For this month’s constituent spotlight, we interviewed Ann McMullen. Ann is a resident of the Hazelwood neighborhood, a board member on the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association (HNA), and a huge fan of the Oregon coast. Originally from the Midwest, she and her husband chose Hazelwood for its affordability, proximity to public transportation, shopping centers, and parks, as well as the beautiful architecture.
Following in the footsteps of her parents who taught her the importance of community engagement, Ann is a dedicated advocate for her east Portland neighbors. She is working to make sure that solutions proposed by the local government in Hazelwood, like Menlo Park Safe Rest Village, will bring long-lasting benefits to the community.
During our conversation, Ann shared how the HNA is working with trusted networks to uplift voices from communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, and new residents of Hazelwood in the neighborhood association’s work. Ann dreams of a Hazelwood that retains and supports the existing neighborhood with the addition of reenergizing community spaces that combine work, live, and play. Ann believes that Hazelwood is one of the most interesting and vibrant neighborhoods in Portland–her plan is to work hard to make sure city planners, elected officials, and other community members see the beauty she does.
Read our interview with Ann McMullen to learn about the HNA’s contributions to its community, Ann’s favorite spots in east Portland, and a fun fact that we bet you didn’t know. Thank you, Ann, for your work and for speaking with us!
How long have you lived in the Hazelwood Neighborhood? What brought you to east Portland?
I am originally from the Midwest. My husband is a brewer, so we moved to Portland for his work. We moved to Hazelwood almost 20 years ago after living on the west side in Hillsboro for a couple of years. We chose Hazelwood for many reasons. One was affordability. We are also huge fans of public transit and needed to be near the MAX so I could commute back to Hillsboro each day and we could travel to SE and NE for music venues, restaurants, and shops. We were also attracted to the mid-century architecture and the growing diversity in east Portland.
Some friends gave us a hard time for moving east of 82nd ave, but we love it. When we bought our house, it was within a 5 minute walking distance of a grocery store, pet store, a Target, and the beautiful, underrated Ventura Park. As a pedestrian, this was a huge bonus.
I think Hazelwood could be the coolest neighborhood in Portland. We need more investments and connections, but ones that don’t dramatically change the fabric of the neighborhood.
What drew you to take an active role in your community and participate in the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association? What are some things the neighborhood association is working on right now?
It’s a family tradition. My parents were always active in their community so I suppose some of that rubbed off on me. Initially, I started attending meetings. I hung back and observed for the first year. Then, Arlene [Kimura] indoctrinated me by adding me to the board. Believe it or not, I am one of the newer members of the board with three years as a member. Arlene welcomed me and let me decide what I wanted to focus on.
Hazelwood is experiencing a lot of growing pains right now, and as a result the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association is working on a lot:
Green Spaces: We are working on programming for our parks with live events and programs, like Free Lunch and Play. Those spaces are free to use and we want to make sure our community is fully utilizing those resources.
City of Portland Charter Review: Two of our board members are on the City of Portland Charter Review Commission. We are paying close attention to that since east Portland needs to be more equitably represented in our governmental structure.
Gateway Urban Renewal Area (URA): We renewed the URA for five more years so we would have more time to prioritize development that doesn’t involve displacement. The Gateway area has a lot of underutilized properties.
Gun Violence: Hazelwood has been an outlier for gun violence since before the pandemic. It is a huge concern which is why we have a special Board meeting this month focused solely on gun violence.
Safe Rest Village on 122nd and Burnside: Based on our past experiences and unfulfilled promises when it comes to siting services in Hazelwood, we are determined to ensure that this time the proposed Safe Rest Village does the following:
- Ensures unsheltered neighbors from Hazelwood get a spot in this village;
- That the village lives up to the promise of a safe restorative place for unsheltered neighbors;
- That any unfavorable external factors that could develop outside the village are promptly addressed and mitigated through a functioning GNA; and
- That all government agencies and service providers remain actively engaged throughout the lifetime of the village to make sure items 1-3 are achieved.
