Carlos Barrera: Working for the Greater Good

Written by: Max Barkley, Jordan Bentz, Jake McNeal, and Mitch Rhymeski

Carlos Barrera is a Co-Chair of the Friendly Area Neighborhood Association.

Do you want to say a little bit about how you got involved with the (Friendly Area Neighborhood) FAN group?

I moved here about 11 years ago, and had some friends who were involved in an issue.  They were involved with the issue of the National Guard want to put in a new facility just across the street from Lane Community College, an area that kind of has a bunch of sensitive wetlands, and it just seemed like an inappropriate place for a facility to be doing lots of vehicle maintenance and things like that.  So we fought that, and that got us kind of involved in some political action-type things, and at around the same time I got involved with my neighborhood association and going to their meetings and becoming a member of their board, and my wife was a co-Chair for a while, and I became a co-Chair and continued to be, so now I’m in my fifth cycle, I think, as co-Chair of the neighborhood association.

So it’s a husband-and-wife duo, then, as co-Chair of the group?

Well, we weren’t at the same time. [Laughs]

The proximity might be a little similar – it’s always good to have your own space.

Yeah, well, we have a joke that when you’re on the Board, you can’t go to the bathroom because if you do you’ll come back and find out you’ve been elected to one of the Officers positions. [Laughs] So it’s a little bit of a struggle to take over an Officer’s position, but we’ve been on the same Board for a few years running and nobody has left, so we’ve got a solid group of people.

What do you normally discuss at the monthly meetings?

The monthly meetings are Board meetings once a month, and we talk about issues that have come up.  Sometimes we talk about regular things, like we have an annual picnic, so we spend many of the meetings leading up to that talking about the various aspects of that event and planning for it, and organizing all the things to put on an event like that.  We frequently have three or four hundred people come to our annual picnic, so we arrange to have music and we have local businesses to donate things that we give away as a raffle, and then we also talk about things that may come up, like there may be an area of town where people are having problems of some kind, things like speeding, which is a perennial issue that continues to come up, and it was recently arranged for Washington Park to be a pesticide-free park, and so that was a neighborhood issue that we were involved with, and now we have a group of people who go down there, and are volunteers and maintain the park, to make it so that it’s not necessary to use pesticides or other kinds of practices which are not environmentally sensitive.

Would you say that everyone is generally pretty agreeable in the area?  Are there ever any disputes at the meetings?

Yeah, we have disputes from time to time.  We got a matching grant from the city to install some adult exercise equipment at Friendly Park, and that was an involved process – we had to go around to all the nearby neighbors and tell them about the upgrades that were going to occur at the park, because the city was going to do other things – there was children’s play equipment there, and standards for safety for child play areas had changed, so the city was going to upgrade that area, and also install sidewalks in the park to make it more accessible because it tended to be kind of a muddy park during a large part of the year.  So we did that, and all the nearby neighbors signed off on what was going to be done at the park.  Nobody was really aware of what kind of impact it was going to have, and the city had to dig a big hole in order to have eighteen inches of bark, or some depth like that, around the play equipment, and that meant that they had to build retaining walls because there’s a slight slope to the property.  Some of those retaining walls are quite visible, and so that had a big negative visual impact, and the neighbors were really upset about that, so then they tried to sabotage the effort to put in the adult exercise equipment, which is the only part we were actually in charge of.  So then we had a lot of meetings and we would run around, making Board meetings, we had special meetings, we had meetings in the park with our city councilperson and the nearby neighbors, so there was a lot of work trying to get to a place that we were in agreement.  But then it got around to the point where we were having a real come-to-Jesus meeting with neighborhood services, and the leaders of the opposition were there, and myself and the other co-Chair were there, and talked to them about trying to resolve the issues, and it came out in that meeting that they weren’t actually interested in resolving the issue.  All their efforts were really working in a clandestine manner to really sabotage the project.  We realized that they were not bargaining in good faith – we just cut off all further discussion, and we just told them, “Okay, we’re either going to put the equipment in here or we’re gonna put it in there – you guys talk about which site you’d feel better with.”  So they went and they talked about it, and they came back and they said, “Okay, we want it in Location B,” so we went ahead and did it.

That’s funny – under cover of darkness, trying to sabotage the project.

At least one of the people, the leaders, when directly questioned, gave us honest answers, so we were able to determine that that’s what was actually happening.

So what are the plans for the future of the neighborhood?  Is anything significant on the books for the future?

