Bethel Concerns crafted by ABC Civic Engagement Team and ABC Executive Board

First City Council Public Forum speech February 10, 2020:

My name is Lin Woodrich, I am the Active Bethel Citizens co-chair, living in Ward 6 with my dad and am a homeowner in the Bethel portion of Ward 8. My question is “When will Envision Eugene be implemented in Bethel? I see that you have a Work Session scheduled for Bethel Redevelopment on April 22 at noon. I am hoping this is the first step in Building a Better Bethel – the report that was prepared in 2014 and never implemented. The lack of city investment in Bethel is obvious to everyone. Hwy 99 is an eyesore and will be the Gateway to Eugene from the airport for athletes and visitors to the World Track & Field Championshipscalled the world’s largest sporting event of 2021. The disproportionate way the Bethel area has been treated shows how the power of affluence influences city funds over the middle-class citizens voices.” Thank you.

Speeches that were also approved by the ABC Board and presented by other ABC Civic Engagement Team members:

Infrastructure

My name is _____________ and I live in Ward (6, 7, or 8) within the Bethel community. One of the biggest concerns voiced by Bethel citizens is the lack of infrastructure within the community.More specifically, the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes and bike paths in the majority of neighborhoods, lack of adequate street lighting, and minimal access to public transportation.

It has been energizing yet also discouraging to see other areas of Eugene receive robust improvements and expansion to bike lanes and path access, yet we have not seen the same expansions in Bethel. According to a 2019 survey done by Beyond Toxics, 56-61% of Bethel residents travel more than 5 miles to work; with over 12,000 households in the Bethel area, that contributes a significant amount of traffic.  If Bethel citizens had safe, accessible bike path routes to the main thoroughfares of town and stronger, more frequent bus routes to other areas of Eugene, we could help reduce traffic traveling to and from Bethel.  Added traffic contributes to safety concerns for those who bicycle or walk in the neighborhood, especially where sidewalks and bike lanes are absent. With eleven schools within the Bethel school district, it is critically important to prioritize the safety of students traveling to and from school by walking and biking.

Because of the absence of sidewalks, bike lanes and adequate street lighting within our neighborhood, residents have high concerns for their safety when using non-vehicle transportation.  The Beyond Toxics survey also reported that 40%-45% of Bethel residents do not feel safe walking alone in their own neighborhood compared to 12% of residents in the rest of Eugene.

As Envision Eugene includes “Moving Ahead,” a major transit project for the city and identifies Hwy 99 as one of the five key corridors for investment, I am advocating for the council to prioritize transit and infrastructure investment in the Bethel area as our community is sorely behind the rest of Eugene.
The Bethel neighborhood needs to be next in line to receive Envision Eugene planning. Our last neighborhood plan was created in 1982!
Thank you.

Recreation

My name is _____________ and I live in Ward (6, 7, or 8). As the work session on Bethel redevelopment on April 22 approaches, I would like to ask that Bethel parks and recreation projects be brought to the forefront.  I commend the city for moving forward with the project to majorly renovate Echo Hollow Pool, which was greatly outdated and undersized for our community. I am hoping to hear more about how the city plans to move forward with other recreation projects within Bethel.  The “Building a Better Bethel” report that came out in 2014 lists “expanding recreation facilities” as a key action item to be completed within 5 years of the release of that report.

In another Bethel Parks and Recreation System Plan created in 2018 and provided by the City of Eugene, key issues and needs were identified for parks and recreation improvement.  I would like to highlight some of these needs and ask what progress has been made in moving these projects forward:

  • Petersen Barn is outdated and undersized for a community center serving a neighborhood of over 12,000 households. To expand capacity and programming, we need to increase the size and space of this community center.
  • Availability of neighborhood parks in some parts of Bethel is limited; four parks need major renovations, acquire 2-3 additional parks for underserved areas, an additional dog park, and access for walking and biking to some parks and natural areas are needed, including sidewalk and trail creation.
  • Bethel does not have some special facilities found in other areas of Eugene, including a large community garden and spray play.
  • A multi-use sports complex is in high demand to accommodate local use and tournaments.
  • Restore and expand recreation access, as appropriate, to the neighborhood’s abundant natural areas by connecting to existing trails and paved paths for areas such as Amazon Creek, Fern Ridge, and the West Eugene Wetlands.

