Grading CD13th’s Guide to Improving Your Neighborhood

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/09/idiotsguide-thumb.jpgI was pretty excited when I saw that Eric Garcetti posted a new How To/ Neighborhood Improvement feature at his site for dealing with assorted city issues… but then I started to read the contents of what promised to be an awesome idea. To start, the “how to” guides are all unnecessarily in .pdf format, making for slow load time. It appears these are meant to be printed in flyer form, but it only take a few minutes to reformat these for easy reading by everyday web readers like you and me. As they are, you need to read them a little like a Japanese comic book, from back to front.

Anyway, if you hate nitpicking, ignore this post, as I’ve dissected and graded all of the “How To/ Neighborhood Improvement Guides” presented by the City Council President. I would prefer to champion every move made by the eco-friendly, web savvy, secret-agent-in-training Garcetti, but this one deserves a little analysis… mostly because its a great idea that could be improved…

#1 How To Protect and Improve Your Housing is decent enough, but the only practical advice that applies to the guide’s title is how to file a complaint with the Housing Department. It also informs about a Handyworker Program for low income seniors who need household repairs, but it also contains somewhat out place sections on Lead Poisoning and Grounds for Eviction… all usefule bits, but more appropriate in a different document. My biggest complaint is that the guide doesn’t offer any advive on how to do anything yourself besides how to complain or get others to do the work for you. Grade: C

#2 How To Get Speed Bumps Installed In Your Street points out that unless you’re the “neighborhood contact” you can’t proceed with the necessary steps to get a speed bump installed. The rest of the document is thorough enough for what a “neighborhood contact” would need to to do… but never explains who or what a “neighborhood contact” is or how to find out. Grade: C

#3: How to Start Your Own Neighborhood Watch is woefully deficient in how to start your own neighborhood watch. Besides giving a phone number to call, and the direction to “Select a coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings” the .pdf file is dedicated to describing the benefits of a neighborhood watch. From my abandoned efforts at creating a watch in Hollywood, I know there’s additional steps that need to be taken before the police will become involved (such as rallying and organizing your neighborhood behind the effort). Grade: F

#4 How to Brighten Up Your Block is, unfortunately, not about getting your neighbors into a better mood (maybe this will be a future guide). But it is a concise guide on how property owners can get new and or improved street lighting where they live along with a cost breakdown. Grade: A

#5 How To Report Graffitti, Broken Trash, and Potholes, rewords the same instructions for handling each: Call 311. But it also adds useful definitions and “next steps” for dealing with the problems, especially information on the UnTag initiative for reducimg neighborhood graffitti. Grade: A

Know Your Municipal Codes has a lot of useful info, but is far from thorough. Unique rule I didn’t know: hours for yard sales are restricted from 9am to 5pm – alas, if you allow or encourage early birds you’re a lawbreaker! I certainly hope this is only one part of more Municipal Code guides. Grade: B

How To Work With City Government is the best education on how laws are passed since the “I’m Just A Bill” Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While additional fleshing out would be nice (including some sort of case study), there’s not much wasted space in the two page document which also breaks down the city budget in layman’s terms and provides a guide to “Enact Legislation “. Grade: A

Considering the PDF faux paux, I give the overall intiative a B-. Could have gone lower, but I think Garcetti deserves extra credit for trying to get this information out to the public.

6 Replies to “Grading CD13th’s Guide to Improving Your Neighborhood”

  1. Good review, and I agree, way to get this info out to the public.

    Just to clarify…
    #2 Anyone can be a neighborhood contact. That is basically the person who takes the initiative to lead the process to pursue the installation of speed humps. If you make the call, you’re a neighborhood contact!

    #3 I agree there are some points missing. An interested person should call their Senior Lead Officer (SLO) and talk to them about starting a watch – that SLO will give advice. But David’s right, you must build neighborhood support. Most often, Neighborhood Watches are formed when things get so bad that people notice OR a specific incident has occurred that violates the neighborhood and people react by meeting eachother (a major crime, disaster, etc.)

    #5 is not quite complete. Bulky Items are only picked up by sanitation if they are on the parkway (or at least partially). If they’re in front of a vacant lot, in an alley, or on the street, Street Services, and NOT Sanitation, is responsible for the pick-up. Addtionally, this service is technically only applicable for users of CIty trash collection until the City funds a City-wide program to pick them up in front of multi-family and commercial properties. Now, the City WILL still pick them up if a special request is made at these other locations, but know that that service is paid for by those who pay the Sanitation Equipment Charge, which those who have private trash haulers do not pay.

    Additionally, UNTAG may be a great success in CD13, but it’s not widely known or used outside of that Council district even though it was funded Citywide over a year ago. Another route to getting graffitti removed is to contact the contracted graffitti removal agency directly. There are about 16 of them throughout the City and can be found here. You can also find better tips for reporting it here.

    Muni Codes: Missing is the actual code. Additionally, there is no rule for “ugly” in the codes – so dead plants and dirt for a front lawn is technically not illegal nor citable.

    #7 How to work with the City:
    What’s missing here is the role of the Mayor as overseer of City Service Delivery. Also, it only lists 21 of the 43 “departments.” Some “departments” are actually commissions like Children, Youth, & their Families or non-standard like Project Restore, but in budgeting and governance, they are their own City Department. A more complete list can be found here & a few listed at the bottom of this page.

    Finally, about the PDF format. Sadly, the City Council’s website does not allow for regular viewable webpages – everything added beyond the homepage on Council websites must be in PDF form. Go Figure!

  2. Okay, someone has GOT to follow up on this neighborhood contact/speedbump thing. I live on a street that is both a shortcut to avoid major thoroughfare traffic, has a no-stop intersection at one end and is kitty-corner from a park where loads of kids play. It’s a miracle no one has been killed *yet*, as far as I’m concerned…

  3. Thanks for the additional comments. Nerd!

    Colleen: Nerd’s comment about the neighborhood contact just appeared online (after yours) and think it clarifies this…

    I think I’d have had less of a problem with the .pdf files if they were made to be read on the web – these were made to sent to a print shop!
    I think a better approach may have been turning each of these into a seperate blog entry, in blog form, and then linking back to the posts instead of the .pdfs.
    But hey – I’m just a taxpayer who’s financing the whole thing, so who cares about my opinion?

  4. No1 should be installing speed bumps in the neighborhood to begin with. I hate it when they do that, ruins the nice peacefulness of my driving. HATE IT.

  5. As a driver, I hate speedbumps. As a resident, I have mixed feelings; they may make some dangerous streets safer, but at the expense of listening to engines rev and settle and rev again, along with squeaking breaks and squealing tires, not to mention the clunk from drivers who ignore or dont notice them.

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