Faculty Research: Sexual Harassment on Public Transit

Students waiting to take the VTA in downtown San Jose.

Students waiting to take the VTA in downtown San Jose.

“I was riding the metro alone on a Sunday morning, and as I turned the corner, there was a man masturbating. I was scared and ran away,” recalls Asha Weinstein Agrawal of an incident she encountered as a college student during a vacation in Paris two decades ago.

The Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and the Director of Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) National Transportation Finance Center Agrawal says although she didn’t talk about it then, there’s a need today to start conversations around sexual harassment and recognize behaviors and patterns that women who use public transit witness all over the world.

Over the last three years, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of SJSU students had experienced some form of harassment while using the bus or train, according to the recent MTI-sponsored research study titled “Crime and Harassment on Public Transportation: A Survey of SJSU Students Set in International Context.”

Agrawal’s team includes UCLA Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, one of the global project leaders who put together the original survey, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Cristina Tortora and Yajing Hu, now a senior scientist at Abbott, who worked as a data analytics intern with the team. The SJSU survey asked essentially the same questions as the global study: “Does sexual harassment happen to you? Are you worried? Have you ever reported? Does fear of harassment change the way you use transit?”

The survey found that public transit harassment is not unique to San Jose State students. Agrawal’s team worked on data collected from a random sample of 891 SJSU students. With that many voices woven in, the SJSU narrative mirrors typical concerns that students around the world expressed when the same survey was administered in 18 cities across six continents, including San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Mexico City in North America, Bogota, Sao Paolo and Rio Claro in South America, London, Paris, Milan, Lisbon, Stockholm, and Huddinge in Europe, Tokyo, Guangzhou and Manila in Asia, Lagos in Africa and Melbourne in Australia.

Although fear of harassment binds all respondents together across demographics, Agrawal has a guess about the underlying reasons behind why SJSU students were less likely to feel “always” or “often” safe after dark on the bus or on the train, compared to students in the other cities in the global study. She points to downtown San Jose’s features after dark—mostly empty streets and transit vehicles. The responses could easily vary in European and Asian cities that have considerable activity on the streets after dark. In addition, relatively high proportions of university students don’t have the luxury of driving private cars. Compared to the population at large, students more frequently use public transit, especially in the United States.

Agrawal says abuse on public transit is not new. Having studied the transportation of 1890s America as part of her doctoral research, she saw that women feared sexual harassment on public transit then, too. “Nice women didn’t want to ride the street cars because they would get groped or harassed” was a common refrain in the articles she remembers reading during her dissertation writing days. There is new attention on the topic of sexual offense today as part of the MeToo movement, but it’s been happening all around the world ever since there was public transit, she adds.

As Agrawal argues, that train of thought is still what stops some women from using public transit. Women throughout history have found themselves at society’s margins, as have older adults, vulnerable people and those who identify as LGBTQ, whose fear of harassment has influenced their participation in broader society.

Transit trips are not limited to vehicle settings. Rather, they are multi-phased activities, including riding on vehicles, waiting at transit stops or walking/biking to and from those points. The survey looked at the transit experience in these three areas as well. “Besides asking for experiences on the bus or on the train, we also asked about while you’re waiting, either at the bus stop or the train stop, and also the access journey,” says Agrawal. These environments are not controlled by transit operators, but offer perspectives on choices a rider may make about using transit. The goal of the survey was to understand how safety concerns affect their choice of transit.

With so many students taking public transit every day, Agrawal wondered if there would be a correlation between the amount of harassment and number of complaints filed. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” she says. “People often think it’s so commonplace that there’s no point reporting, or that even if they do, it hardly yields results,” which in turn leads to a feeling of helplessness in victims.

Harassment is largely perceived to be a woman’s issue. Men’s experiences don’t often make it to the headlines. The SJSU survey revealed that 40 percent of men experienced sexual assault on buses or trains, expanding the conversation beyond gender identities.

