During the winter and spring of 2013, the City of Menlo Park embarked on an eight month Community Visioning Process for the Belle Haven neighborhood. Through a series of facilitated meetings, Belle Haven residents engaged in conversation with city officials regarding a variety of topics and issues currently impacting the neighborhood such as public safety, traffic, educational quality, opportunities for youth, changing demographics and transparency of communication between the city and Belle Haven residents. The process resulted in the development of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Action Plan that was co-developed by residents and city staff reflecting resident interests, concerns and vision for their neighborhood. The plan also identified roles between residents, city and other community partners to ensure partnership. Other highlights of the visioning process include:

  • Contracting with four Belle Haven residents to serve as part-time Outreach Associates to engage the community in English and Spanish.
  • The development of a bilingual neighborhood newsletter informing residents of the visioning process and other city happenings.
  • Nine community conversations hosted by residents in their homes and three “fishbowl” conversations with Belle Haven youth who attend local schools.
  • 240 questionnaires were completed and 1,200 residences canvassed with information soliciting neighborhood feedback. 
  • A Community Resource Fair with over 300 people attending, who participated in a neighborhood asset mapping exercise and to learn and receive information from local community based agencies.
  • Three resident led action teams formed to conclude the first phase of the Visioning Process to provide recommendations to city officials regarding Public Safety, Transportation and Improving Educational Opportunities for youth.  

Long-term vision

Over the long term, the completion of the Visioning Process and implementation of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Action Plan activities will help to strengthen the neighborhood’s capacity to achieve its goals of creating a safe, healthy and vibrant community. Evidence of success would include residents who are able to identify and remove barriers to neighborhood engagement in addressing important issues such as economic self-sufficiency and educational achievement. The process would eventually result in the creation of self-determined resident groups who are able to collectively engage with community organizations to leverage their capacity to effect system changes and improve the neighborhood's well-being.