Got potholes? Illegal dumping? Graffiti? There’s an app for that – if you live in Los Altos Hills.
Joining the ranks of Bay Area cities such as Menlo Park, Burlingame and Foster City, Los Altos Hills late last month launched a custom mobile application for residents to report nonemergency, quality-of-life matters to the town officials who can address them. The local version, dubbed Los Altos Hills Connect, is available as a free download through the Apple and Android app stores.
“It’s kind of a soft launch because we’re just testing it out, but people are using it,” said Deborah Padovan, Los Altos Hills city clerk.
Here’s how it works: From the mobile app menu, users select the “Report” icon, and an electronic form with fields for a title, a description and an address is generated. There’s an option for attaching a photo or video, and if the smartphone’s location services feature is enabled, the app can automatically select the site based on the user’s location.
The information provided is dispatched to the appropriate town official – typically a Public Works Department staff member or Maintenance Supervisor Jacob Asfour. Registration – even proof of residency – is not required for participation, and users who don’t want to download the app can instead make reports through the town website at losaltoshills.ca.gov/376/Los-Altos-Hills-Connect.
Because the town’s maintenance team members carry tablets with them on jobs, they can provide project updates – including photos – in real time so that Los Altos Hills Connect users know the status of requests, Padovan said.
The app keeps a running log of problems reported in the past 30 days, so users can see what’s already on the books and, if so inclined, follow or add comments related to existing issues. Reporting, commenting and even just signing in earn participants “civic points” that correspond to titles including “Municipal Avenger” and “He-Man.”
As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, Los Altos Hills Connect featured 10 issues, including a drainage problem in the 26000 block of Ascension Drive, a flooded path off Fremont Road and fallen tree branches blocking a path near Campo Vista Lane. In the comment section for a post about Elena Road speeders, town officials indicated that they had forwarded the information to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and reminded residents to report similar nonemergency law enforcement-related concerns to the sheriff at (408) 299-3233.
The town’s contract with app-provider SeeClickFix of New Haven, Conn., is $5,040 a year, a price based on resident population and the number of internal accounts managed by town employees.
The Pathways Commission and Public Works Director Allen Chen get the credit for bringing the new service to town.
Pathways members routinely walk the town’s extensive network of paths, and they sometimes encounter maintenance problems such as erosion and overgrowth, said Eileen Gibbons, an associate member. To avoid inundating town staff members with requests for service, one Pathways Commission member had acted as a point person, compiling a list of requests passed along to town officials once a month, but maintaining two-way communication for status updates was sometimes difficult. The commission had long advocated for a more streamlined system, and Chen was enthusiastic about SeeClickFix, which his previous employer, the city of Fremont, used.
“This is a great solution,” Gibbons said. “We’re tickled.”
Chen said he plans to re-evaluate the app and its popularity with residents by the end of July or August. The residents he’s heard from so far, however, seem pleased. And that’s the goal.
“We want to meet their requirements,” Chen said. “We want to make them happy the best we can.”