Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” -Sir Winston Churchill, September 6, 1943

As a Downtown resident who stays abreast of all things affecting Downtowners, I grow frustrated at times and vent my discontentment by wildly pressing the keys of my computer keyboard. You as the reader are granted permission to take a peek into these gray words.

I am so incredibly grateful to live in a region where nature’s beauty is all embracing. Yet, I grow uneasy with the progress (or lack thereof) on key livability elements. The list is too long to enumerate within this short narrative.

Needless to say, when it comes to creating the ideal neighborhood community, it appears as though we move one step forward and two back. Despite the public process, it doesn’t feel like we truly have a voice in the ultimate outcome. Many civic-minded Downtowners have left the movement after growing weary, and eventually despondent. Others move up to take their place, but I wonder how long will they survive?

Perhaps it’s time to visit a concept that has been tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind and only shared with few others: a Downtown Neighborhood Council.

This isn’t a wild idea. In fact, the City of Los Angeles created the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment in 1999 to actually promote the public participation in government. According to their website: “People are (sic) truly empowered to guide the futures of their neighborhoods.”

What if our Downtown’s residents were truly empowered? Would we create dog parks like Westside did? Recycling receptacles in parks, akin to Venice? Or a Scrabble Challenge in Westchester’s vein? Or, would we encourage developers to lease ground floor space at a reasonable price for small independent shopkeepers offering neighborhood services? Build an arts and theatre enclave? Or work on better sidewalks, crosswalks, more traffic signals, and traffic slowing measures?

I wonder...How can we hope to achieve greatness just by being grateful?

Living in a city with such great potential as ours gives us, its residents, a sense of responsibility. If we work together as neighbors, will our input help shape our greatness?

Christine Gaunt (CityFront Terrace) welcomes the idea of a neighborhood council and is hopeful about establishing a sophisticated public process in Downtown. She truly believes early and meaningful public input results in better community projects.

Downtown advocate Gary Smith (Park Row) participates in the public process. Between the meetings, forums, and studies, he believes we over-talk the issues. He says there is a gap between the ideation and realization.

Jenifer Bubenik (Island Village) supports the idea of public participation in all areas of neighborhood involvement. She has seen firsthand that as community members begin to take a more active role in issues affecting their daily lives, the final results will go far beyond any goals ever set.

We are currently a community of 33,000 individuals. By taking responsibility to band our voices together, we would make a significant impact to the greatness of our neighborhoods. -May 2008

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