South Hayward, or as city officials and workers see it on a map, the Tennyson Corridor has been recognized as “the forgotten stepchild of Hayward.”
The Hayward City Council meeting of June 20, 2017, included a two-year action plan for what the city calls The Tennyson Corridor Strategic Initiative.
The action plan itself, available on the Hayward city website, titled Tennyson Corridor Strategy Two-Year Business Plan (FY 2018 & 2019), states that its goal is to “Work with the community to create a community vision plan for the Tennyson Corridor and catalyst sites to serve as a foundation for long-term planning and policies.”
“Conduct empathy interviews with key stakeholders and a diverse set of community members to prepare for visioning sessions,” is the very first “action/task” listed on this document.
One of the developments of this relatively recent focus on South Hayward is the partnership between the city of Hayward and Chabot college through the Student Initiative Center (SIC), Chabot faculty Sean McFarland, Eric Heltzel, Tom DeWitt and all of the passionate Chabot students of the SIC doing the actual community outreach.
The City Council has acknowledged the voices of many concerned community members of South Hayward driving, walking, and witnessing the investment and development of downtown Hayward over the last decade.
Chabot professor and Hayward City Councilman Francisco Zermeño said, “Six years ago, I formed the Tennyson Community Committee to improve Tennyson road.”
Zermeño goes on, “I decided to push prioritization to Tennyson road because it became the forgotten stepchild of Hayward.”
“On April 11, 2017, City Council did a work session around the idea of focusing more on South Hayward. You’ve seen the big investment downtown for the last couple decades,” said Hayward Management Analyst Mary Thomas.
Thomas continued, “we want to figure out, what are the neighborhoods that people self-identify, and the collective aspirations and hopes for their area. With that, we want to create a vision plan for the City with some action-steps in a timeline.”
“The Tennyson corridor initiative is part of the cities effort to ensure, by forming partnerships, that Tennyson road and their community in South Hayward is not forgotten,” Zermeño adds.
This is where Pepperdine Universities Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership came in.
“The Davenport Institute of Pepperdine University helps local governments with civic engagement. We recognize city workers are expert problem solvers, but they are not trained to facilitate conversations and discussions,” says Executive Director of the Davenport Institute Ashley Trim.
According to their public policy page, the Davenport Institute Public Engagement Grants, “seek to support communities by offering funded-service grants to offset the cost of consultants and outside facilitators in designing and implementing a vibrant civic engagement process.”
For clarification, the grants that the Davenport Institute have provided will help with the resources necessary for the vision plan and community outreach. They are not used for the brick and mortar development and improvement of the city.
Thomas, “called Davenport to ask if they would be willing for us to use the money to hire Chabot College to act as our consultant instead of hiring a more formal business.”
Trim adds, “It’s the first time we’ve seen this done with a college. Chabot and Hayward have already been working together in their communities. We were really excited about the idea of a college and its students working with the city. ”
“People are not always forthcoming with city workers. As a Staff person, people are reasonably a little suspicious as to why you’re asking them questions,” said Thomas.
Zermeño clarifies, “when most of our residents run into a city employee, it’s usually because the employee is there for something negative. The inspector, for example, comes in after someone has reported you for something you may not have done.”
“We think that people are more likely to be candid with students, in particular, students from the neighborhoods themselves.”
Celeste Marucut is a Chabot student and part of the SIC which is partnered with the city of Hayward through Chabot in this initiative.
Marucut says, “We are doing these interviews because we want to build a bridge between the city of Hayward, its organizations, and the community members. Too often, citizens do not know how to communicate what they want with the city of Hayward. Chabot students reaching out to the community helps us, and them, communicate what they’ve been feeling, and what they want to see Hayward become.”
SIC advisor, Sean McFarland, said, “The Davenport Institute at Pepperdine gives three grants a year to different cities around the nation who want to do innovative work to reach out to their citizens. This year, this project looked so cool to Davenport, they took all the grant money and put it to our grant alone.”
“The grant from the Davenport Institute goes directly to Chabot. The funding that would go to hire a consultant went to hire student assistants, and for supplies. The City has a separate contract with Chabot to help fund some of the faculty time in supervising the student assistants,” Thomas clarified.
“We hope to introduce the Council to a different way of presenting information,” said Thomas.
Chabot SIC student Blanca Ochoa, “made a scrapbook because there is so much information. I want to show how the issues in the community are connected. People from different neighborhoods are experiencing the same problems, or want the same things.”
“The art gallery that the students are putting together and displaying in City Hall on May 22 will be a first step where the City Council can see the art the students created from their interviews,” Thomas added.
Marucut is, “very opposed to just giving the city a report. I feel like it would be a waste of our time and all our hard work.”
City Councilman Francisco Zermeno agreed, “It’s about being active, not passive. If you’re passive about it, you read a report, which isn’t very impactful. We need a one on one personal relationship.”
So, where do we go from here?
SIC advisor Eric Heltzel states, “this vision plan ends May 19, 2019. This is a year-long process of reach out and planning.”
Zermeño states, “It’s the City Council that decides what improvements will be made after this year-long process. It’s a matter of where the needs are, based on talking to the business owners and the residents.”