(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 352: The Community Knows What it Wants

September 22, 2021

This month on the Railvolution podcast we’re joined by Duncan Hwang, Interim Co-Director of the Asian Pacific Network of Oregon and Gauri Rajbaidya, architect and senior associate at SERA. They chat with us about community driven development in Portland’s Jade District and how it’s connected to the rest of the region.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our audio page.

The full (unedited) transcript is below:

Jeff Wood (1m 29s):
Well, Duncan Hwang and Gauri Rajbaidya. Welcome to the podcast.

Gauri Rajbaidya (1m 47s):
Thank you

Jeff Wood (1m 48s):
Yeah. Well, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit before we get started? Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and we’ll start with Duncan and we’ll go with Cari after that?

Duncan Hwang (1m 56s):
Sure. Hi, my name’s Duncan Wong. I’m one of the interim co-executive director is a pano. I use him his pronouns. I’ve been working with the org for about almost eight and a half years. And one of our programs is a play space initiative called the J districts whereby orchards over the second is based and we worked to build community power, improve health outcomes and prevent involuntary displacement.

Gauri Rajbaidya (2m 21s):
Great, thanks Dunkin. I am gory raspberry there. As you mentioned, I am a senior project designer at Serra architects, also senior associate there. My previous also besides doing architectural work and design work, I’m also heavily involved in the social community development, social justice side of things. And because I am an Asian American, I actually became a citizen only in 2016. So for me, that particular experience and the community Asian American community is very important for me and rooting for them. Working for them is very important. So on the side, I was very involved in all the community-based work and that is what brought to a panel. And I was involved in the bond on board since I think 2011, all the way leading up to the, you know, the J district, the development of orchards of 82nd.

Gauri Rajbaidya (3m 10s):
And then I stepped down to focus more on the affordable housing side of things.

Jeff Wood (3m 15s):
And how did you all get involved in cities and being interested in neighborhoods and all those things that go along with,

Duncan Hwang (3m 21s):
Oh gosh, well, I found a job at a social justice organization, so pano Asian Pacific American work of Oregon. And I just found a job on idealist.org, which never happens, but here I am, I went through that whole. Yeah. So it kind of does happen sometimes when all the stars aligned and traditionally we did community organizing and advocacy and leadership development. And then we just started our kind of dabble more in community development and play space work with the Jade district. And that was really because, you know, we had a large kind of concentration of Asian folks that we’ll be able to in this neighborhood.

Duncan Hwang (4m 4s):
So we became more invested in kind of working on the supports needed to build like a healthy and stronger and resilient community from a place-based perspective. So that would include things like housing and transportation and, you know, small business and economic development. So that’s kind of how our organization evolved from like community organizing to community development and kind of like how to, you know, build safer and stronger communities and neighborhoods.

Gauri Rajbaidya (4m 33s):
Yeah, my trajectory and this is a little, slightly different comes actually comes from the artistic side. I play music and I primarily play music from where I come from, which is Nepal. And I have a small band of brothers, you know, also from all from Nepal and in terms of sharing our music, it really, as an immigrant myself and all my other band of brothers, all immigrants, we played for other immigrants who understand, you know, the sound that we’re playing. And with that, it brought me to center for intercultural organizing, which is now unite, Oregon, that Casey JAMA and Stephanie started long time ago. And that’s where polo , who’s heavily involved.

Gauri Rajbaidya (5m 15s):
The city started the polar Ben’s Hilton art initiative. It’s about curating immigrants, culture, poetry, song, dance, and food. And so we had this monthly venue where immigrants came together and shared all of these things. And would that, you know, that really brought me close to Brittany’s Nepalese refugees, but in these communities, we share a similar culture and language, but they’re refugees from Bhutan, right? And so then they invited us to their homes and going to people’s homes, communities, homes, you really understand where you are aligned, you know, your own experience and the experiences of the families that you’re sharing, all this art, food and culture with.

