Category: student papers
Giving What You Have: Community Development in the Washington Neighborhood, San Jose, California
| November 27, 2015 | 1:47 pm | student papers | No comments

This post is an adaptation of a project by students Ashley Clark and Mason Wells for Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s course on Community Development, Planning and Politics

Maria Hernandez stood up from her seat and scanned the room full of senior year Berkeley planning students. Maria’s presence was magnetic. She was the kind of person you never forget meeting and everyone in the drafty classroom was captivated by her presence. Unimpressed by these students’ presentation and first findings, she spoke passionately about her community and family. Her heartfelt dedication to Washington was immediately apparent and it became an inspiration for the students. Acutely aware of the resources and legitimacy Berkeley planning students could provide, Maria successfully rallied the group to rededicate themselves to the project. For the rest of 2014, the energized students would continue working alongside the network of neighborhood mothers known as Madre a Madre.

The Washington Neighborhood is 0.236 square miles and has a population of just over 4,000 people (City Data). Two major freeways intersect at its northwesterly corner, cutting it off from the downtown and surrounding communities. Central to the neighborhood is Washington Elementary School. It is a gathering place for not only students, but also parents and siblings. Parents view it as a safer place than nearby parks (Burga, 2015). The neighborhood is in an old part of San Jose and its housing stock is primarily single-family homes built before 1939. 59.6% of residents have less than a high school level of education.

Map Credit: City Data

Map Credit: City Data

Washington is largely a Latin@ immigrant community and many residents are undocumented.  The county’s current deportation policy reflects its history with immigrants, who have been around since at least the 1940s. (San Jose Mercury News 1948). It has declared itself a sanctuary and will not turn those who are undocumented over to the federal government. The role of the school has changed in the neighborhood from a place that instills American beliefs and culture, to one that embraces diversity. For example, the school has made it a priority to include the mothers by issuing all correspondence in Spanish and English. The school also plays a large role as public space that creates opportunities for organizations and institutions to connect with families that live and work in the neighborhood.

James DeFilippis and Susan Saegert argue that “communities are places of interdependence, even if that interdependence can be limited and not always beneficial to everyone involved” (1). In Washington this interdependence can be found in the connections between local universities, nonprofits and community-based organizations that are working as community developers. The school plays a strategic role in the coordination of these connections. For example, Santa Clara University has two programs that focus on Washington Elementary and the surrounding neighborhood. The Leavey School of Business has a program called the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education has its Thriving Neighborhoods program. Both programs are designed so students can gain valuable field experience while providing resources for the community . As it stands, the university, the students and the community all gain from these relationships and programs. There are not only institutions working from outside the neighborhood, but from within Washington Elementary School as well.

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Madre a Madre

Madre a Madre, a weekly discussion group for mothers at Washington Elementary School, covered topics from helping students in school to working on issues of self-esteem and stress. Beronica, one of more than 40 mothers in the group, describes the many benefits she derives from her participation in this community:

Yo me siento muy contenta de tener estos programas en la Escuela Washington porque nos sirven de mucho. A mí en lo personal me ha servido asistir a las juntas de Madre a Madre porque he aprendido a como ayudar a mis hijos en sus estudios y como ser con ellos.  Todos los programas que nos han ofrecido son de mucha ayuda para saber sobre nuestros derechos.  A saber que todos los niños tienen sentimientos y que hay que saber escucharlos sobre lo que les pasa. También me ha ayudado a estar informada sobre todo lo que pasa en la escuela y mientras pueda voy a seguir viniendo para aprender y poder lograr a que mis hijos salgan adelante ya que siempre los voy a apoyar.

I feel very fortunate to have a program like this in Washington elementary because it is giving me a lot. Personally, to come to the (?) Madre a Madre meeting has helped me because I have learned how to help my kids in their studies and how to be more with them. All the programs that have been offered to us are of a great help to understand our rights. It has helped me to understand that all kids have feelings and that we need to learn to listen to them about what is happening in their lives. It has also helped me to inform myself about everything that is happening at school, and while I can, I will keep coming to learn how to help my children move forward because I will always be by their side. (translated from Spanish by Carlos Iñigo)

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Yet, out of this network of mothers emerged something more than a parent support group. The women began to develop and share a deep collective understanding of their communities’ assets, as well as potential areas for community development and growth. Madre a Madre instilled confidence in the mothers to expand their work into the community. Through their collaboration with students at Berkeley, this network of deeply embedded community members would break out of a community development framework centered on education and what seemed like increasingly restrictive roles at Washington Elementary School.