We’re still working with the people who are trying to save Civic Stadium from being demolished, so that’s a work in progress.  We gave the Civic Stadium group time to come up with the resources to purchase the property from the school district.  The other big thing that’s happening is the development of the Southtowne business district, which they’re saying runs from 19th to 30th, and about a block on either side of Willamette, so we’ve been working, sort of meeting with the Neighborhood Association, meeting with the Southtowne Business Association, we also brought in the Amazon Neighborhood Association and the Crest Drive Neighborhood Association, which are more or less adjoining this area.  Then the city found out that we were having these meetings, so they got involved and we had a pretty large-sized meeting with people from the Planning Commission and from the Building Department.  So then that area of the the Southtowne Business Area became the model for the city for the twenty-millionth neighborhood idea where they want to try to develop an area so that people who can get to all the services they need with not more than a twenty-minute walk, which is all part of the process of trying to reduce vehicle miles traveled and a number of other things.  We have a number of programs that we’re going to work on – for instance, we have a sidewalk project where we went and we did sidewalk mapping and found out that from 20th to 27th there aren’t any true sidewalks that come down Willamette.  That’s a pretty big area to have no sidewalks, so we determined that if there’s an area more or less in the middle, that we could connect the existing sidewalks and create a walking path down to the business district and to the transportation office, and so that project has been in progress for a couple years, and we’ve got a nonprofit status through Eugene Neighbors Incorporated, a nonprofit umbrella agency, and we have a matching grant, and the city has said “Oh yeah, we think this is great!” because it fits in with their neighborhood plan, and so they said that they’ll do the curb cuts and wheelchair ramps, so we just have to put in the sidewalks, so now we’re getting to the point where we can start having meetings with the people and walk around and discussing the plan, and we’re trying to design because I don’t think we’re gonna use just plain sidewalks – we’re gonna try to incorporate some artistic features into them and make them more interesting.  Those are kind of the major issues that are occurring right now, and other things that are always happening – on 24th Avenue we’re having complaints about people speeding, so we’re looking at that … and that’s all I can think of.

We’ve got some people in our neighborhood who are being checked out on the radar guns and they’re loaned out to people who can learn how to use them … we’ve clocked people in our neighborhood going 70, 80 miles an hour.  Sometimes there’s a fair amount of irresponsible driving, so we try to keep a wary eye on that, and figure out ways of dealing with it.  On some streets we’ve promoted changes – fold-outs and little circles with plantings and stuff to get people to slow down, and some of them may work.  On one street they put in a little slalom thing with little posts that they glued down in the center with little posts, but they didn’t hold out like the manufacturer said they would, and now they’ve all been run over and knocked down.  But now the city is reconsidering “Well okay, now that didn’t work, so we have to figure out some other way of getting people to slow down” on that particular street where people travel too fast for that area.  Part of the problem when you put in traffic-calming features is that sometimes people will leave that street and go to some other side street, and now that street will have the problem with speeders, and they have to figure out what to do about that street.  Some streets you can’t do too many things – Jefferson Street is a major collector or something: the Fire Department says “No, we don’t want speed bumps on that street because that’s one of the streets we’ll need to be able to travel quickly to get to places of town where we may have to deal with a fire.  So Jefferson, I don’t think, will ever have any traffic-calming features that would be a hindrance to fire trucks or other emergency vehicles.  Other than that, most things are not too much of a problem.

And what about living in Friendly Neighborhood?  How is that?  You’ve lived here for quite a while, you’ve seen probably a lot in the last eleven years.

It’s a nice neighborhood – I really like it, the neighborhood itself seems like it has a lot of people who are active and trying to make the neighborhood better.  For instance, the Madison Meadow people organized and raised some money to buy about a square block of open land that was gonna be sold for development.  They decided “No, we really wanna keep this area sort of like a park,” and so they were successful in raising the money and they purchased the property, so now it’s probably the only privately-owned park in the city, and that’s in our neighborhood.  There were, like I said, we have volunteers who are maintaining Washington Park.  We have the Southtowne Business Association; those people are interested in promoting the area.  We’ve had a lot of cooperation from businesses who donate to our neighborhood association to help promote it, so we can maintain our programs, and we have a number of other programs that we would like to see come to fruition, and so a lot of the times you can see a very slow, incremental process, for instance with the sidewalks.  We also have another program where we try to go out and get people to exercise together, to get them to meet their neighbors and then go for walks, because research shows that when people have an exercise buddy, then they’re more likely to continue exercising.  And there’s all kinds of benefits to there being something as simple as going for walks: it’s good for people’s personal health, it’s good for their psychological health, and having people walking on the streets reduces crime, so there’s an opportunity for people to get to know their neighbors.  There’s just all kinds of benefits there.  Part of the reason we’re mapping the sidewalks is so that we can figure out the routes that people can take, kinda like ski trails, you know, that tell you how long the trail is and how difficult it is.  We’ll do that with sidewalks.

Friendly Neighborhood Overview

EUGENE CITY COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE (WARD 1):

George Brown

LANE COUNTY COMMISSIONER (SOUTH EUGENE):

Pete Sorenson

FRIENDLY AREA NEIGHBORS EXECUTIVE BOARD:

Carlos Barrera Co-Chair

Bernie Corrigan Co-Chair

Andrew Fisher Newsletter Editor

Mike Giroux Treasurer

Matt Lutter Member

Rob Tobias Member

Michael Howard Member

Marv Glover Member

Greg Giesy Member

Nancy Classen Member

The Friendly Area Neighbors (FAN) group meets on the second Monday of every month, from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Washington Park Cottage. The meetings include general discussion about quality-of-life improvements that need to be made in the neighborhood. Members also facilitate disputes between neighbors. Interestingly, the first half of these meetings is open for discussion. Community members are encouraged to voice their opinions and engage in a dialogue about the Friendly neighborhood.

Quarterly meetings—occurring once in every season—serve primarily as a way to coordinate events and bring in new members to the meetings. The notable events of the year are the Summer Solstice Pancake Breakfast, and the FAN Summer Picnic.

About jakemcneal

My name is Jake McNeal and I am from Portland, Oregon. I am a senior at the University of Oregon, majoring in news-editorial and magazine journalism. I am a business minor as well. I would love to be a sports reporter covering football, basketball, baseball and soccer.
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