Agrawal is hopeful that the results of the survey could be a starting point for transit operators to consider certain measures that can proactively address the issues. She says transit operators—and others— who’ve built apps for commuters to report graffiti and broken lights could consider adding a category of language that would make sexual harassment reporting easier, “thus making it more obvious that there is a problem.”

SJSU Emergency Management Expert Frannie Edwards Offers Webinar On COVID-19

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards.

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards will conduct a webinar on April 9, “Transit and COVID-19: How Its Impact Differs from Other Emergencies,” where she’ll discuss the similarities and differences between the impact of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases such as SARS and H1N1/swine flu on transit systems. Photo courtesy of Frannie Edwards.

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards will conduct a webinar this Thursday, April 9, “Transit and COVID-19: How Its Impact Differs from Other Emergencies,” where she’ll discuss the similarities and differences between the impact of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases such as SARS and H1N1/swine flu on transit systems.

Edwards, who also teaches emergency management and serves as the deputy director of the National Transportation Security Center at the university’s Mineta Transportation Institute, served for 14 years as director of the Office of Emergency Services in San Jose and as director of the city’s Metropolitan Medical Task Force.

Edwards developed her expertise through an impressive array of academic work, research and classroom teaching.

“Teaching is my passion, and I really want my students to learn the things they’ll need to know in order to be successful and creative servants of their community,” she said. “But it’s the research and my own constant learning that fuel my ability to teach effectively and give students the tools they need.”

Edwards’s emergency management background draws on lessons learned while living in Japan, serving as a police budget officer for the City of Irvine and developing emergency plans for earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

Hired into her current role at SJSU in 2005 to teach public administration, Edwards was brought into MTI’s fold as a research associate to help with the Institute’s fast-growing anti-terrorism work. Transit organizations nationwide had been persuaded to take such threats seriously after the 1995 sarin gas attack on a subway system in Tokyo and other high-profile events.

Edwards and a small group of colleagues became MTI’s de facto emergency preparedness brain trust, giving presentations and briefings via a “traveling road show” of sorts around the state. She and her research partner Dan Goodrich are co-authors on more than a dozen MTI publications on emergency preparedness.

In a profession that uses a lot of acronyms, Edwards refers a great deal to one in particular—COOP. A COOP plan, or, “continuity of operations” effort, is a collection of resources, actions, procedures and information that is developed and used to maintain critical operations after a disaster or emergency. Edwards characterizes COOP as the “next level” of emergency management.

“An emergency operations plan outlines what you should do when something really bad happens, and it typically lays out all the resources at your disposal,” she explained. “A continuity of operations plan outlines what to do when there are no resources, but still a lot of people who need help.” An essential concept behind COOPs, she explained, is that organizations must identify those activities that are the most essential in order to execute the mission—while ceasing all other activities.

SJSU, she points out, essentially put a COOP into operation in the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic when it hit the pause button on athletics activities, large events and public gatherings in general. Instead, university leadership asked itself, What do we need to do in order to keep educating our students, finish the semester and keep everyone on track to earn credits and graduate on time? That, Edwards explained, is COOP in a nutshell: narrowing one’s world to just the essentials.

Edwards said, in fact, that the current crisis is the only one she has seen in more than 30 years of emergency management that represents “a true COOP situation.” The geographic impact of other crises, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Northridge (Los Angeles County) earthquake in 1994 and the 1998 El Niño floods in the Bay Area, have been relatively small compared to COVID-19. The shortage of available pumps during the floods were a precursor to today’s shortage of ventilators and other personal protective equipment, though at a much smaller scale.

Edwards remains optimistic during the current crisis and chooses to focus on the “inspiring things going on.”

Mobilizing two large naval hospital ships to assist overwhelmed hospitals amid the pandemic was a smart use of resources, she said, while the work of the nation’s medical community and caregivers has been nothing short of heroic. In addition, she points to the number of companies, including many in Silicon Valley, who have contributed large sums of money to the overall effort. “We are seeing a wonderful charitable spirit that is helping people in our communities who are struggling,” she said.

