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Here’s a nice way to measure your neighborhood: Do you have ten interesting places?

I’ve just begun The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Placemaking by Jay Walljasper — a concise and uplifting guide to making a neighborhood not only worth living in, but worth envying.  (I have added it to my “Further reading” page.)  Like me, Walljasper envisions a neighborhood as more than a geographic region: it is a place for society, commerce, and beauty.  It is a place where people have regular business and see each other often.  It is “owned” by the locals.

In the introduction, he suggests an exercise in “zooming in” (my words).  First, consider your region: write down the ten most important places you go, places you recommend to visitors.  Then, zooming in, consider your city, and write down the ten most important places there — like a park or a neighborhood.  Then,

“Zoom in and think about one of these places and try to write down the smaller places that make up the place.  For example, if you named the main street as an important place, whate are the little places on that street where you enjoy spending time?  You can shop there, of course, but if your main street is truly a good place, you can also sit outside on a bench and talk to your neighbors, get a cup of coffee nearby, and enjoy the passing scene.” (p. 4)

Over lunch, I decided to try this with my own neighborhood.  What were the ten most interesting places within walking distance of my house?

First, a note about the above question.  I stand firmly by the assertion that a neighborhood’s boundaries are limited by walking distance: you may be able to walk farther than the edge of your neighborhood, but if a place is too far to walk it’s not in your neighborhood.  Also, “walking distance” is a fuzzy idea.  Researchers on pedestrian behavior have found that most people are happy to walk places within five minutes; farther than that and they start choosing to drive, postpone their trip, or not go at all.  Obviously, it reflects average, aggregate behavior, not the behavior of every individual.  If we adhere strictly to this, a neighborhood (as a place you walk) will be no larger than a circle one half-mile in diameter: five minutes from center to edge.  However, I’m willing to stretch this — if for no reason other than that Fairbanks is mostly not built that way, and I should cut us a little slack.

So, what were the most interesting places within walking distance of my house?  I could think of only five:

neighborhood_shot

Interesting places (green, yellow) near my house (in the yellow oval). Original image courtesy of Google Maps.

  • Noel Wien Library
  • Seoul Gate (Korean restaurant)
  • Arctic Bowl (Bowling alley)
  • Chena River, especially the waterfront by Lathrop Street
  • Denali Elementary School (where my kids enjoy the playground)

Maybe I could go a little farther and include Gambardella’s or McCafferty’s, maybe the fountain downtown.  My wife suggests Chartreuse, a new clothing store at First and Wickersham.  But those all feel a little out of “my turf” — I don’t feel the same sense of ownership of them and of the streets around them.

In the image at right, note that where I live — near this peculiar triangle bounded by 6th, 8th, and Bonnifield — is about as far as it’s possible to get from all those destinations yet still be roughly “between” them.  And the nearest is an eight-minute walk away (unless you count the Chena River, whose nearest point is only five minutes’ walk).

Eight minutes!  I once looked at a Census map and discovered that my neighborhood was one of the most densely populated in the Fairbanks area.  Why should anybody living in a densely populated neighborhood have to walk eight minutes to reach the nearest point of interest — especially when most people won’t leave their houses on foot for anything over five minutes away?  People need reasons to walk: the pleasure of fresh air is not enough.  If we have so few reasons to walk around our neighborhood, how are we going to meet our neighbors? and how are we to become neighborly?

So, Fairbanksans: tell me about your neighborhoods.  Can you walk to ten interesting places?  And what are they?

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Cigarette butts in a driveway in my neighborhood.  Click to enlarge.

Cigarette butts in a driveway in my neighborhood (Click to enlarge)

I went out this Saturday morning with my daughter for Cleanup Day. We decided to work on our immediate neighborhood rather than on one of the main streets.  Our neighborhood needed it badly.

(For those not in Fairbanks, Cleanup Day is an annual ritual here, where hundreds — if not thousands — of Fairbanksans — come out to pick up all the garbage that has been revealed after the snow has melted.  It is sponsored by United Way of the Tanana Valley.)

Just to pick up the garbage on one block adjacent to our house took us an hour.  Now, granted, my older daughter is five years old and couldn’t be expected to pursue garbage pick-up with the sustained vigor that an adult might.  But, still, there was plenty: candy wrappers, plastic toys, broken bottles, small metal scraps, fast food boxes, aluminum cans, and of course cigarette butts.

