Friends Nextdoor

How to land in a new place and create community
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Ever since I learned about Nextdoor I saw its potential to help people land in a new place more quickly and build a community around themselves. Most of the time when we move it takes a while to acclimate and find a new group of friends. But it doesn’t have to. 

Using Nextdoor.com and other online tools such as Constant Contact (email service provider + survey capability) and Facebook (for group functions) it’s possible to quickly build a list of people who live close by who share your interests. This means that when one relocates, it is potentially possible to create a new group of friends, quickly.

Steps I have taken to try this out.

  1. Sign up for Nextdoor.com
  2. Create an email list for potential new friends – ie, a sign-up form that people can use to sign up for your friend’s list (or, just a simple group in your email client like Outlook or Gmail). There can be more than one list – ie, I like to play chess; I like to play music; I like to effect change to make the neighborhood more livable. A person can join one or more lists.
  3. Instigate conversations on Nextdoor around the above topics or ones of your choosing. **
  4. Via private messaging – ask people who seem interesting to you to either join your list (provide sign up link) or tell them what you’re up to and ask for their email address.
  5. Once you have a group – you can start inviting the people in that group to events or meet for coffee and see how things go. This could also be a time to start a Facebook group so that the members of the group can speak to one another and possibly instigate activities themselves – the cool thing here is that you’re acting as matchmaker – and all of the connections are local!
  6. Repeat the above until your social life is full of interesting people who live close by and may enrich your life.
  7. Show others what you’ve done (we learn by teaching).

I’m always open to feedback. (or, better yet, advice 🙂 Please feel free to help me improve this concept in the comments section below or write me @ albert@albertideation.com.

As of 9.26.19 I have been doing this for about 11 months and I’m learning as I go. I have a list of 75 people in my Portland, Oregon, USA neighborhood who have been invited to various events at my house (mostly house concerts and an orphans’ Thanksgiving) and the experiment continues.  I also just learned about fellow traveler, Rachael Lynn’s new book At Home Anywhere which looks promising! 

**Another way to find people who share interests is by creating a survey. That way you can find people who share your interests and ask for their contact information all in one effort. And, people love to provide feedback 🙂

Here’s some of my past writing about Nextdoor.com

Neighborhood Notes – My Nextdoor Postings

Nextdoor.comMy Nextdoor.com postings

The post above was my first post on Nextdoor.com – a social media site like Facebook that’s organized by neighborhood. I believe Nextdoor.com is the best tool for local organizing that’s ever existed and I do what I can to make my neighborhood a better place.  Here’s the first article I wrote about Nextdoor.com.

  1. Phasing out Gas-powered leaf blowers. Here’s our new website for this effort. and… Link to the original post on Nextdoor.
  2. This post I turned into a blog post on key fob/noise reduction – here.  You will probably only be able to see the original Nextdoor.com post if you’re in my neighborhood of Richmond, Portland, Oregon, USA.Less beeping
  3. Traffic Calming on Hawthorne and Division – Still working on this 🙂
    Traffic Calming in Portland
  4. Do you have fruit/nut trees that you’d like to share the bounty from? – 10.16.18 – Currently, the action in Portland, Oregon is on a Facebook group that is over 1,200 members strong and growing by the day. The Portland Fruit Tree Project is also having harvest parties this Fall. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1405238632898417/   http://portlandfruit.org/

    http://portlandfruit.org/

  5. A Request: Please Drive Slower and More Carefully. This one is an ongoing issue. Luckily, we’re at 20mph on residential streets in Portland, now.
    Slow the Fuck Down

  6. Neighborhood places: Marino Adriatic Cafe on 41st and Division.
    Marino Adriatic Cafe
  7. Stop Receiving Yellow Pages @ https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com – Sadly, I can’t believe in October of 2018 yellow pages are still a thing, but they are. This is a good thread if you live in my neighborhood. It talks about how to get off of various lists – Red Plum; Oregonian Food Day, etc. There is also a FB group for this purpose.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/196729400366257/

  8. Be Idle Freehttps://albertideation.com/be-idle-free
    Be Idle FreeHere’s more proof from the Washington Post – There is No need to idle in cold weather. 
  9. LED street Light improvements. Here’s how to get a shield on your nearby LED street light. Mention “light trespass” which is what is likely happening – light coming from the LED into your house/porch/eyes.  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/Transportation/article/672942 –
    Here’s a source for outdoor friendly lighting: http://darksky.org/fsa/fsa-products/

