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How cities (like Fort Worth) can use Google Street View to measure change

Posted March 29, 2019

Zadeh at a table, smiling
Councilmember Ann Zadeh, center, joined a panel at SXSW earlier this month to discuss how city planners can gauge urban change with Google Street View.

A new effort to track street-level changes in cities is using a widely available tool to gather information: Google Street View.

Taking the time to view online maps and click on specific areas or blocks to trigger 360-degree views — and then compare those views to snapshots taken in previous years — can teach a lot about year-over-year changes to a street, without requiring the user to actually visit in person. This effort was showcased at a SXSW 2019 session in Austin featuring the coauthor of a major study on the subject, as well as Fort Worth City Councilmember Ann Zadeh, who represents District 9. She is putting these ideas into action at the local level.

Zadeh is an urban planner and 30-year Fort Worth resident who started her civic career as a leader in the historic Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood, then as a zoning commissioner, before being elected to the City Council in 2014. She uses Google Street View to see how her district is changing — and to help foster deeper engagement with constituents.

“My use of Google Street View started when I was on the zoning commission,” Zadeh said. “I used it to look at cases when I couldn’t make it out to every single one in person.”

Zadeh said she talks regularly with city planners, who still largely rely on census data – which, while generally accurate, dates quickly in the decade between each collection. She has encouraged the city to find additional ways to collect data about neighborhoods to track incremental change, particularly about gentrification in areas close to the city’s urban core.

“As an elected official, this kind of data helps me say to people, ‘I understand the curb in front of your house is a little cracked, and that’s not aesthetically pleasing, but there are actual streets in Fort Worth that don’t have a curb or a gutter,’” she said.

Zadeh said educating her constituents about the need for greater income diversity and opportunity remains a priority.

“Everyone says they’re for affordable housing, but then when you want to put it in a specific place, people say, ‘I’m for it, but not right there,’” she said. “We need to inform people better so they understand that it’s not the old ‘housing projects’ idea they may have in their head. … Our goal is to make our city more equitable for everyone who lives there.”

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Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at MLK Jr. Community Center: 5 p.m. April 19, 2019; MLK Jr. Community Center, 5565 Truman Drive.

Fort Worth Crud Cruiser Event: 9 a.m. April 20, 2019; Casino Beach Park , 7451 Watercress Drive, Fort Worth 76135.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Fire Station Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Fire Station Community Center, 1601 Lipscomb.

Egg Hunt Extravaganza at Andrew Doc Session Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Andrew Doc Session Community Center, 201 S. Sylvania Ave.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Thomas Place Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Thomas Place Community Center, 4237 Lafayette Ave.

Easter Eggstravaganza at Victory Forest Community Center: 11:30 a.m. April 20, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Eugene McCray Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Eugene McCray Community Center, 4932 Wilbarger.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Como Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Como Community Center, 4900 Horne St.

Fort Worth Crud Cruiser Event: noon April 20, 2019; Diamond Hill Community Center , 1701 N.E. 36th St, Fort Worth 76106.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Riverside Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Riverside Community Center, 3700 E. Belknap St.

Compost 101: 1 p.m. April 20, 2019; Fort Worth Botanic Garden Compost Outpost, 3408 West Freeway.
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Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Northside Community Center: 2:30 p.m. April 20, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Canceled Collective Bargaining Negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local Union 440: 9 a.m. April 22, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way.
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Building Standards Commission Pre-Meeting: 9 a.m. April 22, 2019; City Hall, City Council Conference Room 290, 200 Texas Street.
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Building Standards Commission Meeting: 9:30 a.m. April 22, 2019; City Hall, Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Trinity Metro Board of Directors Meeting: 3:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Fort Worth Central Station, 2nd floor Community Room, 1001 Jones Street.
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Northside Area Community Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Northside Area Community Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Collective Bargaining Negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local Union 440: 9 a.m. April 23, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way.
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Residential Board of Adjustment Special Called Meeting Work Session: 9 a.m. April 23, 2019; City Hall, Second Floor, City Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Residential Board of Adjustment Special Called Meeting Public Hearing: 10 a.m. April 23, 2019; City Hall, Second Floor, City Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Canceled City Council Work Session: 3 p.m. April 23, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

Civil Service Commission: 6 p.m. April 23, 2019; Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex Auditorium, 505 West Felix Street.
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How to Form an LLC or Corporation in One Day in Texas: 6:45 p.m. April 23, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
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Canceled City Council Meeting: 7 p.m. April 23, 2019; City Council Chambers, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

Metropolitan Area EMS Authority: 10 a.m. April 24, 2019; MedStar Mobile Healthcare, 2900 Alta Mere Drive.
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City Plan Commission Work Session: noon April 24, 2019; City Hall, second floor, Council Conference Room 290, 200 Texas Street.
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City Plan Commission Public Hearing: 1:30 p.m. April 24, 2019; City Plan Commission Public Hearing, 200 Texas Street, 2nd floor, Council Conference Room 290.
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Park and Recreation Advisory Board: 4 p.m. April 24, 2019; Thomas Place Community Center, 4237 Lafayette Avenue.
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South Wayside Area Sewer Improvements Project Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 24, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill St.

Quickbooks Online: 8:30 a.m. April 25, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
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Fort Worth Public Improvement District #14 Advisory Board Meeting: 9 a.m. April 25, 2019; Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Offices, 777 Taylor Street, Suite 100.
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Urban Design Commission Special Called Public Hearing: 10 a.m. April 25, 2019; City Hall, 2nd floor, Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Financial Statements Basic for Small Businesses: 11:30 a.m. April 25, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
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