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Davis neighbors connecting with clicks

By From page A1 | January 09, 2014

The Pew Research Institute says nearly 30 percent of Americans don’t know their neighbors by name.

In Davis, a new website being tracked by the city is helping to change that figure. Nextdoor.com, a social networking site that connects individual neighborhoods into a Facebook-like feature, has turned old-fashioned friendliness into easy website clicking.

Lost pets found. Old furniture finding new owners. Minor car break-ins get broadcast so others know what — or who — to look out for.

“I find it useful,” said Westwood Davis neighborhood user Marti Childs. “It’s not an annoyance at all.”

San Francisco-based Nextdoor.com launched in late 2011 in more than 170 neighborhoods, according to the Los Angeles Times. The city of Davis introduced Nextdoor.com in town in late 2012, connecting with 33 neighborhoods, Davis communications director Stacey Winton said, saying that number grew to 37 by this year with 2,903 total members.

“We initially went in and scoped out typical neighborhoods based on neighborhood associations or homeowner’s associations,” she said.

Each member has to verify their address, either with a credit card or mailed post card. Each neighborhood has its own private website, but users can contact other neighborhoods.

According to Nextdoor.com, membership in each neighborhood can range from a little more than a dozen people to hundreds. If a neighborhood is too big, Winton said Nextdoor.com allows for subgrouping by areas within the larger neighborhood, like a street.

“That way it makes it easier to find things like dog walking groups and walking groups,” she said.

Users said things like lost pet postings and people trying to sell items are common, but sometimes the site takes on a more public service bent.

Winton said the Police Department sends out notices about crime patterns and what to be on the lookout for. Often, neighbors take that charge on their own, posting notes about suspicious people coming door to door.

Jeff March, a Stonegate neighborhood user, said it’s been useful for him as a coordinator of a Neighborhood Watch.

“For me it’s been a pretty good way to monitor things in the larger neighborhood,” he said, adding that lost pets and car break-ins are some of the top kind of posts.

“It’s kind of like a neighborhood Facebook in a way,” March said, estimating that 10 percent of the houses in his area are participating. “But I’m on Facebook more than I’m on Nextdoor … it has its uses and its limitations.”

That may stem from Nextdoor.com’s focus.

Mayor Joe Krovoza said it is “this hyperlocal Facebook.” He said he was one of the first to join in the West Manor neighborhood.

“For me it’s a great way to keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he said.

City Councilman Brett Lee, another user of Nextdoor.com, said he sees the site as a way for busy people to connect with each other on a neighborhood scale.

“It really takes on a ‘walking the neighborhood and hearing the latest and greatest,’ ” he said. “In a general sense, when you know your neighbors, you’ll know when they’re on vacation and that moving van in front of their house isn’t supposed to be there.”

But sometimes you just need someone to recommend a good neighborhood baby-sitter.

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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