Gauri Rajbaidya (5m 57s):
And the more you do that, the more you realize there’s more that needs to be done. And because I’m involved in the built environment architecture and my firm, Sarah architects is inherently inherently, you know, really rooted in that value of community-based place-based organizing based based design making communities, not making buildings, but making communities. Right. And it really made a lot of sense to then kind of connect the two. The overlap was very natural, right? Seeing all these communities there needs for a better, safer community, safer housing, it just seemed to really align. So I got involved with the pano primarily to really advocate for the API community, more on the political and advocacy side of things.

Gauri Rajbaidya (6m 42s):
But then all of that really led to the housing need, which really aligned with what I do, which is I designed housing multi-family housing, you know, public structures and things like that. And so really everything became very synergistic.

Jeff Wood (6m 54s):
How important is it for a panel to make these connections? And then also, how do you make the connections with other folks from the pollen and Bhutan and everywhere else?

Duncan Hwang (7m 1s):
Well, I think it’s absolutely critical for our organization to make these connections. You know, I think one thing I think about a lot is that ecosystem of organizations that serve our community and, you know, in the last census, I just came out Asian Americans group, I think 48%. And the Pacific Islanders grew by 53%. So a lot of the support structures that would serve our community actually are underdeveloped or don’t exist yet. So, I mean, from the arts perspective, for housing perspective, like Oregon doesn’t have like a CDC that builds affordable housing for members of our community. So if you go to some of our peer cities like Seattle or San Francisco, you know, there’s like Chinatown CDC in San Francisco, or, you know, Skipta up in Seattle, there’s obvious different organizations that exists.

Duncan Hwang (7m 54s):
We just don’t have that structure here in Oregon. So we’re really looking to step into some of those roles to meet those needs for our community and having, you know, folks like gory with that expertise and professional experience just made it all possible. So those community connections are vital, both from like creating and delivering a project to kind of building up the case and problem statement and everything that you need to like get these projects funded.

Gauri Rajbaidya (8m 27s):
Yeah. I mean, I guess Dunkin’s covered most of it. My perspective from being as a board member, I felt like when we were organizing among with all the other board members and the staff, you know, through and through at a pano, it’s always been about true, authentic trust building and inviting the community through that lens. Right. So really it was me inviting my other Nepali community members saying, Hey, this is something that is really important for us to do. And for them to kind of really feel aligned with that and then really making connections to word of mouth and through community-based like really grassroots, you know, it’s not a big advertise forum. It’s really people bringing their friends and their friends and their friends. And that’s really how we, how we have grown.

Gauri Rajbaidya (9m 9s):
And because of that trust building methodology and how it’s, how people are coming to pano makes the growth of a pano and organizing a little bit more organic and familial in a way. Right. In that sense.

Duncan Hwang (9m 21s):
Yeah. I think it’s all about, you know, building trust and yeah, I think one thing I’ve learned in kind of a community development world is you can do, you know, of a traditional checkbox community engagement and that we see that a lot where, you know, maybe there’ll be some emails and flyers and you do a community forum and you’re basically done with community engagement. That type of engagement doesn’t really reach the communities that we serve or, you know, often, you know, immigrants or refugees or limited English proficiency. So I think we just have to be a lot more thoughtful and relational and it just takes a lot more time to do that. Kind of like trust building and deeper down kind of like relationship building.

Duncan Hwang (10m 4s):
And then frankly, this capacity building for all of us to learn how to navigate kind of a dominant cultural spaces and how the rest of the world really operates.

Jeff Wood (10m 16s):
Yeah. What does that look like organizing at that level? What does that look like and how does that operate?

Duncan Hwang (10m 21s):
Yeah, I think our theory of change has really always been, you know, having those who are most impacted lead the way, right? So for us, it’s a lot about, you know, political education, empowerment, giving folks the tools they need to be successful advocates and then helping with some tactical advice or connections to electives or wherever folks kind of along the way. So I think that’s how we traditionally kind of approached organizing was like, it was like not issue driven, but community driven and know, I think, you know, affordable housing has always just been one of those key issues that has always come up. I think it takes a lap to jump from, we need more affordable housing to, this is how you build affordable housing.

Duncan Hwang (11m 5s):
That’s where, you know, it takes a whole village to do that.

