Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'd like to fix up my neighborhood, but I don't know where to start!!

Yesterday I attended the 21st Annual Neighborhood Conference presented by the Neighborhood Resource Center.  If  you are on the board of a Home Owners Association or you just want to improve your neighborhood and you've never heard of the Neighborhood Resource Center, then you are missing out.
The Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC) trains neighborhood leaders with a focus on neighborhood and homeowner associations. The NRC trains neighborhood leaders utilizing informational resources to community groups in order to enhance their ability to effectively represent and develop their neighborhoods. 
 Besides the annual conference the NRC offers Annual Neighborhood Awards with $1000 prizes, a six month Neighborhood Leadership Development Program ($75 with some scholarships available), and a store with low cost neighborhood workbooks, workshops, and helpful links.

At the conference yesterday they had exhibition booths set up for various organizations and government entities that work with neighborhoods and individuals, such as the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Office, that mediates, free of charge, in disputes between neighbors (or anyone else you're having problems with),
the Pedestrian Mobility Advisory Committee, the Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee (I got a really cool, waterproof Bike Map that shows the best streets for cycling and planned routes), The Voice for Texas Pet Owners, which promotes responsible pet ownership, Scenic San Antonio (210-342-0135) which promotes attractive sign policy and regulation, and landscaping and tree preservation,The San Antonio Office of Emergency Management, which is hosting a Citizens Preparedness Workshop (contact Lorenzo Sanchez at for more information), VIA Metropolitan Transit, the San Antonio Conservation Society, Neighborhood News, that provides essential communication tools for neighborhood organizations at affordable prices, and Solid Waste Management answered questions about what items can be recycled.

Speakers involved in neighborhood issues were there and available for questions afterward, including David Garza, the head of Housing and Neighborhood Services (who gave us his direct phone number, 207-5850), Tommy Adkisson, County Commissioner Precinct 4, who has been involved with his neighborhood HOA at Highland Hills since the age of 19, and Ashley Hernandez, a 19 year old college student, who has been the chair of the Woodlawn Lake Basura Bash for 3 years.

Several workshops were also offered on topics such as developing neighborhood leadership, how to use social networking and internet websites to promote neighborhood activities, neighborhood legal issues, HOA board training, and responsible pet ownership.

The keynote speech was given by Dr. Christine Drennon of Trinity University about the Trinity Project.  The Trinity Project is a Place Based development project that works to coordinate the efforts of the various governmental agencies and private entities (which in the past have worked independently and sometimes at crosspurposes) to work together to revitalize neighborhoods.

The pilot project is focused on the Eastside Reinvestment Zone that includes the Dignowity Hill neighborhood.  This area was chosen because funding was already in place.  The catalyst that sparked involvement by the neighborhood was the announced SAISD school closure list that included two schools in the immediate area.  Dr. Drennon believes that a strong neighborhood can be glued together by its neighborhood schools.  Schools can be used for more than just class time, libraries could be opened up for neighborhood use, school facilities could be used for community meetings and playground facilities could be used to promote health initiatives. The goal of the project is to revitalize the neighborhood, while maintaining mixed income levels, and encouraging neighbors to stay in the the area.  This is a herculean task because 40% of eastside residents move in and out of the area each year.  If the project suceeds other neighborhoods will be slated to recieve similar attention.

I for one, plan to keep tabs on the Trinity Project, if it works, it could initate a new way of dealing with neighborhood, city and regional issues.

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