Board Biz: Here's what Village VIBE is all about

If you don’t visit the Village of Rancho Santa Fe regularly on Saturday mornings, you may have missed the fun on Saturday, Nov. 7. The fourth in a series of Saturday morning events hosted by the Village VIBE, the fun included lawn games provided by the RSF Association, arts and crafts in collaboration with the RSF Community Center and a Spa Trunk Show provided by The Inn at RSF. More than 80 attendees enjoyed the bluesy-country music of ZB Savoy and the delicious Neapolitan pizza of Red Oven Pizza.

So what exactly is the Village VIBE? Some people have asked me, “Is the Village VIBE just about putting on ‘parties in the park?’”

Well, it is about putting on events in the Village parks area, and the VIBE is about much, much more than that. The Village VIBE’s assignment is Community Engagement. In the words of professional urban planners and community developers, this means: “Using activation to engage the community, to collect and quantify data, to inform planning and to guide immediate results.”

There are three main components to this method of community engagement: Stakeholder Outreach, Activation and Quantification. If this method sounds scientific to you, that’s because it is. Scientific research depends on creating laboratory experiments and analyzing the data that they produce. That is exactly what the VIBE is doing.

It seems that as a community, we are all interested in having a vibrant Village. As a Board, we have been funding several methods to try to achieve this. The Revitalization Committee is reviewing zoning and parking alternatives, including enforcement of existing ordinances as well as the possibility of writing new ones. The job of the VIBE is to try to determine what exactly a “vibrant” Village means to us as residents and what we as a community might support in terms of retail, restaurants and activities.

Let’s get back to the three main components mentioned above. The first is Stakeholder Outreach. At every VIBE event, you will find an outreach station where you will be able to share your thoughts about our Village, either in writing or in conversation. Whether you are “young” or “old,” a resident or a merchant, your opinions are sought and valued. The VIBE is providing a casual and ongoing opportunity for all the diverse members of our RSF community to offer their ideas about life in our Village. What do you like most about it? How could your everyday experience of the Village be enhanced? The members of the VIBE committee gather these comments and study them as they plan for the next event.

The second main component is Activation. The events are the most obvious evidence of Activation. So far, we have experienced the Saturday morning gatherings as well as the Oktoberfest party held in collaboration with the Inn and the Halloween trick-or-treat festivities held with the merchants. What have these “activation events” accomplished? Most important, the events were fun for all who participated! While we all wait for real progress to be made in the development of a vibrant Village, the VIBE events are providing entertaining examples of what a “vibrant” Village might look like: games and music in the park, food and beer on the lawn, trick-or-treating at every door — with merchants, nonprofits and residents interacting and connecting in new and different ways.

In addition to events, activation has also meant individuals getting involved. Residents formed the initial core of the Village VIBE leadership. Now, merchants and individuals from various non-profits have joined forces with these residents. Together they are coordinating their activities and their goals. The hope is that greater collaboration and partnering will lead to greater participation in all community activities.

Activation also involves using the “pop-up” nature of the VIBE events to test ideas of retail and restaurant concepts. For example, a food truck that sells pizza might experience so much business at a Saturday morning gathering on the lawn that the owners might consider actually moving into a “bricks and mortar” space in our Village. This is a laboratory experiment — if you want retailers and chefs to be attracted to our Village, then support them when they pop up at a VIBE event!

Quantification is the third and ultimately decisive component of this grand experiment. We all say to each other that we want a more vibrant Village. Many of you communicate directly with board members expressing your desire for us to take action to make that vibrant Village happen. As an Association, we are spending money to determine what you want and how we can deliver on our promise to you.

This laboratory experiment, while it might seem simply like throwing a few parties, is actually a complex process that requires professional guidance to be done well and to produce reliable results that can provide a blueprint for future Village enhancement. We have contracted with Rancho Santa Fe resident Stacey Pennington and her firm, SLP Urban Planning, to lead us through the Community Engagement process.

In the end, it will all come down to numbers and data gathered at our VIBE events. How many of you residents will turn out for the VIBE events? How many residents will actually support both existing merchants as well as our pop up visitors? What types of new businesses does our community clamor for? Will the merchant community as a whole support our struggling retailers and prove their commitment to a more vibrant Village?

The Association Board has committed itself to the huge effort of trying to revitalize the Village. At our next meeting, we will be discussing funding the Revitalization Committee and the VIBE for the rest of this fiscal year. If we do so, by next spring we should have a fairly quantifiable idea of your commitment to the vibrant Village of our dreams.

Meanwhile, mark Saturday, Dec. 5, on your calendar. Experience the Holiday Marketplace and Village Walkabout from noon to 5 p.m. Where? Our vibrant Village, of course!

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