How are we succeeding in advancing and investing in these Bethel projects? Thank you.

Environment/Air Quality

My name is _____________ and I live in Ward (6, 7, or 8). As a Bethel citizen, I recognize that I live in an area of Eugene that is underserved and under resourced. Today I want to focus on the inequities and dangerous health risks experienced within our community regarding environmental air quality.  According to the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, four out of five of the county’s biggest polluting facilities are located in West Eugene.  These factories emit high particulate matter and hazardous air pollutants, which are considered highly dangerous to human health.

In data collected by Beyond Toxics, West Eugene experienced over 500,000 lbs. of toxic pollutant emissions in 2015, compared to just 247 lbs. in all other zip codes that year.  In 2019, Bethel citizens reported higher instances of a number of health conditions than the rest of Eugene including: cancers, asthma, and respiratory illnesses. 30-50% of Bethel citizens have reported their health conditions worsening on days they smell or detect toxic odors. Not only does this increased exposure to pollution affect residents’ health, but also their ability to enjoy outdoor recreation, physical activity, and nature within their neighborhood, planting local food gardens due to affects to soil quality, children’s ability to focus, learn, and play, and school/work attendance due to illness associated with poor air quality.  Around 20% of Bethel citizens reported missing school or work due to breathing difficulties.

I am urging the council to see this as a pressing public health concern and use their influence to advocate for stronger industrial regulation and policy for the industries in West Eugene, while also working with agencies to support and instill further emission monitoring, reduction, alerts and restrictions. Thank you.

Amenities

My name is _____________ and I live in Ward (6, 7, or 8). I live in Bethel, one of the largest neighborhoods in the city.  With over 12,000 households, there is a high need to increase amenities within our neighborhood for a variety of reasons: to serve citizens in their place of residence  and reduce travel, to improve economic prosperity and cash flow within the neighborhood, and create more walkable neighborhoods. Within the rest of Eugene, 40% of residents are within walking distance of a grocery store. In most areas of Bethel, only about 12-15% of residents are within walking distance of a grocery store, according to a 2019 report done by Beyond Toxics.

Currently residents need to travel for most amenities, including theaters, retail, and restaurant variety. Developing Highway 99 is a ripe opportunity to adding more of these amenities to the area. The “Building a Better Bethel” report done in 2014 includes 12 key action items to be completed within 5 years of the report being released.  Yet, a number of these action items are left incomplete in 2020. A large portion of those action items focus on building business alliances, creating targeted business assistance, completing site predevelopment to attract business, and retain and grow the food sector industry in West Eugene.

I believe it is in the city’s best interests to invest in business, entertainment, and amenity development in Bethel/Danebo and champion amenity and business development opportunities to improve one of the most underserved areas of Eugene. The Bethel neighborhood needs to be next in line to receive Envision Eugene planning. Our last neighborhood plan was created in 1982!
Thank you.

Funding Inequities

My name is _____________ and I live in Ward (6, 7, or 8).  As a resident of Bethel, one of the most glaring differences I see compared to the rest of the city is a lack of investment and fund allocation to community development projects.  It does not take long for one to notice that Bethel is well behind other areas in regard to development and investment in infrastructure, recreation, environmental safety, and business and amenities.  I’ve seen Bethel included in city plans such as “Envision Eugene,” “Building a Better Bethel,” and plans to improve parks and recreation.  But because Bethel is so far behind other neighborhoods in development, I urge council members to not just equally include Bethel, but prioritize Bethel as a high need area requiring more development to catch up to the quality of neighborhoods in other parts of Eugene.

Bethel is the initial view of Eugene for all visitors arriving from the airport.  As the “front door” of Eugene, Bethel deserves to be more than just a side-thought or pass-through portion of the city. 

Bethel is also increasingly shouldering the hefty responsibility of addressing the issue of homelessness and homeless services.  If the city continues to funnel these services and populations into our neighborhood, the city needs to provide ample funding resources to aid in this responsibility. We deserve to feel safe, supported, and prepared in taking on a large portion of this major challenge for the city. No longer do we want to be referred to as “felony flats.” We are proud to live in Bethel and we want to see it thrive. Now we just ask the city council to join us in helping Bethel be all that it can be.

The Bethel neighborhood needs to be next in line to receive Envision Eugene planning. Our last neighborhood plan was created in 1982!
Thank you.

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