Gauri Rajbaidya (11m 8s):
And part of it is the displacement lens. You know, when we say affordable housing is yes, affordable housing is definitely needed of course, but you know, affordable housing say for example, when we were like case in point when we were looking at the date district and the origins of 82nd, yes. Affordable housing, but it’s affordable housing, is it way out in Sandy? So all the community here, you have to move to Sandy to be able to access that, or, you know, are the communities here in the J district being provided the opportunity to access the affordable housing right here rather than having to be displaced. Right. And, and that part also kind of ties back to community organizing from that sense, it’s really about being rooted in the place and hence comes all these other things, you know, affordable housing parks and nature, access, safety, safe, route to school, everything, you know, it’s all connected then.

Gauri Rajbaidya (11m 58s):

Jeff Wood (11m 59s):
Yeah. And you mentioned being rooted in place and in that place is the Jade district, but that didn’t always exist. Where did the J district organizing come from and what are the boundaries of that place?

Duncan Hwang (12m 8s):
Yeah, so the jet, district’s actually a pretty innovative approach to play space work from the city of Portland. So we’re part of the neighborhood prosperity network. So we’re actually our own micro, urban renewal area. And then our boundaries are basically at the second division and about the half mile around, but it’s, you know, it’s kind of squiggly because it’s an urban renewal area. So it’s an attempt to do urban renewal in a more community driven way that, you know, advances community priorities rather than, you know, service as a tool for potential displacement. Like we’ve seen urban renewal gone awry in many parts of the country.

Duncan Hwang (12m 51s):
So this is an attempt to use this specific financing tool to fund community driven projects like the orchards

Jeff Wood (12m 58s):
And that’s TIFF, I’m guessing

Duncan Hwang (12m 60s):
That’s true. And then we have a very small amount of tips. So it was like enough to get a few things done, but not to make any like huge waves, which is kind of like how, how you would approach it in this kind of pilot phase, I guess.

Gauri Rajbaidya (13m 12s):
I guess another example is just past J district is the division midway Alliance, right. DMA that Leisha stretcher is running right now. And then further up, I guess it’s not necessarily an, a pure NPI, but trying to be is that Rosewood initiative that you know, is kind of running really again community-based so it’s the way I look at it. You know, it starts at J district and it’s almost like this little Pearl of these MPIs. And if we can really have that stretching all the way to the outer Southeast, how incredible it would be, right. Like really locally focused and then working on the synergy between these little, you know, NPI pods.

Jeff Wood (13m 47s):
Yeah. How would you connect the dots as it were between those groups?

Duncan Hwang (13m 51s):
I mean, we’re all part of the neighborhood prosperity network. So those groups are all kind of in that network. And we received some city funding to run the admin and operations, and then also administer the small amount of tip dollars that we have. And then we try to leverage that whatever, you know, foundations or public funders to scale up our work.

Gauri Rajbaidya (14m 10s):
But one way I can see Dunkin like Lori, I can also work out is like, say if Peabody is doing a transportation improvement along division, right. And let’s say safer route to the school, it’s still relevant. I mean, deficient that stretched from 60 to 90 seconds is still really dangerous. And so when that happens, right, I mean, it’s still all the DMA is along the same division line and then Rosewood initiative starts, you know, so it really becomes that collaborative thing, you know,

Jeff Wood (14m 39s):
And then the J district and the creation. And then you have this parcel, which is a former furniture store and then a place for organizing before it got torn down, how do you pick the parcel and what is the way that it moves forward?

Duncan Hwang (14m 51s):

Gauri Rajbaidya (14m 52s):
When we first came to you kind of like establish our headquarters here, this was back in 2013. And the first thing we did was we did a community visioning process to really see what the community wanted to invest in. Right? So we did this process in Chinese and Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and English. So, so five languages. And I think Corey was also one of the facilitators of that and helped kind of like design all these like beautiful drawings and things of like what the neighborhood could become. And that key intersection in the second division, there was a abandoned furniture store and it was vacant for many years.

Gauri Rajbaidya (15m 31s):
And one of the huge, like main priorities for community was like, this building is an eyesore. Can you do something with it? It’s just like this underutilized space, you know, at the heart of the district. So we actually approached the process, had kind of public partners come observe a visioning process and Metro, which is our MPO came and was part of a process. And because of that groundswell support, they knew that that building was a keys, acquisition target. So Metro’s transit or development program, not the building and basically leased it to a pano for like a dollar a year for a couple years.

