Christle Balvin at the Pasadena Community Foundation's "LOCAL HEROS" event with (L to R) Darryl Dunn, general manager of the Rose Bowl Operating Company, and Michael Beck, City Manager of Pasadena, California (Photo by Herb Shoebridge).
Christle with another Local Hero, former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian. At a a previous event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, while still Police Chief, he awarded Ms. Balvin the Chief's Special Award for Service to the Community. (Photo by Herb Shoebridge)
COOPERATION between stakeholders, a goal of the Community Outreach efforts of Hintz & Balvin Communications. (Photo by Herb Shoebridge)
Christle with Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard at a function for the Pasadena Community Foundation
Hintz & Balvin Communications specializes in using innovative approaches to community relations and public outreach to assist cities, their agencies and businesses in interacting with their constituencies and finding common ground. As a "Concern for Communications," few firms are as dedicated to identifying different community viewpoints and helping to forge them into a common vision, capable of sustaining a common action.
Founded in 1980 by former KCBS television commentator and Community Relations Director Garth Hintz and later joined by Media Specialist, Christle Balvin, the firm understands the importance of good communication. The process begins with careful listening and is strengthened by the accurate recording and dissemination of information. All those involved and concerned with a project are regularly informed of progress and developments. Communication is conducted in a prompt, open and forthright manner.
Because Hintz & Balvin provides a service that is so closely tied to the attitudes and perceptions of people, every community outreach effort and communications program is given individual attention. Each is designed to respect the special needs of the client, the project, and the community. For example, in multiethnic/multilingual communities, meetings are conducted in different languages by an ethnically diverse staff with written materials translated to better facilitate understanding and comprehension.
Recognizing that the most successful projects are team efforts, Hintz & Balvin welcomes the opportunity of blending our public relations skills with the vision and experience of our clients to stimulate business and create a lasting legacy. We begin with short-term projects that entice recognition and end by fostering long-lasting relationships between our clients and those they serve.
In recent years, Hintz & Balvin has come to specialize in transportation, water and land use projects. The firm has worked on park and urban master plans, Supplemental and full Environmental Impact Reports. Many projects have involved coordination between multiple agencies and, on occasion, different cities. A skilled staff works closely with engineering and technical teams to help translate important technical terms and information into fact sheets and other materials directed toward the public-at-large and the media. Enticing graphic materials, large visuals, slide shows and videos are a specialty of the firm and are used at public meetings and for television and media presentations.
Recognizing that the most successful projects are team efforts, Hintz & Balvin welcomes the opportunity to fold its expertise into team projects designed to involve people in planning and shaping their own communities.
Examples of PROJECT EXPERIENCE HAHAMONGNA WATERSHED PARK
The Situation: Located north of Devil's Gate Dam and south of Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Hahamongna Watershed Park (formerly Devil's Gate) comprises approximately 300-acres of prime watershed at the northern most tip of the Arroyo Seco. Left untended for many years, the area had several problems. The river basin behind Devil's Gate Dam was clogged with debris while a rock removal operation had left unused equipment and large holes in the middle of the basin. Several surrounding cities and many different public agencies had an interest in or jurisdiction over specific components of the basin. With little tender loving care over many years, the interests of the stakeholders and nearby communities were not being well served.
The Solution: The City of Pasadena wisely recognized the potential of the area as a nature preserve and well-planned park serving diverse recreational needs. Therefore, in 1999, Pasadena retained Takata & Associates, an urban planning firm, to develop a park Master Plan for Devil's Gate Park which became Hahamongna Watershed Park. In the language of the indigenous tribe who once lived in the Arroyo, Hahamongna means "flowing waters, fruitful valley." Hintz & Balvin Communications joined the team for the public outreach and education component. Our primary task was to bring together all the various stakeholders to develop a plan that allowed for harmonious shared usage of the area.
Over the course of one-and-a-half years, Hintz & Balvin worked with numerous user groups and stakeholders as well as residents from the surrounding communities of Altadena, La Canada and Pasadena. Well-publicized meetings were held in churches, homes and community centers. Regular newspaper stories appeared in the press. Tours of the area were arranged on weekends. All had one purpose - to learn about the concerns of stakeholders and be sure they were addressed in the final Park Master Plan.
Among the many interests that had to be considered were those of the public agencies such as County Flood Control that was responsible for the Dam and spreading basins. Also involved in the process were the many recreational users as well as the Gabrialino Indians whose forefathers and mothers made their home in the Arroyo.
