What do Modestans think about their city? Survey results offer various thoughts

Scene-setters of the Modesto Arch to go with city council election story.
Scene-setters of the Modesto Arch to go with city council election story. Modesto Bee

In a survey of city residents, about 45 percent said they were satisfied with Modesto as a good place to live.

Residents were split over whether the city provides a good environment for raising a family. And city officials have work to do in creating a sense of safety for residents, the survey revealed.

Just over 25 percent of survey participants said they felt safe in Modesto.

Faculty and students from California State University, Stanislaus, prepared and conducted the survey as part of a 5-year strategic plan for Modesto. Almost 700 people filled out the online survey, which was done at no cost to the city.

City officials said the survey results were consistent with opinions expressed at town hall meetings. The City Council approved the 5-year plan Monday including major goals for improving the quality of life, economic vitality and the city’s identity.

“The strategic plan is used to set priorities for the city, and we crafted this plan from a foundation of community involvement,” said Thomas Reeves, a spokesman for the city. “With the help of nearly 700 survey respondents and 223 participants at seven town hall forums, we believe the plan encompasses the vision of our most important stakeholders — those who choose Modesto as their home.”

Blake Randol, a CSUS assistant professor of criminal justice, said in addition to the 76 questions in the survey, participants were asked followup questions seeking more specifics on their critique of city services. In that way, the survey revealed that participants were mostly concerned about property crime — theft and burglaries — and not that concerned about violent crime.

City of Modesto

Just under 45 percent gave a “satisfied” rating to city services and 30 percent were dissatisfied. Residents had concerns with the condition of city streets, with more than 35 percent dissatisfied and almost 25 percent very dissatisfied.

City efforts to deal with homelessness were also a major issue, with 45 percent very dissatisfied and almost 30 percent dissatisfied. The survey was conducted for a six-week period starting in December 2018 before the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter was established for hundreds of homeless people who were camping in Beard Brook Park.

(Click here to see survey results)

Some council members wondered if the public takes a more favorable view of recent investments to house and support the homeless.

The survey registered some response that starting a business in Modesto is difficult, but the largest number of respondents (40 percent) had no opinion.

The highest ratings were given to emergency medical services and fire protection. Most survey participants favored park and recreation services, though some had complaints about needles and the homeless in parks.

The consulting firm, Management Partners Inc., drafted goals for the city based on what was learned from the community engagement efforts.

The 10 primary goals include: prevention and intervention efforts to improve safety; neighborhood and business district improvements; a comprehensive housing and homelessness action plan; plans for improving street maintenance and public transit; a general plan update; creating a desirable identity for Modesto; making the downtown a regional destination; long-term financial sustainability; building trust between the community and city government; and building a high-performance city organization.

Reeves said the consultants and city staff will now work on an action plan for achieving the goals. The City Council is expected to see the implementation plan in November.

City of Modesto
Ken Carlson covers county government and health care for The Modesto Bee. His coverage of public health, medicine, consumer health issues and the business of health care has appeared in The Bee for 15 years.