To help get through the crisis, Edwards emphasizes the need for people to find creative ways to stay connected and remain true to their own passions and needs, whether it is through a religious community they may be part of, online museums and music or even just regular calls or emails to friends.

“Whatever it is that feeds your soul, brings you happiness and hope and helps you see a brighter future—those are the things we all must continue to do.”

Those interested in the 4/9 webinar can register to receive an email reminder. The webinar takes place from 10-10:30am and will be conducted via Zoom.

Immigrant Heritage Month: Serena Alexander

During Immigrant Heritage Month, San Jose State University will be telling stories of our students, faculty, staff and alumni who have unique and inspiring immigrant narratives to share. In addition, we will be highlighting our research, scholarship and creative activities that enhance our understanding of immigration and the contributions of immigrant populations to the fabric of SJSU’s campus community and society at large.

Serena Alexander, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning, is of Armenian descent and grew up in Iran.

Serena Alexander, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning, is of Armenian descent and grew up in Iran.

Serena Alexander is an assistant professor with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. She is of Armenian descent, but was born and raised in Iran.

“I immigrated to the U.S. in January 2009 with my family and resided in Los Angeles. I later moved to Ohio so that I could complete my doctoral studies,” she said. “I became a U.S. citizen in 2014. Coming back to California and starting an academic position was a dream come true. Aside from the fabulous weather, California’s diversity was a major draw for me.”

Alexander joined SJSU in August 2016 and her research focuses on strategies that communities can employ to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to adverse impacts of climate change. She is working with 23 cities in California to examine ways to reduce transportation emissions and build more resilient communities. She is also involved in analyzing the potential impacts of autonomous vehicles and shared mobility on transportation emissions, among other projects.

She said her immigration experience taught her she is stronger than she thought she was, especially when pushing herself outside her comfort zones; it taught her patience in pursuing goals; and to keep trying to achieve her dreams even when facing obstacles.

“I refuse to accept that my goals might be virtually impossible to reach, I convince myself that I have to work harder or be more creative,” she said.

Her heritage allows her to understand the importance of openness to racial, cultural and value diversity, and the role that building strong and connected communities can play in creating an inclusive environment. She ensures her classroom is an inclusive environment and her students are trained to lead strong and diverse communities effectively.

“Most immigrants want to fully integrate into their new society as quickly as possible, but they may not realize that their unique experiences can help them better solve the problems their families or communities encounter in the new context,” she said. “Maybe we can all encourage them to see a greater value in cultural differences and unique experiences.”

And, of course, she also has her favorite Armenian and Persian foods.

“I will never get tired of sweet but not overwhelming Armenian traditional pastries such as gata,” she said. “Persian food is particularly creative and very balanced but takes a long time to prepare. My favorite is fesenjan, a chicken stew with walnut and pomegranate sauce served over basmati rice.”

Spartans, reach out to us at communications@sjsu.edu if you would like to share your immigrant heritage stories.

SJSU Launches Real Estate Program

SJSU Launches Certificate in Real Estate Development

SJSU Launches Real Estate Program

The Certificate in Real Estate Development program will offer students the knowledge and skills needed to initiate, navigate and manage real estate development projects located in existing communities in Northern California.

(Editor’s Note: If you are interested in registering for SJSU’s Certificate in Real Estate Development program, please contact Assistant Professor Ralph McLaughlin at 408-924-5860).

When Arrow Development, the creator of many Disney rides, opened its doors in Mountain View back in the late 1940s, there was plenty of land to grow.

It’s a totally different story now, with the world’s best and brightest cramming into Silicon Valley, making real estate a hot commodity.

So it follows that SJSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning is poised to launch a Certificate in Real Estate Development program this fall.

The 12-credit, four-class sequence was developed with guidance from an advisory board chaired by Cabouchon Properties’ Scott Lefaver, who also serves as a Santa Clara County planning commissioner.

