News


College Terrace association faces uncertain future

Longtime neighborhood organization could change or disband due to dearth of new leaders

The College Terrace Residents Association, one of the most visible and effective neighborhood groups in Palo Alto, is facing a leadership crisis and could disband or change if residents decline to step into leadership roles.

The association for the neighborhood that lies adjacent to Stanford University formed in the 1970s and has long been the driving force on issues as diverse as crime, traffic, parking and construction. It rescued the College Terrace Library from closure by raising funds and petitioning the city, encouraged Stanford University to keep Kite Hill as open space when building the Peter Coutts housing development, instituted a traffic-calming program that spread throughout the city and initiated a residential-parking permit program that has become a model for other neighborhoods, to name a few accomplishments. Most recently, members met with Palo Alto police and Stanford officials to encourage additional security measures after a series of burglaries at the adjacent Stanford Research Park.

But board members, some of whom have been at the helm for years, say that it's time for others to take over their watchdog efforts. Last month they held a community meeting to discuss CTRA's future.

"Maybe the organization has to be modified. To disband it would be to the detriment of the neighborhood. We need people to take care of us because we don't have any advocates," a resident said.

"I personally appreciate CTRA," Erika Enos added. "We do not have trucks driving up and down our streets (during Stanford's ongoing 180-unit Mayfield housing construction). CTRA has done a lot about that."

College Terrace's dilemma is shared by many other neighborhood associations. The same people stay in positions of leadership because no one else seems willing to do the work. They're tired, but they can't see walking away and leaving their neighborhoods without a voice against over-development and other issues, they have said.

Now, more than ever, the corridor of neighborhoods adjacent to El Camino Real is under increasing traffic and development pressures, as the city struggles to right a jobs/housing imbalance and faces mandates from the Association of Bay Area Governments to plan for thousands of additional homes, leaders and residents said.

In addition to acting as a watchdog, the neighborhood group has played a social role, convening picnics and other gatherings.

But some College Terrace residents don't believe that the association is necessary.

"The time has changed," said a resident who wants to remain anonymous. "Things like Yahoo Groups and (the website) Nextdoor have taken its place. Nextdoor doesn't require management."

Others are suggesting a more pared-down organization. In the old days, residents galvanized around particular issues as they came up, but then momentum faded away when the pressures receded, they said. The neighborhood came together in 1999 to develop a parking-permit program that took eight years to get in place. In 2001, residents formalized the association for the first time with bylaws.

Current President Brent Barker said there is a need for a small cluster of people to remain on the board to inform the community when things come up. But the responsibility for acting on those issues could fall more to residents, who would be alerted to the issues through social media and asked to join a group that would address the problem.

Stewart Carl credited CTRA with helping him galvanize residents to form the group Sky Posse, which advocates against airplane noise.

"I found it (CTRA) to be a very responsive organization. It all started with CTRA when Brent invited me to a board meeting to discuss the problem. The board can serve as a catalyst. That's one of the most important functions it has. CTRA is the envy of other neighborhoods," he said.

Enos agreed that residents might not see the value in joining a larger organization but would galvanize around particular issues. Normal self-interest is also a factor in people's lack of participation, she added.

"It all goes back to the myopia. You'll do it for you, you'll do it for your kids, but you won't do it for others," she said.

At the board's Jan. 21 meeting, members discussed the value of social-media sites like Nextdoor to boosting participation in neighborhood associations, and how to engage folks through social media.

"On Nextdoor, I'm getting 12 responses in an hour," event coordinator Ingrid Shu said.

"What were you asking for?" Margit Aramburu, Stanford Research Park observer, said.

"A recommendation for someone to repair the heater," Shu said.

"But if you ask for someone to be a party coordinator volunteer, you get crickets chirping," Aramburu said.

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 11:37 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Social media no replacemment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

There is a big difference between websites or email groups (communication) from actual associations.

Nextdoor and email lists are about lost wallets, sports tickets, and a free toaster at somebody's doorstep.

