When Your Neighborhood Just Can’t Get No Respect

2017-08-09T11:10:33+00:00 August 9th, 2017|

The following is an excerpt from The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook.

By Sally Martin

I have a confession to make. I live in South Euclid and think it’s pretty freaking awesome. This shouldn’t seem like a shocking revelation except that South Euclid has a pesky self-esteem problem, and a lot of people who might agree with that statement are embarrassed to admit it. In the eight years since becoming the city’s Housing Manager, I’ve become convinced that what the city needs most is a motivational speaker. Recently, at a community development conference, we were asked an intriguing question: if your city or neighborhood was a famous person, who would it be? It didn’t take me long to realize that in spite of our community’s many wonderful amenities, Rodney Dangerfield was the obvious answer. South Euclid gets no respect from the region and even, at times, from its own residents. The bigger question is how did the collective self-esteem of a community get so low in the first place?

[blocktext align=”right”]As newer communities were built further out, some folks left in search of greener pastures…But being the resourceful people that we are, we’ve found many innovative ways to fight back and retain our vibrancy.[/blocktext]As a resident myself since 2001, I struggle to understand. It seems that if you’re not originally from here, your opinion is vastly different and far more positive than that of most of the “lifers.” From my standpoint, after living in five states, South Euclid is a pretty amazing place to call home.

The history of South Euclid mirrors the history of many of Northeast Ohio’s inner-ring suburbs. As newer communities were built further out, some folks left in search of greener pastures. This decades-long out-migration trend has left inner-ring suburbs with a nasty “sprawl hangover.” A smaller population means comparatively high tax rates and fewer resources to maintain the existing infrastructure. But being the resourceful people that we are, we’ve found many innovative ways to fight back and retain our vibrancy. In spite of the challenges, there are some very compelling reasons to call this place home.

South Euclid is close to everything. We can get to University Circle, downtown, the hospitals, shopping, and wonderful restaurants in minutes. We have our own slice of the emerald necklace, as a large section of the Cleveland Metroparks Euclid Creek Reservation runs through the city. The new Acacia Reservation is just five minutes away in Lyndhurst. And South Euclid has one of the region’s oldest venues for live jazz—The House of Swing on Mayfield Road.

South Euclid is affordable and inherently “green.” We have well-built homes with great architectural diversity and many of them will set When Your Neighborhood Just Can’t Get No Respect 133 you back less than $100,000. Like all inner-ring suburbs, foreclosures took a toll on housing values. Since the housing crisis began in 2006, 20 percent of South Euclid’s housing stock has been in foreclosure.

Compounding that, the decades-long trend of population loss has resulted in the low sale prices we see in our market today. Even though sale prices are affordable, rents are disproportionately high. Average rents on a single-family home run between $1,000 and $1,250 per month. The city has effectively managed the housing crisis, taking an aggressive stance against blight by passing an innovative vacant building ordinance, using strategic demolition, and by establishing a community development corporation, One South Euclid. The city ranks highly on many area “best value” lists, and was named a Keller-Williams Top 10 Community in 2014. Most of our homes are under 2,000 square feet (although there are some mansions too) and they’re affordable to live in. Thanks to demolition and some federal grant funds, there are now eight community gardens throughout the city and sidewalks are everywhere, making South Euclid a highly walkable community. New construction is taking place throughout the city as well. Brand new homes range from $180,000 to $250,000—much less than comparable construction in outlying communities.

South Euclid is transit friendly. It’s easy to catch a bus and get anywhere, and rail is nearby too. This fact has allowed my developmentally disabled sister to gain a huge measure of independence, and it’s a great amenity for anyone wanting to cut back on driving and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

South Euclid is diverse. For many of us, raising our families in a place where not everyone looks alike is a major selling point, and as of the last census, our community of 23,000 stands at a 60/40 ratio of white to black. Over the past few years, a growing population of Bhutanese refugees also now call South Euclid home. A new Bhutanese grocery store has opened on Mayfield Road and the city has a community garden, the Victory Friendship Garden, devoted to meeting their dietary needs with affordable, fresh produce.

