Web site tracks neighborhood complaints

September 3, 2008 7:10:35 PM PDT
Do you sometimes feel complaints about your neighborhood are not being heard? That no one is listening? That you get lost in voicemail when you call City Hall? Well, in San Francisco at least, there is a new way to get action.

Say you're heading to work when you notice a missing street sign. When you get to the office you log onto the Web site, SeeClickFix.com, find the location on a Google map and log your complaint or comments.

"I like the idea of residents being able to bring attention to problems in the neighborhood and possibly figure out maybe we fix this ourselves instead of burdening the city with it," said Jamie Whitaker who lives in San Francisco's Rincon Hill neighborhood.

SeeClickFix was created by 29-year-old Ben Berkowitz and a group of friends in New Haven, Connecticut. The Web site has been online there since April and is just getting off the ground in San Francisco. The goal is to improve the city one block at a time.

The e-mail complaints about non-emergency issues like graffiti are sent to public officials, private businesses or neighborhood groups. Orange balloons represent ongoing problems, blue ones represent problems solved.

"As a community we need to be able to fix things together and I think that's really the power of SeeClickFix, is that it's open to everybody to use," said Berkowitz.

San Francisco already has 3-1-1, a non-emergency phone number for residents to call with questions or complaints.

Berkowitz says many of the San Francisco complaints they have collected so far are being forwarded to 3-1-1. However, city officials say that is not happening yet -- they just recently heard about the Web site.

"We have agreed with the SeeClickFix people that we would go in and look at it, review it and meet in a couple of weeks to see what we find," said San Francisco 3-1-1 manager Kevin Dyer.

Dyer says the city and the new Web site share the same agenda -- to improve San Francisco's quality of life. 3-1-1 is planning to launch its own online version.

"And have a more significant dialogue between the city and our customers -- the taxpayers," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The city's version is months away. Meanwhile, SeeClickFix continues logging complaints.


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