    Shield Request Process

  10. Where does the dirt go? Dumptrucks on Division – Here’s a dirty idea:
    Where does the dirt go?
  11. Get Rid of Your Lawn – I’ve been posting about this one a lot, of course, given my love of Farm My Yard 🙂
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/08/04/lawns-are-a-soul-crushing-timesuck-and-most-of-us-would-be-better-off-without-them/?tid=sm_fb

  12. Sign up for my monthly newsletter, The Eleven.
  13. Here’s what we can do to keep large trees standing in our neighborhoods – Reform Portland’s Tree Code To Preserve Large Healthy Trees

    http://audubonportland.org/news/reform-portland2019s-tree-code-to-preserve-large-healthy-trees Reform Portland’s Tree Code To Preserve Large Healthy Trees Now is the time to reform City rules to preserve more large healthy trees in every neighborhood! Thanks to the direct action of neighbors and financial donations from the community, the 150-year-old giant sequoias in SE Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood were saved from the developer’s chain saws. However, the rules that permitted their removal and the cutting of large healthy trees in neighborhoods across Portland are still in place. From Powellhurst-Gilbert to St. Johns, from SW Hills to Richmond, Cully, and beyond, Portland’s neighborhoods are experiencing extensive tree cutting driven by a highly lucrative real estate development market. (article cont’d here).

    This led to starting a Facebook group to organize on this topic. Join us, here. And our newsletter, here.

  14. Learning permaculture – a possible way for us to transform our urban landscape:

    https://www.geofflawtononline.com/videos/

  15. TURN OFF YOUR CAR HORN – LESS BEEPING = LESS NOISE – This led to the post below (and one other) and a new post on my website: Feel free to share widely! https://albertideation.com/turn-off-car-horn-less-beeping-less-noise

    Stop using your car fob to lock your car and beep

  16. Solutions to Barking Dogs & Other Noise Nuisances – Answer 🙂
    Get your Dog Trained

  17. How to Throw a Great Voting Party in a vote by mail state:
    Voting Party

  18. A neat article on Communities vs. Networks – to which do you belong?
  19. Want to try out a new game; meet some neighbors; move your body?
    Birthday Game

How to use Nextdoor.com to effect Neighborhood Change

Using Nextdoor to Effect Neighborhood Change

nextdoor.comI posted an article about my love of Nextdoor.com and why it’s useful a few years ago. Since then, my thinking about nextdoor.com has changed and grown. I see Nextdoor as a much more powerful tool for neighborhood change than I did in the past. Here are some of the ways I’ve been encouraging my neighbors to make changes that may be for the better. I encourage you to read through these and give this a try – if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or write me. Thanks.

  1. You start the conversation. If you want to try to move the needle on an issue it’s great to initiate the conversation on Nextdoor. This allows you to choose which neighborhoods (just yours or others around you) are part of the conversation. For instance, if you’re missing a kitten – you probably just want to alert your neighborhood. If you’re trying to show people a better way to park, the further the reach the better. And, if you’re trying to raise funds to save a theater or movie store – working with friends in other parts of the City is a great way to get maximum coverage. Also, by starting the conversation – you can clearly explain in detail what you’re talking about and action steps for people to take. You can also moderate the tone of the conversation and possibly edit the original post once new information is added to the thread.
  2. Something is broken on the internet. Eventually, or possibly right away, someone will pooh-pooh your idea or disagree with it, or go off-topic. There’s a wide variety of responses people have when they’re presented with information asking them to change their behavior. I started a conversation recently on why loud motorcycles are not such a great thing. You can imagine the push-back – everything from “having a loud bike saved someone’s life” to “freedom!”.  You just toughen up and get used to it. It’s not necessary to respond to every comment in a thread – and, if someone is mean or posting irrelevant information you can “mute” them. I don’t recommend this as a common practice, but it may make your life a little less stressful. I think in the 5 or so years I’ve been active on Nextdoor.com I’ve muted 2-3 people. I often will write the person directly and try to get a discussion going.
  3. Nextdoor is different than other social media platforms in a number of ways.  I suppose each one has its own flavor or way of operation.  One issue with Nextdoor is that there are no sub-threads – so, we’ve got this long thread, for example – with lots of great ideas; links and good thinking. If we had sub-threads – some questions would suddenly branch out into their own conversation. Instead, when an issue is raised – it suddenly steers the conversation for a bit (or, people ignore it; or worse – people mute the person who has made the comment – and never see that person’s comments again!) (I’m sure more than one person has muted me 🙂

    One solution to this or sense I have – is that if you’re going to post anything on Nextdoor – esp. within a conversation – take a moment to make your point. Longer, careful explanations of your thinking beat short retorts (which also may end up out of order and make no sense at all!)  Snarky comments – or questions that don’t exactly follow the stream may get ignored and the person posting probably will end up looking foolish. 

