Community Interview: David Diaz, Coordinator from Day One

David Diaz and Amy Wong from Day One | Photo: The Streets

Youth Voices is working with students from Mountain View High School to explore El Monte/South El Monte and the surrounding communities. The students have formed teams to explore and investigate their communities, map assets, collect and share stories, data and community input for their projects. All the while they are learning and expanding their knowledge of digital media and civic engagement. Follow The Streets on Twitter @elmontestreets or all the Youth Voices projects by using #kcetyv.

When you're walking home, you should not have to fear crossing the street. That's something that every single person should have the right to -- feeling safe. We're two students from City of El Monte, California. Our city is a working class community where like many others -- the car reigns supreme. Students walk on streets not designed for pedestrians. Students who walk to school risk their lives by crossing faded & unnoticeable crosswalks, by walking on cracked and/or unfinished streets, and by using streets that lack important traffic signage.

We experience this when we're walking to school and we first arrive at Parkway Drive, the street where our school, Mountain View High School, is located. Over the course of a year, thousands of trips are made on this route, mostly made by students, which consists of going through unsafe streets, such as the one outside our high school.

We want to work towards making this street safe, and our first step was interviewing David Diaz, Nutrition Education Coordinator for Day One. Day One, is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to making the lives of people in communities like ours, better. Another role he plays on our very own campus is as the head of a youth advocacy program, which empowers students in our school to make a positive change in our community.

The crosswalk on Parkway Dr. in front of Mountain View High School is faded and does not have a stop sign
The crosswalk on Parkway Dr. in front of Mountain View High School is faded and does not have a stop sign
Speed bump along Parkway Dr.
Speed bump along Parkway Dr.

When speaking of Parkway Drive, Mr. Diaz said, "it was an incredibly unsafe street, and one of the worst he has ever seen." It is a dangerous street due to several factors that include its large width and inconsistent signage. In 2007, there were frequent illegal car races on the street, in one horrible incident a race took the lives of a mother and two children. The city reacted to this by installing a series of speed bumps along a large portion of the street.

When looking for a solution, Mr. Diaz tells us based on his experience living in South El Monte, "[he's] sure [the community doesn't] want 20 speed bumps on their street," The community needs to be involved and be an important part of the process according to Mr. Diaz. A good example of community involvement can be seen on Rosemead Blvd. The redesign of the street has proven functional. The redesign, for instance, added bike lanes to a major through-way, something that would be new to the city of El Monte.

Redesigned Rosemead Blvd. in Temple City | Photo: Bike SGV Facebook
Redesigned Rosemead Blvd. in Temple City | Photo: Bike SGV Facebook

The specifics of Parkway Blvd are not glimmering with hope, as the street was simply designed terribly. When plotting the path for the future, "I think we need to look at better designed streets overall," according to Mr.Diaz. There needs to be a re-evaluation of all the streets to make sure they are safe, and if they are not then City officials and community residents should work together to develop a plan to make them safe.

The redesign of Parkway Blvd. will involve stakeholders, including the City, and the surrounding community. To make Parkway Blvd., and eventually the rest of El Monte's streets, a safe place for pedestrians, and bicyclists we have to be aware that we can't build everything in one day, "we need to prioritize the projects we work on," and if the City does it properly we'll all be safer -- for once.

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