Community Building & Civic Engagement

City Manager Magda González provides this overview of Community Building - a way to maintain and enhance our community's quality of life, by working together. 

What is Community Building?

Every city has a number of functions and reasons for existing – for example: building and maintaining infrastructure, providing for public safety, public works, libraries, parks, and other services to the people who live and work in that city.

Those are important parts of what a city is – but by themselves, they are not sufficient to build a great community. A great community needs all those things, but it really only comes together when the right combination of human connections is made - and making those connections is the essence of "community building" (which can also be called civic engagement/participation, or social capital).

Community building results in people really being part of a community - gaining a feeling of belonging, being a part of something or to some group. It’s a feeling of pride in your group, your neighborhood, your city, your service club, or sports team, or hobby group. Being part of a community gives you the feeling of being part of something that’s important, and a feeling of being included, of not being alone, and knowing that others in your community will help you even if they don’t know you.

People experience those feelings of community when they’re engaged and involved with each other and with their city – it’s civic engagement and building positive, constructive relationships.

The Decline in Civic Engagement

However, studies show that civic engagement in general has been on the decline nationwide since the 1960s. The research looked at things like memberships in associations, in the PTA, social groups, church attendance, even having friends into your home for dinner or going to their house for dinner, participation in hobby or special interest groups (a key book on this concept is called “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam, which is filled with scientific, statistically valid research from which he draws these conclusions).

You might be thinking, so what if social capital is going down, the world is a different place now and it’s simply not part of our modern society – that face-to-face interaction has been replaced by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, texting, etc.

Why  Community Building/Civic Engagement is Important

In general, the data shows that a community with higher levels of civic engagement, also has:

  • Better educational performance
  • Improved child development
  • Superior community safety
  • Higher levels of personnel health and safety
  • Gains in other quality of life indicators

Conversely, those communities exhibiting lower civic engagement also experience lower levels of health, safety, education, and so on.

The level of community building directly correlates to our community’s quality of life. 

We want the city and the community to be engaged, to increase the social capital in our community, improve the quality of life, and to make this a better place to live today, and for the generations to come after us.

How do we Build Community?

As a city, we’re faced with competing priorities, pressure from varied interest groups and stakeholders, and the need and obligation to work to balance these elements in our decision-making. So we bring the community into that decision-making process, but even more importantly we need to be constructively engaged with the community in understanding the challenges faced by the City and our community, and to provide the opportunity for you to partner with others and with the City in taking responsibility for addressing the issues which we face, as a community.

We can all work to build relationships, to bring people together, and try to instill a sense of shared responsibility, shared dependability, mutual trust, and shared, constructive action toward a better community.

Each individual and family can do simple things like getting to know all your neighbors, teaming up with a neighbor and having a neighborhood potluck or other gathering; or doing a block cleanup, or helping an elderly neighbor to paint their fence, volunteering…

See the links on the left sidebar for many ideas for you and your neighbors, and more information about community building.

The City is bringing people together in ways like the NET community academy program, encouraging involvement in our planning processes like the General Plan, the Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan, the Parks Master Plan, and others, and working to be transparent and accessible to all.

Half Moon Bay is a wonderful place, and our community will better thrive as a partnership between the people and the City staff. We’re confident of achieving great community benefit by encouraging people to be constructively, positively involved, to take a higher level of responsibility for addressing the issues we face at every level. We believe if we identify  and tap into the passions and caring that people have, and embrace the possibilities and opportunities that abound in our community, we will improve our community’s overall quality of life.

Part of this is working toward not only positive practical change but also changes in the realistic perception people have of the City, as well as in attitudes about individuals’ and neighborhoods’ responsibilities toward bettering our community. This leads to people working to address local issues together with their neighbors, and with the City – not necessarily as problems, but as possibilities.