What Could San Mateo Avenue Become?




By Nathaniel Eck. Click here to read Professor Eck’s Biography.

“Towns large and small can learn from Thomasville’s example by involving the whole community in decisionmaking, letting good ideas rise to the top and testing them to see what works, then building on each success to build a stronger town.”

It is easy to think that experts have all the answers. However, it is the people of San Bruno that live and breathe this community that ultimately have the deepest insights and ideas. They do not need to have experience with parking management, infrastructure development/maintenance, city planning or urban design. They just need to be tapped in a productive and meaningful way. The role of the expert is not to “give direction” but to “find direction” by listening first and continually returning to the community as a project is developed to ask “is this still aligning with your vision?”

Quality and long-term community engagement is not something that is easy to accomplish and it is easy for both the city and it’s citizens to become disenfranchised with the process or to rush to judgement if they are not easily finding near-term and quantifiable benefits.

A long-term vision, empathy for others, an open mind and a willingness to share honest thoughts and ideas without fear of judgement must be cultivated by all parties. Most importantly though, willingness to take action and try things even if they might fail.

I’m hoping to see San Bruno become a case study for other cities on how to develop/grow in a way that benefits everyone.

Thomasville, GA took full advantage of a pivotal community moment to ask what its residents wanted and build on their ideas, strengthening its arts and local economy as a result.