Gauri Rajbaidya (16m 11s):
And we basically ran kind of like a impromptu community site for public events. You know, we hosted a number of nonprofits, you know, like bands practice out of there. I mean, there was just like a real vibrant and kind of community space was really kind of rough around the edges, but people love to, and over those couple of years, like Corey’s team did the architectural design and, you know, we applied for low-income housing tax credits and upon them actually ran a capital campaign. And that was always part of a deal, right. Was like this building we can use for now, but like, you know, how do we make sure the community stands on something it’s going to get torn down and we’re going to build something back or we’re going to build affordable housing on top and then continue to have that community space on the ground floor.

Gauri Rajbaidya (16m 55s):
So all that was kind of a sequence of events from kind of this massive community vision to be actual building that we have now today. And I think some of the other things to kind of keep in mind also is before PCC developed their campus, there used to be the traditional lesion, Chinese restaurant that used to be the gathering community gathering place, formally informally, if you will, right. For a lot of the community members, they had a lot of the banquets and Gallas and things like that in one that one, the way there was this big lack of community hall, so to speak with the Jade visioning process, not only what the affordable housing identified, but also night market as a concept was also a big piece that community brought forth.

Gauri Rajbaidya (17m 40s):
And at first we were doing the night market at the fubonn parking lot and it got so big that we had to kind of then move to PCC campus. Right. And so when we did that, then the big space we had at the furniture store really function as that community gathering space, even though it was really rough, like rough on the outside and somewhat rough on the inside. So the idea that that place needed to be preserved as an anchor for the community became very, very clear. So even when we developed the affordable housing with partnership with OCDC, it was always clear that that ground floor needed to be the anchor for the community. And then hence when Uponor came in to kind of really put the vision for a pano space, with the multicultural gathering area that opened up could bookend the night market coming in from BCC, right.

Gauri Rajbaidya (18m 29s):
Really kind of completed the narrative and story right. In that particular pocket. So if it seemed to be an ideal space for the development of well transit-oriented development, you know, I can’t go anywhere because that’s exactly the intersection where you have all the buses stopped right in the four corners, right. And easy access for the residents, easy view. And then also the access to the humanities around the area, all made sense. And

Duncan Hwang (18m 57s):
It’s all kind of like a process of establishing, you know, your presence and, you know, sending a statement about, you know, the neighborhood identity and where we are. And also building trust like this, wasn’t just our first project. Like the first thing that we did when we got here was that there was like lower hanging fruit besides like a $20 million building to start, you know, like the first thing we did was a visioning and then we built a community garden and then we ran these night markets and really activated kind of under utilized space. And we worked on, you know, advocating for traffic and safety improvements. So you see obvious kind of new crossing, some lighting that was a result of our advocacy.

Duncan Hwang (19m 38s):
So it was like, you know, what can you do? What kind of smaller projects can you do to like, kind of demonstrate like, yes, we’re, we’re following this vision and, you know, taking the community demands and, you know, re asks really to heart and moving those priorities and then scaling up to developing things like affordable housing.

Gauri Rajbaidya (20m 2s):
Yeah. Also a lot of assaults that lived in the neighborhood. So I was, I was living in 89th, you know, so test and, you know, con fam who worked, and that was a house representative for the district. Also lived in that area. Travis, Dan was the lead designer for the building has been teaching martial arts and this neighborhood for ages, right. I mean, kids have grown from elementary to high school and his, you know, seen, this is another little hobby that he does besides designing architecture. So there was a lot of like that connection for a lot of us in the community. And that meant a lot for us.

Jeff Wood (20m 35s):
And how is this tied to the traffic improvements too? I mean, Duncan, you mentioned it a little bit, but there’s also the division of transit improvements. There’s also the discussion about y’all helped get $80 million in funding and the, of control of 82nd street from, oh, dot two, the city of Portland, how much connected is to the transportation improvements is, is your organizing, is this specific project overall?