The school and Madre a Madre were safe spaces that provided an outlet for the mothers to grow in their capacity and ability to define what a better Washington community meant on their own terms. It was not a university saying “We are going to conduct a workshop and help you identify your needs.” The mothers already know what they need.

DeFilippis and Saegert refer to this as collective and aggregate power, or a network. The mothers aggregated their voices and power by organizing and agreeing on a common set of goals. Currently they are in the process of starting their own organization outside of the school called Mamas Unidas. They feel this would legitimize their claims and place in the community. They built their model based on what they outlined as their common goals: creating a safe and vibrant neighborhood with access to healthy food, parks and schools.

Unlike the other organizations currently working in the neighborhood, Mamas Unidas is the only grassroots organization that puts members of the community first. The knowledge the mothers have of the neighborhood and its families is incredibly valuable and an important asset for any program that seeks to be a change agent in the community. We suggest that for community development strategies in Washington to be most effective, the mothers must partner with other active organizations .

The failure in this case is that these different pieces of the community development puzzle are not talking to each other. Democratically organized community groups growing out of community directed capacity building could leverage assets and strengthen institutional networks in coordinated support of community defined and centered development. This type of strategy centers on the voices of Washington Neighborhood residents and more specifically on the collective power of these mothers. The organizations have access the mothers’ intimate knowledge of the community, while the mothers can access programs and financial resources.


At the heart of this story is a group of mothers who care deeply about their children and community. And from that experience we learn that community development can begin by drawing connections between groups with shared interests at various levels of organization and size. The school was able to find leaders within the community and, through its association with universities and other nonprofits, became a hub for interaction and recognition that the other even exists. The next step is to develop connections and forge partnerships. This is a lesson from which other communities can learn. Understanding the fractured nature of the communication between the mothers group and outside organizations exposes areas of opportunity. There are always ways to improve communication between various groups and ways to center community development efforts around those who will be most impacted by these decisions. As one of the mothers told me, “damos lo que somos,” or “we give what we have”.


Burga, Fernando. Lecture, UC Berkeley, 2015.

Burke, Brian J., and Boone Shear. “Engaged Scholarship for Non-capitalist Political Ecologies.” Journal of Political Ecology21 (2014): 127-44. Accessed October 1, 2015.

DeFilippis, James. “Communities Develop.” In The Community Development Reader, 1-7. New York, New York: Routledge, 2008.

DeFilippis, James. “Community Building Limitations and Promise.” In The Community Development Reader, 209-219. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Noguchi, Sharon, and Patrick May. “California Won’t Turn Arrested Illegal Immigrants over to Feds.” San Jose Mercury News, October 5, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2015.

“Washington (Guadalupe) Neighborhood in San Jose, California (CA), 95110 Detailed Profile.” Washington (Guadalupe) Neighborhood in San Jose, California (CA), 95110 Subdivision Profile. Accessed October 1, 2015.

Rebecca Schofield’s Competition Winning Proposal
| February 24, 2014 | 1:27 am | student papers | Comments closed

Last November, Rebecca Schofield, a second year UEP student, was named the winner of the Welcoming Communities Student Ideas competition, sponsored by the Expanding Opportunities Committee (EOC) of the Commonwealth Housing Task Force (CHTF). The competition was designed to generate ideas from students about how to make communities in Massachusetts more welcoming to people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. Her research proposal is copied below:


This project will build on my previous research on fair housing issues and tenants’ rights with the City of Somerville’s Fair Housing Commission (2012-2013) and research on models for preserving affordable housing and empowering residents for the Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure (COHIF) (summer-fall 2013).  Working with these partners to remove barriers and explore opportunities for more inclusive communities in Somerville and Dorchester has been an important step in the development of my research idea for this competition.