In addition to writing press releases, arranging for feature stories, flyers and community meetings, Hintz & Balvin developed extensive mailing lists and outreached into the community. What was most satisfying about the outreach effort was the number and diversity of the people and organizations that eventually united to become intensely committed to the Park Master Plan. This was not always the case. Prior to this outreach effort, equestrians did not speak to bicyclers and Frisbee golfers had no time for soccer players. Naturalists despised off-trail hikers. But through the public meetings and extensive use of charrettes, better understanding and cooperation developed.
The Result: The Hahamongna Park Master Plan was presented to the Pasadena City Council with almost unanimous community support.
METRO RED LINE MID-CITY PROJECT
The Situation: MTA was looking for a way to involve the public in the mid-Wilshire
Area in the planning for the proposed West Side extension of the Metro Red Line.
The Solution: Subcontracting to UltraSystems Environmental, Hintz & Balvin Communications coordinated a multiethnic team responsible for reaching out to the many communities that surround the proposed MTA Mid-City Red Line Project. Over a two-year period, flyers, notices, fact sheets, post cards and ads were prepared in Korean, Spanish and English. Media (radio, television and newspapers) were used to communicate information about the project to all segments of the community. This extensive community outreach effort was kicked off with a large public meeting featuring multilingual displays organized around six stations each dealing with different aspects of the project. Smaller meetings in different sections of the community and in several different languages followed.
In addition to the public meetings, Hintz & Balvin Communication assisted MTA in organizing interagency workshops and planning updates for the County Supervisor for this area. Preparation of printed materials, everything from newspaper ads to the NOP and fact sheets, were prepared by the firm. A distinctive Mid-City Logo developed by Hintz & Balvin and used in ads, news articles and feature stories, to give the project a distinctive look that was easily identifiable to the community and the media.
With a strong background in technical issues, Hintz & Balvin was able to work seamlessly with the engineering and technical teams supervising and executing the Metro Red Line Mid-City project. Because of the years spent in television and the print media, the staff at Hintz & Balvin also knew how to make technical terms and materials related to subway construction understandable to both the community and the media. Using these combined skills, the firm gave the MTA a strong assurance that it had done everything possible to communicate the reason for exploring a mid-City metro line for this part of the City of Los Angeles.
THE BARHAM CAHUENGA CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
The Situation: Barham Boulevard has become a connecting link between the Golden State (134) and the Hollywood Freeway (101). To help settle a law suit brought by the City of Los Angeles against the City of Burbank, several agencies came together to examine how they might improve the flow of traffic between freeways. Residents of the Hollywood Hills who were members of 16 different Neighborhood Associations, were adamantly opposed to widening Barham and to creating new entrances off Barham into Universal City.
The Solution: Working as a subcontractor to Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Hintz & Balvin provided liaison services between the project's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the various homeowners and businesses affected by traffic congestion in the corridor. Through an extensive program of community meetings, Hintz & Balvin solicited public input and established a sound rapport with the nearby home and business owners who were still angry about the way a previous and highly controversial Project Study Report had been developed. Over 260 individual community comments were recorded, categorized by theme and compiled into a reference document used to assist the TAC with its analysis and response to community issues, concerns and solutions.
Hintz & Balvin also developed an extensive project mailing list and created the colorful flyers, ads and spot announcements that notified nearby resident of the 13 community meetings held in the City of Los Angeles, the City of Burbank and the County of Los Angeles, all of whom were involved in the project. Because the project was in the City
Council President John Ferraro's District, Hintz & Balvin worked closely with his staff to identify key stakeholders and keep Council offices informed about community sentiment.
The Barham Project involved several key City, County and State agencies which included the L.A. Bureau of Engineering, L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT), Los Angeles County Public Works, MTA and Caltrans. It was also of great concern to Universal Studios whose expansion program was being stalled pending the outcome of traffic mitigation measures proposed by the study and required for the settlement of a law suite filed by Los Angeles against the City of Burbank. Hintz & Balvin worked closely with all these entities and also assisted the Los Angeles Department of Transportation by providing logistical support for a Neighborhood Protection Plan designed to reduce congestions and parking problems in the surrounding residential and commercial areas.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES
BUREAU OF STREET SERVICES
The Situation: At a time when the infrastructure of the City of Los Angeles is deteriorating (particularly in the older sections of the City) and budgets have been cut, the Bureau of Street Services felt it was important to understand which of its services were of greatest importance to the residents and businesses in the various Council Districts. With this information, the Bureau felt in a better position to set budget and service priorities.