Duncan Hwang (20m 59s):
Well, I would say in our community and organization has been working on traffic and transportation, you know, for the entire time. And, you know, it’s, it’s related in that it’s a Tod project related to a new BRT line, which is the division transit project. But I think from the original visioning, like transportation, justice and transplant and safety was always a high priority. And from like our stretch of 82nd division out to about 120 seconds, we’ve had four Asian elders die in four years and it’s on the same couple blocks. They’ll happens at night. You know, they’re all elders and they’re like 60 or older, they’re all recent immigrants.

Duncan Hwang (21m 40s):
So it’s not like happenstance. I think these are systemic failures that we’re facing. So the advocacy around improvements to the built environment have been a long time coming. And we’ve been working on that for, you know, seven, eight years now. And we’re just now starting to see kind of the, the construction happening. So last year, you know, they broke ground on the division transit project, which is the BRP project. And then the corresponding safety project on, on division, which will add bike lanes and safer crossings and lighting. And yeah, that construction will start kind of, you know, this fall into, to next year. And then 82nd avenue was as a state highway and as you know, really kind of prioritized speed and freight transportation over the community.

Duncan Hwang (22m 29s):
And yeah, we, you know, we pushed really hard for jurisdiction on transfer for many years and it just kind of happened this year. And it was mainly a result of the decade of advocacy, the American rescue plan act dollars being available at the states. And then we also had two tragic fatalities on basically the same intersection of what, 80 seconds earlier this year. So, you know, gory, his old roommate from president con fam was, you know, on staff at a pano is now our state representative and was able to secure a deal for that, that 80 million, which overall is 185 million between the state ODA and PEBA, the city of transportation bureau to get that money put together from a jurisdictional transfer.

Duncan Hwang (23m 16s):
So one of the things kind of like worked out hopefully for better, but it took a lot of tragedy to get us there. So yeah, like transportation safety has been a huge priority and it’s, it’s a massive undertaking because you do a lot of community engagement and it’s like, well, you won’t see any construction for another couple of years that construction will take up a couple of years. So you’re doing all this input now, but what you want to see, but like, if you’re still here in seven, eight years, you’ll have a much nicer street. So it’s like a real long-term process and it requires a lot of conversations. And there’s just a lot of trade-offs that we’re making as have any transportation projects, like our neighborhood’s really auto centric. Like we’re kind of like on the bird, on the edge of being a more suburban neighborhood that was not built for biking or walking or anything like that.

Duncan Hwang (24m 6s):
And we’re asking our, our community now to be like, you’re gonna have to give up some parking previous bike lanes, you know, your negative up here, your access turn lanes for these mediums it’ll improve safety, but you know, your business will be impacted. So it’s just a lot of change management that we’ve had to do. Like, you know, overall a lot of support for it. But like when the bulldozers really show up, you know, like people are rightfully alarmed.

Jeff Wood (24m 31s):
I saw that in the language talking about the division transit project specifically and, and you know, one of my kind of hobby horses to a certain extent is dedicated lanes for transit. And, you know, I noticed that there was a kind of an explainer of why there was no dedicated lanes. And obviously that’s one of those trade off things that kind of have to go through in order to kind of get the things that you want. And you have to give away some of the things that you still want, but maybe because of the auto centricity of the place, it’s hard to convince the majority.

Duncan Hwang (24m 58s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a really difficult pill for a lot of business to swallow, like give up your, your parking. And a lot of our side streets are unpaved, right? Like the streets off the major kind of corridors are unpaved and you can’t really safely park there. So some businesses just like don’t really have access to parking anymore. So yeah, I mean, I don’t think we’re going to be able to meet our long-term like sustainability and climate goals without our deeper investments and alternative forms of transportation, but it is a difficult conversation to have with individual business owners got rightfully so, like, this is the livelihood

Jeff Wood (25m 35s):
For the orchards project specifically. I’m wondering what kind of design input you got from the community, what were they looking for? What were they specifically asking to get out of the project? In addition to some of the things you all were already doing, like organizing space the night markets sound really awesome, those types of things, but what were folks asking for? Yes.