[blocktext align=”left”]South Euclid is home to remarkable people. Although it would come as a surprise to many people, on my street alone, there’s a record producer (Ringo Starr has been a frequent house guest!), a Cleveland Orchestra musician, two award-winning writers, a landscape photographer, the founder of a nationally recognized branding firm, a toy inventor, and myriad other cool folks.[/blocktext]South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools are great. This is a hotly contested point and an area where that self-esteem problem comes in. As more lower-income folks began moving in and using the schools, we saw a shift in the demographics of our school district, as many middle-class residents decided to send their children to private schools. Our schools no longer match the demographics of either community they serve. Both South Euclid and Lyndhurst remain predominately white and middle class, although the level of diversity in both cities continues to increase. As a result of the increased poverty levels of the schools, test scores and state rankings have decreased. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy—as residents convinced each other that the schools were no good and decided to flee, it became clear, based on the ratings, that they had indeed become far worse, except that the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Not much has fundamentally changed about the curriculum at the district since it had excellent ratings just a decade ago. District-wide, there are more than 30 AP and honors classes, scores of extracurricular offerings, a STEM program, opportunities to earn free college credit while in high school, 58 sports teams, a gorgeous stadium, and world-class music and art instruction. There’s even a farm-to-fork program that brings local produce to our cafeterias, and the impressive Excel Tech program, that allows students real-world training in over 22 vocations. It’s not a stretch to say that if all of our residents decided to start sending their kids to the district, our rankings would quickly be back to where they were 12 years ago. As a school parent myself, I can attest to the remarkable outcomes I see with my own children and many others that I have the privilege of writing about on the SEL Experience Project blog.

South Euclid is home to remarkable people. Although it would come as a surprise to many people, on my street alone, there’s a record producer (Ringo Starr has been a frequent house guest!), a Cleveland Orchestra musician, two award-winning writers, a landscape photographer, the founder of a nationally recognized branding firm, a toy inventor, and myriad other cool folks. The problem is, many of them think they are alone. Ask them where they live and they might sheepishly tell you, “on the east side.”

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Cover image: The William E. Telling Mansion in South Euclid. Since 2012, the building has been home to the Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. Image via Wikimedia

Sally Martin has resided in South Euclid with her family since 2001, serving as the city’s housing manager since 2008. In 2015, she started a blog about the city’s much maligned school district, selexperienceproject.com.

18 Comments

  1. Pam August 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Sally,
    I agree with you, South Euclid is a great place to call home. Twenty minutes to downtown Cleveland, twenty minutes to the metroparks. Our kids attended Brush High School and are very successful young adults now that are very open to racial, economic, and religious diversity. They are kind people. That says a lot about the neighborhood.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Thank you Pam!

  2. Susan August 18, 2017 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    We moved from Mount Vernon in 2014 and are proud to call South Euclid home. We love that we can walk almost everywhere: the post office, the University Hospital Suburban Health Center, the beautiful new library, True Value, CVS, Coffee Phix Cafe and soon the new Marc’s store.
    Our neighbors are diverse and friendly, the homes are unique in design- no cookie cutter boxes here.
    And as Sally mentioned we are within 20 minutes of the cultural and athletic centers of the Northeast. South Euclid pat yourself on the back. You are a winner!

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      So glad you’re here Susan!

  3. Anna August 19, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Our twins just started at Brush on Wednesday and love it! Everyone has been kind and welcoming. We spent Friday in Twinsburg where one twin played in the band and the other joined her soccer teammates in supporting the Brush boys’ soccer team. My husband and I sat in the middle between the sections where are girls were sitting and just smiled. We can’t wait to become more active in the Brush community. When we were looking at high schools, we heard the thinly veiled comments about how Brush has ‘changed’. Our girls shadowed at 3 different private high schools and shadowed at Brush just before acceptance letters came out. They came home and said, “We are going to Brush.” They got in to all the other schools but stood firm on their choice. They attended a local Montessori school because I teach there otherwise they would have attended Rowland, Greenview, and Memorial.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      So glad you’re here!

  4. Adam August 20, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Hello Sally,

    Well put. I was born and raised entirely on the east side in South Euclid literally on Okalona Road from 1974 til 2003 when the old house got sold, and am currently living in Vermont ( a long story ). Nevertheless, my mind has always been on South Euclid and have good memories of the neighborhood of what it used to be. During the 80s, I was living the “Stranger Things” life before show got big on Netflix.

    And yes, it was the epicenter of everything. Especially when it came to malls, I lived right in the middle of all of them from Richmond, Severance, Randall and Beachwood. Even Coventry which I loved.

    My siblings attended Brush but I didn’t because of a special program for the deaf I was at in Mayfield. And eventually I studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art after having visited the art museum over the years.

    Even if I’m living in the New England area, South Euclid is still my home and always loved that house I grew up in. I was a bit disturbed seeing some of the trees being removed when they shouldn’t have been when I last visited the area five years ago ( I plan on visiting again soon ).

