Making S.F. neighborhoods a better place to live

In an ever-changing city, where rapid development, gentrification and shifting populations are the norm, a citywide forum slated for this weekend is aiming to empower San Franciscans with tools to take action in the neighborhoods — from planting trees to curbing violence.

A coalition of city leaders and existing neighborhood groups is hosting SanFrancisco’s first citywide neighborhoods summit Saturday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Grove Street. Participants will be given a variety of resources to better neighborhoods across The City — from revitalizing community parks and beaches to fighting quality of life issues and preparing for the next major earthquake.

San Francisco is home to more than 200 neighborhoods, many of which have some form of neighborhood or residents association, according to the Planning Department. While many of these groups are highly active and have successfully battled a variety of community concerns, it is common for many others to rally around a single issue, such as safer schools, graffiti abatement or landscaping, and then dissolve.

Daniel Homsey, director of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Neighborhood Services, who is organizing the summit, says The City lacks a resource of best practices for how to work with agencies and local nonprofits on neighborhood issues.

San Francisco’s city administrator, Edwin Lee, said the goal of Saturday’s event is to encourage more groups to “work with city government in a partnership way rather than a resolve way.”

The City has developed a Web site for neighborhood groups and best practices that will eventually have a searchable database of problems and solutions. For example, a search for “auto burglaries” would pull up measures communities have used to decrease the number of break-ins.

Gillian Gillett, a member of the San Jose-Guerrero Coalition in the Mission district, says many neighborhoods across San Francisco share the same concerns — for example, “a place that could use a park, or graffiti removal,” she said — and desperately need a forum to swap ideas.

The San Jose-Guerrero Coalition will have plenty of best practices to lend The City’s neighborhood network site, www.empowersf.org. In the last four years, the coalition has successfully lobbied to calm traffic on both Guerrero Street and San Jose Avenue by pushing for narrower streets and reduced speed limits.

Vallie Brown, a member of the Lower Haight Neighborhood Association, said residents should know how each community can work with its police and district supervisor, as well as the district attorney, to create safe and caring neighborhoods.

“We want to foster that level of connectivity throughout The City. Our goal is to make neighborhoods cleaner, stronger, and to have people know their neighbors,” Homsey said.

Neighborly summit

The first citywide meeting of neighborhood resources will take place this weekend.

» Time: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

» Place: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St.

» Cost: Free

» Break-out sessions: How to organize your community to be prepared for a natural disaster, start a neighborhood association, make the streets cleaner and greener, make the streets safer for children and families, revitalize your local park, apply for a grant and fight global warming.

» Keynote speaker: Latoya Cantrell, president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association, which has been helping to rebuild the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

arocha@examiner.com

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