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Palo Alto mulls 'neighborliness' grant program

Original post made on Sep 13, 2012

Palo Alto residents looking to throw block parties, launch neighborhood-watch programs or promote other events geared at bringing neighbors together may soon get a little help from City Hall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 13, 2012, 5:15 PM

Comments (34)

Posted by Liberty, a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Is this serious? This is a joke, right?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Have a kegger & a potluck - no grant needed. Really - give it a shot - no gov't interference needed. Heck, we had such great potlucks & BBQs that PAPD would show up here in EPA for food.

How sad & silly that city hall thinks that they need to throw money at this.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:40 pm

"IF it ain't broke........" This is really silliness. Beyond absurd. Big Brother or is it Sister Palo Alto doesn't need to give instruction on how to do this.ˇThe neighborhoods do a very good job of being neighborly with no help from City Hall. Keep your hands off. Take this 'grant money' and give it to the various food kitchens.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:32 am

Did I miss the news that Palo Alto all of a sudden has a lot of money to throw around at things that people already do for themselves quite well. For as many smart people as there are in Palo Alto, we can sure be stupid sometimes. Next, the city will want to ensure fairness by mandating that each block party has the same types of food with allowances for different preferences and ethnicities.

Posted by Gethin, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:56 am

Its a happy aspect of our democratic system that politicians can feel free to suggest ideas for social improvement and we can tell them how incredibly stupid they are.

Posted by John Galt, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

A clean sweep next election. Throw out ALL the TAX AND SPEND 'would be' Big Brother fans!
Just gotta start with a Zero Base Budget. (Liberals, got that term in your vocabulary?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

This is the stupidest CIty Council idea ever.
If people care about meeting their neighbors, they can do a potluck and spring for the burgers themselves. Why are you going to tax me so that people in another neighborhood can eat for free?

Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Let me see if understand this. Palo Alto is getting $25K as a grant program (where did that money come from??) to tell the neighborhoods how to be neighborly!! The City is going to tell Midtown, Barron Park, Greenmeadow, College Terrace, various DSFNA block areas, the "Hills", and all the others how to throw a party? How to have a Neighborhood Watch Group? Two years ago the city would not sponsor National Neighborhood Night Out. It was 'too expensive'. Keep Big Brother in City Hall. Hands off!!

Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Why not take that $4 million set aside for a bicycle overpass and use it for grants for block parties? We could really have some great times with that kind of money.

Posted by pa resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

As a PA resident I don't need the City throwing money at this. My little block does quite well in part because of the number of children & toddlers that live on it. This encourages people to be outside (why live in California, if you can't play outside?). Make housing affordable and I'm sure you'd have more kids in the city (and I'm not talking the nanny brigade!) and more people who live in Palo Alto out meeting other people.

Posted by person of interest, a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm

> "This is a joke, right?"

If only it were. City Hall is one big joke after another. Thank goodness Yiaway is leaving the council. Nice guy, but clueless about real leadership and governance. His contribution as mayor was ping-pong tournaments.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Well, grant $$ isn't money out of your pockets directly, right? I can see the "logic" of city leaders going, "Hey, looky here - we can get moola for neighborhood block parties! That's a no-brainer!" But they should've thought how it comes across to you all who are grappling w/budget & quality of life issues, like other cities. What's nice if that it's not $$ you all have to pony up, but it does come across as silly w/out the proper context. Or maybe w/the proper context!

Our Nat'l Nights Out have been successful - & they're full of law enforcement, too. Oh, & we get significant $$ for our law enforcement with grants.

Posted by TimH, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Another optimistic idea, but doubtful as far as meaningful results. Before Palo Alto's "1985" conversion, Summer block parties were evident in neighborhoods whose residents favored them, or grew up with them in warm Summer months. I recall some excellent block parties that were usually networked by neighbors, club members, class or team mates, etc. However, those were not developed by the city, but rather by residents. It was also clear that the wealthier the street, the less that neighbors spent outside in this manner. Now that most of Palo Alto is wealthy, the combination of local and new well-off people is bound to further isolate the community feeling of past generations.

This note isn't intended to be "yet another" rehash of the past we no longer have, but a recommendation to use this $25K on law enforcement and neighborhood watch, without the artificial block party aspect. If police cannot "profile" suspects, they are always playing catch-up. Palo Alto is not a city that really welcomes pass-through pedestrian or bicycle riders who clearly do not fit in. Sorry to say, but this is true. As a city, everyone needs to become more self-aware and alert. This money could also be used to bring more bi-lingual officers to the police force.

Ok, sorry to have bored you. It's just a bigger problem than hot dogs and potato salad can resolve.

Posted by GougedInMidtown, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Another example of our money being wasted! If neighbors wanted to throw a party why do they need a handout from the city to do that? The city council that approved this must be voted out at the first opportunity.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Again I ask - would any of this $$ come out of your pockets if it's a grant? Can it be used for anything else? I don't think so, is the answer to both questions.

What I know about orgs seeking grants is that they will apply for ones that they are eligible for, relevant to their mission & used to make their desired impact.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm

So "they" want to propose a grant proposal while "they" are considering putting a proposal for a bond issue for increasing our property tax to cover infrastructure.

Something very "wrong" here.

Posted by person of interest, a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

RTFM. WE would pay for this program. See the memo at
Web Link

"To support this effort, we ask colleagues to join us in directing staff to develop a pilot neighborhood grant program funded for the first year through $25,000 from the FY 2012-13 City Council contingency fund. Staff would design a grant program ..."

Money and staff time and it's just a pilot. Next year maybe they'll want $50K or $100K for neighborliness.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Well, if this string of posts isn't the greatest ad for why we need to encourage neighborliness in this town! (I'm sure the curmudgeons will be sitting in their holes anyway.)

