Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Neighborhood groups with good intentions

  1. #1

    Neighborhood groups with good intentions

    We have an upstart neighborhood group that has good intentions....
    A man and his girlfriend have had a few meetings ranging from 10-20 individuals from a 12 block area. This gentleman is wanting to revamp the neighborhood by having decorative signing and landscaping done by the City. Our assisitant City Manager has allegedly offered up to pay for half of all the costs if the "group" can come up with the other half in grants. The gentleman at the head of this group thinks that his girlfriend can simply apply for a grant thru a local foundation (which typically awards safety or children oriented projects) and magically get at least $25K to pay for half of their signs.
    Do other cities have these groups and find they fizzle out when they are strong-armed by one individual? I would think that a democratic methodology would be a better way to get thing done and gain "buy-in" from neighbors.
    What are your experiences with groups like this?
    What are good ways to get "buy-in" from neighbors to make this a successful neighborhood group?
    I would really like to see them succeed, but I feel they are going about it all the wrong way.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,250
    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    We have an upstart neighborhood group that has good intentions....
    A man and his girlfriend have had a few meetings ranging from 10-20 individuals from a 12 block area. This gentleman is wanting to revamp the neighborhood by having decorative signing and landscaping done by the City. Our assisitant City Manager has allegedly offered up to pay for half of all the costs if the "group" can come up with the other half in grants. The gentleman at the head of this group thinks that his girlfriend can simply apply for a grant thru a local foundation (which typically awards safety or children oriented projects) and magically get at least $25K to pay for half of their signs.
    Do other cities have these groups and find they fizzle out when they are strong-armed by one individual? I would think that a democratic methodology would be a better way to get thing done and gain "buy-in" from neighbors.
    What are your experiences with groups like this?
    What are good ways to get "buy-in" from neighbors to make this a successful neighborhood group?
    I would really like to see them succeed, but I feel they are going about it all the wrong way.
    I would suggest attending the meeting with someone in the admin that has a lot of knowledge about grants for this type of thing. What would be even better is to find a success story from another nearby town and invite them to the meeting. One thing they definitely need to understand is that there are not a whole lot of $25K grants out there... they will probably be assembling several grants, each with their own special strings attached.

    Most neighborhood groups need that "ramrod" person, but they also shouldn't derive their identity from a single individual, which may be occuring in your case.

    It looks like one mistake they are already making is trying to take a gigantic bite to start with. The most successful upstart groups I've been around for things like this have taken several smaller bites before taking a big one. The first year they might start with something small, like themed address numbers painted on the curbs. People tend to support something more when they can see frequent, tangible results (even if they are small).

    Another option, if these people have serious buy-in, is to create a reinvestment zone that would help fund these types of improvements. I don't think I've ever seen one applied exclusively to a residential area, but they've been successful in downtowns and such for streetscape improvements.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 06 Dec 2006 at 10:24 AM.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    I've catalogued a few types of neighborhood associations over the years:

    Reactionaries: Form to fight a real or perceived threat. Most often hostile. Quickly disband after the threat issue is resolved.

    Socials: Found mostly in stable neighborhoods, they are looking to close a street for a block-party or some such. May or may not continue, depending on who got drunk and hit on who's wife.

    Proactives: Usually led by urban homesteaders disappointed that the reinvestment trend they hoped to be part of isn't going as quickly as they supposed it would. Better than 50-50 chance that they'll start out with an aesthetic issue as their rallying point. If they have early success, most will mature into strong neighborhood associations, but many factors come to play, not the least of which is leadership.

    You might want to purchase copies of Bernie Jones' Neighborhood Planning available from APA press. It's a jargon-free guide for both citizens and professional planners chock-full of ways for associations to get started, decide on things to do, and evolve into a strong partner for the neighorhood's future.

    Good luck!
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  4. #4

    Registered
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    1,548
    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    We have an upstart neighborhood group that has good intentions....

    Do other cities have these groups and find they fizzle out when they are strong-armed by one individual? I would think that a democratic methodology would be a better way to get thing done and gain "buy-in" from neighbors.
    What are your experiences with groups like this?
    I work with groups like this all the time, although usually not the start-up groups.

    Chicago has a long tradition of community organization and is blessed with many strong and active neighborhood groups that advocate for many things within their boundaries. Some do start in reaction to a controversial project or development, but many in Chicago got started because they felt a lack of attention from the City to address things like an abundance of vacant lots, poor retail choices, bad infrastructure conditions, and the like. We also have a strong foundation community that is willing to put money behind many of their efforts.

    My experience has been that the best ones were started by a small group of people who had a strong leader, and accomplished a simple and very visible project. Once that happens there can be more buy-in by others in the neighborhood, and bigger projects to take on.

  5. #5
    The neighborhood group I referenced earlier is dwindling quickly. They haven't met since before Christmas. They have yet to put out a real "community" event. On their blog site (which hasn't been updated since their Christmas "party"), they reference the City stalling their signage improvement project. Truth be told, they didn't like the different types of signage that the City offered and insisted that they buy (via grant funding) these ornate sign posts and place them in city Right of Way. What they (OK, the one gentleman I referred to earlier) wanted does not meet any kind of crash standard and would be hard for city forces to replace easily, and would present a financial burden on the city to maintain due to the unique nature of what they wanted. They presented a letter to the City staff regarding their request and how they were going about funding (asking a local foundation). Staff raised many good questions - who was going to maintain the proposed floral mounds, issues with non-crash compliant sign posts and trouble to maintain them in perpetuity. Needless to say they haven't come back with any good solutions. I still feel it unfair for one neighborhood to burden City staff with the task of additonal maintenance that other neighborhoods don't receive. I don't think a neighborhood group of 6-8 residents should be entitled to any more than any other neighborhood in the City.
    I suggested on their blog (anonymously) to make more "open" contact with neighbors to build up the local "buy-in" to their group via bowl parties, block parties, winter events, etc. but nothing has come to fruition. This may be the last I hear of them.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 4
    Last post: 18 Mar 2010, 12:29 PM
  2. Replies: 31
    Last post: 16 Oct 2009, 5:21 PM
  3. Replies: 5
    Last post: 27 Nov 2007, 4:26 PM
  4. Factors that make a neighborhood good or bad
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 20
    Last post: 15 Apr 2006, 10:40 AM
  5. Promoting Neighborhood Groups.
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 0
    Last post: 07 Dec 2004, 1:16 PM