The Solution: Using three Los Angeles City Council Districts for this pilot project, Hintz & Balvin conducted a phone survey and a series of Focus Groups. Because of the information gleaned through these Focus Groups, the Bureau was able to determine how needs varied in each Council District and what services were most important in each part of the City. For example, in the older parts of the City, alleys and their maintenance was a major problem. In the outlying areas of the West San Fernando Valley, tree trimming and gutter maintenance was the hot issue.
The first phase of the project involved meetings with the staff in three Council Districts:
o Council Member Laura Chick's 3rd District
o Council President, John Ferraro's 4th District
o Council Member Rita Walters 9th District
Through these meetings, Hintz & Balvin determined the key issues that constituents were reporting to their Council Members as well as questions the Council member wanted posed to their constituents. The Council offices also provided lists of key stakeholders to be invited to the focus groups at convenient locations in their districts.
After the meetings with Council Members, Hintz & Balvin worked with the Director and key staff of the Bureau to structure the Focus Groups so that they brought forth meaningful information from community stakeholders. The questions asked in the Focus Groups made it possible to identify regional differences. Also identified were opportunities for the Bureau to work more closely with local neighborhood associations and volunteer or civic groups dedicated to improving their neighborhoods.
The Bureau of Street Services and its management has been able to use the results of this survey and these Focus Groups to examine the best ways to serve the City of Los Angeles and improve the quality of life in each District.
BIRTHDAY OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES
For many years, Hintz & Balvin contracted with the Los Angeles City Parks and Recreation Commission to plan, publicize and execute the Birthday of the City of Los Angeles which takes place on the Labor Day weekend at La Placita (the Plaza) beside Olvera Street. The event begins with the traditional walk of the Pablodores or founding families of Los Angeles from the Mission at San Gabriel to the Plaza. Hundreds of walkers follow the path first taken by the early settlers who left the San Gabriel Mission to establish the Pueblo of Los Angeles.
Full of color and pageantry, the Birthday of the City of Los Angeles is a special annual event carefully marked on many family calendars. Cannons fire, Native Americans dance, the Cardinal extends his blessing and the Los Angeles Police & Fire Departments stages mock "hook & ladder" rescues of a damsels in distress caught in one of the upper stories of Pico House, the former residence of Governor Pio Pico. Arts & Craft exhibits, music, balloons and dancing continue throughout the day as people flood into Olvera Street to enjoy the food and festivities.
In planning and coordinating this event, Hintz & Balvin worked with the Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments, the Olvera Street Merchants' Association (which Hintz & Balvin has represented over a period of years), local Native American and Latino arts organizations, representatives of the Chinese Museum (located at the Plaza), the City Historian and the Arch Diocese of Los Angeles. Always well promoted and covered by the local news media, this celebration is one of the most successful events to take place in the downtown area.
METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT
WYMOUTH WATER FILTRATION PLANT
The Situation: When originally built in the middle of a pasture in the agricultural city of La Verne, the Metropolitan Water District's Wymouth Water Filtration Plant was surrounded by open space. Over the years, a community grew up around it. The MET's facility had always enjoyed a friendly relationship with the community and wanted to be sure that it continued even as the plant expanded to accommodate new government testing laboratories.
The Solution: As a subcontractor to CHCG Architects, Hintz & Balvin Communications worked with the Project Director and the Public Affairs Director of the Metropolitan Water District (MET) in planning and executing an extensive community outreach program. The MET was intent upon winning community support for the expansion and modernization of its Wymouth Water Filtration Plant as well as its plans to develop a large new office complex at a second location within the City.
Hintz & Balvin identified nearby homeowners, neighborhood associations and active civic and service organizations who should be notified about meeting and mailed information and updates. Several historic structures, some adjacent to MET properties, were identified and the owners contacted in an effort to resolve their unique issues and concerns. Consultative meetings were held with the appropriate city staff and elected representatives to learn more about the history of the community and the community's relationship to the MET. Building upon City staff's knowledge of the community and its recommendation of stakeholders, Hintz & Balvin designed an outreach program that included the establishment of a Citizens Advisory Board. With the assistance of this group, important issues were identified early and possible solutions considered prior to the public meetings.
Hintz & Balvin, working closely with the staff at the MET, arranged a series of public meetings to be held at staggered times in order to accommodate the different schedules of local residents. At these meetings, issues were discussed and clarified, responses and mitigation measures developed and consensus achieved. The result was a hearty endorsement from the neighbors and a special commendation from the La Verne City Council to the Board of the MET complimenting the Master Planning team on their sensitivity to community concerns.
LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF WATER & POWER
ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
The Situation: Looking ahead toward the need to conserve energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) elected to design a marketing strategy for its Energy Efficiency and Demand Management Programs. Widespread acceptance of these programs would extend the time before new power generation plants would have to be built. Because of rapid advances in power generation technology, LADWP wanted to allow as much research and development to take place before planning and building any new power generation facilities.
The Solution: The LADWP retained Hintz & Balvin Communications to develop an eight-year communications and marketing plan for new and retrofit residential and commercial projects. The marketing plan would target several audiences, including developers of commercial and residential projects of all sizes. Their cooperation in implementing new technologies in newly built homes could greatly reduce water consumption. Home-owners as well as small and large employers were also targeted in the plan. A variety of media and communication tools would be used including demonstrations and seminars for corporate executives and trade associations. With a background in video production, Hintz & Balvin proposed developing such video tapes to augment seminars and training sessions. Studies have shown that more people retain information that is accompanied by strong visual images than they do the printed word alone.
Because adults are often reached through their children, the Hintz & Balvin designed Marketing plan placed considerable emphasis on connecting to parents through their children and the schools. Coloring books for children and other child-friendly toys carrying the conservation message were recommended.
Through extensive news and feature stories in the media, advertisements, mailings and specially designed information programs and workshops, Hintz & Balvin knew that the message of energy efficiency and conversation would reach its targeted audience - the people of Los Angeles.
COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS
The Situation: The County Department of Public Works operates roughly seven divisions each with a very specific area of responsibility. Communicating information about the scope and depth of these programs can often be difficulty. Therefore, the Department decided to do a roughly 20-minute videotape about its many diverse programs and services. But after it's first attempt with another firm turned into a disaster, the question before the Department was whether to scrap the effort entirely or begin again with another firm. After interviewing several firms, Hintz & Balvin, teaming with Bosustow Media was selected by the Department to produce a totally new video targeting the many audiences that rely upon the services of the Department.
The Solution: Joining with Bosustow Media, Hintz & Balvin helped to produce, write and videotape the program. One of the most challenging aspects of the production was to gain approvals from the several different divisions within the Department, each of whom had a strong interest in exactly what was written and how it was presented. Another challenge was to make the program interesting and relevant to the many different audiences the County hoped to reach - homeowners, schools, environmental groups, etc.
Whether shooting from a helicopter or walking along fast flowing storm channels, the video produced by Hintz & Balvin/Bosustow Media was well-received both by the Department of Public Works and the various target audiences invited to see it. The original purpose of helping the County better communicate information about its programs and services was definitely accomplished.
BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT
PASADENA PLAYHOUSE and SOUTH LAKE
The Situation: The area in the very center of Pasadena around the Pasadena Playhouse was deteriorating. The 1993 recession had caused a lot of businesses to leave the area and vacancy rates were high.
The Solution: To revitalize this important section of Pasadena, a group of business leaders and property owners in the Playhouse District joined together to form a Property Based Improvement District or PBID. The PBID allowed for the formation of the Playhouse District Association which oversees the implementation of services over and beyond those generally offered by the City or individual property owners. These services usually include group marketing, safety and maintenance programs and improved physical amenities. The PBID lasts for five-years before it is renewed.
To win the support of property owners who must vote to assess themselves, these business leaders hired Hintz & Balvin to prepare the brochures, develop a video, work with the media and arrange for numerous meetings with individual property owners. The first attempt to organize the District was a remarkable success. Now, in 2006 these same owners must evaluate their accomplishments and renew. Hintz & Balvin has again been retained to do the outreach and communication on the 2006 PBID renewal. With roughly 44% of the property owners now on record as supporting the renewal, the 2006 PBID looks set for success.
Because PBIDs must be renewed every five years, Hintz and Balvin was called back after five years to conduct the renewal process. The firm's success with both the initial Playhouse PBID and the renewal led to a request from the South Lake Merchant's Association to get their PBID effort off the ground. It is now the forth successful PBID in the Pasadena area.
PUBLICIZING THE CLOSURE
OF A GRAND OLD HOTEL
The Situation: Because of its inability to withstand a major earthquake, an 800-room landmark hotel in Pasadena needed to be closed and demolished. More than just a hotel, The Huntington Sheraton was an institution beloved by residents and visitors alike. It was the place where graduations were held, weddings and anniversaries took place and football teams stayed when coming to Pasadena for the big Rose Bowl game on New Year's day. Who would believe that a building that resembled a fortress was seismically unsafe?
