Anaheim First kicked off the historic Anaheim Community Assessment with a packed community summit on July 10 that was attended by nearly 100 Anaheim residents of all ages, from every walk of life and every part of the city.

Anaheim First is a 501(c)(3) grass-roots community organization whose mission is generating resident-driven solutions that positively transform our neighborhoods — led by neighbors in partnership with city officials, business, and community leaders.

In his State of the City speech in February, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu proposed an ambitious 2030 Neighborhood Investment Program to devote at least $250 million over 10 years into Anaheim’s neighborhoods, with significant resident input into how to make these improvements. The Mayor called on Anaheim First to drive a grass-roots level program to garner neighborhood improvement recommendations of where and how to best invest those funds.

In response, Anaheim First and the City of Anaheim have partnered to launch the Anaheim Community Assessment, a collaborative initiative to lay the foundation for future decision-making on neighborhood investments that are community-driven, reflect the priorities of each district and help establish and achieve a threshold level of quality of life for each neighborhood in the city. The budget for this ambitious endeavor is $500,000, which is being split evenly by the City and private funds raised by Anaheim First.

Conducting the assessment is PlaceWorks, which brings 44 years of experience across California designing plans and programs to materially improve communities’ quality of life – including the most recent iteration of the Beach Boulevard Specific Plan. PlaceWorks is teamed with Arellano & Associates, a veteran community outreach firm.

The summit began with a panel discussion by neighborhood, business and civic leaders discussing how they became involved in Anaheim First and their vision for its future and prior successes of neighborhood investment.

Afterward, the nearly 100 residents convened by council district for a workshop facilitated by the PlaceWorks team. Residents spent the next two hours discussing and sharing their views and experience in response to questions such as: what are three things the City does best in terms of serving your neighborhood? What are the top three things that would improve the quality of life in your neighborhood/district? What three needs or values could Anaheim address city-wide that would elevate the quality of life for all residents and businesses?

The workshop sessions were animated, and the assembled residents clearly energized. Anaheim City Manager Chris Zapata and several department heads were on hand to listen in, answer questions, and be a resource to the participants.

“It’s exciting to know the city is putting their money where their mouth is and getting serious about investing in our neighborhoods,” said Anaheim First member, Orlando Perez. “But just as exciting is this opportunity to have a real voice in shaping where and how that investment is made.”

The nearly 100 community activists gathered at the Anaheim First community summit were drawn from all six of Anaheim’s council districts: 15 from each district, in addition to 10 citywide community leaders. Prior to the summit, these neighborhood leaders had already attended multiple sessions to gain a better understanding of Anaheim local economy and city government function. They participated in tours of Anaheim’s diverse neighborhoods in order to gain a better understanding of the needs not only of their own area, but those of neighborhoods in other parts of Anaheim.

“There’s been improvements in our neighborhood before, but not at the level we’re talking now. After the Summit, I really believe Anaheim First and the City will us this community assessment to drive game-changing investment in our community,” said Jose Gonzalez, a 40-year resident of Anaheim. “We’re committed to one thing and one thing only – being a voice for improving their neighborhoods.”

The summit marks the first step in the Anaheim Community Assessment. Anaheim First is developing a robust schedule of townhalls in August through February, which will involve drilling down for in-depth feedback from Anaheim’s varied neighborhood.