News

Uneven ground

How unequal land use harms communities in southern San Mateo County

The CalEnviroScreen 3.0 index identifies the environmental health burdens of communities by census tract. Pink indicates a census tract among the 10% with the greatest environmental health burden in the state; dark green is among the 10% with the least environmental burden. The yellow, orange and pink areas share many of the same top burden factors, some of which are listed above. (Data courtesy of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.)

As a 2019 California fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, Almanac reporter Kate Bradshaw set out to answer several questions: Why do the communities of North Fair Oaks, East Palo Alto and the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park experience greater environmental health problems than their neighboring jurisdictions of Atherton, Palo Alto and the rest of Menlo Park? How do these problems impact residents' health? And what are people doing to either address or worsen these problems?

To answer these questions, she spoke with experts, dug through historical documents, evaluated data, partnered with youth who live in these communities to get their feedback and help, and enlisted some of them to talk to community members we don't often hear from.

She worked with three bilingual students at Sequoia High School, Nataly Manzanero, Mia Palacios and Ashley Barraza, who helped her to develop a set of interview questions. Together they then conducted more than 100 interviews in English and Spanish in North Fair Oaks, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

In addition, she asked middle school students at the East Palo Alto-based nonprofit Girls to Women, which runs programs to empower young women in the community, to take photographs responding to the prompt: What makes your community healthy? What makes it unhealthy? Some of their photos were included in "Uneven Ground: How unequal land use harms communities in southern San Mateo County," which appeared in The Almanac's Sept. 4 print edition.

She received community engagement support from the Annenberg Center’s interim engagement editor, Danielle Fox.

This story is the first of a three-part series. Read it online here.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman is a registered user.

Great work on this story! I look forward to the next two installments in the series.


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