With this project, the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association is taking a different approach by being involved and proactive, so that the village doesn’t just happen to us or sit out there on its own. We are determined to include it in our community so that it is successful.
Thankfully, we have a great relationship with the SRV service provider, Cultivate Initiatives. Many of their staff members live in either Mill Park or Hazelwood, so they are deeply invested in making this village successful. They’ve made it easy to work together.
To achieve these goals, we are finalizing both a community safety plan as well as bringing in partners to help with outreach to get unsheltered neighbors off the street and out of their tents into something on the continuum to permanent housing. Once that is complete, we will most likely do a press release along with a roll-out to the community at-large.
East Portland is made up of residents from many different backgrounds, cultures, and lived experiences. That is one of the reasons why it is such a special part of Portland. As a community advocate, how do you work to make sure that the many different perspectives from Hazelwood are being uplifted?
That is really challenging and it’s something we’re still trying to figure out. In addition to being one of the most diverse neighborhoods, Hazelwood is one of the largest, geographically speaking. It’s really large and more than a dozen different languages are spoken.
Diversifying the board is one thing that we need to work on, but there are a lot of obstacles to participating: time, financial barriers, child care, etc. We used to have in-person meetings, which were well attended, but that isn’t a great option right now.
We want all residents, especially those who recently moved to Hazelwood to feel like the neighborhood association can be a place for them to have a voice and address issues. In order to do this, we lean on tapped-in partners, like IRCO and the Slavic Community Center.
Most people don’t realize this but the Neighborhood Association doesn’t get much funding from the city. People assume the NAs have a lot of money, but that’s not true (at least in Hazelwood). A lot of our communities are more likely to engage with trusted institutions like churches or schools which are geo-centric. So outreach through social media only reaches a small percentage of our residents.
This means we’ve had to adjust our tactics. To reach more residents we’re going old school with a printed newsletter that will be dropped off at places like churches, culturally-specific markets, affordable housing developments, and other gathering places around the neighborhood. We’re also building a directory of service providers and community groups so we can build partnerships with them for more outreach. No need to reinvent the wheel when there are plenty of groups out here already doing some of that work.
How would you like to see your neighborhood transform?
I’d love to see new developments be created without displacing people. In my vision of these spaces, there is a confluence of affordable housing, mixed use spaces, public transit or biking options, and safe ways to gather. I think this would re-energize citizenry.
The Rockwood Market Hall is a perfect example of one type of community development I’d like to see. The Rockwood Market Hall encompasses housing, small culturally specific businesses and serves as a community hub that is easily accessible via public transit. I’m also really impressed with the work Historic Parkrose is doing.
We also need better infrastructure such as paved roads with sidewalks and street lighting, not just traffic calming measures (which they’re working on). People say “get out of your car and walk or bike,” but sometimes it's hard or unsafe to get out of your car.
I really feel that if planners invested in the people and their dreams out here, Hazelwood could be the most vibrant and interesting neighborhood in the city, while not displacing the community members that make it such a diverse place.
What are some of your favorite places in east Portland? What about in Oregon?
In Hazelwood, Halsey Avenue is a great place within walking distance where you can get coffee at Jet Black as well as swing by Food Fight or the Lily Market and there’s a food cart, Twirling Bird, which has the best chicken in the city. Basically we’ve become those people who mostly just hang out in East Portland and rarely cross the river. Part of that is due to the start of the pandemic, but mostly it’s because there are plenty of places on this side of the river for fun.
We are water people, so we love exploring the Oregon coast. I think we’ve visited almost every town on the coast.
And, we love live music - we’ve missed the Oregon Pickathon so we’re super glad it’s back this year and we’re looking forward to seeing all the live music events and local musicians in East Portland Parks this summer like Pa’lante, Melao De Cuba Salsa Orchestra, and Sistahs4Life.Bonus fun fact: East County has its own orchestra! Check out the East County Community Orchestra’s website for their event calendar and learn more about the group.