What do residents of Modesto's college area love about their neighborhood?
It's the trees, the neighbors, the well-kept homes and pleasant walks along shaded streets, a recent survey found.
But the 350 survey responses also identified things they would like to change.
Topping the list was increased security and tree maintenance, plus measures to address homelessness, Dumpster diving, speeding motorists and parking on the residential streets near Modesto Junior College.
The survey mailed to 2,000 homes was the first step toward organizing the College Area Neighborhood Association. The group is modeled after the La Loma Neighborhood Association, noted for its success in getting neighborhood volunteers and city government behind tackling problems in their area.
About 200 residents filled the Graceada Park pavilion last week for the college area's first annual meeting.
Todd Aaronson, a steering committee member, said it was a sign the concept is catching fire in the college area. The committee also was pleased with the 270 people who checked a survey box to register their interest in serving on committees.
"We can't expect the city to do everything," said Carrie Rasmussen, another steering committee member. "One thing we want to do is forge relationships with city officials so we can help ourselves."
The college area is generally considered to include the upscale neighborhoods around Modesto Junior College, Enslen Elementary School and Graceada Park. The association has designated an area with almost 2,200 properties between Tully Road, Orangeburg Avenue, McHenry Avenue and Needham Avenue.
The La Loma group has organized volunteers to beautify parks and schools and conduct monthly cleanups. But it also has been about "taking back" the neighborhood from homeless people and criminal offenders.
The group pushed the city to allow security cameras in parks and established a 24-hour private security patrol supported by voluntary funding from homeowners and businesses.
The college area residents share some of the same concerns about safety. Residents complain about the foot traffic generated by a methadone clinic on McHenry Avenue, while others are concerned about residential and auto burglaries.
At Wednesday's meeting, residents asked if a private security patrol would be considered for the college area and if something could be done about speeding on Sycamore Avenue. Others want to see code enforcement of vacant homes and lots, or a parking permit system established near the college.
Aaronson said the next step is to form committees to start working on solutions. After reading the survey results, the association recommended no less than a dozen committees.
The association is communicating with residents through e-mail, and expects to start producing a newsletter later this year.
Marcia Fikse said she's getting involved with the association because of recent home burglaries on her street. Police officers came to take reports, but she thinks residents can do more to make the neighborhood safe.
"There is strength in numbers," she said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.