Monday, May 23, 2011

Working Together With Our Neighborhoods

Back in the early ‘90s, a group of citizens in the neighborhood then known simply as “The Avenue” got together and decided that their neighborhood had not gotten enough attention over the years. So they formed a neighborhood organization to advocate for their community. They even gave their neighborhood a new name – the Westside – because they believed “The Avenue” had developed too many negative connotations over the years.

Almost 20 years later, the Westside Community Council is still going strong in advocating for the Westside – and over the years City Hall has responded. Most recently, we have been working on a Community Plan for the Westside area that will – after some 15 years of uncertainly – make the rules clear for new development and also identify the priorities for public investment on the Westside (if and when we have the money to make those investments).

And there are six other community councils in Ventura as well – representing Downtown, Midtown, Pierpont, the Harbor, the College District, and East Ventura. These are truly grassroots organizations.

We have great neighborhoods in Ventura, but they’ve taken a beating as we have had to reduce services in the last few years. The Community Councils help to foster neighborhood pride and engage in grassroots activity to make these neighborhoods better. I’m proud to do whatever I can to support our Community Councils and make our neighborhoods better. I meet every couple of months with the chairs of these Councils, and we are planning Ventura’s first-ever Neighborhood Summit this summer.

With the exception of the Downtown Ventura organization – created with the City’s help – these groups were formed by the people who live and work in their neighborhoods and they have crafted their own role.

For example, the Midtown Ventura Community Council often reviews and comments on pending development projects in Midtown, and it was partly because of the Community Council that Community Memorial Hospital’s large expansion project is so neighborhood-oriented and passed with so much neighborhood support.

The Pierpont Community Council has been at the forefront of the thorny sand removal issues that affect the Pierpont, and the College District Community Council was formed in response to many changes in the neighborhood, including spreading homeless issues and the loss of Wright Library. The College District organization has become an important venue for dialogue between Ventura College and surrounding neighborhoods.

None of these organizations receive a penny from the City. We do try to help them as much as possible. For example, Police Department staff often attends Community Council meetings – a vital information exchange about crime and safety issues in the neighborhoods that helps neighbors know how to stay safe and helps the police learn what problems are occurring. Our transportation engineers, parks staff, and other folks often attend the meetings as well to provide information and also stay on top of neighborhood issues.

And our Community Partnerships staff is working with the Community Councils to find private, philanthropic support for what we are calling a Neighborhood Improvements Matching Grant program. This program would allow for the City's various Community Councils to apply for matching grants to fund improvement projects in their districts. This would be a huge step forward in helping our neighborhoods help themselves to become better – and protect the neighborhoods that everyone in town loves.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Mayor, can you please point me to any more informiton about the new College District Community Council? I'm especially curious about the boundaries, and whether Campus View is part of it.

    Mike Johnson, Campus View Neighbors


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