In fact, the block might have taken us only half an hour, had it not been for the cigarette butts.  Not only were they plenty in the gutter alongside the nearby apartment buildings, but there was also a major stash of them at the base of a telephone pole — a makeshift ashtray, it seemed.  Sensing that my daughter’s enthusiasm was waning, I ignored the butts for our second, longer block — though that still left us enough to do.

Why so many butts?  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Cigarette butts are far more plentiful than other forms of litter because they are small — so small that the offending smoker thinks they’re negligible.  I don’t really believe that the person who throws cigarette butts on the ground would also pitch phone books, coffee grounds, and torn clothes.
  • People only believe that cigarette butts are negligible garbage because they spend insufficient time outside, walking in the same places.  When public spaces like streets are thought of by the vast majority of people as little more than conduits for cars, it’s easy to disregard them.  Who can see a cigarette butt (or any small piece of trash) from inside a car moving twenty miles an hour?

The sad thing my daughter noticed (and I’ve noticed it for years) is that the first block we worked was vastly messier than the second.  The connection she didn’t mention is that the first block is where a quintet of low-rent apartment buildings are located — and that the garbage level is always higher on all sides of that block.  This block tends to confirm our worst stereotypes of the poor.

I can see a few causes for this — and I’m happy to have people suggest others.  (1) Renters do not have the same kind of investment that homeowners do in the appearance of their property or their neighborhood, so they’ll tend (not all, of course, but as an aggregate) not to care about the level of trash.  Transient renters have even less cause to care.  (2) In all shared spaces (like apartments), it’s easy to assume that the mess belongs to the other guy, which makes it easier to ignore — especially if dirty yards and streets won’t affect your monthly payment.  (3) The apartments themselves are old and falling apart.  While the lawn is mowed, there is sad little other maintenance done (that I can see from outside).  That kind of living space invites people not to take care of their buildings or neighborhoods.  (4) The low-rent apartments form a sizeable cluster; the few other properties on the block take up about a quarter of its area.  This tends to concentrate all the other factors.  If housing for the poor were instead spaced out evenly, it would diminish the concentration of ugliness and dignify the living situations of those have to (or choose to) live there.


Two announcements:

In case you didn’t know, this week is Bike to Work Week.  Leave your car at home!  If you live too far from work for bicycling to be feasible… why?  Isn’t that in itself too great a price?

Also, tomorrow — that’s Tuesday, May 12 — the Northern Leadership Center Lecture Series is presenting Lewis Feldstein, president of the New Hampsire Charitable Foundation and co-author (with Robert Putnam) of Better Together: Restoring the American Community.  The lecture title is “Better Together: Community Leadership and Social Capital” and will be presented at 7 p.m. in Schiable Auditorium (part of UAF’s Bunnell Building).

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This post continues “San Francisco reflections (part one)“.


San Francisco from Telegraph Hill, 26 Dec. 2008

San Francisco from Telegraph Hill, 26 Dec. 2008

I’d like to show a few of my photos of San Francisco, and to discuss some relevant points about city planning and public spaces.

Perhaps the first thing is a peculiar attitude among many Fairbanksans: that living in close proximity to others is somehow undignified.  I say: Oh, nonsense.  It is only undignified if your neighbors are brutish and rude, or if your self-image includes a large portion of misanthropy.

The population density of San Francisco (city only) is about 17,000 per square mile — about 17 times the density in the city of Fairbanks and 1,400 times the density of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.  You can tell me that San Francisco has a tremendous homelessness problem, or that the cost of living is prohibitive for the middle class, or that its public schools stink.  But you can’t tell me that the people who can live there are are suffering some indignity by simple virtue of having a lot of neighbors — not when they enjoy so much culture and civic beauty.

Grocery stores don't have to be in imposing boxes

Grocery stores don't have to be in imposing boxes

Do you see the grocery store in this picture?  No?  There is a Safeway on the far corner (center of the photograph), surrounded by arcades and topped by apartments.  It’s hard to see from a distance or when passing in a car, since it’s built on a human scale, for pedestrians to notice.

A grocery store — even a large, national chain — need not be an ugly, industrial box.  I suspect that San Franciscans wouldn’t stand for such a structure in their city.  It doesn’t even have to provide a parking lot, as long as it’s located within walking distance of enough residences to support it.

