SNI Proposal Emerges From Economic Realities

The ambitious and successful initiative launched 10 years ago to improve long-neglected San Jose neighborhoods is on the verge of emerging as a leaner organization prepared to focus on the neediest neighborhoods and resident leaders the tools to take action on their own.

On Tuesday, August 10, the San Jose City Council will vote on an updated business plan for the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative in the wake of severe budget cuts and limited resources.

The economic downturn and a state takeaway of redevelopment revenue resulted in a signficant drop in available funds. The Strong Neighborhoods Business plan  is fhas $1.4 million in new capital funding in this fiscal year, with $30 million in funding moved to future years. Funding for such services as code enforcement, housing rehab and traffic calming also has been significantly reduced, and the SNI staff cut by 12 employees.

 The program has pumped $104 million in Redevelopment Agency funds and $32 million in City funds into 19 areas. That investment brought improved services and resident-driven projects that included new lighting, new and upgraded parks, community centers, sewers and housing rehabilitation.

The new business plan targets four areas determined by conversations with neighborhood leaders and community meetings that drew hundreds to talk about neighborhood needs and assets. For the first time, the plan also looks at neighborhoods City-wide, not just in the SNI Project Area.

As the updated plan was developing, the Strong Neighborhoods resident leadership created a new group with teams to work in tandem with SNI staff on achieving the four key goals. CNAC, or Coalition of Neighborhood Action Coalitions, is aimed at providing a strong voice for residents as the new Strong Neighborhoods organization unfolds. The four key goals are:

Stabilizing neighborhoods in crisis. Using data that includes crime statistics, code violations, recognized gang hot-spots, graffiti, unemployment and foreclosure rates, Strong Neighborhoods will determine neighborhoods that need the most help to stabilize, and deploy staff to field offices in those areas. A broader network of neighborhood leaders will be called on to get involved in Neighborhood Solutions Teams that will also include representatives from the city’s code enforcement, anti-graffiti, youth services, housing and non-profit groups.

Mobilizing neighborhood action City-wide: A revamped Neighborhood Development Center will work with neighborhoods to help them take on small-scale projects, provide training and access to grants, tools for cleanups, networking and improved communication.

Removing barriers to neighborhood action across the City: The City will commit to removing  barriers to neighborhood action, including finding low/no cost access to meeting space and finding ways to change polices that hinder progress. 

Connecting resources to priorities. Community priorities will be funded with available resources,  but the program also will step up attemps to seek outside partners and resources. Officials will use  public funds to leverage additional resources whenever possible and expand such successful partnerships as CommUniverCity, the collaboration with San Jose State University in the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace SNI Area.