COHIF is currently working with community and nonprofit partners and a developer to acquire and rehabilitate owner-occupied properties that have been foreclosed in the Greater Four Corners neighborhood. The majority of residents whose homes have been foreclosed are low-income and/or people of color; we have been researching housing models that will better enable these populations to stay in their neighborhood and avoid foreclosure.

When residents are displaced (due to the expiration of affordability restrictions, housing redevelopment, and high market costs), where can they go? If we’re aiming to empower residents and preserve the affordability and diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods, it is important to address both barriers to staying-in-place and barriers to movement.  The COHIF project addresses housing inequities at the site of displacement, but we must also consider housing policy options that 1) help displaced residents find quality housing and community resources and 2) support residents’ freedom of movement and neighborhood choice.

Research Proposal

Framework Development

I believe that we need a clear framework for identifying the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. This framework will allow us to better evaluate housing models and policies that address these needs, interests, and capabilities.  The concept of a “bundle of interests” (Davis 1996) is a useful place to start: this bundle includes our rights to use and exchange property and our obligations and resources related to property ownership and management. It also includes our core interests in property, which is linked to broader goals we have for our housing and our communities (e.g. protecting our family’s well-being, identifying with a city, town, or neighborhood, participating in civil society, etc.).  The bundle of interests (rights, obligations, resources, and core interests) that a given household has is quite different than the bundle of interests a private developer has. Community groups, community development corporations (CDCs), community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and policy makers are additional examples of the actors who shape housing options and accessibility in our cities and towns. Each of these groups has a different bundle of interests.

It is hard to identify reasons that communities throughout Massachusetts put up barriers for certain populations, but it is clear that these communities only meet a narrow bundle of interests. The purpose of this framework is to better identify the differences and similarities in each actor’s bundle, then consider housing options that will best suit the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities.

Evaluating Housing Models

In order to advocate for people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities in Massachusetts’ communities, we must develop and implement strategies for effective resident control of housing. There is a broad range of options for community- or resident-based property ownership, management, and control, but each housing development must select the model that best suits the needs, interests, and capabilities of its residents.

Some examples of models for owning and/or financing housing that support more inclusive communities include: community land trusts (CLTs), mutual housing associations, cooperatives and limited equity cooperatives (LECs), individual development accounts (IDAs). Municipal support for resident control and community-based housing is also important: New York City and Washington, D.C. provide strong examples of legislative protection for tenants and low-income residents. Looking at case studies and interviewing experts will help determine which housing models will best protect a given population in a given community.

Crisis mapping at UEP
| August 18, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Beyond the introductory GIS class, there are several other classes available to UEP students in different areas of spatial analysis. Remote Sensing is popular among those interested in natural sciences, while some of the offerings from Fletcher School bring students to the forefront of current events. A list of all Tufts GIS classes can be found here.

Two posters from last spring demonstrate some of the up-to-the-minute possibilities of crisis mapping. First, undergrad Ray Kameda mapped actual tsunami damage in Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. That crisis was unfolding during the semester, and Ray took live data to evaluate actual damage against projected damage.

The second poster, created by a Fletcher School student, examined routes of travel for protesters in Cairo on their way to Tahrir Square during the revolution there. As those protests were unfolding in the midst of the semester, the poster uses up-to-the-minute data in its least-cost path analysis.

Lydia Rainville ’12: Regional Visioning in Virginia
| August 11, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

In another paper from Justin Hollander’s Regional Planning class, Lydia Rainville ’12 makes recommendations for regional planning to two regional organizations in the Virginia Beach & Newport News metropolitan area in southeast Virginia.

In addition to her full-time studies and part-time employment at the Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Lydia helps run the Student Policy and Planning Association (SPPA) at UEP. SPPA is the department’s student organization, which hosts weekly socials, liaises with faculty and professional groups, and organizes welcome activities for admitted and first-year students. To learn more about SPPA (or regional visioning in southeast Virginia), email lydia [dot] rainville [at] tufts [dot] edu.

Gabriel Holbrow ’12 won awards for his GIS poster
| August 4, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Last fall, Gabriel Holbrow ’12 took Introduction to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) taught by Barbara Parmenter. The final assignment for that class is to make a poster using the mapping and spatial analysis skills you’ve learned. Gabe was interested in walkability and metrics for measuring it. He took the wealth of data provided in the District of Columbia, and made a beautiful poster on the topic. Since that time, the poster has won multiple awards.