That is a far cry from looking at neighbors face-to-face to undertake leadership on one issue or another.

I wish we had live meetings in our neighborhood.

Really? Nobody is willing to continue it?


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In the event of a disaster internet based relationships will be useless and unusable.

The College Terrace Residents Association, consisting of established face-to-face relationships and trust, will be a crucial survival tool in the event of a disaster.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm

What happened to the nice man, Seelam Reddy- who ran for city council. I thought Seelam was from college Terrace- but maybe I am wrong. Perhaps others who ran for city council can now be active in their neighborhoods. I know Lydia Kuo was a strong supporter of her neighborhood association- and Lydia continues to support her neighborhood association. Not sure how active the other election candidates are in their grass-roots neighborhood associations.


8 people like this
Posted by Chuck Karish
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Nextdoor facilitates real-world relationships among neighbors. Those don't go away when the power goes out. In my neighborhood Nextdoor is where I learn about recruiting of block captains to prepare for disasters.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Nextdoor is an excellent place to make pre-disaster connections but don't expect the internet or even 911 to work in the event of a large scale disaster. History has shown that the neighborhoods that do best in a disaster situation are those that have well established face-to-face social networks.

The only things that work in a large scale disaster are hard copy plans, real people and the HAM radio network.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm

CTRA has been a good organization for College Terrace. It organized the traffic flow and parking designs for CT. It also has provided some social cohesiveness in the neighborhood. Its downside, IMO, is that it can get captured by activist groups, some good with me, and some bad. In the end, it is a mixed bag.

I like technology, so maybe the social media approach could work.

I don't agree with the disaster planning issue (Peter Carpenter). We had one of those in 1989 (Loma Prieta earthquake). Neighbors simply took care of neighbors...no neighborhood association necessary. Good human nature at work...and a warm feeling by all.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Neighbors simply took care of neighbors."

As I stated "The only things that work in a large scale disaster are hard copy plans, real people and the HAM radio network."


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 3:30 pm

>As I stated "The only things that work in a large scale disaster are hard copy plans, real people and the HAM radio network."

Peter, in 1989 we had no large scale plans, nor any HAM radio. All people are real people, so we had them. It worked. I remember turning off gas supplies for neighbors I never really new (until then). Many neighbors had BBQ pits going, and sharing with other neighbors. It was, perhaps, the best feeling I remember in my neighborhood.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Craig - if you think 1989 was a disaster in College Terrace then you will have a rude awakening when a real disaster hits. The Loma Prieta earthquake was, at worst, a mild inconvenience for College Terrace. I was in my office at 900 Page Mill and know exactly what happened - scary yes but a disaster, no way. Disaster is when you have wide spread structural collapses, fires and serious injuries and deaths - not when the power goes out and there are traffic jams.


5 people like this
Posted by Sad but true
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Nextdoor is useful for recommendations for pet sitters, landscape designers, babysitters and so forth. In other words, recommendations for consumption.
It is a commercial enterprise and is no substitute for people getting together to discuss and act on neighborhood issues.
Long-time activists eventually get tired and those who depend on them need to step up and work for the community. An immense store of experience gets lost when they retire.
Sometimes the new people just take things at face value and don't really understand what is going on. Other neighborhoods have the same experience. Some new shiny organization might start up but they do not have the depth of understanding that is required.


1 person likes this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2015 at 4:21 pm

It's hard to get people involved in local groups unless there's a hot issue happening right in their back yard. Millenials seem to think everything can be done online. It can't.

I dropped out of NextDoor a long time ago. It’s all about free baby buggies and who knows the best plumber. I guess that’s useful for some folks, but not a place that fosters dialog. I tried starting a group for political issues and no one joined.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Peter, If a severe disaster comes our way, CTRA will be of no help...the members will be taking care of themselves and (possibly) their immediate neighbors. There are reasons to support CTRA, and reasons to oppose it. Your disaster constructs just don't pencil. In a severe case, neighbors will still help each other, but the police (or National Guard) will be called in.


Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2015 at 4:44 pm

We weren't here in 89 but I do remember the day of the EPA plane crash and having no power all day. Out came the camping gear to heat hot water and all the neighbors came with their cups for hot drinks. Also, one neighbor did a run to a Mountain View sandwich shop with a list of what everybody wanted.

In real emergencies, we help each other out and there is a spirit of well being and neighborliness. It is only when this happens that we see what we could do when the big one hits.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Craig - If you really believe that "In a severe case the police (or National Guard) will be called in." and that they will actually be available to respond then you have a very different sense of the reality of a disaster than I do based on my experiences.

Good luck - but what happens when your luck runs out?

As for the EPA plane crash I was then (as now) serving as a Director of the Fire District and I am intimately aware of both the very narrow scope of the event and the support and resources provide by others. In an area wide disaster such support and resources will be totally unavailable.


2 people like this
Posted by anne
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 5:05 pm

As far as I recall about Nextdoor College Terrace, members of the CT Green Team were instrumental in adopting Nextdoor. (We might have been one of the first in PA.) One of the ideas was to ask to borrow equipment and to give away stuff we no longer want or need and to get to know some more neighbors. In other words, our goal was to circulate stuff so we have to buy less. I know this has worked for many of us. I could list a bunch of items I have given away and been given and some I have bought. AND I know a least a dozen more people! Fortunately, the CTRA and other individuals also communicate about social events and such like. We all seem to work together! As far as I am concerned: long live CTRA


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

>In an area wide disaster such support and resources will be totally unavailable.

Is the SF Quake (1906) good enough for you? If so, please tell me how CTRA (or equivalent) would have made any difference. In the SF Quake, there were many examples of good deeds...but the army was called in to shoot looters, and food kitchens were spontaneously set up by neighbors and outside groups.

The question of CTRA should be considered outside the issue of disaster responses. Luck has nothing to do with it.


8 people like this
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 8, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Neighborhood associations should not require membership applications or fees – they should be inclusive based on address. If funds are required (not sure for what) then donations should be solicited.

I truly value neighborhood cohesiveness and neighbors helping neighbors, and it sounds like College Terrace has enjoyed that for many years. I hope there is a new wave of volunteers that appreciate what they have and step up to continue what can, and should, be a vital purpose. Neighborhood associations can facilitate neighborhood relations and help build cohesiveness that can be vital in the face of controversy or disaster. People are far more willing to reach out and help people they know.

In contrast, the Adobe Meadow NA (NA could just as easily stand for Not Applicable) is a highly political organization with a bunch of "buddies" controlling what the neighborhood hears and has an opportunity in which to participate. AMNA has been under the same control for many years, complete with the existing board "recommending" whom to vote for in each annual "election." Whenever something controversial comes up, the number of board members allowed to participate and make decisions becomes very limited (to the "buddies"). The NA acts on the interests of the few, to the ignorance of the many.

Many residents try to ignore AMNA completely because they see it as not inclusive. Unfortunately, the existing power continues to claim they "represent" a body of residents that mostly have no idea what is going on. They just know they get occasional feel-good emails from the AMNA president and think that's all there is to a neighborhood association.

And now my post will be deleted because the AMNA President is a "Friend of the Weekly."


6 people like this
Posted by sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:47 am

Hi all

I am a resident.
I rent on 747 Stanford.
I will be interested to take any leadership role the community desires.
I ran for city council in Novemberand praised our community.
I still have my website. You know where I stand on issues.

Www.paloaltolife.org

Just to let you know all, I am a retiree of Boeing. I worked and lived in great places in India and Usa such as Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach/coast and Irvine.

I raised two daughters as a single parent. My two daughters

I know all about, traffic congestion, children safety, jobs and crime.

Just letting you know.

I do not know who to go to

I believe in giving back to the community.

