I once had a wonderful client whose top priority was finding a “hi Bob” neighborhood. A view, fireplace and hardwood floors might be nice…. But, her highest priority was finding “friendly” neighbors. This was a bit of a challenging task where double incomes are the norm, and few have the time to hang out looking to meet the neighbors.
More and more, the secret may lie online. We have been noticing some fantastic neighborhood involvement: First at 2347 Spaulding Avenue in Berkeley, and now a new listing at 5512 MacDonald Avenue in El Cerrito. Some neighbors still get together for a good ol’ fashioned BBQ, or in preparation for “the Next Big One.” But before the first hot dog is cooked, the neighborhood conversations are taking shape online.
Many neighborhoods are finding new ways to share collective information through email lists, Yahoo or Google groups, and community Facebook pages. Online groups are a great way to share information. The popularity of the Berkeley Parents Network is a great example of the value of shared knowledge. This idea works well on a micro level, where the neighbors might wonder who takes care of the Taylor’s garden or who painted the Jones’s house. On the neighborhood level, the sharing is enhanced by the trust you already have for the people you know near your home. Today, neighborhood list shares create babysitting co-ops and tool lending libraries. Baby sitting co-ops offer kids fun play-dates and parents the opportunity for a night out. Tool lending libraries are eco-friendly solutions where neighbors can take a look at what they already own and are willing to share with other neighbors. In this way, a neighborhood can share things like a power washer, sewing machine or hedge trimmer.
Here is what the neighbors at 5512 MacDonald Avenue have in place:
1. NEAT (NEIGHBORHOOD EMERGENCY ACTION TEAM)
NEAT meets 4 times a year to make sure everyone has all the equipment needed to help each other if there is an earthquake. It is well organized with a command post, a search and rescue team and walkie-talkies. There is a nearby first aid site with common equipment, water and canned food for the neighborhood. The group also organizes a big earthquake drill once a year, simulating all kinds of things that could happen. The fire department comes to these drills. This event morphs into a BBQ. Everyone gets to know each other which makes this a fun place to live.
2. APTNA (Alta Punta Neighborhood Association)
This is a “social committee.” The committee organizes a Cinco de Mayo block party and maintains a list serve. The list serve shares information about contractors, cat sitters, babysitters, house cleaners…. If you have a question, you post it to the list and the neighborhood shares it’s wisdom.
3. Cocktail Hour
There are also a number of 30 somethings with kids and they do kid friendly cocktail hours, BBQ and such at each other’s homes.