Urban and Regional Planning Department Chair Asha Weinstein Agrawal and the board announced the advent of the initiative at the “CRED Symposium Program: The Future Real Estate and Space Needs of the Tech Industry in the Bay Area,” held April 25 in the Student Union.

Around 150 real estate professionals, city planners, faculty members and students gathered to discuss the region’s past, present and future real estate needs. Presentations and panel discussions offered many insights:

  • The stock market’s recovery means “robust demand” for real estate.
  • “Campus is king” as most tech workers want to be close to the CEO and colleagues because “that’s where the secret sauce is made.”
  • There are over 1,000 startups in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
  • Rather than build anew, startups will continue taking over old buildings — like “hermit crabs.”
  • But filling R&D facilities with office workers means a shortage of amenities — like enough bathrooms!
  • “Open landscapes” are replacing private offices, even for executives.
  • Cell phones, stipends and VOIP are replacing wired phones.
  • Large companies may one day build their own corporate housing.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi opened the event by explaining SJSU intends to create more programs like CRED. Those who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion.

The idea is to develop a series of “stackable certificates” adding up to a regular degree. All the programs would be designed to meet the needs of industry, and classes will be held online and in-person to accommodate people working full time.

CRED Symposium sponsors included Commercial Real Estate Women, NAIOP, Barry Swenson Builder, Urban Planning Coalition, Silicon Valley Business Journal, American Planning Association, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley chapter, Corenet Global, Urban Land Institute and SPUR.

7x7SF: Urban and Regional Planning Lecturer Ranks Among the City's Top Thought Leaders

Urban & Regional Planning Professor Seeks to Save Ocean Beach

San Francisco-based magazine 7×7 recently posted its annual Hot 30 list. Among those featured was Benjamin Grant, a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning who also serves as San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR) 
program manager and Ocean Beach Master Plan architect.

Leilani Marie Labong writes, “It’s Indian summer in San Francisco, and temperatures are on the rise. As are the local luminaries in our annual Hot 20, er . . . Hot 30. That’s right. We were so impressed by the crop of talent and brains moving the needle this year—in fields as diverse as technology, music, education, sports, and arts—that we added 10 bright stars to our list…

“Oakland resident Benjamin Grant has devoted the past two years of his career at SPUR to preparing a roadmap for the inevitable: sea-level rise at Ocean Beach, thanks to that leading culprit of environmental havoc, global warming. ‘Ocean Beach isn’t just a piece of infrastructure that needs to be armored,’ says Grant, who holds a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley. ‘It’s also a national park, a sensitive habitat, and a beloved landscape for the people of San Francisco.’

“The Ocean Beach Master Plan’s approach sets it apart from other urban-design initiatives with six key moves—from native sand-dune restoration to bicycle and pedestrian upgrades north of Balboa Street—to improve and protect the beach. ‘When it comes to climate change, we can’t put our heads in the sand,’ says Grant, whose recent venture into fatherhood deepens his motives. ‘We need to get ahead of it to create the best future possible for Ocean Beach.'”



Silicon Valley/SJ Business Journal: City Planners to Benefit from New Certificate Program

SJSU’s urban planning degree tops for working professionals

Published by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal April 27, 2012.

By David Goll

The 41-year-old Urban and Regional Planning master’s degree program at San Jose State University is recognized as one of the nation’s most highly rated programs having a reputation for providing practical, real-world lessons for its students.

The program trains planners for a wide array of Bay Area public agencies, from the city of San Jose to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. But it also provides a pipeline of talent for privately owned development and construction companies in the region.

It’s the only program in the Bay Area that is geared to working professionals. The only other such Bay Area program — the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley — is considered more theoretical.

“Half of the faculty are practitioners, planning directors and principal planners, who teach students the nuts and bolts of the planning business,” said Scott Lefaver, a member of the program’s first graduating class in 1972, a former faculty member and current chairman of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission. Lefaver is also spearheading a move to establish a planning and development certificate program in the department designed for planners and developers. It’s an effort to expose those in both professions — often at loggerheads — to the requirements of their jobs, the pressures and challenges each sector of the industry faces.

