know the neighbors isn’t exactly a
specialty for many Arizonans. Stefanie
Garcia and Judy Ramos find themselves in
a similar situation, with one big
difference: they want to know entire
Garcia and Ramos help homeowner
associations and traditional
neighborhoods connect with the multitude
of services available to them through
Chandler’s Office of Neighborhood
Programs, for which they share
Getting to know the neighbors, it seems,
is something many Arizonans struggle
with. Our relationships with the people
next door or down the street often don’t
progress beyond a smile and a wave when
walking the dog or driving by on the way
home from work.
Especially challenging is getting to
know the neighborhoods west of the Loop
101, in the so-called West Side, that
part of Chandler included in the Kyrene
Chandler maintains some lovely parks on
the West Side and has a public library
and public safety facilities there. But
for many residents who work in Tempe or
Phoenix, Chandler City Hall and the
heart of municipal programs might seem a
long way away.
The challenge facing Garcia and Ramos is
to get to know the westside
neighborhoods and help their residents
get to know the municipal services
available to them through the Office of
Neighborhood Programs. And in the
process, help the residents get to know
For instance, Chandler has for several
years offered municipal grants of up to
$5,000 for homeowners associations (HOAs)
and up to $10,000 for traditional
neighborhood associations to be used to
spruce up neighborhoods or even host
festivals so residents can get to know
The grant program is on temporary hiatus
while being overhauled, but is likely to
return soon, Garcia noted.
Last year, Chandler gave out $83,500 in
grants to 17 different neighborhood
associations and HOAs. The money was
used for such things as neighborhood
landscaping, signage at neighborhood
boundaries, block wall improvements for
low-income residents, security lighting,
and localized festivals and picnics.
None of the money went to West Side
Right now, there are about 240
neighborhood associations and HOAs
registered with the Office of
Neighborhood Programs. That’s a huge
increase from a few years ago.
“It’s free and voluntary,” Garcia noted.
By self-defining, she means that
residents in a traditional neighborhood
where there is no established HOA can
contact the city to register their own
neighborhood association with whatever
boundaries the residents choose. All
that is needed is two people willing to
serve as contacts with the city, Garcia
“Judy and I will schedule a meeting with
the primary contacts to figure out what
other city departments could become
involved,” Garcia said.
What often happens is that one or more
residents will call City Hall to
complain. Cars are speeding through the
neighborhoods. Trees and shrubs are
overgrown. Vehicles are parked on front
yards. Alleys are full of weeds.
When the caller finally connects with
Ramos or Garcia, they offer help
organizing the surrounding homeowners to
tackle the problems.
Ramos and Garcia even have a small
budget to help neighborhoods publish
newsletters to keep the residents
informed of the issues. “We really want
to promote communication,” Ramos said.
“Once we get them thinking, we’ll ask
people what is it about your
neighborhood that you love to get them
to also focus on the positive,” Ramos
Kyrene Corridor resident Marguerite
Munkachy has served for several years on
Chandler’s Neighborhood Advisory
Committee. She has lived for seven years
in Chandler’s so-called West Side and
understands the distance from City Hall.
“I don’t feel that we are stepchildren
at all,” Munkachy said.
“In terms of availability to the actual,
physical offices, yes, we’re not close
to City Hall,” she said. “But in terms
of not being in touch, I don’t feel they
(city officials) have left us out of the
Munkachy said it is logical that some of
Chandler’s older areas signed up for the
city’s neighborhood registry first,
while the newer, often more affluent
neighborhoods west of the Loop 101 did
not. The older areas needed the city’s
help right away, she said.
But West Side neighborhoods “absolutely”
should take advantage of the city’s
offerings, Munkachy said.
“If they are an organized HOA and they
haven’t registered with the city, they
should do that. They are kept more in
the loop,” she said.