Eat your heart out, Mark Zuckerberg. Davis has a social network of its own.
In July 2012, the city announced a new partnership with Nextdoor.com, a free social network website, that it hopes will facilitate communication among neighbors in a secure online setting.
The city has divided Davis into 33 neighborhoods, each with its own dedicated Nextdoor.com website, so residents of each area can sign up and stay current about the things happening in their respective communities.
According to the city, the new social network will help build stronger and safer neighborhoods within Davis.
“Getting to know our neighbors is the first step in developing a safer and more vibrant community,” the city’s news release to announce the partnership said.
“For personal networking there’s Facebook, for business networking there’s LinkedIn, for on-the-fly networking there’s Twitter. Nextdoor was specifically designed to make neighbors feel comfortable sharing information with one another.”
Residents can use Nextdoor.com to, among other things, ask questions of neighbors, request and share local service recommendations, sell or donate items, find available baby-sitters, alert neighbors of a lost pet, get the word out about a break-in or learn about crime trends in the area.
Neighbors also can publicize neighborhood events; organize a community garage sale; post weather, traffic and emergency alerts; and discuss emergency response plans.
For community organizers like Tracy Dunne, who has coordinated myriad events for the Covell Farms neighborhood in northeast Davis over the past few years, the new service will be a great asset in improving neighborhood communication and participation.
“You have the map, the address and the names — if people create a profile — and you can just scroll over every house in your neighborhood and see who lives there,” said Dunne, who was contacted by the city to become a leader of her own Nextdoor.com neighborhood. The leader must register their neighborhood to the website and then help recruit neighbors to sign up for the program.
“We do lots of neighborhood things like neighborhood garage sales, (alert residents) if someone’s dog is out in the street, we do the Davis Neighbors’ Night Out every year and we do a Halloween party for the neighborhood every year,” she said. “We have a lot of reasons to need to send out communications.”
The city also will use the website to share important information with residents, from basic announcements of city events to weather emergencies or other time-sensitive issues. City staff will not, however, have access to residents’ websites, contact information or content.
And because the site is free, the city will save money on expensive mailers or other types of costly mass communication efforts.
“If there was a water or sewer break somewhere and we needed to get some information out to either a specific neighborhood or all of Davis, you could pick one, two, three, four neighborhoods or you could pick the whole city, to send it out to, to let them know what has happened and what is being done to fix it,” said Stacey Winton, city of Davis community partnership coordinator and the point-person for the program.
Winton also said the city has launched a Facebook page to help further its effort to engage the community and keep residents as informed as possible, using a “no cost” platform.
But the main focus of the partnership with Nextdoor.com is to build stronger communities within Davis.
Steve Fineberg, the leader of a Stonegate Nextdoor.com neighborhood, says the new citywide social network, aside from its other helpful functions, will even allow neighbors to meet one another for the first time.
“I think I like the idea of bringing a neighborhood together,” said Fineberg, who also coordinates his neighborhood’s annual Neighbors’ Night Out celebration. “There are a lot of people I know by face or by car or by wave that I don’t know, and I think it would be a good way to get in touch with everybody.”
Once leaders like Fineberg and Dunne have their neighborhood Nextdoor.com websites up and running, the neighborhoods will manage the websites themselves, with no involvement from the city. All the information that residents share on the neighborhood sites will be visible only to members who live in that neighborhood and who have verified their address on the site.
Those residents who do not live within a registered Nextdoor.com neighborhood can either volunteer to create the network themselves, or wait until someone else in the neighborhood creates it.
8th Annual Neighbors’ Night Out
Speaking of Neighbors’ Night Out, to kick off the school year on a high note, the city has announced that the eighth annual Davis Neighbors’ Night Out will be celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 13. The program is a collaboration with the Associated Students of UC Davis.
Last year, Davis residents and university groups alike hosted more than 100 parties throughout the city in various forms, including potluck dinners, barbecues, dessert parties and ice cream socials. The event has grown from 60 parties for the first Neighbors’ Night Out in 2006.
The annual event gives neighbors an opportunity to introduce themselves and exchange contact information for Neighborhood Watch lists or other future neighborhood events.
The city is asking neighbors, neighborhood associations, Neighborhood Watch Liaisons, apartment complexes and homeowner associations to act as party sponsors and take the lead in setting up the gatherings.
For more information about the celebration, or about becoming a party sponsor, visit http://cityofdavis.org/neighbors.
How to get started with Nextdoor.com
Residents can visit www.Nextdoor.com and enter their address to see if their neighborhood has a leader or founder. If the neighborhood has a leader, they can continue the process, register with the website and join their neighbors.
If the neighborhood does not have a leader or founder, residents can contact Winton at 530-757-5661 or [email protected] to inquire about becoming a leader or ask other questions regarding the website.
— Reach Tom Sakash at 530-747-8057 or [email protected]