I have to admit, the arcades are not as nice as I wanted to imagine them: everything in there looks dark and hidden.  This troubles me, since arcades are part of the Vision Fairbanks plan.

San Francisco alley near the Embarcadero

Alleys can be beautiful...

I saw a number of surprisingly attractive alleys in the city.  They weren’t wide enough to park a car in, nor did they house dumpsters or garbage cans.  But they were made functional and beautiful by a people for whom space was at a premium.

...and functional

...and functional

(This is not to say that every place I saw in San Francisco was either functional or beautiful.  Not surprisingly, the only empty lots I saw — all ugly — were in an economically depressed area of town, as we approached the Tenderloin.  What was the chain of cause and effect?  Is it that the less privileged care less about the blight of ugly empty lots and parking lots?  Surely that’s part of it: if you can barely pay the rent, you may not have the leisure to keep up with the affairs of your local planning board.  Property owners and land speculators know this, which is why they won’t try to fob something ugly off on a well-to-do neighborhood.  At the same time, putting too many empty lots or parking lots on a block is the pedestrian kiss of death: with no attractions at street level, people stop their meanders and turn around.  Businesses have a hard time thriving with reduced pedestrian traffic, so they fail or downgrade.  Any extra safety that was gained by having many eyes on the street is lost.  As the area becomes less attractive, property values go down, and the only people who can afford to live there are the poor.)

Colorful houses on Telegraph Hill

Colorful houses on Telegraph Hill

One aspect of beautiful cities is their frequent use of vibrant color.  While we enjoyed more daylight hours than we’d have seen in Alaska, San Francisco still has a reputation for foggy, gray weather.  In that kind of environment, why in heaven’s name would you want your buildings to blend right in?

Fairbanks spends a great deal of the year in twilight or in darkness.  To make our buildings gray — as dignified or as re-sellably neutral as owners may consider it — only makes our built environment bleaker.  I remember being excited when the old Mary Lee Davis house (at 5th and Cowles) was being restored — then being heartbroken when the owners decided to cover up the former lively green with a burgundy-tinted gray.

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco Public Library

San Francisco Public Library

San Francisco did sport too much gray in one important place: the civic center.  As majestic and beautiful as City Hall is, it’s another gray building in a sea of gray buildings — the Supreme Court building, the Civic Auditorium, the Asian Art Museum, and others too dignified to rise above their native fog.

Fire station on Stockton at Greenwich

Fire station on Stockton at Greenwich

A couple of things are noteworthy about the fire truck and fire station shown here (SFPD Engine Co. 28).  The first is the size and placement of the station.  The building is not large, and it fits in pretty nicely with its surroundings.  I take from this that fire stations do not have to be large, free-standing buildings.  They do not need their own parking lots.  They can be integrated parts of their neighborhoods.  Contrast this with the new fire station in downtown Fairbanks (which, admittedly, is the headquarters).

The other thing I notice is the size of the truck.  That thing is small.  One of the arguments you’ll sometimes hear against narrow streets (which are advocated for both safety and aesthetics) is that fire trucks need room to turn around.  Well, if the trucks are made shorter, that argument vaporizes.

One explanation I’ve heard for long fire trucks is that they need to be long to accommodate their crews — and that the crew size is dictated by the fire fighters’ union.  There are probably less-sinister considerations I’m not aware of that inform our local fire truck length.  If you know what they are, please tell.

Union Square

Union Square

Last, here is Union Square, one of San Francisco’s many public gathering spaces.  By Fairbanks standards, this place is crowded — and it’s lively.  I think this is what we want to shoot for in the new park square designated in Vision Fairbanks.

One catch may be the weather.  It was about 50 degrees outside that day.  Fairbanks enjoys an average high temperature of at least 50 from about April 20 to September 20 — five months.  However, our low temperature is at freezing for a little less than that: May 10 to September 20.  Those are absolutely mild temperatures for us — but what to do with the space the other seven months?  I’m confident that it could be seasonally re-purposed — you may notice people ice skating in the background — but we’d have to have something like a hot dog stand or a hot chocolate vendor to keep people happy in the colder months.

San Francisco has plenty of imperfections, a few of which I’ve hinted at here.  But it shows me — I hope it shows you — that cities don’t have to be ugly or undignified.  They can be beautiful, rich, fulfilling places.  Those of us who who earn our living from the city shouldn’t flee it, but embrace it.  San Francisco points the way.