Gauri Rajbaidya (25m 53s):
So a big piece was really family-based appropriate sizes for the family, you know, units that are appropriate for the family. I mean, again, thinking about those four specific city, you know, a lot of the immigrant families and especially API families still tend to be a bit more nuclear, right. I mean, when we first looked at the site, it’s a very constrained, very compact site. If you look at it on an aerial view. And so we wanted to not waste even an inch of land. Right? So, so which meant like trying to get as many units as possible within the comp plan of, you know, and the height that we were allowed and everything managing within the cost parameters. The big piece that we made was making sure that we had three and two bedroom units and even the one bedroom unit to have it designed in such an ample way, given the site such a constraint site to design it in a way that it really has the most had the most flexibility and most daylight such that it felt much, much expansive and bigger, right.

Gauri Rajbaidya (26m 54s):
And so that was one of the things. And so, and originally when we did the layout, we had a lot of the, you know, in terms of maximizing the units, we have probably had more units, but probably were more one bedrooms. So we really dedicated the key corners for three bedrooms and two bedrooms. That was one major thing. And then another one was making sure that the service scores were like the laundry room would happen, had some extra space. So you could be hanging out with your child while you were kind of doing your laundry or you, you could, you know, move out from your unit to kind of come into the laundry area or like community room to kind of do the homework with the kid. If you needed to kind of do that space was very premium, right?

Gauri Rajbaidya (27m 34s):
It was it, we didn’t have a lot. And then so we really have to kind of really think creatively to make the most within that, right. Allowing for bike parking, really encouraging that part quite a bit. So those were some of the major, major things that we incorporated as part of the, you know, as community were giving us the feedback, how the bedrooms to be organized, you know? And so when we, I think around the DD design development phase, we actually presented everything that we had and community actually came and they were really giving very pointed comments all the way from the types of trees being planted to the back patio play area that the kids had and everything. Some of those were the, some of the first ones that we kind of incorporated unit types, unit sizes to accommodate families, the replicability of this particular model that we did a change, you know, and I think that’s exactly the piece that we wanted to see is, you know, can this model be replicated?

Gauri Rajbaidya (28m 27s):
And, and in fact, at least on the other side, like competing for similar projects like this, we are actually doing that in Metro actually took this particular development model of Jade and, or just the 82nd and are doing further acquisitions of property that are, you know, really on the transit line, very, very heavily served by public transit and then really creating a public RFP process to develop this into sustainable affordable housing with some meaningful brown floor, just like, you know, Bano is anchoring the Jade. What was the affordability level of the units?

Duncan Hwang (29m 6s):
I would also say my main developer was, was rose community development corporation CDC. So we, we partnered with them and we’re all part of the development team that won the rights to develop this project.

Gauri Rajbaidya (29m 18s):
Okay. So total number of units are 48 units. Number of units affordable below 60%. AMI is 47. So all of the units are below 60% AMI. And I think we did separately. One for market rate. Let’s see if there were further data. I thought there was some more data in terms of how many were, I think we had some section eight units, like maybe section eight units or so. And I feel like there were some that were below 30% AMI as well. And I can find that information for you.

Jeff Wood (29m 49s):
Was there anything that surprised you all about the process that wasn’t expected or it was kind of a happy accident or anything along those lines?

Gauri Rajbaidya (29m 57s):
I think just the designing of the Plaza, the Plaza you’re going to bookend the night market, how it all came to kind of synergistically work with abundance programming to kind of create the multicultural space. And so we worked with Swen ho design and resolve architects. They design the panels, pod commercial condominium in the legal speak, but the whole upon the space was designed by Sueno design and results, architects in collaboration with us. And so working together to really make all of this, the building part, the residential part and the roses residential community area to sing together with Abanos multicultural space and using the corridor, the main passageway actually as a gallery space, right, that connects between the front Plaza to the back Plaza where the youth play that all worked out really nicely.

Gauri Rajbaidya (30m 50s):
And that was definitely a fun part. I would say probably we should not have been as surprised, but I think the neighbors kind of struggled with the myths surrounding affordable housing, right? So the negative myths that are truly nothing but just myths that affordable housing will devalue their properties. That was one big concern that really got brought up a lot affordable housing will add a lot of crime and such in this neighborhood. That was another piece that we have to really, you know, try to dispel it incredibly. And that, you know, the housing that we would build would be such poor quality. And it just, you know, it would be quote unquote, affordable, bad looking, right.

