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August 13, 2014

Community Doesn’t Just Happen, You Have To Build It


I was on the way to meet a stager at my upcoming listing in Cole Valley last week when I came upon this “lending library” on Woodland. Sheltered by a Far Niente wine box (and signalling immediately that one of these neighbors has good taste in wine), the library is used by neighbors who leave and borrow books on a regular basis. I’ve seen a few more of these lately in the Mission and in Noe Valley, and the libraries are a great way for neighbors to interact and build community.

Many San Francisco buyers tell me that one of the things they’re looking for—besides a suitable house, of course—is a sense of community and good neighbors. And one important factor to note is that a sense of community doesn’t just appear; you actually have to sometimes work to create it.

Case in point: I lived on my block in Noe/Mission for probably about five years before I really started getting to know the neighbors. It took a crazy naked man blocking traffic one late afternoon to trigger meeting one of my neighbors who lived two doors down. And when an unfortunate crime incident occurred around the block from us, that neighbor and I talked about starting a block watch. We kicked off a series of block meetings, and now we all know each other and socialize regularly, as well. And when it’s nice out, we sometimes assemble on someone’s front steps with a bottle of wine. It definitely brings me back to my days growing up in New York, where “hanging out on the stoop” was a common activity.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until a naked man appears on your street or a crime incident occurs to reach out to your neighbors. Our next door neighbor had a school project that involved hanging colored flags in various places on the block several years ago, in a bid to get people talking. And that it did. Just last year, we spent New Year’s together with several other neighbors. That project played a role in bringing us together.

San Franciscans are generally friendly and appreciate the sense of community. So go ahead, start a lending library, or just have a BBQ in your yard on a Saturday afternoon. Over time, you’ll have the community that you want.

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