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Researching and Mapping Land Use History

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This class will begin with a reading and discussion of 1 or 2 articles on the political and social history of the Bay Area, with an emphasis on the crucial (for our purposes) World War Two era.
After further discussion on the recent  history of land use here, we will make plans to research and map this history by accessing public information on real estate acquisitions, zoning changes, developers, foreclosures, evictions and other significant events and actors.  Such information is available through government archives and (for a fee) through companies like RealtyTrac.
Then we will strategize about how to present this information to local residents in a way that invites participation by them in adding to our data and improving our maps.  We can start with our own neighborhoods if we wish.
Part of this outreach to the neighborhoods may include the development of a questionnaire that could be used in different neighborhoods as a way to learn about their history of land use, with an emphasis on controversial or contentious uses, purchases and exchanges.  These would include evictions, foreclosures, eminent domain and other types of legal seizures, re-zoning, toxification or clean-up, periods of disuse or neglect, etc.  We would also like to pay attention to the social element of neighborhood history, by finding out about the people (and institutions) involved in these activities, including residents, companies, bankers, city/county officials (including local police) and others.
Our neighborhood research, in combination with research in public archives, will eventually be used to produce physical and online interactive maps that can be used as tools by neighborhood activists.  The maps ideally would help us see the connections between events often experienced in isolation.  They would locate and inform the public about struggles over land and housing taking place in our own city.  At best, they might serve to strengthen or reinvigorate these struggles.  
Some examples of what we might want the maps to show:
- the origins of the privatization of the common lands and their succession of ownership
- which properties in the neighborhood have been foreclosed on
- which properties have people been forcibly removed from
- which banks have initiated foreclosure and based on what kinds of mortgages
- which agents of the banks have carried out the foreclosure
- which government officials have carried out evictions
- which property owners own a significant number of properties and what their political involvement is
- which properties have been neglected by owners and at what cost to the neighborhood
- which properties or developments have benefited or suffered from changes in zoning, tax breaks, creation of infrastructure and other political decisions
Some examples of questions that might be on the neighborhood questionnaire:
- How long have you lived here?
- How would you describe this neighborhood?
- What do you like/not like about this neighborhood?
- Do you know anyone in the neighborhood who has been evicted or had their house foreclosed on?
- If yes, would you be willing to be interviewed about that event?
- Do you know of any landlords who own multiple properties here?
- Can you identify any properties that you think of as problems?  Can you tell us why?
- Can you identify any properties that you think have a positive influence in the neighborhood?  Can you tell us why?
- Are there any particular properties whose histories you know more about? Can we interview you about these? 
- What is your assessment of the local police force?
- How would you describe the difference (if any) between homeowners and renters in this neighborhood?
To be done:
- find and learn mapping programs (Here is an article that links to some prototypes/examples:
- find host for online maps
- tutorial on archival research for property records
- discussion on method of interviews
- create calling cards and self-addressed postcards to give to potential interviewees (with “Bay Area Public School”)
Interested (18)
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Hi everyone.  Sorry for lagging in getting this thing started.  Let's try to arrange at least a good day/time for our first meeting.  I was going to propose Sunday late afternoons or Thursday evenings.  We could also vary our meeting times, we could set them up at the end of each meeting.  I'm envisioning one meeting every two weeks, but there will be research teams meeting in between.  What say y'all?  Also, I am leaning toward doing this in San Francisco, since I live there and the recent land use trends here have  been drastic in many ways and should be documented in a widely-accessibly form.   There are a few options in SF for spaces to meet, one of them is my place in the Mission district which I think would work fine.  OK, so, please share your thoughts.  Gerry

Hi Gerry.

Interested. Can't start before 7:30/8:00 on weekdays.


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