Community building and meaningful engagement was a primary goal and major challenge for this project because 1) Renton had recently annexed much of the project area, 2) neighborhoods had varying relationships with the City, and 3) Benson Hill is hugely diverse in terms of income, race, ethnicity, nation of birth, and age. The planning team utilized a host of engagement strategies, including:
- The Neighborhood picnics were organized by community members themselves, so we were able to vet concepts with a much more representative population than a traditional public meeting.
- The Moonlight Movie drew people from hard-to-reach populations and provided an informal forum for one-on-one conversation and a brief presentation.
- The project website informed people about the planning purpose and process, advertised events, invited people to join an email list, connected viewers to the project Facebook page, provided updates and a forum through a blog, and hosted the surveys, polls, and interactive map.
- The online surveys utilized simple graphics and questions to gather ideas and feedback.
- The online interactive map provided a forum for geographically specific comments and discussions. Participants alerted us to specific locations for improvements, uploaded photos, and discussed their ideas through online conversation.
- The public workshop allowed community members to discuss their visions, goals, and priorities for Benson Hill, as well as recommend specific strategies for improvement.
- The steering committee members were identified through early neighborhood picnics, and they represented socially and geographically diverse community members. The committee provided direction throughout the process and encouraged many of the outreach strategies described above.
The combination of in-person events and online engagement resulted in much greater participation, with over 600 unique visits to the website (and almost a third of people returning to the website over time), over 100 responses on each survey, over 50 unique map comments plus responses and votes, and approximately 80 people at the public workshop. The events and activities were seen as both a process and an outcome of this project, connecting community members across diverse backgrounds and building a stronger relationship between the Benson Hill community and the City.
City of Renton, WA
Neighborhood Planning, Community Engagement, Public Participation