4-E & 4-F


Problem Identification:
HCD’s neighborhood planning capacity was severely curtailed when the Neighborhood Project Coordination section was reduced to four staff members in 1996, and the rest were moved to the City’s Planning Department. In order to improve neighborhoods in Baltimore, HCD must have the capacity to be strategic about where it places funds, and how the funding of housing development and rehabilitation connects to a larger neighborhood recovery strategy. Additional planning capacity within the Department–people skilled in working with neighborhood groups and other City departments, as well as people skilled in analyzing trends in the housing market–is needed.

Recommended Action:
Expand HCD’s Neighborhood Project Coordination section to include more staff focused on neighborhood planning in areas where HCD is carrying out concentrated activities.Expand the Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing to include nine ombudsmen who would serve as neighborhood liaisons. The staff assigned to this function would pro-actively seek out input from neighborhood leadership on problems needing attention, and would work with all relevant City departments needed to respond to the issues raised. To the degree that the issues raised are planning issues, the Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods and Economic Development should orchestrate responses from HCD, Planning and BDC as the situation warrants. Since the Mayor’s Office staff will be working on a broad range of issues, it is likely that City general funds, not federal funds, will be needed.

Organizational, Service Improvement

Function/Operational Area:
HCD – Neighborhood Project Coordination; Mayor’s Office.

Estimated Annual Impact:
Difficult to quantify. In Seattle, 38 neighborhood plans have been formed since the Department of Neighborhoods was created in 1990. A $1.5 million Neighborhood Matching Fund was also created to support locally-based improvement and development projects, which has since grown to $3.75 million. This fund now channels resources to about 200 projects annually.

Estimated Implementation Costs:
$270,000 to expand Neighborhood Planning Coordination;
$350,000 to expand Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing.

Barriers to Implementation:
The neighborhood planning function needs considerable improvement, as indicated by the Mayor’s Transition Committee report. The chief barriers to implementation of this recommendation are enhanced neighborhood planning expertise in HCD and a successful system of coordination between the Mayor’s Office, HCD, and the Department of City Planning.

Projected Implementation:
180 days to expand NPC; 1 year to expand Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing.

Next Steps:
Hire additional organizers/planners in Neighborhood Project Coordination, and hire ombudsmen to work at the Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing.

Several cities were contacted to understand how they staff local neighborhood planning, and whether they have created neighborhood liaison capacity. Seattle is recognized as a civic leader in neighborhood planning. The Mayor’s Transition Team report included extensive background material from that city.

City of Nashville, Tennessee
Office of Neighborhoods, Mayor’s Office

This program, a highly-publicized initiative of the new Mayor, is still very new and in its planning stages. The goals of the newly-created Office of Neighborhoods are to help existing neighborhood organizations work together; and to help make government services more accessible to residents.

The Office is currently staffed with 3 neighborhood liaisons, overseen by 1 Director. Future plans call for more staff and volunteers.

The staff are currently employing mapping strategies with local neighborhood organizations to determine areas of need relative to location of services. The Office also works closely with the Planning Department. The working relationship between the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and other city departments is meant to be cooperative, but also to hold them accountable for improving customer satisfaction, answering calls in a reasonable amount of time, etc.

According to the new Director, the Office of Neighborhoods will measure their success by:

– The degree to which they are making agencies accountable for services they provided or that should be provided; and
– Citizen satisfaction, as measured through participatory mechanisms such as the ‘Mayor’s Night In/ Mayor’s Night Out’ public meeting held once a month. Residents express needs to the mayor, and their case is written up in a database. The appropriate city department is given 3 weeks to resolve the issue. If the issue is not resolved in that timeframe by the agency, the Director intervenes.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program
City of St. Louis, Missouri

The goals of the Neighborhood Stabilization (NS) program are to provide services to neighborhoods and act as a liaison between city departments and local residents. There are 27 NS officers assigned to sections of the city to ensure that requests for service by residents are not overlooked by city staff. These NS officers work closely with neighborhood associations to help with planning, crime prevention strategies, and in organizing community beautification activities. Satellite offices have been established in 4 schools in the city, making their services more accessible to residents.

The program is meant to act as a communication/problem-solving mechanism for residents and local groups. They do not perform actual service delivery functions, but work with residents to inform them and coordinate their requests with various city offices. The program staff are the middlemen who communicate residents’ priorities and needs to city departments, so that the city can address the needs that are determined by residents. They also coordinate the needs expressed by residents with city plans, and encourage tackling problems that fit into both categories.

The NS project is housed in the Department of Public Safety. Staff are accountable to the Director; the Director of Public Safety, and finally, the Mayor of St. Louis. The operating budget for the program is $1.9 million annually, with about half for salaries and benefits. The other 50% is for supplies, equipment, leasing expenses, and contractual items.

Staffing consists of a Director, 5 management/administrative staff, and 27 NS officers. Each NS officer is free to prioritize which projects to work on and what tactics they will use for each situation. There are usually 5-10 projects going on at once, and as long as officers are accountable, they are free to work without close supervision and to make their own decisions.

The Neighborhood Stabilization program has impacted the workload for employees in the city departments. By educating citizens and helping residents to submit requests for service, there is a lot more work for city departments. NS officers have had to learn to develop a strong rapport with city staff to avoid frictions created through their job.

They have started developing strategic plans, which will identify specific goals such as numbers of beautification projects undertaken, etc. They have not measured those outcomes as of this time.