Respectfully


1 person likes this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2015 at 11:02 am

To And then there is Adobe Meadow NA:

Midtown Residents Association asks for voluntary contributions to support our costs for a hard copy newsletter (sent to over 1000 people) and our annual Ice Cream Social.

We would love for more people to step up and get involved in neighborhood issues on a regular basis. Neighborhood associations are an important component of protecting quality of life and communicating issues to their residents, through newsletters and community meetings.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 11:27 am

I think "And then there is Adobe Meadow NA" is doing us a great service. Perhaps this will make it easier for others to speak up now, if this is a valid concern.

Membership applications and fees? How much? Are there regular Treasurer's reports?
Adobe Meadows is sometimes thought to be allied with major developers but we need a little more information.


Like this comment
Posted by muttallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 12:16 pm

AMNA membership fees are $10/year. Not going to break anyone's bank. They are used to fund the semi-annual picnic supplies, and to buy the emergency medical and radio kits stored at various people's houses for use in case of real emergency when power and city services are not available.

Anyone is welcome to come and run for any office. There is always a request for nominations ahead of time on Nextdoor, and another request at the picnic where elections are held. Paper notices are delivered to every house before these events. AMNA is not exclusive, but requests more input from everyone. The problem is that when the minority is out-voted they blame it on the process. This is really about the fight over the cell site on top of a light pole at the Little League Park.


3 people like this
Posted by Jeanne
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm

As a resident of Charleston Gardens, I have to report that our very active leader George Browning died quite suddenly. I'm happy to report that our neighborhood soldiered on without George because about five residents stepped up and we divided the neighborhood tasks between them. One person took over emergency preparedness, another the annual block party that takes place in September, a third person set up the Nextdoor communication system and I became their representative at PAN meetings. I hope College Terrace can find a way to continue, Palo Alto needs you!!!

Incidentally the only thing we pay for is our annual block party, we do not have annual or monthly fees.


Like this comment
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Sea,
Thank you for your interest in the residents' association
Send me an email at fbalin@gmail.com, and I can let you know more about the board positions and election process.
I am on the outreach committee seeking folks interested in serving on the board.
Fred


3 people like this
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Excellent! It sounds like College Terrace has a caring candidate to help hold the neighborhood association together. I hope this article spurs enough interest to get some more volunteers to step up.

@Resident: Yes, some of the AMNA "leaders" are very much pro-development and pro-growth. [Portion removed.]

I hope other neighborhood associations have more success in building community in their neighborhoods.


7 people like this
Posted by Khiba
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Unfortunately, no one can afford to buy in College Terrace except investors and the ultra rich. This means many of us are renting. Most of the families I know whose kids go to Escondido with mine are renting. This doesn't mean we don't care about the neighborhood but knowing that we can be kicked out of our houses the moment the owner wants to make a few more bucks changes the equation.

There may also be differences of opinion about what is best for the neighborhood. Palo Alto simply has to build more housing, at least if it wants to keep the jobs. It should also do something about the non-resident foreign investors that are pricing everyone out, but that's another story. We want more than anything to be connected and invested in this community but, to be honest, it is unclear if the community wants to make room for us. I am involved in city-wide organizing efforts and would love to join a neighborhood effort as long as it is representative of all residents' needs.


Like this comment
Posted by Khiba
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

By the way, I am a 3rd generation Palo Altan with both PA owners and renters in our family. Many owners also want more housing so that a) they could downsize, and b) their children and grandchildren can live nearby (children who are working very hard, by the way).


Like this comment
Posted by Happy camper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm


I am so glad I live in Palo Alto but not a part of a neighborhood community. They all sound about the same. A friend of mine lives in Greenmeadow and she says it's the worst. Plenty happy being a Palo Altan. No need to break up the town into smaller competing communities. Just seems to support NIMBY. Fees? Really!


Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Happy Camper,

Maybe we shouldn't have city government either... why break the bay area up into competing cities, and why have a state government. Why not just let the federal government run everything.