It’s an attempt to create more understanding and cooperation in the development process, Lefaver said. It’s based on a pioneer program at the University of Southern California , where Lefaver earned a doctoral degree in public administration. It will be a “hybrid” format, he said: mostly online with a few face-to-face classes.

As a result of state budget cuts, Lefaver is leading an effort to raise $100,000 from private sources to launch the certificate program. About $80,000 has been raised so far. Lefaver said major contributions have come from John Vidovich, owner of De Anza Properties, a Sunnyvale-based residential development firm, and Charles Davidson, a developer and philanthropist who made a $15 million gift to San Jose State University’s College of Engineering in 2007.

Asha Weinstein Agrawal, a San Jose State associate professor and chairwoman of the Urban and Regional Planning department, said state budget cuts have had a major impact on her program. This spring, there are 100 students enrolled, down from a high of 160 a few years ago. As in past years, about two-thirds of her students are professionals working in public agencies and private companies.

“We have a very diverse group of students,” she said. “Many of them are seasoned planning professionals who see our program as a way to advance their careers. But we also have people from unrelated fields, like teachers or high-tech workers, who want to change careers.” The cuts have an impact on future workforce development.

But that hasn’t stopped Weinstein Agrawal from looking at ways to broaden the program’s appeal. One way is by offering Saturday workshops for those who can’t study full-time in such subject areas as Urban Geographic Information System (GIS) Technology.

One of the alumni is Hing Wong, a 1996 graduate, and senior regional planner at Oakland-based ABAG, the regional planning agency for the nine-county Bay Area. Wong teaches a quantitative methodology course in the program.

“Taking quantitative methodology helped me do a much better job analyzing data,” Wong said. “Working in a regional planning organization, you must do a lot of forecasting. Skills I learned in the San Jose State program have helped me to that part of my job.”

During the current semester, the department’s curriculum includes 39 course sections on topics ranging from local politics to introduction to land use, comparative urban design and Urban GIS technology. San Jose State has one of nine accredited programs in California, a group that includes Berkeley, USC, UCLA, the University of California, Irvine; and the California Polytechnic State University campuses at Pomona and San Luis Obispo.

SJSU in the News: Professor Emeritus Who Championed Progressive Movement Dies

Bert Muhly, former Santa Cruz mayor and icon of progressive politics, dies at 88

Originally published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel Dec. 16, 2011.

SANTA CRUZ — Former Mayor Bert Muhly, the two-term city councilman and one-time county planning chief who as a university educator and political kingmaker championed progressive movements ranging from local growth limits to statewide coastal protection and the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, died Friday at his home on the Westside.

He was 88.

The cause of death was heart failure, said his wife, Lois, a retired elementary school teacher. The couple, who has lived in Santa Cruz for 50 years, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in October.

For decades, Muhly employed his education in urban planning to press for government policies that controlled development and safeguarded natural resources. He was also instrumental in electing regional officials to national posts, all while keeping a keen eye on local grassroots political talent who could help him advance liberal causes.

“It was a beautiful place when he moved here,” Lois Muhly said, explaining his political drive. “There were so many fine qualities that he wanted to preserve for his children and grandchildren.”

The former UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State University professor was remembered Friday as a passionate and diligent activist who, as part of the vanguard of California environmentalists in the 1960s, contributed to legislation that created the powerful Coastal Commission that now governs development along 1,100 miles of the state’s shoreline.

Countless Democrats turned to Muhly during the last five decades, seeking guidance, fundraising and moral support.

“Bert was a Santa Cruz icon,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said Friday from his office in Washington. “I don’t think I’ve seen a person so outspoken on human rights and progressive politics, especially in Central America.”