    Otherwise, your article nails it and South Euclid is a gem that not many people are aware of.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing that Adam! Hope you’ll be back some day!

  5. Hank Drake August 20, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Great article. I don’t mean to nitpick, but I wish beltmag would at least give credit for the photo – as is specified a wikimedia commons.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Telling_back.jpg

    • William Rickman August 21, 2017 at 9:11 am - Reply

      Thank you for your concern (and for reading). We’ve got a credit down at the bottom of the piece.

  6. Carlo Wolff August 20, 2017 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Sally, glad you’re our neighbor – and the neighborhood just keeps getting better.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Carlo! We’ve got the coolest neighbors, don’t we?

  7. ?? August 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    many homes are over looked as far as over growth of weeds and yards and homes- we once took an interested in the disarray of homes and the people that moved that moved in our city —-but now it seems no one really cares—many things go one moved here and they just let it go—our law makers ignore and turn their backs on what is going on.We just mind our own business hope it will get better (don’t think so) At one time I was proud to live here and living in the house that was made for my family—not so much now !We have some great people that live around us–people of many countries, and races are great —then there are some bad ones that are over looked—-Please help us stay in our house.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      I can assure you that we work our tails off every day to make our city the best it can be. Not only through code enforcement but also through advocacy and housing policy work to help improve things in our city and in the region.

  8. Casey August 21, 2017 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Having lived in Lyndhurst and South Euclid in my youth, I purchased a home in South Euclid in 1991. For 25 years I loved it here. It was close to work, shopping, and had — HAD — a wonderful, beautiful, walk-to-able library. And sitting in my serene, wooded backyard, reading or sunning or watching wildlife left me with a tranquility unknown to city residents or apartment dwellers. I LOVED living in South Euclid.

    Today was not the day to come upon your article. Once again, we were subjected to EIGHT SOLID HOURS — 8 — of BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom blasting through the windows — open OR closed. Shrieking, shouting, screaming, squealing accompanied the “music” and made our home uninhabitable. Again.

    Neighbours called, texted, came over, all complaining that they couldn’t hear their TVs inside their own homes — with windows CLOSED. On the Sabbath, the “day of rest.” They all said the same thing: “since our community doesn’t care about us, and refuses to do anything about this excessive, inconsiderate, disrespectful, downright rude behaviour, we have no choice but to move.” Sad to think these young couples will be moving and taking their bright children out of the schools… all because they cannot hear themselves think on a Sunday afternoon and evening, or get their children to sleep at bedtime.

    In addition, there has been the sickening aroma of marijuana emanating from the car of the neighbour’s son’s girlfriend, while they sit/lie in the car at the curb until 1-2 a.m. every night, radio playing, talking, laughing, keeping children and parents of a newborn awake if windows are open or costing young parents higher electric bills when forced to close windows and run a/c. And the filthy, obscene, racist rap lyrics and booming music all summer from next door, which has made it impossible to enjoy my backyard as we have in the past quarter century. Gone is the peaceful oasis. Now I am a prisoner in my own home with windows closed and ear plugs in until I cannot stand the bass booming in my chest and decide to leave… driven out of my own home to seek quiet in the car.

    Somee of the new arrivals in South Euclid’s neighbourhoods are not assets to the community. They have no consideration for others.

    Unless South Euclid finds a way to require of the residents common decency and respect for neighours, this town will not be a preferred community for long.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Please call the SEPD any time there are noise issues. A pattern of this sort of behavior leads to criminal nuisance fines which is the fastest way to get it to stop.

  9. Mackall September 2, 2017 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    South Euclid is a dump. Made the mistake of buying a house in SE 2004. Worst mistake of my life. Property values are down 21% during that time while property taxes have increased 28%. The city government mayor, council, etc continue to run the city into financial ruin. The only positive is that we live on the far south side of town and can easily get to beachwood, legacy and we don’t have quite as much riff raff as they do north of Mayfield Rd. People give two response when told I live in SE, “where is SE” and “ewwww”. There are good people still in SE, whether stuck or by choice but the city is in a death spiral and is a dump.

    • Sally September 10, 2017 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry you feel that way. We love it here and I generally find that a place is what you make of it. You tend to see what you’re looking for. Having lived in five states and a few upscale communities, I’ve found that the grass is not always greener. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for elsewhere and I do wish you the best. I’m bullish on South Euclid and I’ll continue to work hard to make it the best it can be. Calling the place you live a dump isn’t likely to help you sell your house. $150 million has been invested in our city since 2010. Perhaps others are bullish on SE too.

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