NEWS ITEM — Neighborhood Survey Results
Working for a Better Neighborhood
Southern Gables Neighborhood Association is a nonprofit organization with the goal of strengthening the community and making it the best place we can. The Association provides opportunities for neighbors to meet, work together, and improve the neighborhood. It also supports local schools, Westwoods Community Church, and other organizations that make our community a better place to live by donating resources, funds, and time. The Association is not an HOA. Membership is voluntary, not required, and dues are only $20.00 a year.
In the fall of 2019, we sent out a survey to people in the neighborhood. We wanted to know from our neighbors what they want for their community, whether the Association appealed to new neighbors, and if there was more we could do to meet the needs and expectations of all our neighbors.
We received 70 responses. The majority (51) came through our online link to the survey, which we posted on Nextdoor and on the Association’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. We received an additional 19 hand-written responses from hard-copy surveys passed out during neighborhood lunches and our annual Neighborhood Night Out. Responses came mostly from older neighbors who are long-time residents. Forty-nine respondents have lived in the neighborhood for more than ten years, while ten have lived in the neighborhood for five or fewer years. Eleven have children living with them. Thirty-eight respondents were ages 60 or older, while 12 were under 50.
Based on survey responses, below is a summary of recommendations for the Association, followed by more detailed analysis.
- Establish a larger presence online through social media for more interaction with neighbors, including links to pay dues or make donations;
- Establish Association website and social media as an alternative to Nextdoor for go-to information about the neighborhood;
- Find ways to connect longer term-residents with younger neighbors and families in the neighborhood – our neighbors see each other as friendly people, but there seems to be a divide between newer neighbors and neighbors who have lived here for a while. This suggests that events to form more bonds among neighbors who don’t yet know each other can be particularly successful;
- Provide options to voluntarily pay different amounts of dues: $20, $30, and $40;
- Provide more services or information related to maintaining the neighborhood and individual yards and keep sidewalks clear; and
- Organize neighborhood-clean up events to pick trash up off the sidewalks and public areas;
- Consider experimenting with a couple events and activities each year as suggested by our survey respondents – perhaps poll neighbors for the most popular options among the suggestions or select from suggestions made by both older and younger neighbors;
- To the extent the Association makes charitable donations, it should prioritize locally active organizations within the neighborhood; and
- Conduct more surveys in the future and try to get responses from as many different age groups and backgrounds as possible.
Where Do Our Neighbors Look for Information?
There are three main sources of information our neighbors rely on to learn more about their neighborhood: social media, talking to other neighbors, and the Association newsletter. Neighbors who were less familiar with the Association ranked social media as their number one course of information for the neighborhood, suggesting our new neighbors can be best reached that way.
Do Our Neighbors Know About the Association?
Everyone who took the survey had at least heard of the Association, and about 65% of respondents who answered either paid Association dues already or participated in Association activities. The remaining 35% had varying levels of familiarity with the association, but probably had not gotten involved in many of the Association’s activities. Neighbors who were over the age of 60 and who did not have children living with them were much more likely to be paying members, suggesting that we need to do more to attract younger neighbors and families.
How Do Our Neighbors Feel About the Neighborhood?
Some of the best news to come out of the survey is that the great majority of our respondents across the board believe the neighborhood is a safe (90%) and friendly (87%) place to live. However, those findings may come with a few caveats, as will be discussed in more detail below.
Are the Annual Dues Worth It?
By and large, most respondents are willing to pay the $20 annual Association. Those neighbors who were already paying dues and those neighbors with children were more likely to be willing to pay upwards of $30 or $40 annually, suggesting that the value of the Association’s efforts increases when the Association provides family-oriented support and when neighbors are more active and familiar with what the Association does. It also suggests current dues paying members might consider the option to give more.
What Do Neighbors Like About Southern Gables? What are Neighbors Most Concerned About?
When asked what they liked most about the neighborhood, a few themes stood out in the responses we received. First, the friendliness of the neighborhood was the most common response. One respondent appreciated that many neighbors knew each other and regularly kept in touch. Another noted that neighbors tend to be helpful too. Although the majority of respondents who answered this question agreed that friendly neighbors are a strength of the neighborhood, some also noted that there are some “grumps,” and newer neighbors and neighbors with children were more likely to show concern that older neighbors were not as friendly to them as they may be to each other. At the same time, one respondent was concerned that newer neighbors did not participate in neighborhood events. A few neighbors noted concern over a lack of cohesiveness or comradery. A few neighbors across age groups expressed concern that the discussions on Nextdoor were too negative and contributed to dividing neighbors rather than forming community. Even so, some respondents also appreciated diversity in the neighborhood, including neighbors of different ages, with different jobs and careers, and many different homes.
Second, people appreciated that the neighborhood is well-maintained and that people take pride in their homes. Respondents like the many mature trees, well-kept yards, and overall cleanliness of the neighborhood. A couple neighbors showed concern over rental properties and properties or yards that were not being well-maintained. Concerns in this area included homeowners who continue to block sidewalks with trach or recycle containers or fail to clear sidewalks of snow, yard debris, or weed and bush overgrowth.
Third, respondents liked that the neighborhood is safe and quiet. One person noted that the long-term residents help keep the neighborhood safe and aware. A related point is that people appreciate the wide streets, walkways, and walkability of the neighborhood. The lack of traffic is also important to neighbors. However, people were most concerned about crime increasing in the neighborhood, and many neighbors wrote that people driving too fast in the neighborhood or ignoring stop signs were a concern from time to time.
Related to both of these concerns is the topic of new and increasing development nearby. Many neighbors expressed concern that new development might bring more traffic, more congestion, and more crime.
Fourth, people appreciate the nearby schools and parks, in addition to regular neighborhood events. Respondents appreciated that the quality of nearby schools and the proximity to many different parks. In terms of events, people specifically mentioned the Community Garden at Green Gables Elementary School, the Association’s Neighborhood Night Out, Neighborhood Happy Hours, and the neighborhood sustainability program. But neighbors were concerned whether neighborhood schools could continue to improve.
Do Our Neighbors Have Suggestions for Activities that the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association Should Host or Participate in?
Our respondents had a variety of suggestions to bring the neighborhood together, including:
- Sponsor classes on how to economically maintain a beautiful yard;
- Halloween block parties, swim team, theater production, golf team, softball team, bowling team etc.
- Position a speed display trailer in the neighborhood;
- Social events, such as walking groups, game nights, backyard/block parties.
- Host a program to help the older neighbors with lawn/house care;
- Increase visibility of “sustainability” classes;
- Increase visibility of Fleischer Farms events.
Our younger neighbors (under 60) with children also suggested:
- Outdoor movie night at the school;
- Sponsor a bird program with the goal of increasing habitat for a pollinator;
- Social events, such as wine nights, pot lucks, or game nights, and dog play day at Green Gables Elementary in the evening;
- Host a tool sharing program;
- Food and clothing drive for poor and those experiencing homelessness;
- Play dates at the park for children;
- Community composting; and
- Fourth of July event.
Are There Charities or Worthwhile Organizations that the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association Should Support?
The majority of respondents noted a preference to keep charitable donations in the neighborhood, focused on locally active organizations, and some questioned whether the Association should be making charitable donations at all. Many neighbors supported giving to schools, police and fire services. One neighbor suggested the Association could sponsor a neighborhood family in need.