Last month, Greenbelt Alliance was proud to collaborate with local partner organizations Livable Sunnyvale and the Santa Clara Community Advocates to host educational webinars as part of Affordable Housing Month. The topics covered, “Building Equitable and Resilient Climate Communities” and “Why is El Camino Real Good for Affordable Housing” drew nearly a hundred attendees, many of them local residents motivated to engage in dialogue around what it takes to secure an environmentally sustainable future for everyone.
The first webinar, “Building Equitable and Resilient Climate Communities”, featured some great panelists. The panel discussed the value of urban green space, and how that means much more than just parks, but even things as simple as more trees lining the street. This multi-benefit infrastructure is just one part of the smart growth that provides community benefits as well as climate resilience. The panel also discussed the historical reality of redlining, and how the impacts of institutional racism through planning and lending practices still affect how our communities look today. Furthermore, there was discussion of the overproduction of over-moderate income housing and the vast underproduction of low to very-low income housing. This led to a discussion about how affordable housing is crucial for maintaining the strength and diversity of our neighborhoods.
The second webinar, “Why is El Camino Real Good for Affordable Homes”, was a clinic on community engagement, both from the City of Santa Clara and Opticos, a local firm focusing on building walkable, resilient communities. The first speaker was Lesley Xavier, the Principal Planner for the City of Santa Clara. She did a great job of laying out the vision the City has created with the El Camino Real Specific Plan. The details included new bicycle facilities, wider sidewalks, and land uses that will support more alternative modes of mass transit. This is a huge step in the right direction for creating a more sustainable, environmentally and pedestrian friendly thoroughfare.
Lesley was followed by John Miki, the Studio Manager for Opticos Design. He gave an informative presentation on the importance of Missing Middle Housing defined as house-scale buildings with multiple units in walkable neighborhoods, and the lack thereof. There was a great overview of different types of housing and what a variety of housing choices can do for the vibrancy of a neighborhood. A key takeaway was that we are doing a better job providing spaces for cars than people. Greenbelt Alliance recently unpacked this particular topic of parking requirements and sustainable, equitable transportation policies during a webinar on June 4, which you can watch here.
Finally, the presentation around why El Camino Real is good for affordable housing closed with breakout sessions and lots of community discussion about their new thoughts on housing. Some of the most encouraging and exciting comments were from community members talking about a deeper appreciation and understanding of the growth happening in their city along with several people committing to becoming more outspoken about supporting the affordable housing developments that they want to see.
Educational events like these advance community organizations coming together to build and broaden support for affordable housing—elevating and empowering the voices of the underserved and overlooked, particularly in communities of color, around housing issues. Ultimately, these two webinars were just another step on the path to our goal of engaging residents and energizing them to shape development that is environmentally sustainable and socially equitable.
Special thanks to one of our generous funders, Applied Materials, who help make great events for the community like this possible.
Photo: Katie Baumez via Unsplash