USP 514 Assignment 1


  • Read and complete the assignment below.
  • Send via email to no later than October 5th
  • Write “514 Assignment #1″and your name in subject line of the email

1) Ideally you will do this assignment by walking through the geographic area you live in wearing a mask and social distancing. If you are unable or uncomfortable walking outside, do this assignment in your mind by recalling the infrastructure of the neighborhood you live in. The area should include as many blocks/miles as possible so you can do the assignment well.

2) Write down as many examples of infrastructure in your geographic area as you can.

I’m going to start by defining the word infrastructure. From the Oxford English Dictionary: the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

I should also add that I’m with family in a suburb of Sacramento this week so my current neighborhood is very different from my normal Oakland neighborhood.

  • Transportation
    • Freeways
    • Roads
      • Streets and arterial boulevards
      • Medians/ curbs
    • Parking lots
    • Sidewalks
    • Traffic lights/poles
    • Street lamps
    • Fences and walls
    • Traffic noise barriers
    • Buses and bus stops
    • Gas stations
    • Superblocks/ sprawl
  • Power
    • Power poles
    • Power lines
    • Transformers
    • Substations
    • Solar arrays/ storage facilities
  • Water
    • Culverts and canals
    • Pumping stations for floods
    • Levees, dams, and weirs
    • We can’t see the water pipes but we know that they come to every house and business just like the power does.
  • Education
    • Elementary school
    • High school
    • Community college
  • Food
    • Gas stations
    • Grocery stores
    • Restaurants
    • Community and personal gardens
  • Commerce
    • Drug stores
    • Bodegas
    • Big box/ department stores
    • Shopping malls

      3) After you identify as many examples of infrastructure in your area, answer the 5 questions below.


  1. What functions or services do these infrastructures provide?
    • Many of these infrastructures exist to support every day life by facilitating the movement of people, goods, and services around the community.
    • Some of these infrastructures such as schools exist to develop people into more capable and proficient members of the community.
    • Many of these infrastructures exist to facilitate commerce and mercantilism, especially for food and other key commodities.
  2. What is the size of these infrastructures and where they are located?
    • If we take infrastructure to include not just roads and the power grid but also the buildings and institutional layout of space, then infrastructure includes the entire built environment (with the possible exception of lawns which do not seem to fit the definition of infrastructure.)
    • At a guess, the road and parking system occupies perhaps about half of the space in my suburban area.
    • Schools occupy very little space compared to housing and commerce.
    • Most of the space in the suburb is private homes and their surrounding land.
  3. How are these infrastructures supported by other infrastructure?
    • The power comes from distant sources via transmission lines.
    • The food comes from distant sources via trucks on the roads and freeways.
    • The education is built on a long history of institutions working together to develop the capacity and the curriculum across the world, and is funded through local property taxes.
    • Commerce is a ubiquitous interconnected system which uses all of these things and more; power, water, food, buildings, goods, and services.
  4. What are the demographic characteristics of the residents who live closest to these infrastructures?
    • It’s hard to observe this by walking around, but we know that the demographics trend away from privileged identities and towards marginalized identities the closer we get to hazardous or undesirable infrastructure elements and LULUs.
  5. What is the zoning for this area? What features does this zoning prohibit?
    • The area that I’m in is kind of complicated because it’s mostly unincorporated and mostly neglected, with several county borders intersecting here so the rules are very different across the neighborhood. There is a wide range of zoned space from very liberal to very conservative with some areas being so tightly controlled and highly taxed as to be left vacant entirely.
    • One of the counties that touches here, Placer is basically just an empty slice of the community with most of the development happening around that area instead. As a result, it is just a large dead grassy area which frequently burns, endangering the surrounding community which has basically no power to do anything about it since it’s a different county.
    • There is a now-defunct airbase nearby which is being slowly converted into a business park. Its old housing blocks are now low-income housing. The zoning for this area is very confusing because much of it is public or else in a murky area of trading into private developer hands.
    • This community was built during the white flight era of the urban exodus.  There are vast superblocks delineated by wide arterial boulevards. These arteries are mostly commercial or industrial with the area between them being mostly residential with a few parks and schools dotting them.