La Loma Trails
On their way to-and-from school, many of the 450 students of Eastside Memorial High walk alongside roads like Airport Boulevard, Highway 183, and Springdale Road, heavily traveled arteries running through East Austin. Some students, however, have created a more direct route to reach school. Their daily circuit balances along the far edge of urban growth: cutting across large, unkempt fields; committing Class-B misdemeanors in crossing railroad tracks and crawling under train cars; even trekking through deep woods that host homeless encampments and wild animals.
In La Loma, two Eastside Memorial students use the camera to narrate their daily journey to school, in the process both displaying the tenacity of students bent on receiving their education and illuminating the economic and social systems creating an urban geography expressly pitted against them. La Loma explores the impact of rapid urban growth on the residents of one of Austin’s most vulnerable and fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods. The documentary provides students with a mechanism for questioning issues of race and criminality as the teens perform their daily duty, walking to school.
The 12-minute documentary La Loma (or the place sometimes called Hungry Hill) was led by filmmaker Deborah S. Esquenazi and artist/scholar Carra Martinez. The film helped bring this matter to the attention of the Austin American-Statesman (twice) as well as leaders from Austin Independent School District, Austin Energy, and Capital Metro. After a robust engagement and planning process led by the high school students, neighborhood leaders, and municipal stakeholders, funding and plans were approved in 2017 to create and formalize safe walking trails for students to use going to/from school.
Jain Lane Improvements
In 1988, during the construction of bond funded Shady-Jain Lane Improvements to upgrade a 1930’s roadway, fuel pipelines were ruptured by a city contractor and this neighborhood connector road was left unfinished for nearly 30 years. The existing roadway is only 16 to18’ wide and impedes emergency vehicles, buses and safe 2-way travel. The thinkEAST PUD gifted 1.32 acres to the City of Austin to complete these roadway and pedestrian improvements to "Complete Streets" standards. Fusebox worked with neighborhood leaders to bring the unfinished 1,000 feet of roadway to the attention of City Council members. In 2016, following the publication of the thinkEAST Community Vision & Master Plan, funding was identified to complete the improvements. Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2017.