Incidents on Sherman Avenue prompted the City of Monrovia to develop a Neighborhood Strategy Team (NST) with key staff representing all City services. The purpose of the NST was to review issues, elicit input from the community and apply their expertise toward resolving them. The NST developed the Monrovia Area Partnership (MAP) as a comprehensive approach to address the Sherman Avenue crisis. MAP’s goals are to eliminate crime and blight while empowering neighborhoods by fostering citizen activism, volunteerism and community pride. Police and City staff walked throughout Sherman Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods speaking with residents and determining their needs. A comprehensive enforcement process was instituted and a gang injunction enacted to suppress crime. MAP home improvement grants were offered to residents to arrest blight. A series of Leadership Empowerment classes were presented to the community. Arrests were made, homes were improved, neighborhood leaders emerged and the community began rebuilding.
Assess: Criminal gangs and violent acts prompted immediate scrutiny from the Police. Other illegal activity occurred out of sight from law enforcement. Walking door to door and surveying residents produced a candid estimation of neighborhood crime. Code Enforcement staff identified blighted homes but again resident input shed light on reasons behind the deferred maintenance. Several anonymous surveys were conducted to gain more insight into neighborhoods. Residents responding to the surveys requested loans or grants to help improve their homes. They felt there was a need for additional Police patrols and also added traffic enforcement to reduce street racing and indiscriminate speeding vehicles. Many wanted to see improvements in their neighborhoods related to property maintenance and asked for more Code Enforcement. Some felt there was a need to improve street lighting. A number of respondents wanted to see after school recreation opportunities for their children. Others that said their streets needed repair.
Plan: The initial in‐person surveys coupled with anonymous written surveys were used to gain insight from the residents’ perspective. A plan to implement initial solutions incorporated resident participation as a key component. As these plans unfolded, residents became increasingly involved in the problem solving. Residents wanted more tools to effectively deal with neighborhood issues. From this desire was born the Leadership Development and Training (LTD). LTD classes discussed a wide range of community building practices and included resources for many common neighborhood ailments. LTD graduates learned techniques to form neighborhood groups and how to effectively take back their community. The LTD also became the nucleus for regenerating the sense of community lost long ago. The LTD became the sounding board for new programs to address the needs expressed. One example is the development of a mobile neighborhood literacy and recreation van to address the needs of local children.
Act: MAP initiated neighborhood barbeques also referred to as “Hot Dogs, Hot Links and Hot Topics.”
These events were held in various MAP neighborhoods and invited residents to meet with City staff and local service organizations in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to the exchange of ideas. These events even reached people that were not participating in a specific MAP program. As MAP progressed, Neighborhood Leaders developed ideas to conduct their own community building events. They mobilized with other neighborhood leaders and developed a variety of neighborhood activities. As previously mentioned, a group of Sherman Avenue neighborhood leaders developed and coordinated a potluck “Movie Nite”. Similar block events were carried out by residents on adjacent blocks. One such event involved local youth in a street basketball tournament.
Evaluate: The NST and C‐NST meet on regular intervals to evaluate the solutions put in place and evaluate new trends. When necessary, adjustments are made through a process utilizing the partnerships put into place through MAP and enhanced by Neighborhood Leader participation. Sometimes issues are only known to residents of a particular neighborhood. C‐NST meetings provide an opportunity to bring these issues to light and provide the opportunity for quicker resolution. Through MAP, the NST and C‐NST neighborhood issues are constantly reviewed. The City takes its role in partnership with the community seriously and sees MAP as the highest and best use of public funds. MAP was recognized in 2008 by Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) as a “Best Neighborhood Program” finalist. MAP has also received the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) “2009 Award of Merit” as well a number of other awards and accolades.
Sustain: After City services began revitalization activities and law enforcement took enforcement
action, it became evident that without resident participation conditions could easily backslide. The key to sustaining these efforts has been resident empowerment and a willingness to seek their participation in sustaining the achievements. Upon graduation, Neighborhood Leaders immediately went out and put their training into action. Some reinvigorated dormant Neighborhood Watch Groups. Others held neighborhood meetings in their homes to discuss ways to improve their block. Several joined together, as in the case of Sherman Avenue, to plan for festive community events. As City staff is called to adjust to issues in other areas, the established Neighborhood Leaders provide the framework for the continued success of MAP.
MAP carries the responsibility of improving the quality of life in Monrovia’s neighborhoods
through activism, volunteerism, education and the application of appropriate services. MAP grant recipients agree to partner with the City in the form of volunteer participation. This volunteer component encourages neighborhood participation and reinforces the partnership. Leadership Training and Development (LTD) classes empowered residents to have input in implementing effective neighborhood solutions. MAP has achieved encouraging results in a relatively short period of time. Recently, a number of LTD graduates from Sherman Avenue held a potluck “Movie Nite” and invited their neighbors from surrounding streets. Over 100 residents participated and spent the evening
enjoying food and friendship culminating in a big screen movie event held on the street. This all occurred on a street where only a year before the climate of fear gripped the neighborhood and no one but the criminal element came out after dark.