference. As the youth became immersed with basic components of land use planning and the importance of thinking analytically to solve community problems, it became apparent that all of them were already equipped with many of those “super powers.”
While analyzing the natural and built environment through a series of aerial maps of the Mecca Library, the youth began using planning terms to describe what they observe on a daily basis in their own neighborhoods. For example, terms such as “circulation” and “open space” were used to describe the lack of sidewalks and roads needed for adequate transportation in the community. To assist them with this conversation, one of the tools the LUPA team created for this workshop was a word cloud with basic land use planning words that were integrated throughout the session.
This workshop was particularly relevant for the LUPA team as the youth participants were able to use and test the newly developed Walkability Assessment Checklist (WAC) that the Department of Public Health has created as part of its Active Transportation Program (ATP) Cycle 1 grant activities.
Although the sun burned brightly and the temperature reached well above the 100 degree mark, the youth walked bravely into the summer heat to assess the walkability environment around the Mecca Library. This activity was intended to further emphasize the importance of understanding the natural and built environment’s components through observation. This simple action is the first step into identifying the positive and negative effects that both environments can have on any community. Equipped with a neon-yellow safety vest, a clip board and water, the youth assessed two blocks along Mecca’s 66th Avenue and marked their checklist, noted observations, developed recommendations and included photographs of their findings.
Through a collaborative partnership with the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, the students were introduced to ESRI Story Maps. This great resource will allow them to effectively present their information by combining data, maps and stories. With the guidance of Sergio Cuellar, from UC Davis, and the LUPA team, the youth will be putting together a Story Map that will highlight key findings from the walkability assessment in the following weeks.
The youth learned that those who know planning can be powerful and that small steps can make a difference. The act of picking up litter, for example, can be a simple, but effective way to get started. This is something the youth did after identifying a discarded cardboard sheet along the sidewalk during the walk audit. After folding it, carrying it and putting it in the recycling bin, they cheered with excitement for their small, but great improvement of community health. They unexpectedly demonstrated using one of their superpowers: the power of leadership.
In partnership with Building Healthy Communities Eastern Coachella Valley (BHC ECV) and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, the LUPA team will introduce the “world” of land use planning to a selected group of youth on July 23, 2015 at the Libray in Mecca, CA. The three-hour workshop will include a walking expedition around the library. The students will have an opportunity to test the Walkability Assessment Checklist (WAC) developed by the County of Riverside Department of Public Health (DOPH). DOPH will use this tool as part of the implementation of its Active Transportation Program (ATP) Cycle 1 grant around schools in the cities of Indio and Perris, CA.
About two weeks ago, LUPA's team member Miguel A. Vazquez, borrowed LUPA's traveling art exhibit for a day to create a conversation around land use planning with his son's 3rd grade class. The three giant boxes, painted by LUPA students from Coachella Valley High School, were part of Ms. Perez's career day at Alcott Elementary in Riverside, CA. Read this article to learn how they were incorporated into a fun planning activity.
Last Tuesday, after 3 weeks of laborious preparation, four students from the City of Coachella found themselves rehearsing as they traveled to the City of Ontario where they were scheduled to speak during the National 2015 Partners for Innovative Communities (PIC) Conference. Nervous but excited, Karla Martinez , Alejandra Rodriguez, Jatzel Garcia and Richard Tapia shared with a lively audience what they learned through their involvement with the award-winning Land Use Planning Awareness (LUPA) project.
During the breakout session entitled, “Building Healthy Communities through Land Use Planning Awareness”, they walked the audience through a series of slides highlighting how to use critical thinking skills to solve community problems and also about the basic components of city planning. After sharing their CVLink photovoice and an overview of what LUPA is all about, the youth lead the audience through an interactive art activity in which 5 teams drew their ideal communities on butcher paper. The session concluded with a robust conversation about the 5 different designs and how they incorporated health considerations into each of the team’s concepts.
Mario Saucedo, Chairman for the North Redlands Visioning Committee and the Common Vision Coalition, who attended the session, commended the youth for their participation in the LUPA Project and for their dedication to make the eastern Coachella Valley a healthier place to live.
Not many high school students would volunteer one of their summer days to share their experience at an innovation conference, but this dedicated group of students was eager to take on the challenge. The LUPA team is proud of them for their dedication and hard work. They added value to the PIC conference which draws hundreds of attendees each year. They all come together from across the nation to gain useful information, to identify valuable resources and to learn from innovators who share tools for community empowerment like Karla, Alejandra, Jatzel and Richard.
The LUPA team is thrilled with the news that LUPA has been selected as the American Planning Association California Chapter (APA CA) 2015 Award of Excellence recipient for Community Outreach. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the planning field and honors innovative plans and projects, distinguished APA members, lay contributors to planning and achievements of local APA California Sections. The award will be presented during the APACA State Conference that will take place October 4, 2015 in the City of Oakland.
To learn more about the award please visit the APACA website