  4. Spelling, grammar – double-check… Providing links to back up your comments/points – are probably all good things to consider.

    Like with all social media – you’re basically shouting to a large group of people – so take a moment and review what you’ve written to make sure it makes sense – and try for clarity. Sarcasm, and wittiness can easily confuse people.

  5. Remind people about the issue every once in a while. I you have new information to share or you just think it’s time for the 1,000 NEW people who’ve joined your neighborhood to learn about why it’s not a great idea to beep your car to lock it – add comments to the bottom of the thread. This will add your thread to the digest version that many people get daily and thus keep the conversation top of mind. You’ll be surprised that new people will join the conversation whenever you raise it again often adding valuable information to the neighborhood hive mind.

So, what’s a way that you’d like to see your neighborhood grow and change?  Want to start community potlucks?  Get more people to rip out their lawn and plant gardens?  Encourage people to use less pesticides?  Whatever it is, take the plunge – give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised that if you can start with a positive tone and stay on topic, you’ll actually have your neighbors listening to you and possibly following your suggestions which will improve life where you live.  I’ve tried this with everything from some of the above to issues like gun control and trying to stop fighter jets from using residential neighborhoods for their flight path. All of the conversations are still there waiting for me or someone else to continually add to them. To me this is the best tool ever invented for local organizing that has ever existed. It’s not perfect (where’s the ride-share aspect 🙂  Dating match-up?  But as it is, this is quite a powerful tool and I recommend giving it a try where you live.

Happy activating!

Albert Kaufman, 5.25.18

PS – even if Nextdoor.com is not popular in your area, hop on and get started. It likely will grow if past behavior is any indication. Also, perhaps you have something similar where you live – use the above guide with whatever platform is available where you live.

PPS – Here’s my next Nextdoor.com article. It’s about how to use Nextdoor in combination with other digital tools to build a local friends/cause network. Check it out.

Hawthorne Blvd: Three Stories for a Happy Ending

Bagdad TheaterGuest Contribution by Jeff Cole of the Sunnyside Neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

Hawthorne Blvd: Three Stories for a Happy Ending

Close in Southeast Portland neighborhoods have this thing that urban planners love to talk about: sense of place. I can’t help but feel a provincial pride in my own still somewhat scruffy Sunnyside. It’s been over a century in the making after all: not exactly urban, nor suburban – in no way prim, proper, or polished. A bit bohemian without being overt about it. You know where you are; here.

Yet, if our city’s planners and developers have their way – it may well be undone in a few short years. These are no idle fears – the behemoth across from Safeway (SE 27th/Hawthorne) and the four story tragedy next to ¿Por Que No? (soon to be ¿Por Que?) is proof Sunnyside’s sense of place – and indeed the entire Hawthorne District – is on the auction block.

It’s not that so many monumental wonders line much of Hawthorne – glorious Baghdad theatre palace aside. What charms me is the collective mercantilism of Hawthorne’s modest commercial storefronts – an authentic, living vestige that attests to the historical nature of this corridor and others like Belmont and Division.

Hawthorne hosts the small businesses I love and use day in and day out – and others I just enjoy having there. From cat food to dog baths. Beads, yarns, and greeting cards. Fashions new, handmade, and recycled. Herbs and perfumeries. Pipes, vapor cigs, and growlers. Vintage furniture across from retro tattoos. Powell’s and specialty bookstores. Restaurants and close-by grocery stores.

And it is the ease by which Hawthorne Blvd. could lose so much of this – replaced by a parade of Vanilla Deluxe four-six story mixed used boxes a la North Williams – that it causing so much unease. Higher density corridors with greater populations drive up commercial rents that limit the types of businesses that can operate profitably. It’s worth noting that new mixed-used corridors like N. Williams St. have a comparatively limited expression of commercial typologies.

As our city plans for future growth in Southeast Portland, it’s worth noting we’re not talking an old railroad yard morphing into the Pearl nor long gone shipyards now sprouting high rises. We have few large vacant lots like N. Williams St. People already live here; many have for quite some time.

So Memo to Powers That Be: in case you don’t realize it when you look west from Mt. Tabor there’s a wealth of moderately dense and immensely livable neighborhoods amongst the sea of trees. Our success is not the product of Urban Renewal Areas or generous public investments – our story is the cumulative uplift achieved by numerous small businesses and homeowners.

