NEIGHBORS TACKLING CRITICAL ISSUES, ONE BLOCK AT A TIME
SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County has extended its contract through 2023 with Cool Block, a program that brings neighbors who live on the same city block together to build community, tackle climate change, and address disaster preparedness on their own block.
Initially launched in 2019, Cool Block was part of a three-year pilot program proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, whose district includes Mountain View.
“A community that pulls together and is committed to change in their neighborhoods is a community that is unstoppable,” said Simitian. “What makes Cool Block so effective is that it equips folks with the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals, literally block by block.”
Funding for the initiative, which received matching funds from the City of Mountain View, helped support the hiring of staff and community engagement and outreach efforts via social media, a website, newsletter, and direct mail.
Although the pandemic slowed Cool Block’s launch, two of the nine teams that registered in 2019 persevered and finished the program virtually by the fall of 2020. A third team also forged ahead, focusing on community building and sustainability actions, and is expected to complete the program this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of wildfires across the state have shown us how crucial it is for neighbors to come together and prepare for a disaster, natural or otherwise,” said Simitian. “Cool Block allows neighbors to share resources and develop a preparedness plan in case a major disaster occurs.”
Over the course of five to seven months, Cool Block members take part in nine meetings that occur every other week. Each meeting is led by different neighbors living on a city block. The program’s hyper-local focus aims to guide block groups through carbon footprint reduction, water conservation efforts, disaster preparedness, and do it all while strengthening ties between and among neighbors.
Block groups track their progress online and see how they compare to others participating in the program. They also have access to City department resources to help them implement their goals.
“We got excited about Cool Block because it’s a hands-on, practical program,” said Steve Attinger, Sustainability Coordinator at the City of Mountain View. “The program incorporated these three elements of disaster preparation, community building, and sustainability.”
Attinger continued, “We’re more ‘connected’ than ever, but chances are you don’t know who your next-door neighbor is. That’s what Cool Block addresses—getting back to a day and age when you know your neighbors. Why is that important? Because when there are emergencies like power outages, earthquakes, floods, COVID-19, we rely on each other.”
Simitian agrees. “While the work on climate change and disaster preparedness may seem like the most tangible benefits of Cool Block, I was initially drawn to the program because of its ability to foster a greater sense of community," he said. "When neighbors know and work with each other, anything is possible. Cool Block is creating old-fashioned neighborliness in a 21st century way."
Slated to launch with additional neighborhood blocks in January 2022, the program aims to recruit 25 teams.
To learn more or bring Cool Block to your neighborhood, visit the Collaborate Mountain View Cool Block page or email [email protected].
Interested community members are also encouraged to attend a block leader training session on Dec. 5.