Muhly traveled more than two dozen times to Nicaragua, including once to deliver a donated ambulance to Santa Cruz’s sister city of Jinotepe. He was strongly opposed to the Contra movement of the 1980s, which was backed by President Ronald Reagan’s administration to battle the Sandanistas after an overthrow of the country’s dictator.

The Muhlys cofounded Three Americas, a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness and funds, often through the sale of fair-trade coffee, for communities in Central and South America. The group helped to raise $10,000 this year for the Chile-Santa Cruz Friendship Committee, Lois Muhly said.

Bert Muhly served on the City Council from April 1974 to November 1981, and was chosen immediately to serve as vice mayor and then as mayor in late 1974. During his years on the council, Muhly served as the city’s representative to the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, and was at one point the organization’s president.

Retired physician and former mayor John Mahaney, a conservative member of the council, remembered his one-time colleague as standing firm on an anti-growth agenda.

“He was a really honest forthright guy,” Mahaney said. “Sometimes we didn’t agree, but I had a lot of respect for him and his abilities.”

Muhly also was adept at getting friends into places of power, famous for the earthy crab cake fundraisers he and Lois, a former Soquel Union Elementary School District teacher, hosted on their deck.

In addition to advancing Farr’s career, Muhly worked to elect Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the former director of the CIA and chief of staff at the White House, to Congress from the Monterey area.

Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, who worked with Muhly on Panetta’s congressional campaign, said Muhly was one of the first people he came to know when he became politically active in the 1970s.

“He was the sort of the beginning of Santa Cruz moving into a more environmentally conscious and progressive community,” Lane said. “If he supported a cause, then he just drove it forward. He just never let go of it.”

Farr said Muhly helped launch his first campaign for the state Assembly in the 1980s and was instrumental in his 1993 bid to join the U.S. House of Representatives. Farr said he felt as though he was Muhly’s adopted son at times.

“I practically lived in their house in Santa Cruz while I was running my campaign,” Farr said. “The house was full of fascinating people. Every meal was a think-tank discussion.”

Born Louis Bert Muhly in Maryland on June 18, 1923, Muhly earned a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration from UC Berkeley in 1948 and a master’s degree from the Department of City and Regional Planning at the university four years later.

He served as the director of planning for Tulare County for three years and worked for an engineering firm for two years before coming to Santa Cruz County, where he served as head of the planning department and is credited with drafting the county’s first general plan at a time when UCSC was being established.

After nearly a decade in that post, he chose to leave the professional side of municipal planning to be an educator. The move afforded him the opportunity to enter the world of advocacy free of the political constraints posed by his county post.

Muhly was an instructor in the environmental studies program at UC Santa Cruz and later the graduate planning program at San Jose State University, for a total of 19 years. He retired from San Jose State as professor emeritus in 1989 but maintained an active voice in local land use issues.

“He was one of the pillars of progressive politics in Santa Cruz and was particularly influential at a time when community dynamics were changing, and he certainly actively supported more candidates that you could count,” said former mayor Cynthia Mathews, who joined neighborhood activism in the 1970s. “He was certainly very encouraging to me even at that early level.”

The Muhlys wrote to the City Council and Sentinel last month, suggesting Beach Flats Park be named for Scott Kennedy, a former mayor and fellow activist for nonviolence who died Nov. 18.

Lane said the gesture shows Bert Muhly never tired of advocacy.

“He was plugging away until the end,” Lane said.

Lois Muhly said she and her family would wait until after the holidays to make arrangements for a memorial service.

In addition to his wife, Muhly is survived by five children: Patricia Vargas of Santa Cruz, William Muhly of Happy Valley, Jenifer Hutson of Santa Cruz, Janet Windt of Santa Cruz and Ernest Muhly of Soquel. A daughter, Sally, died in 2000. The couple has numerous grandchildren.


BORN: June 18, 1923

DIED: Dec. 16, 2011


OCCUPATION: Professor emeritus, San Jose State; former instructor at UC Santa Cruz, former planning director for Santa Cruz County

CIVIC LIFE: Mayor of Santa Cruz, 1974-1975; member of the City Council from 1974-1981; former president of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments; co-founder of Three Americas nonprofit

Passengers boarding VTA light rail.

