A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2017

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Neighborhood Association Websites

A comparison of three neighborhood association websites in Portland, Oregon.

By Marcos Soriano

Arguably the most significant technological advance of the past quarter century, the internet has changed the way we communicate and share information. More than 70% of the people living in North America today have logged on. The potential benefits for neighborhood associations are numerous: increased exposure, low cost information distribution, easily accessible public records, encouragement of resident participation in neighborhood affairs, promotion of neighborhood pride, a venue for representation of the neighborhood to those not living within its borders, etcetera.

Considering these potential benefits, it should come as no surprise that hundreds of neighborhood associations have launched websites in hopes of harnessing the power of the internet. For the purpose of this article I researched the websites of three neighborhood associations located within the city of Portland, Oregon: Sunnyside (www.sunnysideneighborhood.com), Kenton (www.historickenton.com), and Linnton (www.linnton.com). Although all three websites share certain commonalities, their efforts result in significantly varied user experiences.

I’ll begin by briefly mentioning some of what the websites have in common. First of all, because of the fact that each website pertains to a specific neighborhood association, all three websites feature easily accessible information relating to association meeting times and locations. Likewise, each website lists the current members of the board, and two of the three websites (Sunnyside and Linnton) include direct contact information for nearly every board member. As is common with many neighborhood association meetings, attendance by residents is encouraged (and, in certain cases, only neighborhood residents are permitted to attend)—therefore, all three websites take advantage of the opportunity to publicly define the borders of their neighborhoods. If you’re not sure which neighborhood you belong to, the internet can help you find out.

Another shared aspect of all three websites is extensive picture collections of the neighborhoods themselves. The internet is well-suited to the display of photographs, and local pictures are a great way to showcase a neighborhood’s visual charms. One great thing about neighborhood pictures is their capacity to provoke local pride, which can lead to increased public participation in the neighborhood associations themselves. Both the Kenton and Linnton websites feature several photographs of neighborhood landmarks right on their home page, with the Linnton website set to automatically scroll through a series of images. Visitors to the Sunnyside website have to make an extra click of the mouse to get to that site’s picture collection, but the clicker is rewarded with dozens of beautiful shots.

A final commonalty amongst the three websites is an emphasis on neighborhood news and events. All three websites feature news updates right on their home pages. In the case of Kenton’s site, the news comes as a series of links to external websites, but both Sunnyside and Linnton choose to write up their own news features. Both Sunnyside and Linnton also include calendar sections, with notations regarding upcoming events. In the case of all three of these websites, the news and events information is generally the most recently updated.

Beyond these basic similarities, each website maintains its own approach and its own character. I’ll take a moment now to briefly focus on each association’s website, and to discuss what that website reveals about the concerns and interests of the association itself.

Of the three websites, the site pertaining to the Linnton Neighborhood Association is the largest in scope. Part of this comes from the fact that www.linnton.com serves as an internet presence not only for the LNA, but also for the Linnton Community Center. The website reflects this duality of purpose by running two news columns at the bottom of its homepage—one for the LNA, and another for the LCC. Each organization also holds its own principle link at the top of the webpage: “Neighborhood” for the LNA, and “Community Center” for the LCC. The LNA portion of the website includes information on the LNA itself, including the above mentioned details relating to meetings and board members, as well as a section on Linnton’s history, including several articles and historical photographs. Another interesting section of the LNA’s portion of the website concerns itself with issues relating to land use. Apparently Linnton is a mixed use neighborhood, with both residential and industrial development. Of the three neighborhood associations featured in this article, Linnton is unique in its inclusion of industrial concerns, and the Linnton website makes an effort to honor its industrial/commercial half by including a “Businesses” link at the top of the page. At the time of the publication of this article, this “Businesses” link is mostly symbolic—clicking on it brings up a brief mention of the business district, and a request that the reader support local Linnton businesses.

The Kenton Neighborhood Association’s website makes its particular interest apparent from the moment you type in its web address: www.historickenton.com. Featured prominently on the KNA homepage is an article relating to the National Register of Historic Places’ recent inclusion of Kenton’s Paul Bunyan statue. The history section of this website is the most extensive of the three by far, with six oral histories by long-time Kenton residents, some of which are nearly 10,000 words long. Also interesting about the KNA website is its inclusion of dozens of links to other websites. Many of these links appear in the “Kenton News” section at the left side of the page, which gives the impression that somebody is scouring the web in search of Kenton-related news, and then gathering together relevant links for the benefit of the KNA site visitor. There’s even local weather, updated daily from the National Weather Service.

Sunnyside’s website reveals a special interest in environmental issues. The fourth internal link on the site is “Sustainability,” and the homepage features several news items related to environmental concerns, such as an event recap for the “Coldest Day of the Year Energy Festival and Dance” (a fundraiser for a carbon-neutral energy plan), and an announcement for a newly formed Sunnyside Family Swap Shop (aimed at reducing resource consumption and waste-production by encouraging the trade of used items). Unfortunately, of the three websites detailed in this article, the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association’s website is the least developed, with several dead links and non-functioning features. A particular shame is the currently inactive Community Forum online message board. Message boards, which allow visitors to post comments on particular topics, have incredible potential for public discussion and engagement. The SNA website is the only website mentioned here that shows any signs of eventually running a message board; lets hope they get it up and running soon.

Hopefully the above information has given you some ideas about the potential benefits of neighborhood association websites. If you’re involved with a neighborhood association and want to set up an easily accessible resource for members and residents, or if you aren’t involved with an association but are interested in promoting a sense of community in your neighborhood, I encourage you to consider using the internet as a way of doing so. Please feel free to go online and take a look at the ways that neighborhood associations are using the internet. Any of the above mentioned sites would serve as an excellent starting point.

Links:

Kenton Neighborhood Association www.historickenton.com

Linnton Neighborhood Association www.linnton.com

Sunnyside Neighborhood www.sunnysideneighborhood.com

 

 


 

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