Sentinel staff report–
Although many aren’t aware of it, for nearly two decades there’s been groups of neighbors all across Citrus Heights who regularly meet to improve the quality of life in their area and provide feedback and input to City staff and leaders.
A total of 11 different neighborhood areas make up the city of Citrus Heights, with each area having a neighborhood association to represent its members. Unlike fee-based homeowner’s associations, the neighborhood groups have no required dues — and anyone residing, working, or owning property within the neighborhood’s boundaries is able to be involved in the association.
Typical monthly meetings include “POP” updates from a Problem-Oriented Policing officer with the Citrus Heights Police Department, where residents are informed about recent crime statistics and trends for the neighborhood. A time for question-and-answer with the officer is also typically available, and it’s not uncommon to hear from a guest speaker like the mayor or police chief at a neighborhood meeting.
Formed in Dec. 1999 and modeled after Roseville’s neighborhood groups, each neighborhood area in Citrus Heights is distinct, with some areas more active than others. Each association also has its own set of unique bylaws to govern the group, with the exception of areas 7 and 8, which merged.
Although technically independent from the City, the neighborhood associations work closely with City staff for administration, operations, and improvement projects, according to the City website. Neighborhoods are also asked for feedback from the City on various projects and housing developments being proposed for their area, and each association is allocated annual Neighborhood Improvement Project (NIP) funds from the City.
The neighborhoods are also aided by an umbrella organization called the Residents’ Empowerment Association of Citrus Heights (REACH), which seeks to help the 11 areas collaborate together and encourage community involvement and participation, according to REACH Vice President Tim Schaefer.
Schaefer also said a key benefit of REACH is that its board is made up of members from each neighborhood area, so the group is aware and involved in “almost every level of what happens in each neighborhood.”
Currently, Schaefer said REACH is seeking to encourage participation from residents by re-branding neighborhood associations as “areas,” in order to remove a connotation he said exists with many who assume the associations have restricted membership.
“If you live in an area, you are automatically a member,” Schaefer emphasized, regarding neighborhood associations. “We are very inclusive. We want as much community participation as we can possibly generate.”
[Click to find out which neighborhood area you’re in and when it meets]
Relationship with the City
In a phone interview with The Sentinel, Mayor Jeannie Bruins said she “absolutely” values REACH and considers the organization a great vehicle for creating leaders and giving the community a voice to be heard at the City level.
“[The associations] provide a forum for people in the neighborhood to come together to have a voice as a neighborhood group, because we as council members can’t reach everybody,” said Bruins, who resides in area 7 & 8.
Schaefer said in general the City has been responsive to feedback received, citing several past examples of the City taking action on projects based on input from REACH and neighborhood associations. But the neighborhood VP also said he’d like to see some improvement in the relationship between the City and REACH, although he didn’t address specifics.
Mayor Bruins acknowledged there’s been some “growing pains” involving REACH and the City, and said a workshop has been scheduled for March 10 to discuss some proposed changes between the two parties. She said specifics couldn’t be addressed until formally proposed at the meeting.
Funding & Projects
REACH is also responsible for allocating about $36,000 of funding from the City each year, about $15,000 of which goes to NIP funding for improvement projects, according to Schaefer. He said REACH often helps neighborhoods collaborate together and combine NIP funds for larger projects.
“We’re very interested in quality of life,” said the 55-year-old REACH vice president, highlighting that NIP funds have been used in the past to install picnic tables and benches at Crosswoods Park. He also said around $12,000 of exercise equipment will be soon installed at San Juan Park, using combined NIP funds from several neighborhood associations.
REACH is also a public presence at many community events, including the annual Red, White & Blue Parade and the Community Camp Out at Rusch Park. The group is also known for holding local candidate forums on election years, and sends representatives to an annual “Neighborhoods USA” community-building conference.
Asked why someone should consider getting involved in a neighborhood association or REACH, Schaefer said it gives residents “a voice,” as well as an avenue for expressing grievances or resolving issues in their neighborhood.
“It gives them a voice; not only with their neighbors, but also gives them a voice with the City.”
[Click here to find out which neighborhood area you’re in and when it meets]