In a week of high emotions and post-election tensions, one longtime Solana Beach resident is finding a new way to connect with her neighbors, simply by saying, “Welcome.”
One week ago, Pat Feldman finished renovating her yard, adding new drought-tolerant plants and a small 4-foot-by-4-foot porch-style area that includes a wrought-iron bench that reads, “Welcome.”
But Pat’s dream for the bench included much more than just having a new place to unwind. She hoped the bench would invite neighbors to sit and chat, and connect face-to-face with one another.
And, so far, Pat said it seems to be doing just that.
“A lot of people go on early walks in this neighborhood and they’re thrilled to have a place to sit. Even people that don’t live on my street are now walking their dogs this way,” Pat told NBC 7 on Friday. “Kids sit here to rest after riding their bikes; I’ve met a lot of new people this week.”
On Thursday morning, Pat’s bench welcomed another neighbor: San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts.
When Pat walked down to her porch at around 7 a.m. she said she found Roberts sitting with another neighbor, talking. She said it brought her joy to, once again, see two neighbors connecting.
Pat’s daughter, Dara Feldman, told NBC 7 her mother called her after this to gleefully declare: “It’s working! It’s working!”
Dara said her mother’s vision was to make the spot feel inclusive and foster good relationships in her neighborhood.
“It’s been a dream come true for me,” Pat said. “It’s a personal goal for me to be kind and welcoming to everyone. I want people to meet new people on this bench, to have their coffee there, to have meaningful conversations.”
Pat said that even after living on her block for more than two decades, some neighbors had no idea she lived there because her house sits up higher and, before the yard renovations, wasn't really visible from the street. Now, with her bench, she feels like a part of her community.
The “Welcome” bench sits in the 400 block of San Lucas Drive in Solana Beach. Pat said anyone is welcome to have a seat. The conversation will surely follow.