Gauri Rajbaidya (31m 31s):
I mean, there was this, all these things and that it needed to have tons of parking parking is another one. So those were the things that we had to really work with. And it was actually, you know, I think enlightening in the way that, you know, we were very transparent. We had very, very open forums where neighbors were really allowed to really say what they have to say, but gave us the opportunity to kind of dispel some of these myths. Right. For example, I remember Nick Sovi the ed rose CDC actually shared a white paper that actually dispelled that myth, that affordable housing lowers, you know, neighboring properties, property value, you know, I don’t think so. In fact, I feel like the building, which is very second is so nice, so beautiful.

Gauri Rajbaidya (32m 13s):
It’s actually been a catalyst in terms of really changing that intersection quite a bit. I mean, as you can see, there’s been so many more development that’s happened since the 82nd orchards of 82nd. Right? So those were some of the things that we knew there would be challenges, but we just didn’t realize how much, you know, how much of an intense challenge that would be. So that was definitely a surprise.

Duncan Hwang (32m 35s):
Yeah. It’s interesting to think that people were like, well, there’s that abandoned eyesore furniture store here now, but this brand new building will lower my property value somewhere.

Jeff Wood (32m 44s):
It feels like that happens a lot in those discussions. I think the fear of the unknown access people, a lot of times, you know, this is a kind of a tough question. It’s been kind of a tough year for everyone, I think, but especially for the Asian community specifically, because of the rise of some of the hate crimes, how did the connections built through a pano and your networks? How did they help people get through this tough time this last year and a half of the pandemic?

Duncan Hwang (33m 6s):
Yeah. I mean, I, I talked a little bit about expansion of our mission from, you know, traditional kind of organizing and advocacy to community development and building things. And this past year was another big shift to kind of mutual aid and meeting immediate needs. So we have now like rental assistance programs and we collected resources for unemployed workers at our local shops in restaurants. The community space at the orchards was originally intended for, you know, community celebrations or, you know, planning events or whatnot. But, you know, we, we had to shut down and they became basically a warehouse for diapers and PPE distribution and cleaning supplies and, you know, stuff like that.

Duncan Hwang (33m 56s):
And let’s see what else. We’re also doing a lot of small business technical assistance and support. So helping our local business community apply for PPP loans. I think we’ve actually done re grants almost $2 million now to our local business community to help try to support them in survival, basically in the pandemic. So yeah, I think this, this year has just been an incredibly difficult year with the pandemic and then with the economic fallouts and then the rise of like hidden bias incidents that have targeted their community. So I think all that kind of organizing and community building and relationship building kind of became more activated in terms of like a mutual support and, you know, getting, getting through these difficult times

Jeff Wood (34m 47s):
Has this space opened up a little bit more since more people have been getting vaccines. And there’s been, I know that you all start a new mask mandate recently just because of the Delta, but has it been opening up a little bit more for you all?

Duncan Hwang (34m 58s):
I think it’s been opening up somewhat over the summer for most of the state, but we never fully reopened. And, you know, we were scheduled to fully reopened this fall much like many businesses, but then with adults of their variant and the new mask orders and everything from mistakes, we’ve also had to delay that. So, you know, it’s kind of unfortunate. Like we really opened in August of 2019. So we had about four or five months of actual operation before know governors shut down the orders. So we were still in the midst of like, how do we use the space, you know, for the community serving uses that we had designed it for, and then, you know, the shut down happened.

Duncan Hwang (35m 45s):
So, you know, it’s still there and you know what, we’ll figure that out when we can safely reopened. And I think some of our staff are using it and on an optional basis, but it hasn’t really been available for public use.

Jeff Wood (35m 59s):
Have the night markets been open as well?

Duncan Hwang (36m 1s):
No, I mean the, I mean the night market brings, I think on average about 10,000 people a night. So, you know, we’re just not permitted to have such large scale

Gauri Rajbaidya (36m 12s):
Scale of people. Yeah,

Duncan Hwang (36m 13s):
Yeah. And this year I think we maybe have done it, but it was just so dicey in the spring when we’d be like doing all the preparations and sponsorships and everything that we weren’t sure that we could do it in August. And

Gauri Rajbaidya (36m 29s):
It’s a very vibrant event, incredibly vibrant event. I mean, when we first did it at that fubonn parking lot how packed and got right, like 5,000 people a night and to kind of manage that kind of vibrancy in this sort of under mandates and such. It’s just a little tricky, I would think. Right.

