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April 25, 2005

Students tackle tough issues with Good Neighbor Initiative

By Louise Donahue

No one could accuse the Good Neighbor Initiative of ducking the hard issues.

Kristen Townsend and Anthony Tucci

Kristen Townsend and Anthony Tucci play key roles in the Good Neighbor Initiative
Photo: Louise Donahue

In its first full year of operation, the effort is focusing on two of the thorniest problems in the town-gown relationship: traffic and students living in residential areas off campus.

The initiative, begun last spring by then-Acting Chancellor Martin M. Chemers and continued by Chancellor Denice D. Denton, draws on an unusual partnership between student interns and administrators.

Chemers wanted students to be involved in efforts to improve community relations and added two new students--biology junior Kristen Townsend and Anthony Tucci, a second-year history major--to his Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program to play key roles.

Each intern has concentrated on one broad area, with Tucci focused on the impact students have on residential neighborhoods, and Townsend honing in on transportation issues and organizing a community forum. Their efforts are coordinated by the Office of Government and Community Relations, headed by Donna Blitzer.

“It’s been a great program for helping engage students in how the campus and the city interact with one another,” said Blitzer. “The student interns have put a face to the students, and countered some of the stereotypes.”

Debbie Elston, a founding member of the community group Santa Cruz Neighbors, an umbrella group of neighbor organizations, has nothing but praise for Tucci, who has met regularly with the organization and other neighbor groups and researched community issues at other UC campuses.

She said Tucci has been “wonderful” to deal with, and that she is optimistic that efforts by the campus, coupled with more enforcement by the city and police, will improve the situation for neighbors.

“I am very grateful that Chancellor Chemers got the ball rolling. He opened doors for dialogue with the neighbors,” said Elston. “I believe Chancellor Denton will continue that. She seems very approachable and concerned.”

Tucci is developing Good Neighbor Guidelines for UCSC, using a set of campus-community guidelines from UC Riverside as a starting point. The guidelines for students detail everything from establishing friendly contact with nonstudent neighbors to liability issues and key local ordinances.

The guidelines will be printed and distributed on and off campus.
“Just being a student and trying to work out responsible solutions, I’ve found neighbors are very receptive to this project,” Tucci said.

In addition to working directly with neighbors’ groups, Tucci will be promoting housing at the Village, UCSC Inn, and the UCSC Town Center as an alternative for those who may not want to live in residence halls or student apartments.

Tucci and Townsend are working together on an online survey asking students about their housing preferences as well as transportation issues, Townsend’s focus.

Areas covered in the survey include off-campus parking lots with shuttle service to campus; the level of satisfaction with Metro and campus shuttle service; bicycle use; and carpooling.

Townsend has been promoting the purchase of electric bicycles as well as the use of parking at the Boardwalk and in church lots to reduce congestion and parking problems in residential areas. Flyers promoting both electric bikes and parking options have been been posted throughout campus

Another project Townsend is working on is the Community Good Neighbor Forum from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 12 at Harbor High School.

The forum will include three speakers: UCSC sociology professor John Brown Childs; Scott Kennedy of the Resource Center for Nonviolence; and Celia Rowland of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office. Following short presentations from each speaker, the audience will be divided into 20-minute breakout sessions.

“We really hope the campus and community will start talking,” said Townsend. “The forum will be very interactive.”

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