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City Survey Reveals Exceptional Numbers

With a plus or minus 4.9 percent margin of error, a recent survey shows residents have a high level of satisfaction with Rancho Santa Margarita, ranging from services to performance of city and government employees.

If you like living in Rancho Santa Margarita, you’re not alone.  

In fact, you’re in the majority. The big majority. Like, the biggest majority.

In a recent survey of city residents, 99 percent of respondents—with a plus or minus 4.9 percent margin of error—rated Rancho an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Richard Bernard, the surveys author, says he had never come across a 99 percent rating before.

At the City Council meeting on Wednesday, officials received the report from Bernard that described city residents as generally happy with RSM.

Also, according to the survey, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates:

  • Over the past three to four years, nine in ten respondents said that the quality of life in RSM has either stayed the same (68 percent), gotten somewhat better (14 percent) or has gotten much better (9 percent).
  • Respondents’ outlook on the quality of life in the next five years is positive, with 35 percent thinking it’ll get better, 49 percent thinking it will stay the same and 11 percent thinking it will get worse.
  • 92 percent of people offered an excellent, good or fair rating of the city government services and 2 percent offered a poor rating.

 “I’m not that fortunate to always have to say wonderful things about the locations that” the company surveys, said Bernard, company senior vice president. “Here it’s a little different story.”

As surveys go, Rancho Santa Margarita is in rare air.

“Actually I don’t like to use this word very often, but it’s pretty exceptional,” Bernard said. “Know that I’m very tempered in my descriptions and, when I say something very positive, it’s warranted.”

To put the 99 percent in context, Richard said, in similar surveys undertaken by his company, the city of Del Mar received 96 percent, Bellflower 78 percent, Torrance 93 percent, Moreno Valley 66 percent, Oakland 61 percent and Lakewood 97 percent.

In March 2012, the city directed staff to find a firm to survey residents and staff selected Bernard’s company as the lowest bidder at $21,500.

Between June 21 and July 2, 450 residents of the city’s about 48,000 residents were surveyed. The telephone interviews averaged about 24 minutes, resulting in a 95 percent confidence level in the results.

Bernard said that the results are “reasonable numbers statistically as long as it’s random. We took the list of all registered voted and randomized it.”

Other notable findings and highlights included:

  • Crime and economic issues were among the "most important" issues facing residents; 12 percent cited crime/drugs/safety, and 10 percent cited jobs, though 13 percent answered "nothing."
  • Although 24 percent answered that they didn't know, 59 percent said city officials did "excellent or good" at managing city funds, 57 percent lauded planning for the future, and 40 percent indicated the city officials did an excellent or good job of negotiating fair and affordable contracts—though 42 percent answered that they didn't know.
  • In the area of community life, appearance, personal safety and accessibility to open spaces all scored 92 percent or better in the excellent/good category; organized recreational activities pulled 80 percent; shopping opportunities, affordable casual dining restaurants and traffic flow were cited by 77 percent.
  • Residents indicated a preference for a warehouse store such as Costco or Sam's Club in terms of shopping that's not available currently in RSM; 17 percent cited the warehouse stores, 7 percent said a mall, and 4 percent said Walmart, high-end stores whole foods/grocery stores.
  • In satisfaction with city services, on a scale of 1 to 7, six categories ranked 6.0 or higher: fire protection and paramedic services; trash, yard and waste recyclables pickup; graffiti removal; police protection; landscaping on street medians and other public areas; and city emergency preparedness.
  • Among those who had dealt with city employees, none of the six categories to be rated scored less than 85 percent as excellent/good. One of those, "timeliness" (85 percent) was very high compared to other cities, said Bernard. 
  • In terms of improving city services, an open-ended question yielded 21 percent who answered "nothing/doing a good job," while the second-place answer, "communication/listen to residents," was mentioned by 9 percent.

The City Council lauded the survey.

“At the beginning of the presentation you described these results as exceptional," said Mayor Tony Beall. “ I borrow a line from my father: I’m really pleased, but not surprised by the results that we’ve gotten.”

Councilmember Carol Gamble thanked city staff, officials and local homeowner associations for all the work.

 “I think the results were even greater than I expected,” Gamble said. “We can’t do a good job of working for our community if we don’t know in detail what’s important to them.”

Also according to the survey, 72 percent of respondents said they approve or strongly approve with the compensation for city councilmembers, 19 percent said they somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of it and 9 percent didn’t answer or didn’t know.

Other business

The City Council voted by 4-0 vote to extend the moratorium on marijuana dispensaries in the city until Sept. 27, 2013. 

Lawrence (Larry) McCook September 14, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I agree that Police and Fire Protection along with Business Development (Job Creation) hold the highest priorities in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Charles September 14, 2012 at 09:45 PM
RSM (and most of south OC) has just about everything: good weather, good schools, reasonably close to the beach, normally not (this) hot weather, low crime, reasonable proximity to jobs, modern amenities, master planned zoning and aesthetics, and modern roads and traffic control devices. Biggest negative: Commuters are stuck paying for the 241 tolls OR schlepping through 69 traffic signals to reach the 5.
RSM01012000 September 15, 2012 at 01:41 PM
"Residents indicated a preference for a warehouse store such as Costco or Sam's Club in terms of shopping that's not available currently in RSM" This is incorrect! The larger majority stated they want no new shopping/nothing.
April Josephson September 15, 2012 at 04:24 PM
RSM01012000, I agree that more said nothing than said they wanted a warehouse store, which is indicative of how happy residents are with our city... but, of types that residents listed, warehouse store was number one...I personally would rather see Mother's Market come to town.
RSM01012000 September 15, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I just do not want a big box store just a few miles from another one. It is bad enough seeing a box truck parked on our streets EVERYDAY and in the backdrop of our 9/11 Event.
April Josephson September 15, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I agree completely :-)

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