urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Tag Archives: Suburbia

Retrofitting Suburbia

Ellen Dunham-Jones makes a few very interesting points that sometimes reaffirm and sometimes challenge our beliefs about suburban norms in this TED Talk from June 2010.  She states, unsurprisingly, that urbanites have about one third the carbon footprint of suburban dwellers.  On the other hand, most jarring might be that in the year 2000, about two thirds of suburban households were without children.

What interests me, however, is her discussion of where generation Y is choosing to live, and where most jobs are going to be over the next few decades.  Today, people are choosing to live in urban areas, and they are commuting back to the suburbs for work—Google and Facebook both send shuttles into the city to pick up their employees and bring them back to Palo Alto and Mountain View.  Urban hubs have been stripped of their industrial centers, and some of those cores have been repurposed as the newest trendy places to live (think Meat Packing District in Manhattan, or SoMa in San Francisco). Read more of this post

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Widening the Gap in Education Quality since 1995

Chula Vista, my hometown, has the largest elementary school district in California, with 46 schools that serve the city’s 230,000 residents.  Having a school district that’s so large poses an interesting set of problems, primarily dealing with the quality of education that exists across the economically diverse city.  The East has the newest homes, the newest schools, and the wealthiest families while the West tends to be poorer, have older facilities, and generally lags behind in the “Academic Performance Index” (API), which the state of California uses to measure scholastic achievement from 2nd to 11th grade.  I guess it makes sense (although it may not be proper): studies have long shown a correlation between wealth and scholastic achievement.  However, there is something a bit more unsettling happening in Chula Vista.

EastLake, the second largest (and possibly the wealthiest and most successful—it won San Diego’s “Best Community” award eleven years straight) subdivision on the East side of Chula Vista has its own educational foundation.  The EastLake Educational Foundation was established in 1995 and serves the subdivision’s four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.  Geared towards grants for technology; the foundation states that it funds “programs that are either poorly funded through traditional means or have no existing funding base through the public school districts.”  Which is to say that it has provided over one million dollars in supplemental aid to precisely the programs that which no other students at the 42 other elementary schools, nine other middle schools, and nine other high schools have access.

That’s not all though; the initial endowment for the foundation was created by the EastLake Corporation, the entity that developed the community.  Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that in a developer that set up private governments for its own residents to administer its pools and parks (as city parks and pools saw severe budget cuts or were closed) also created a privatized school fund to supplement the dwindling state budget for education. 

On the other hand, shouldn’t efforts be made to close the gap between the rich and the poor rather than to widen it?

EDIT:  I linked to these in the comments, but these will illustrate my point well, and I want them to be more visible:  A list of each school name and its 2010 API scores is available here.  A map of the location of each school is available here.

Suburban Bionics

I wrote a piece for the SUSS blog expanding on my thoughts about the mulberry leaf picture I posted a few months ago. Check it out here.

Suburbia