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I don’t do restaurant reviews, per se: they’re usually largely focused on the quality of the food, and this is not a “food” blog.  However, this is a “public space” blog, so I may, from time to time, review retail establishments (including food service) to discuss how they do at creating good meeting places.

Big Daddy’s BBQ and Banquet Hall sits downtown on Wickersham Street, between First and Second Avenues.  It’s between five and ten minutes’ walk from my house, which makes it a candidate for what sociologist Ray Oldenburg would call my “third place”.  Third places are hangouts — places outside of home (your first place) and work (your second) where you’re likely to spend a lot of your free time.  They invite casual conversation: in fact, besides the establishments’ anchoring purposes (e.g., groceries, eating, haircutting, coffee, books, beer), there is little to do there but talk.

One of the key features of third places is that they are local.  While restaurants and bars that require a special trip by transit or car can be excellent, they fail as third places for two reasons.  First, true third places give neighbors a chance to interact.  When an establishment is out of walking range of a neighborhood, the neighbors cannot easily spend time there.  Every trip there must be planned (and probably driven), which automatically cuts down the number of visits.  Second, the more an establishment draws in business from outside the neighborhood, the lower will be the proportion of familiar faces.  Familiarity with their fellow patrons inclines people to frequent a place, whereas a constant stream of strangers inclines them to think another place would be just as good.  Third places are about the people you find there.

How does Big Daddy’s do as a third place?

My wife and I went a few weeks ago.  We needed a date, some time away from the kids just to talk, and fancy food was not important.  In fact, I can’t remember what we ate — probably a plate of nachos, or a dish of greasy-fried-whatever.  The food was adequate, and, more importantly for a third place, reasonably cheap.  (For eateries, food must be cheap enough that neighbors of all classes can afford to go there.)  The beer, on the other hand, was more average-priced, a little costlier than the beer I get at the UAF Pub.  And the cocktails sent our tab through the roof; I’d have expected such prices at Lavelle’s, but not at Big Daddy’s.  (This is not necessarily a strike against Big Daddy’s.  I don’t think it’s necessary for every one of a third place’s offerings to be cheap.  There should just be enough cheap items available that everybody in the neighborhood can afford to come often.)

The space is large, but that seemed appropriate for the crowd.  It was a Friday night, and they were hosting a banquet — so it was full.  We ran into a couple of other families who run in our (mostly white-collar) social circles, and there also people who looked a little more working class.  (Though one of the joys of Fairbanks is that you really can’t tell people’s station by their dress.)

I think age-mixing in public places is a good thing: people are more likely to behave in a civilized and respectful way than if they only spend time in homogeneous groups.  There was certainly good age mixing at Big Daddy’s that night: not only did younger and older adults show up, but couples with babes-in-arms and groups of teenagers, too.  A few people that night brought toddlers and other young children.  These youngsters were allowed to roam freely, and any running or other dangerous behavior was reined in by whatever adults happened to be close.

Overall, I was pleased enough with the casual, sociable, low-cost environment of Big Daddy’s to overlook its failings.

I returned there about two weeks ago, having left work early and hoping to see what Big Daddy’s might be like as a neighborhood tavern — the kind you stop at for a beer after work.  This time, I was more impressed by the failings.

To start with, it was loud — not from the raised voices of the crowd within, but from the televisions.  Televisions are kind of a no-no for third places (although I won’t be dogmatic and say that they can never have a role), since they create non-human distraction from the flesh-and-blood company present.  As I said, there’s little to do in ideal third places but talk — visual and auditory distractions only take away from the chance to interact.  And if the noise is too much, it discourages talking between, or across, tables, so it ends up isolating groups of customers.  This is why “sports bars” are unlikely to be genuine hangouts, as wonderful as they might be for watching the World Series.

Not only was the sports programming visually unappealing, but there was something about the decor that also turned me off.  It’s not that the curtains didn’t match the carpets, or the trim was done in orchid rather than in heliotrope.  I’m no esthete.  The problem with the decor of Big Daddy’s is that it all looks so contrived.  Everywhere on the walls were sports paraphernelia (including team T-shirts and souvenir pennants) and barbecue-themed paraphernelia (including cook-off awards and symbolic pigs).

