Taking a Neighborhood Walk

by Jason on May 21, 2012

Last Saturday, I decided to walk to my local Starbucks and get some homework done. The Starbucks was about 0.9 miles away, so technically outside the scope of within walkable range – at 0.25 to 0.5 miles, but I decided to. Also, I wanted tacos, and I wanted to minimize on my driving.

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I went out for a walk. Too often, I go zipping in and out of places, or stay stationary for hours at a time, staring at a computer screen or hunched over a book. I do like what I am doing though, but this walk has given me such a fresh perspective on what is going on just outside the confines of my place.

There has been much new development still in the works. A new housing development next to the light rail has slowly been built in my nine months of graduate school, going from a skeleton to ┬áhaving the paint and trimmings already placed. I also didn’t realize how unique the other houses were in the area, dense townhouses near small parks and a senior living apartment. Directly across are office buildings or vacant retail fronts. There will be potential for the retail once the multi-family residential development is done, but I was glad to see the offices so close to housing and transit.

The I came up to West San Carlos, a street I spent hours on conducting a complete streets audit. There are the shortcomings, but the taqueria and neighboring fish kitchen and Cuban restaurant are some of the best places to eat in San Jose – so there is potential for something here.

After grabbing food and tea and realizing that the Starbucks was packed, I decided to take a slightly familiar trek back home, but different from how I came initially. I noticed places that wouldn’t be accessible with a wheelchair, bicyclists riding unsafely, someone stopping at a driveway to apply make up on; but I also noticed the less observed features as well. I appreciate the increased dense residential and mixed-use developments. There are a lot of non-profit offices in the area, the older-looking stores add a distinct character with their color, form, and murals outside: things that on a form seem poised to be removed, but truly add to the character of my neighborhood.

This walk has brought about two striking thoughts:

First, I see a city so differently now – not judging, just observing and contemplating on what it is and what it will soon become.

Second, after all this time – this place is slowly becoming my neighborhood.

Now, back to studying. Last push of papers/projects/presentations.