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.
About the author
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.