There’s nothing wrong with a sports pennant or a stylized hog’s head as a decoration.  But such a density of decorations with exactly the same theme bespeaks an establishment’s desperate attempt to create a theme ex nihilo.  “Hey, look!” it shouts.  “This is a sports bar!  With barbecue stuff!”  If sports are really what the regulars like to talk about, then the newcomer will detect that, and choose to come (or avoid) for that reason, without any visual cues at all.  The over-emphasis on themed decor suggests that Big Daddy’s lacks a distinct character of its own.

(If you remember Hogg Bros. Café in Anchorage when it was on Spenard near Fireweed, think of how little conspicuous decoration it needed to convince you it was a rough, seedy joint where a Hell’s Angel or a trucker could get steak, eggs, and a bloody Mary for breakfast.  Contrast it with its later incarnation on Northern Lights, whose atmosphere is sanitized and contrived: a Denny’s, but with piggy stuff.)

That’s not to say that Big Daddy’s can’t grow some authentic character.  But it will take some time.  They need to cut out the forced “theme-ishness” and the over-loud noise of television and music, so that its human character can grow.  I hope so, since it’s the nearest bar to my house, and it may be the best thing I’ve got.

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One of the pleasures I’ve had since resuming bus ridership a couple of weeks ago is seeing the buses so full.

Last winter, I took the bus to work every day.  Usually, there were no more than five people on the bus at any one time, including me and the driver.  On the ride home, the bus was often half-full.  (Or was it half-empty?)  There were always seats available.

But for the last two weeks, I haven’t boarded the bus to work with fewer than twelve other passengers on board.  The buses (at least some models) have 32 seats, and I find they are usually half-full from downtown to UAF.  And on the way home?  Crowded, crowded, crowded!  If I take an early bus, it’s perhaps only half-full.  But if I leave at five o’clock, nearly every seat is taken, and sometimes there’s standing room only.

This morning, for the first time, I saw a man on the bus who looked very well dressed — that is to say, he looked “high class”.  Okay, it was hard to tell for sure under his black wool trench coat, but it was a nice trench coat.  Both his graying hair and his white beard were neatly kept.  He carried a briefcase.  He got off at the Butrovich building, so I took him for a UA Statewide administrator, though he could have been heading for the G.I., too.  Him I was especially glad to see.

Why am I so delighted to sit on crowded buses among higher-class passengers?  Truth be told, it’s not because of the pollution that my fellow would-be drivers aren’t causing — although that’s something to celebrate, too.  And it’s certainly not because I anticipate better conversation out of the well-to-do.  I’m happy because the bus is starting to be more of a social leveler, bringing together a wider variety of ages, races, educations, and incomes.  And that’s important.

How many people of another social class, or race, or educational level are you likely to meet while at work?  Probably few.  How many in your home, barring your own parents or children?  Very few.  And how many while driving alone in your car?  Absolutely none!  For much of our days, most of have no chance to rub elbows with people who seem unlike us, because we lack space in which this can happen.  Our stratification and our isolation dim our understanding and dull our sympathies.

I recall, growing up in Anchorage, some ordinance involving expanded bus service came up before the municipal assembly (I think), and Mayor Tom Fink, speaking against it, said, “Everybody I know drives a car.”  Well, wonderful.  That really spoke more to his own social class and his own isolation from others, than it did to the actual state of affairs.

If the privileged leaders of our community — if our City Council and Borough Assembly members, our captains of industry, our professors, the members of our Chamber of Commerce — got to ride the bus every day, and to rub elbows with their fellow citizens of all classes, no such ignorant statement could escape their lips without consequence.  And I expect it would be much harder for us all to hold on to our prejudices.

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My wife, my daughters, and I went a couple of weekends ago to a birthday party for another friend’s child — and it’s got me all down about the place where I live.

We live in the upper floor of a two-story house downtown, renting out the basement apartment.  Not counting our deck or the front and rear arctic entryways, our floor is about 800 square feet.  We have two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a combined living room and dining room.  I sometimes wish we had more space inside for the kids to run around, but we do alright in the space we have.  I suppose any larger would just mean more cleaning.

Our friends, on the other hand, live on a large lot off of Farmers Loop Road.  Their children’s bedroom is smaller than our children’s, but they also have a playroom downstairs which I did not see.  Their bedroom is smaller than ours, but they have an adjoining office where they can work or read in solitude.  And their yard — well, their land, really — is plentiful, large enough that they can pretend they don’t have neighbors and their children (and guest children) have a large playground adjacent to the house.