UEP is blessed with fantastic GIS resources. Barbara Parmenter spends half her time as a UEP core faculty member, and the other half providing GIS support for the whole Tufts community. She puts extensive energy into her teaching, and her classes are widely enjoyed. GIS classes are taught in the state-of-the-art Spatial Analysis Lab, tucked behind the circulation desk area in Tisch Library, to the left of the main stairs. Somewhere between the formality of Tisch’s Tower Cafe and the rest of the library, the lab is primarily used and overseen by UEP students, though students from other programs also work there.

Introduction to GIS is always a popular course for UEP students, but it is offered every semester. Barbara often encourages UEP students to wait until their second year to take it, at which point they are guaranteed a spot. It is quite difficult to get into the class during one’s first semester, due to first-years’ late registration date. But some do take the class in the fall, like Gabe Holbrow, and many first-year UEPers take it in the spring of their first year.

Green Urban Design in Davis Sq
| July 28, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

In Christine Cousineau’s Green Urban Design class, the final project involved working with a group on a real-life design project. Several weeks ago we featured a project on a site in Union Square. Another group worked on the site where The Burren is located in Davis Square. The site is intended for redevelopment by the owners, so this project is relevant and timely. Such projects are common at UEP, with even the smallest assignments often geared toward a real-life audience. While the Field Projects core course is entirely based around this concept, applicability pervades most other classes as well.

Students in Cities learn about the Great Migration
| July 21, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

“Cities in Space, Place, and Time” is one of the core classes in UEP. While students can take this class during the fall of either year, many first-year students taking the course in 2010 found it to be a fantastic complement to the Foundations course required of all students during the first semester. In Cities, you learn a lot about the history of planning and policy that influences the current environment. One assignment that is especially educational is the book review assignment, where you work with a small group to review a significant book in the field. My group reviewed The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, a seminal work in the planning field. Rachel Gordon ’12, Sophia Burks ’12, and Melissa Woods ’12 read and reviewed Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, which explores the Great Migration. The Great Migration is the half-century of mass movement of black Americans from the South to the cities of the North and West. This is just one of the fascinating topics of social history that Cities will teach you.

Jay Monty ’11: Business Diversity in Urban Centers
| July 14, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Jay Monty ’11 came into UEP with an educational and work background as an engineer. He had worked on highways, and transportation remained a strong interest throughout his time at Tufts. While at UEP, he also worked as the TA for two of the core classes (Cities and Field Projects), which introduced him to many members of the class below his.

This spring, Jay took the new Qualitative Skills class taught by Justin Hollander. For his final paper, he examined what factors shape the mix of businesses in the modern “urban village”, and whether or not it is possible to expect a diversity of goods and services found in traditional urban settings. His conclusions are fascinating for those interested in economic development and the vitality of new urban neighborhoods.

Clara Feng: Ethnic Businesses in Somerville
| July 7, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Clara Feng is a certificate student in the certificate program in Program Evaluation that UEP participates in along with the Department of Child Development, the School of Nutrition, and the School of Medicine For more information about program evaluation, you can talk to UEP faculty member Fran Jacobs.

In this paper for Justin Hollander’s Qualitative Skills class this spring, Clara studied a Brazilian grocery store in Union Square in Somerville. She was interested in the role of such businesses in multi-ethnic community of Somerville, including who their customers were, how customers perceived the store, and what sorts of goods are provided. Her paper was also part of Project PERIS, a community-university partnership in which UEP participates.

Green Urban Design at 346 Somerville Ave
| June 30, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

For those who are interested in the more design-oriented areas of urban planning, UEP offers two courses taught by Christine Cousineau, who also works in Harvard’s campus planning office. At the end of her classes, students complete a group project working on the design of a particular site in the Greater Boston area. One project this spring proposed a mixed-use development for a site in Somerville’s Union Square, at 346 Somerville Ave. The team, which included Nick Welch ’13 and several other Tufts students, studied the five parcels on the site and produced a report whose recommendations integrate affordable housing, a mix of commercial and residential uses, and green design principles.