Jeff Wood (36m 47s):
Well, you all get to talk about this project a lot. Is there a question that you don’t get asked that you wish you would, or is there something that you wish you would get to talk about more?

Gauri Rajbaidya (36m 55s):
If you were to ask me, I would say people don’t ask us as much as how come this similar kind of intense community listening process doesn’t happen. In all projects, we were incredibly lucky. I mean, like, like banking said, we did the Jade visioning and that happened before the affordable housing was even, you know, kind of identified as a, as a site. Right. And just the way it happened in terms of like tandem and the sequencing was incredibly rich. I would hope that, you know, this gets asked more and that it’s asked of the developer and the community more to do it. Like, so

Duncan Hwang (37m 33s):
One of the missing stories here is just like a fundamental difference in how we think about building community capacity and how to do kind of the longer-term planning envisioning, right? So like the neighborhood prosperity neighbor initiative, which is like the MTMs, which the district was a 10 year commitment from the city. And that came with, you know, the, the TIF dollars that were basically open for community investment and also unrestricted funding from the city to do the organizing and visioning and that type of work.

Duncan Hwang (38m 13s):
So, you know, like I said earlier, like we talked about transportation safety for seven years, and right now we just got this big chunk of money, but it’s going to be taken over three or four years before that money is done. So I think we just need to recognize that community development is a long-term process and you gotta be in a, for the long haul. Like I spent five years of my life working on the orchards of 82nd. That’s from the vision to the fundraising campaign, to the grand opening. And these projects just take forever. And I think it’s important for the community to know that and for stakeholders like funders and government, to be aware of that, and also just like trusting community, like community like knows what they want.

Duncan Hwang (38m 58s):
Like that was kind of the thing. This entire podcast is like, we know what we need. We need the affordable housing, we need safer streets. And it’s like, if you give that community more unrestricted funding and a level of trust, they will produce. But if you make every investment, like this is a six month thing and you got to write a rapport and then you gotta like, prove your deliverables. And then that’s what slows down and burns out. Can you organizations and like community leaders is that level of like scrutiny. Whereas like if you’re just trust in folks, give them the resources and they’ll be successful. And I think that’s what this story shows.

Jeff Wood (39m 35s):
It sounds like a good episode. Title community knows what they want

Duncan Hwang (39m 38s):

Jeff Wood (39m 42s):
Well, Dunkin and gari. I want to thank you all for joining us. How can we look up information about what you all are up to?

Duncan Hwang (39m 49s):
I think we do as on upon.org, w w upon the org and we’re on Twitter and Instagram not talk because of some total, it’s too difficult to do tech talk, but

Jeff Wood (40m 2s):
I couldn’t tell you, I have not there

Duncan Hwang (40m 6s):
They’re like Tik TOK is too much work, but we’re just at upon a news on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Gauri Rajbaidya (40m 13s):
A lot of the stuff I do are I’ll list it in Sarah design.com. That’s where, I mean, we do a lot of, since you’ve already talked to Mark Barrett bullets from her office, I know we were deeply interested in community resiliency, affordability placemaking so another big piece I work is seismic retrofit. I come from Nepal where, you know, seismic issues are big and all along this west coast, that’s going to be a big issue. And we all know with the experience with the pandemic communities of color, underrepresented communities, pipe Bach for our communities are going to be the one that’s going to get him back at the most. Right? So I know a lot of the affordable housing, the older stock in talking about climate change, we have to, rather than building only new stock, we have to kind of preserve the old stock and make better on the older stock as well, which really means retrofits saving those families, retrofits and appropriate weatherization and things like that.

Gauri Rajbaidya (41m 7s):
And we’re focused on a lot of that. And [email protected]

Jeff Wood (41m 12s):
Awesome. Well, thank you all so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Gauri Rajbaidya (41m 16s):
Thanks for having us on. Thank you, Jeff.

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