Neighborliness and bonhomie coursed through Orinda Thursday with the certification that Orinda is a friendly place — even the friendliest in California and second in the whole USA.
On its website, Forbes magazine listed Orinda as no. 2 in the nation, crunching some friendly numbers for cities of population between 5,500 and 150,000.
The recognition thrilled Orinda Mayor Amy Worth. “I wasn’t surprised given our low crime rate and residents’ high level of civic engagement and generosity,” stated Worth in a city news release.
Forbes listed other factors that contribute to a sense of community such as public common areas and downtown hubs where people gather for parades, festivals, and concerts.
“The City does well on that score as well,” Mayor Worth said. “That’s why it’s a great place to live.”
Community activist Carol Penskar, a 24-year Orinda resident, said, "I strongly agree that the community is friendly, cohesive, passionate, and hands-on, and the quality of life is high."
In an email, she described many groups that "knit the community together:"
- The Orinda Association.
- The Orinda Arts Council.
- The Community Center Auxiliary.
- Art in Public Places.
- The Parks and Recreation Foundation
- Orinda Youth Organization.
- The Community Center.
- Orinda Junior Women's Club.
- Various garden clubs
- The Education Foundation of Orinda.
- The Friends of the Orinda Library.
- The Orinda Community Foundation.
The Forbes formula
Using data from the U.S. Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and City-Data.com, the rankings were based on the percentage of owner-occupied homes, crime rates, charitable giving and percentage of college graduates. A Forbes partner, Nextdoor.com (a social network for neighborhoods) conducted qualitative surveys among its membership in the towns that rated the highest to come up with the top 15.
The Forbes website was downright friendly to Orinda:
"Orinda, Calif., an Oakland suburb with nearly 18,000 residents where 92% of households own their homes. Roughly 77% of those residents have a bachelor’s or a higher degree. As in Sammamish, the crime rate is much lower than the national average.
"Holidays and events are a really big deal to Orinda residents,” says Kelsey Grady of Nextdoor.com. Annual events include the Orinda Film Festival (now the California Independent Film Festival), the California Shakespeare Theater and an annual daylong 4th of July celebration that kicks off with a pancake breakfast. On Nextdoor, Orinda residents have been known to organize holiday gatherings like pumpkin carving contests and neighborhood wine and cheese parties."
The No. 1 friendly city was Sammamish, Wash. I knew Sammamish was friendly when I went to the Patch site there — leading it was a story about a community effort to have schoolchildren make thousands of snowflakes for the purpose of decorating the bereaved Sandy Hook school in Connecticut, scene of the mass shooting earlier this month. Also in the top five were Fishers, Ind.; Seal Beach, Calif.; and Westerville, Ohio.