Our council is trying new things, and $25k is not a huge amount of money in this town. It's what, like a quarter per resident? If it helps, it's a worthy investment, it it doesn't, it was worth a short for not that great an amount of money.

Neighbors knowing neighbors, by the way, I wonder if I can apply to pay for music and hold a neighborhood festival?

Posted by Katherine, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Silly waste of $$$ Our neighborhood does quite fine on its own when hosting block parties. Please put this money into sidewalk repairs so we can all walk to our neighbor's homes without tripping and falling over all the cracked and buckling pavement located throughout the city.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Carlitos waysman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm

There was a point in time when Palo Alto neighbors knew each other and were neighborly to each other. Then the snooty ones with big money moved in, from then on the good neighbor spirit went down the drain.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Caarlitos - you can tell that they're also VERY important, because they park the wrong way on the street, their cell phones are more important than their neighbors, driving or walking skills & of course, they're waaaaaay too busy to get to know their neighbors.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I was not involved in the current proposal, but was involved in discussions on this topic over the years. Based on those previous discussions:

1. To characterize it as just funding block parties is a major mischaracterization.
2. Mountain View and other cities have similar program and regard them as successful and a good use of the money (MV's budget is $25K/yr, same as this).
3. Many of the neighborhood events that happen under such programs have small budgets, but ones that are hard for the organizers to _continually_ pay for out of their own pockets. Recognize that the people who are organizers are often residents who aren't wealthy. Simple events can easily cost several hundred dollars: advertising (poster for A-frame along streets,...), room rental fees (where needed), insurance (required as part of most room rentals), ...

For many events, the insurance requirements attached to the facility can be the biggest cost, and can be a barrier if your organization doesn't already have an insurance policy that allows quickly adding events to the coverage (typically at a non-trivial cost). The City sometimes waives the insurance requirements for its facilities, but this has been on a case by case situation. Recently the City has simplified this for its own facilities, but there is still confusion. Plus, the public facilities convenient to most neighborhoods are not City-owned, but owned by the School District.

Posted by Neilson S. Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2012 at 9:48 am

Downtown North citizens are encouraged to join our internet community: NextDoor Downtown North. Over 80 citizens(renters and home owners) have joined in the past month. Send me your email and I will send you an invitation. This community is limited exclusively for people who live between Alma, Palo Alto Ave, Middlefield and University Ave. It is easy to opt in and out. And a great way to share concerns, look for babysitters. Furthermore, it is free and does not require any subsidy from the City of Palo Alto.

Neilson Buchanan 650 329-0484 Bryant Ave.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

WOW...all these hostile reactions to a simple and inexpensive proposal to restore some positive community spirit in Palo Alto. Amazing. Clearly this project is desperately needed.

Posted by another neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thank you, neighbor, and Doug Moran. I think this is a great idea!

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm

> For many events, the insurance requirements attached to
> the facility can be the biggest cost

I recently priced a "special event" insurance policy at $175/event. If no alcohol were involved, the price quoted was significantly less.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm


Whether you think it is expensive or just a drop in the bucket, the answer should be no.

How about we get our city budget to either break-even or gain a surplus before we start throwing money around?


Posted by Trying to figure it out, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

The Mayor is well intentioned but clueless. But Greg Scharff is a real estate lawyer and probably has some benefit in mind for real estate. I'll be listening tonight for his reasoning.
It isn't lack of money that keeps neighborhoods from getting together. Potlucks work every time. It's the self-centered people who aren't interested in local connections that make it difficult.
$25,000 may be peanuts to our council but jeez! how many hundreds of events can you organize with so much money.
o, wait! They can pay a staff person to administer it. Now I'm beginning to understand.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

My neighbor in palo alto has a community garden that she created on her own - own time, own energy, own resources. It has brought the community together without city grants/funding.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

My neighborhood of Charleston Gardens will be having our annual Block Party next Saturday 9/22. How can we apply for this $25,000?

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm

You could almost hear the countdown until the sarcastic comments started -- and most of the comments, as well as the general nastiness that often fills these PaloAltoOnline pages, just underline the urgent need for this low-cost program.

NOTE: If 50 blocks get grants over the next year (a likely underestimate), each group would get only $500. Enough for food and equipment to run a safe block party for 100 people (signs, roadblocks, rental of safe play equipment).

This amount is nothing in the PA budget and it is a pretty good investment with many potential pay-offs. At the very least you could see who lives nearby, people who might help you out or need help, who might babysit your kids, etc.

Did you read the article? The program's developers note that PA neighborhoods are getting more diverse and older. No one knows their neighbors…communities are not the same as they were even a decade ago, and that is a loss for everyone. This program is to "encourage more interaction between neighbors, particularly neighbors of different generations and cultures."

Maybe the program would reduce the growing hostility that we see in Palo Alto everyday, and maybe there would also be safety benefits that would come from knowing and caring about your neighbors. And those outcomes – e.g., neighborhood watch or disaster preparedness – have been proven to SAVE police/fire money.

You don't have to "Love thy neighbor" (ask yourself who said that), just "know thy neighbor." It's an investment in your own self-interest.

Posted by social engineering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

The city council should just let people alone and go about their much needed business: infrastructure repair, safe police station, other appropriate city council duties.

Posted by Trying to figure it out, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2012 at 10:20 am

Mr Scharff needs friends among the citizenry. He supports every huge building project that comes along. He made a memorable statement about the huge office building the council approved on Alma and Lytton:
The developer doesn't need to supply many benefits (for being allowed to violate zoning) because "THE BUILDING IS A BENEFIT IN ITSELF."
That's what he said. A windfall for developer Lund is a benefit to all of us? I don't think so, Mr. Scharff.

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