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West Valley City Journal

How WVC is attempting to raise one neighborhood’s quality of life

Mar 16, 2020 03:29PM ● By Travis Barton

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

One neighborhood in West Valley City could be seeing a major upgrade through a potential new program, tentatively called My Hometown.  

Though details remain to be finalized, city officials appear to be priming a neighborhood pilot program that aims to improve a designated area’s overall health.

“Bottom line discussion is how can we help facilitate a sustainable, livable neighborhood where there are uplifts or increases that the city can’t necessarily provide?” Nicole Cottle, assistant city manager, told the City Council during a February study meeting. “How do we tap the community benefits that exist out there…and coordinate them in a way that we utilize many of the fine services we provide to combine to really change an area and make it long term and sustainable?”

“And that, kind of has blossomed,” Cottle said. “It feels like where there were holes, there potentially can be outside providers that fill those holes.”

The idea came about after a meeting Cottle and fellow assistant city manager Paul Isaac had with community stakeholders who voiced concerns about various aspects of the city, from community engagement to code enforcement.

Cottle said they absorbed the info and concerns, did research and realized the city was already doing what it could on a neighborhood level. So they pushed it back on the corporate and community leaders, asking them for help.

“They were all in,” Cottle said.

The program would incorporate private sector and community help, potentially using corporate sponsors to help financially or perform days of service, similar to what Comcast does for its Comcast Cares day.

The community, via ecclesiastical leaders would provide volunteers, even on a daily basis. Or allow a local church chapel to be used as a de facto community center with after school or athletic programs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, outside of this program, have already called 20 service couples to the area to serve in a capacity similar to full-time missionaries where one member of the couple must be Spanish speaking, according to Cottle.

“There are some great opportunities to help,” Cottle said.

City officials would set up a task force and use its existing resources. They would coordinate with the various groups.

The proposed pilot neighborhood would be what Cottle called the Hillsdale neighborhood, an area of approximately 700 homes and 500 mobile homes located between Constitution Boulevard (2700 West) and 3200 West, and 3100 South and Parkway Boulevard (2600 South). The area has about 3,000 people.

In choosing a neighborhood, Cottle said they looked at areas in the bottom half of the city’s neighborhood health audit, which looks at 10 years of history in 70 neighborhoods tracking things like crime rate, ordinance enforcement and census data. She said they wanted a neighborhood with challenges, but aspects they could work with.

Median household income for the area is $46K (Utah’s average is $65K), the poverty level is at 32% (Utah average is 11%), and $15K per capita income (Utah average is $26K). Sixty-one percent speak a language other than English and 61% of adults 18 and older have no diploma. Cottle said the area has lots of duplexes, but not as many rentals as they thought.

Cottle also said they drove around with area leaders learning details about homes they didn’t know.

Stansbury Elementary, WVC fire station 73 and a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel are located in the area with the closest park in the neighborhood to the south, Hillsdale Park.

She added part of the goal is to make the program replicable in other parts of the city.

Most of the City Council expressed enthusiasm at the program.

“The staff will learn what works and what doesn’t,” Mayor Ron Bigelow said. “But the concept is fantastic because it focuses on strengthening communities.”

Councilman Tom Huynh, whose district encompasses the Hillsdale neighborhood, said he was grateful for the city to step in and do this.

Councilman Steve Buhler said it was important the council be updated regularly on the program. He was concerned about how long the program would last or after spotlighting this area does the program simply end and move to another area?

“Right now we have more questions than answers,” he said.

How exactly the program would measure success was still up in the air as officials decide what metrics to use such as ordinance violations, crime stats, single family home turnover or English course attendance.