The city of Santa Barbara is currently accepting applications from local residents to join Santa Barbara’s new Neighborhood Advisory Council.

The 13-member committee will work with the Santa Barbara City Council and the Neighborhood and Outreach Services of the City’s Parks and Recreation Dept. to provide outreach programs and a channel for community input. Members will serve four-year terms and meet on a monthly basis.

According to Sarah Hanna, recreation programs manager for Santa Barbara, the City Council will choose applicants based on their participation within the area.

“We are looking for residents of the city that are passionate about their neighborhood,” Hanna said. “We want people who can help their fellow residents to make a better community.”

Hanna said the council will open discussion between local officials and their constituents.

“The Council will serve as a forum for residents to come forward and express their problems to open ears,” Hanna said. “And for us, it will provide a more efficient way to respond to those problems.”

The city of Santa Barbara began searching for new methods to increase community involvement in 2009, when they combined two programs from the Parks and Recreation Dept. into a similar structure.

Hanna said the more community-based arrangement will provide a more accurate portrayal of local concerns.

“We went through a yearlong process to determine a new format of representation to better address the problems that neighborhoods are facing,” Hanna said. “We especially want to attack problems like youth violence and poor social economic conditions.”

According to the Santa Barbara City Government Web site, eight of the members must live in the Westside, Lower Westside, West Downtown, Eastside, Lower Eastside and Laguna neighborhoods. The remaining five members can reside in any part of the city.

The council will also open three seats to younger members of the community who are at least 16 years old.

Santa Barbara City Councilman Michael Self said the committee’s demographic composition will provide a more diverse variety of feedback.

“We felt that bringing a bigger group together would give us more input as to how we could help,” Self said. “We want to hear from as many neighborhoods as possible.”
According to Self, the new organization will help the city allocate resources more efficiently.

“Our hope is that the neighborhoods with similar needs will work together to improve their situation,” Self said. “Mainly we just want to be advised on where we need the most help.”

The council application deadline is Jan. 21.