Historical Axis

Drawing lines: that’s the foundation of local SE PDX history. There’s a stone set yonder in Portland’s West Hills just off Skyline Blvd. – the survey marker originally staked in 1851 defines an east-west “Baseline” that shoots arrow straight all the way to Oregon’s eastern border. In Southeast Portland this “baseline” is Stark St. – along which lies the Lone Fir Cemetery where James Hawthorne himself rests in peace.

A little over a hundred years later planners drew another line – to bulldoze a freeway eastward through 1800 buildings. The Mt. Hood Freeway would have pummeled Division St (named so being one mile of due south Stark St.) until about 40th St before jutting south to destroy Powell Blvd. Southeast Portland neighborhoods fought back in the early 1970’s – and won. The resulting solution – today’s MAX line running from Gateway into Downtown along the already existing transit corridor of I84 & the Union Pacific railroad is proof paths can be changed.

These days one senses an unanswered question: is it time for close-in SE PDX neighborhoods to rise up again? For the bulldozers are back flattening hundred year old homes framed in old growth wood. The Mt. Hood Freeway has returned – deconstructed into a wider blight – as over 1800 structures are demolished every four years in Portland. And like the freeway that thankfully never was – we are told this must be in the name of progress.

The Sky is Not the Limit

For decades zoning along Hawthorne Blvd. and many historical corridors has stated a forty five foot build able height limit. In terms of property ownership – this is called a “right” – a kind of sacred promise that directly impacts land values.

Until the turn of the century – only buildings with specialized uses neared the 45 foot height limit: the soaring Bagdad roof, or church steeples, or schools. Even during the late 1990s new commercial storefronts on Hawthorne were one or two stories.

One might argue – in terms of the historical relationship between these corridors and the abutting residential housing – that code never intended the construction of solid (often block long) 4-6 story volumetric buildings. That is to say – the implied conditional use at the time involved new construction typically less than half the height limit in shorter segments of frontage.

Permitted uses along Hawthorne have become more restrictive over time. Unless grand-parented in, new oil changing operations, car repair shops, or drive thru lanes cannot be built as freely as yesterday. That’s how the once proposed McDonalds drive-thru at 34th & Hawthorne (where Dosha stands today) was stopped in its tracks.

One might argue, if permitted usage of properties can be redefined, then usage as expressed through maximum height limits can be revisited, too. Lower height limits could be zoned along SE Hawthorne Blvd. and streets like Belmont and Division.

An Equitable Solution

Given what’s now being built on our historical corridors has been whittled down to the sole typology of McPortland Mixed Use, there are numerous advantages to instituting a 38 foot – or three story – height limit on Hawthorne and other historical corridors:

Because a 4-story mixed used project houses about 50% more residential units than a 3-story version the impacts on neighborhood fabric and infrastructure are dramatically higher with the former. The 3-story limit still allows increased density, and creates ground floor commercial space, while treading more respectfully.
The 3-story height imposes far less visual impact on surrounding single family and garden apartment neighborhoods.
Solar access: even on Hawthorne Blvd. a 4-story building throws a wintertime shadow that reaches across the street up to the first story. Since SE PDX corridors run primary east-west – the cumulative impact of taller buildings means a total loss of direct sunlight for many months. (Other popular streets like NW 23rd and N.Mississippi run north-south and avoid this problem to some degrees).
Even with a 3-story limit higher buildings could be allowed through a carefully controlled bonus height system requiring the builder to provide firm deliverables with community benefit based on neighborhood approval.

More Growth Where It’s Needed

Instead of encouraging excessive growth with the risk of damaging historical and vibrant neighborhoods, there are areas where more rapid development might be appropriate. Portland has already invested heavily in preparing the Gateway district for growth – which can draw on Urban Renewal Area funds. By contrast, close-in Southeast neighborhoods have limited access to resources needed to mitigate the impacts of higher density. Ironically, one of the strongest arguments for developing Gateway is its transit rich location, especially in terms of light rail – a direct result of shutting down the once planned Mt. Hood Freeway.

Whether some of Portland’s neighborhoods are vibrant in the long-haul may well hinge on providing more than a parade of formulaic four-six story mixed used buildings punctuated only by supermarkets. The engaging architectural vocabulary that once expressed itself through iconic neighborhood auditoriums and ballrooms, churches and synagogues, bungalows and garden apartments, and other single use structures appears to have no current equivalent. Yet apparently it is a quality much sought after in many close-in Portland districts now experiencing bidding wars on a limited quantity of for-sale single family houses. Perhaps it’s that sense of place that buyers are seeking so very much – somewhere that doesn’t seem like anywhere.

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