Part of me is envious.  We have a fenced yard, but it’s on the small side.  We have two playgrounds within 15-20 minutes’ walk and Weeks Field a bit closer, but nothing visible from our windows.  Other than to the yard, we cannot simply send the kids outside to play, since (1) there are far too many cars on our street, and (2) there are far too few people on the street to watch out for the safety of neighboring children.  Our suburban friends, on the other hand, can send their kids out to play with minimal supervision at any time.

Of course, the drawback of living on some large plot of land is that little but the wilderness would be within walking distance.  We would be more isolated and more reliant on our car.  And we would further de-populate the city, thus providing incentives for businesses to locate outside the urban core, in turn giving city dwellers still less reason to want to live there.

We have here an exercise in game theory — a branch of mathematics that anlalyzes behavior in circumstances where an individual’s best choice depends on the choices of others.  If many people choose to live in the city, then they are more likely to try to make the city a pleasant place to live.  The city’s appeal will increase, and more people will choose to live there.  (At some point, the crowding starts to make the city less appealing, so that negative feedback brings the system into equilibrium.)

On the other hand, if too few people are convinced that cities are worthwhile (which seems to be the case in Fairbanks), then little effort will go into their good planning.  They will in fact become worse places, due largely to the neglect of those who would live there but instead just drive through.

If city-dwellers had real clout, we would have a grocery store in every neighborhood and frequent buses to take us all over.  Instead, we have all major retail on the periphery of town, where it is convenient to suburbanites, and a lack of meaningful destinations in the core.  Instead, we have suburban flight that leaves city-dwellers not only without the benefit of a 20-acre wood around them, but without the joys that a good city can bring: shopping, restaurants, public space, and enjoyable street life.

I wonder sometimes if Fairbanks is tipped irredemably toward the suburban lifestyle, tipped so much that high-quality city life has no chance at emerging.  I think about our choice to live downtown and wonder sometimes if we are the chumps.

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Good news, city-dwelling neighborhood-lovers!

Weed & Seed is organizing a fall Clean-Up Day, next Saturday, Sepetmber 13.  This is a great chance to make our neighborhoods look great before the snow falls.

According to their Fall newsletter (pdf, about 1.45 MB):

Weed & Seed partners are hosting a Gathering of Neighbors for the first annual Community-wide Fall Cleanup Day. Join us between 11am and 2pm at First and Barnette Street and we will provide coffee and cleanup supplies.

Weed & Seed neighbors will round-up volunteers, trucks and rakes to help tackle the clean up before the snow falls this winter. If you need help, call us. If you can help others, join us. For
further information call 322-8516.

There is also a planning meeting for the clean-up day on Wednesday, September 10th, 1:30 p.m., at the Salvation Army building at 10th and Lathrop (across 10th from Denali Elementary School).

According to the website of our local United Way,

Weed and Seed, a community-based strategy sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), is an innovative, comprehensive multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization. The strategy involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in “weeding out” violent criminals and drug abusers, and public agencies and community-based private organizations collaborate to “seed” much-needed human services, including prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration programs. A community-oriented policing component bridges the weeding and seeding elements.

The four Weed & Seed Strategies are implemented via four working subcommittees, plus some special project teams. Approximately 100 people and 30 partners comprise the working groups. These subcommittees and teams meet regularly and are eager to have your involvement.

Involved community residents and businesses are key to this program’s success. To learn more or to volunteer, Cathy Persinger at weedseed@ak.net or 322-8516. For Law Enforcement, Officer Alana Malloy at ajmalloy@ci.fairbanks.ak.us or 450-6469.

The Weed & Seed area is bounded by 17th Avenue on the South, the Chena River on the North, Barnette Street on the East, and Wilbur Street on the West — which, according to the 2000 U.S. Census (the latest for which 100% block-level data is available), makes it one of the most densely populated areas in the Borough.

As I’ve said before, having more people outside and walking around their neighborhoods can only benefit civic life: our working together as neighbors and citizens absolutely depends on our rubbing elbows with each other and with those different from us.  And one of the prerequisites for lively pedestrian activity is that the streets and other public spaces be clean, comfortable, and inviting.

On Cleanup Day, we have a chance (although this is only one of many) to make our neighborhoods good places — not just for driving through and retreating to our houses, but for people.  So, get out next Saturday (Sept. 13) and make your neighborhoods look great!

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