SJSU, VTA Research Project Wins International Award

VTA light rail train

SJSU/VTA research suggests parking code requirements for housing near mass transit could be reduced, saving resources for other priorities.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

We all know what it’s like to pay to park our cars. But what we think about less often is how much it costs to create parking, whether it’s underground, in structures, or on surface lots.

With municipalities placing a high priority on apartments and condos near mass transit, an important question has emerged: How much parking is enough?

In response, SJSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning collaborated with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to study parking utilization at 12 South Bay housing developments near VTA light rail and Caltrain stations.

They found that local parking code requirements for such properties could be reduced by as much as 26 percent, saving resources for other priorities.

In recognition of their game-changing research, SJSU and VTA will receive the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Parking Council Best Practices Award for 2011 at this year’s ITE annual meeting in August. Lecturer Eduardo C. Serafin led the SJSU team, which included more than 20 graduate students. Read a VTA news release on the award. Read the report.

SJSU in the News: EPA Announces SJSU to Help Measure Effectiveness of New Coyote Creek Cleanup Program

U.S. EPA, City of San Jose announce $943,000 pilot program to reduce trash to San Francisco Bay

More than 290 tons of trash removed from San Jose’s Coyote Creek watershed since 2008

News release originally posted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency June 9, 2011.

Read a related San Jose Mercury News story.

Contact Information: Mary Simms, (415) 947-4270, simms.mary@epa.gov; City of San José: Steve Luckenbach, 408-975-2615, Steve.Luckenbach@sanjoseca.gov

San Jose, Calif. – San José Mayor Chuck Reed and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld today launched the Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities pilot program at a press conference in San José, California, to highlight a significant pollution problem impacting San Francisco Bay.

The Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities pilot program will be aimed at reducing pollution and improving water quality along a three-mile stretch of Coyote Creek. The program will employ and assist the homeless, deter dumping and litter, and engage neighbors as creek stewards along San José’s Coyote Creek.

“This pilot program uses an innovative and collaborative approach to restore the health of Coyote Creek,” Mayor Chuck Reed said. “I’d like to thank the EPA and our other local partners for providing the bulk of the funding necessary to help foster the long-term stewardship of our local waterways.”

“Trash pollutes the environment, and it spoils our enjoyment of San Francisco Bay,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is pleased to augment state and local efforts to improve water quality, providing support for a project that will eliminate a major source of trash reaching the Bay.”

The event was held at Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Coyote Creek outdoor classroom where the EPA announced details of a four-year competitive grant to the city of San José in the form of $680,000 in federal funding from the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund. Since 2008, Congress has appropriated $22 million to EPA for a competitive grant program, which now supports 31 projects, leverages more than $13 million, and strengthens partnerships with 40 organizations to protect and restore San Francisco Bay watersheds.

Local matching funds for the grant are being provided by the Santa Clara Valley Water District ($130,000) and the eBay Foundation ($20,000) to support creek cleanup, community engagement, and social service aspects of the project. The City of San Jose’s contribution of $113,000 is allocated to support efforts and is being paid out of the Integrated Waste Management Fund and Storm Sewer Operating Fund.

Trash, toxic household products, and human waste along Coyote Creek between Tully Road and East William Street have severely compromised water quality in Coyote Creek.

In the last three years, the water district and the city have pulled approximately 300 tons of trash from homeless encampments and trash accumulations in Coyote Creek; of this, approximately 150 tons were from the project area.

“Trash not only impacts the fish and wildlife in the creek, much of it ends up in the Bay,” said Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Chair Don Gage. “It’s always best to stop pollution at the source. If this project succeeds, it be could a model for long-term pollution prevention.”

The Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities project seeks to:

  • Engage with targeted communities to expand their role as stewards of Coyote Creek.
  • Work with community organizations to implement effective, innovative methods to engage the homeless in removing trash from Coyote Creek by supplying incentives, training, and a path out of homelessness for up to 50 individuals.
  • Implement a plan to prevent illegal dumping.

This program is made possible with the active participation of various agencies including the city of San José, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Downtown Streets Team, Destination: Home and San José State University.

The success of the pilot program will be measured by its ability to deter trash-generating behaviors through active creek stewardship. The project will start July 2011 with expected completion by June 2015.

SJSU in the News: University Joins Effort to Aid Homeless While Reducing Trash Along Coyote Creek

San Jose snags nearly $1 million in funds to reduce trash, employ homeless along Coyote Creek

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News June 10, 2011.

By Tracy Seipel

On the day that Shannon, desperate and homeless, decided to kill herself, she stumbled upon a program in which the homeless clean up Palo Alto in exchange for housing and food.

If something like that could save her life, the 58-year-old woman said Thursday, then a similar program in San Jose might hold the same hope for others like her — and even help clean up the environment.

That idea is behind a new program called Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities, believed to be the first effort funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of trash that flows into a waterway — aided by the very people who contribute to the problem.

“I’ve never heard of this being tried before,” Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator told a group of about two dozen supporters gathered at the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Coyote Creek Outdoor Classroom, near a well-manicured downtown San Jose neighborhood.

Local officials say much of the trash along Coyote Creek comes from homeless people living along its banks. If they could be rewarded with vouchers for food and housing to pick up garbage along the creek, they might also find the encouragement to leave the creek area and transition into more permanent jobs and housing.

“We know the source of the trash in Coyote Creek that goes into the bay,” Blumenfeld said, referring to the people who have set up camp there. But, he stressed, the program must be run “through a partnership that inspires and creates dignity.”

In the past three years, Blumenfeld said, 180 tons of trash were collected from Coyote Creek by the city of San Jose, Santa Clara Valley Water District and volunteers.

Debris gets caught in the creek’s vegetation, damaging the habitat many species rely on and thwarting salmon from passing and breeding.

All told, the funding announced Thursday for the unusual project totals $942,000, the bulk of it from the EPA.

Downtown Streets Team, the nonprofit Palo Alto-based program that Shannon joined last year, will oversee the San Jose effort for the next four years, starting in July.

“The model we have in Palo Alto proves it works,” said the program’s executive director, Eileen Richardson, who attended Thursday’s event. “The big thing is restoring the hope and dignity to these women and men — making them feel like part of a team.”

Since 2005, Richardson said, her organization has taken almost 200 homeless people in Palo Alto off the streets and given them jobs, apartments or both.

But the San Jose plan is more expansive. After a count of the homeless is completed at the end of this month along Coyote Creek — where she believes at least 100 people live in encampments — Richardson hopes 18 will participate in the program. Her goal is to move 50 homeless people into permanent homes after two years.

Thursday’s announcement was especially satisfying for San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, who spearheaded the San Jose plan with his staff two years ago after seeing what Richardson had done in Palo Alto.

“Homeless have been seen as the problem,” he told those gathered near the creek, “but we see homeless as part of the solution.”

In addition to the $680,000 EPA grant, the Santa Clara Valley Water District contributed $130,000, followed by the city of San Jose with $112,000 and $20,000 from eBay.

But at least one homeless man who attended the event seemed skeptical.

“There are programs that work and programs that blow smoke,” said Andrew Costa, 58, who has been homeless and living along Coyote Creek since he was laid off from his job at Safeway in February.

Added Costa: “I’m just trying to figure out if this is going to work.”

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.

  • $386,000 to the city of San Jose to manage the program and train the homeless
  • $137,000 to assist the city’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative
  • $117,000 for security measures to prevent illegal dumping
  • $40,000 to San Jose State to measure the trash pickup
  • $262,000 in matching funds from San Jose, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and eBay, to boost all of the above
    Source: EPA