Monday, January 18, 2010

Are YOU Happy? CARAG Residents Speak Out

You may remember last August when CARAG gathered community input for use in making NRP funding decisions. You may have even filled out one of the surveys yourself. The final results have been tallied and are being discussed; check out the full report for yourself on the CARAG website. While voluntary and therefore not fully representative, a respectable 409 respondents filled out the surveys, including a decent number of traditionally underrepresented younger people and renters. You can read the details for yourselves, but some highlights that I found interesting:
  • Nearly everyone (98.5%, to be exact) said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the neighborhood. The numbers did vary a bit with age, with younger people (18-34) more satisfied than the 55+ crowd.
  • Crime was the number one issue. No surprise there, I don't think. While I think some people's perception is off ("crime is high"), obviously while CARAG isn't a high-crime neighborhood it's also not without its problems.
  • Transportation was cited as important by three quarters of respondents, but the written comments made it clear that people defined "transportation" in very different ways. Some took it to mean light rail or public transportation, others read it to mean parking, while others focused on speeding on residential streets.

And now to the good, or at least interesting part... the comments. I love reading these, as it's interesting to see how drastically opinions can vary. Most of them were reasonable or straight-forward (i.e. petty crime is a problem, street lights are out, etc.), but there were a few that deserve to be pulled out for special consideration.

"Gang graffiti is everywhere." I'm not criticizing this one; I just have a question. I've been meaning to look more into this myself, but is gang graffiti really everywhere? Graffiti does seem to be an increased problem and while the weather was still warm and sunny I wandered the streets and took what seemed like hundreds of photos of examples in CARAG and other Uptown neighborhoods. But is it gang-related? Any gang experts out there? I know there's gang activity in neighborhoods like Lyndale, but how far over does it reach? Is CARAG's graffiti problem gang-related in nature? If so, what gangs are most active in the area? I'll have to do some more research into this, as I have some major gaps in my knowledge here.

"Neighborhoods look old and run down." There are some individual properties that look run down, but I think that as a whole the neighborhood looks pretty good. Then again, I'm happy with places looking "old," although not "run down." (would be worse to be new and run down, though!)

“The increased density may lead to crime issues and transportation issues which may cause long time residents to relocate.” Ah, the old density equals crime argument. Facts need not apply. As far as transportation issues, I'm guessing the person means parking. My honest opinion? If long time residents don't like increased density then maybe they should leave. Uptown has been busier in years past, so it's not like this was every some quiet little village (at least not in most of our lifetime) that suddenly exploded in population; why would anyone move to an urban neighborhood and then complain about still relatively population density levels? I know I've said it before, but I just don't get it.

“Too many rental buildings being built. Buildings too tall now. Utter disregard for home owners.” Not to be negative or mean-spirited, and kudos to this respondent for being totally honest, but this attitude needs to be singled out as a problem in the neighborhood. "Utter disregard for home owners"? HA! Because CARAG's homeowners are oh-so-underrepresented in local politics.... Seriously, what could they possibly mean by this? Home owners are the kings of the CARAG castle. They have nothing to complain about in that regard. I'm crossing my fingers that one day (soon, I hope!) I'll be one of those poor CARAG homeowners who are so disregarded. As to the rest of it: typical. Another anti-height person. Because a five story building on Lake Street is going to bring down the neighborhood, as we all know. And rental buildings... god forbid we provide opportunities for more people to live in Uptown, including those who can't or don't want to buy. What an elitist.

In general, though, anti-renter, anti-density, anti-renter respondents aside, the results were quite interesting and useful. Everyone seems to have a shared concern for making the streets and alleys safer, so maybe we can focus more attention to addressing those issues and less time zeroing in on building height. It's also great news to see that so many people are happy with the neighborhood, despite having some legitimate concerns about livability issues. It's clearly a neighborhood worth fighting for, and this survey does its job in identifying some common ground for how to move forward in the years ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Urbanist! You are right the anti-height anti-renter, anti-density crowd is small and vocal but nice to see the majority of respondents are concerned with real livability issues. Unfortunately, there is always a witch hunt party ready to be formed for those who want to challenge this small,vocal and highly organized faction in the neighborhood.

    I also see Gail Dorfman is already throwing cold water on the proposed YWCA/Walker proposal which is what it is because of the anti-height crowd. I do give the developers credit for being innovative while acknowledging some of the political realities of developing the site. Can't wait for your analysis of the project!