This post was written by Raquel Menanno, Los Angeles CRUX Fellow

Community engagement was an important element in developing a climate resilience plan for California State University Northridge (CSUN) and the neighborhood of Northridge. The graduate students of CSUN’s Master of Urban Planning program held a meeting with Northridge Vision, which is comprised of Northridge East, West, and South Neighborhood councils, to identify strengths and vulnerabilities in relation to resilience in the area of Northridge. In addition to meeting with Northridge Vision, an Open House was held at CSUN to gain input from students and faculty for identifying further strengths and vulnerabilities. These meetings helped better understand what the community believes to be important with regards to the ability of Northridge to recover from crises. Based on community input, three key topics of importance were identified:

  1. Improving overall mobility through multimodal transit and reduced traffic; As Northridge grew to be one of the hubs of Los Angeles, especially with the growing community of CSUN students, faculty, and staff, traffic increased. Additionally, the students of CSUN are commuting from far distances to reach their destination and not all of them have access to car. By improving multimodal transit and reducing traffic, the goal of overall mobility can be enhanced.
  2. Developing better community relationships/networks for increased crime safety; and creating a safer campus at CSUN and safer streets in Northridge.
  3. Preparing for environmental risks related to food and water supply.

These outcomes were not possible without community engagement. Guidance from these three key topics led to the formation of recommendations for the climate resilience plan to improve these areas of interest.

During the Open House at CSUN, students circulated the room each visiting a different topic related to resilience. Depending on their experience and thought process, they ranked each item within the topic and gave further explanation with a note. Topics included community, circulation, and environment.

The three key topics of importance and resulting recommendations aligned demonstration projects that CSUN is already implementing. Preparing for environmental risks related to water will be addressed with the implementation of two water cisterns with the ability to capture about 2,000 gallons of water each. Food insecurity will be addressed through the promotion of CSUN Farmer’s Market and the use of EBT cards. A CalFresh table will be present at the market so people can sign up for EBT. A tree planting will also take place on campus for about forty new trees to aid in reducing the urban heat island effect and provide more tree canopy coverage for shade.

 

Students were instructed to use stickers and notes for identifying which of the circulation topics they believed to be most important. For the commuter school of CSUN, public transportation was deemed the most pertinent.

It has been an amazing experience to be part of these community meetings and to see how the process of planning and community come together. Community engagement allowed for a greater understanding of what students, faculty, and residents of Northridge find important for topics related to resilience. One of the main characteristics of climate resilience is inclusiveness. That is the goal of these continuous community meetings-to represent the most vulnerable and ensure their needs are integrated with CSUN and Northridge’s resilience plan. I find the community meetings to be one of the most interesting, exciting, and important parts in this process, for without community involvement the changes taking place in Northridge would not be representative of community needs. The inclusivity and diversity of the Los Angeles cluster is an asset, creating a stronger community through collaboration and implementing changes for a more resilient network.

Top Photo Caption: Community members of the Northridge Vision Meeting were asked to identify strengths and vulnerabilities related to circulation within Northridge.