It's called democracy.


Like this comment
Posted by Happy Camper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:24 pm


@Ahem

Because we have enough government. We have federal, state and local governments telling us what to do. That's enough for me. It is still a democracy. I just think we can all get along without dividing up Palo Alto. That's all.


Like this comment
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:38 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:52 pm

While I long for a well-connected neighborhood where people actually care for one another, I do understand Happy Camper's perspective. When neighborhood associations reach beyond their intended purpose and become political organizations with "majorities" and "minorities" and a small few claim to be the voice for all, the neighborhood association has failed to fulfill its intended purpose and becomes a dividing agent rather than a unifying leadership.

Again, my best to the College Terrace neighborhood and I share my thoughts and experience in hopes that you will actively strive to build and maintain a unifying leadership, rather than a divisive command.


2 people like this
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2015 at 12:04 am

Happy Camper,

You don't sound very happy to me. You sound very angry about local, state, and federal government telling you what to do.

Neighborhood associations are not telling you what to do, neighborhood associations are pushing back against local, state, and federal government, and defending neighborhoods from the control of these tone deaf bureaucracies.

Your opinion carries a lot more weight at your local neighborhood association, than it would at any meeting of the local, state, or federal government. It's called democracy. Try it some time.


2 people like this
Posted by And then there is Adobe Meadow NA
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 10, 2015 at 12:43 am

@Ahem:

You clearly have a very different experience with neighborhood associations than I do. In my experience, a small number get into power and then claim to speak on behalf of all, without actually caring what the "all" knows or thinks. But I know that does not describe all neighborhood associations.

Neighborhood Associations are not democracies - there are no binding laws governing procedures and activities. Neighborhood associations have no tie to local, state, or federal government - they are autonomous bodies that do as much or as little as the particular neighborhood desires or will tolerate (or knows about). Neighborhood associations have no formal jurisdiction, no legal standing, and no "official" voice. In short, they are just temporary entities made up of individuals, and, as we saw in this article, can disappear if individuals do not step up to help.

Please do not confuse neighborhood associations with democracy. They are either 1) popularity clubs where those who need attention hope to have their needs fulfilled or 2) an opportunity for the truly civic-minded to share their goodwill and experience to the betterment of their neighborhood.

I hope College Terrace finds many of the latter.


Like this comment
Posted by Demography101
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2015 at 1:32 am

Khiba gets it exactly right. But let's be even more blunt: The population of College Terrace is aging and not enough young families can afford to buy a home and become a stable part of this beloved community. This is directly a result of a booming economy combined with decades of residentialist policies at both the city and state level.

What we see in College Terrace is a harbinger of what we will see in all of Palo Alto in coming years: the civic cohesion of our neighborhoods will deteriorate as young families are unable to put down new roots. What irony that the first sign of this unraveling is a residents association fading away due to residentialist policies.

Neighborhood associations are just the first domino to fall. Next up will be our schools. PAUSD forecasts that enrollment will start to fall in a few years due to the aging demographics of the city. How willing will the voters of 2030 be to fund the next school bond when a majority won't have any kids in the system?

If these trends are to be reversed, it's time to have a serious conversation about how to have smarter growth in Palo Alto. We need more young families who can call this city home. Only then can the system be refreshed and the vitality of Palo Alto's neighborhoods be carried forward into the future.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 10, 2015 at 3:45 am

>> How willing will the voters of 2030 be to fund the next school bond when a majority won't have any kids in the system?

Do those with kids in PAUSD schools constitute a majority presently?

(40,000 registered voters; 12,000 students)


Posted by mark weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Mar 21, 2015 at 10:27 am


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2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

@And then there is
Your observations about the neighborhood are shared by others. The usual problem in neighborhood associations is that the leaders work hard and eventually get tired. If there is no one to step up, the organization fades away. Experienced developers know this and outlast the volunteers.
Who are the AM organization leaders and how do we get in touch to find out what is going on?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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