The Solution: Hintz & Balvin was called in and given one week to develop a carefully orchestrated plan that would alert the community to the seismic studies without creating panic or antagonizing Pasadena's well-organized preservations. To that end, Hintz & Balvin scheduled a series of meetings and well-timed announcements designed to alert the many stakeholders involved with the hotel - permanent residents, those planning major functions and the City of Pasadena which earned a sizeable bed tax from the hotel.
Guests and permanent residents were the first to be notified followed by employees, city directors, nearby residents, civic leaders and the media. Every effort was made to eliminate controversy by clearly establishing the results of the engineering studies conducted by two separate firms. To be sure that the information was correctly presented, Hintz & Balvin struck a deal with the Los Angeles Times that involved providing them with advance information and giving them an exclusive if they held the story until after the guests and employees could be notified. On the morning that the L.A. Times broke with its story, a press conference featuring the engineers and their findings was held on the spacious lawn in front of the hotel. National as well as local media attended. The community accepted the engineering findings and came to support the demolition and total restoration of the hotel. Today, a seismically safe replica of the Huntington Sheraton Hotel stands upon the old site. Out of deference to the community, the hotel is now called the Huntington Ritz-Carlton.
Hintz & Balvin Communications was awarded top honors by the California Hotel Association for the most outstanding media effort of the year.
Resumes, by their very nature, tell what a person has done and not who he or she is. In putting together its project teams where members vary in accordance with the nature of the project, Hintz & Balvin involves knowledgeable specialists who have an abiding respect for people from all backgrounds, races, socio-economic circumstances and beliefs. Each team member is a sensitive listener, willing to put in the time and energy necessary to truly understand another point of view. This will be particularly apparent in community meetings and focus groups where many opinions, suggestions and recommendations are forthcoming. It is crucial under these circumstances to set a tone of non-judgmental respect and attentive concern to what is shared and expressed. The Hintz & Balvin teams welcome the opportunity to work with its clients in helping create an atmosphere that invites dialogue, generates trust and results in the kind of input that helps move each project forward.
Christle Balvin, Principal
As president of Hintz & Balvin Communications, Christle has over 20 years experience in broadcast communication, public outreach and public relations. Working first as a producer at KCAL (Channel 9) and KCET (Channel 28), she left broadcasting to serve as Information Services Director for the American Friends Service Committee. She went on to edit a publication issued by the Current Wisdom Foundation that analyzed both sides of contemporary issues. She eventually joined Hintz & Balvin as it began to specialize in providing community outreach and media relations to private and public sector clients working on transportation, land use and environmental issues. With each project undertaken by the firm, she oversees a staff of skilled professionals in planning community outreach programs and developing well-planned communications campaigns and linkages to target audiences. The firm has created newsletters such as the official City newsletter for Lake Forest. The firm also develops videos for agencies such as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, the Pasadena Playhouse Business Improvement District, the Pasadena Police Foundation, the Pasadena Community Foundation and the City of Lynwood.
In recent years, Christle has supervised a media and community outreach program for MTA's Metro Red Line Mid-City Project that communicated information about the westward extension of the subway through the multiethnic communities of Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles. She also provided the oversight for the firm's work with the City and County of Los Angeles, the City of Burbank and the numerous agencies involved with the Barham Cahuenga Corridor Improvement Project. Over 13 neighborhood associations and Universal Studios were involved in contributing to the discussions about Barham Boulevard which serves as a connecting link between the 134 and the Hollywood Freeways. As a result of this project and the input of neighbors, the entrance to Universal Studios was moved from its intended location on Barham to an offramp off the Hollywood Freeway.
At two different times (1995 & 1999), Christle represented Hintz & Balvin in conducting the community outreach program related to the creation of a park master plan for the 300-acre watershed immediately south of the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Through skilled interaction with the media and the community, consensus was achieved on the master plan. This required the involvement of the three adjacent communities and the numerous diverse interest groups with a stake in Hahamongna Watershed Park.
Bachelor of Arts Degree, School of International Relations, University of Southern
Language Certificates (I, II, III), Alliance Francaise, Paris France
Graduate work in Psychology, California State University at Los Angeles.
Past president of the 300-member Rotary Club of Pasadena
Past president of the Pasadena Police Foundation
Past President of the Pasadena Public Access Corporation
Past President of the University Club of Pasadena
Advisory Board member for the Salvation Army & the Pasadena Education Foundation
Co-founder of Open Space Now and a Coalition for a Common Vision
Recipient of the 2001 YWCA Women of Excellence Award for Communications
Recipient of the 2009 History Maker Award from the Pasadena Museum of History.
Recipient of the 2010 Exceptional Citizen Activism Award from the Arroyo Seco
Foundation for co-founding of Open Space Now