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“This barrio is mellow,” he said. “Sometimes some little homies” — gang members — “try to bang, but come on, this is Carlsbad. It’s the beach scene. I love the beach. It’s two blocks away. The barrio is my home, and I don’t think I’ll ever move away. It’s all I know.”

According to the 2010 census, the area is 56 percent Hispanic, but 87 percent of the houses and apartments are occupied by renters instead of property owners. The rise in value of their homes hasn’t matched that of nearby Carlsbad neighborhoods.

“The median price in San Diego County has increased 55 percent since 2011, whereas the barrio area has increased 59 percent, and overall Carlsbad Village has increased 96 percent,” Crista Swan, a real estate consultant who lives close to the beach in Carlsbad, explained. “So, the barrio prices have kept a similar pace of price increases as San Diego County, but overall Carlsbad Village is almost double the pace of San Diego County. Improving that area and bringing more connectivity between the two areas is a good idea. I believe if there is more of a focus on improving the barrio, prices will pick up the pace, like the rest of Carlsbad Village.”

New plans for the barrio

According to the Carlsbad city website, the new Village and Barrio Carlsbad Master Plan will replace the original Carlsbad Village Master Plan and Design Manual that was adopted in 1996. The plan regulates land uses for the city’s downtown village and adjacent barrio, west of Interstate 5 between Tamarack Avenue in the south and Laguna Avenue in the north.

At an October 19, 2016, planning-commission meeting, staff rejected several key tenets of the earlier drafts, which had been harshly criticized for recommending the building height limit be raised from 45 feet to 55 feet and calling for the creation of “urban-style streets, parks and building types…with denser housing and lodging.”

The overall tone, content, and graphics of the plan will be more Carlsbad-specific and respectful of the community’s character, according to the staff report. Most residents, the report noted, feel “certain elements in the village and barrio bear maintaining: the less dense barrio core, the Twin Inns at the northeast corner of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive, State Street between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue, and the very large trees along Grand Avenue.”

“The overall walkability of the entire Master Plan area and small town feel are other desirable attributes,” the report states.

Some barrio residents and business owners I spoke to worried that their neighborhood will become similar to the dense apartment complexes near the beach.

“The people with money come and put down big money and rent all the houses on the beach for the summer, and the people from Canada come in the winter,” said Sam Ortiz. “We have a completely different vibe here. It’s family and casual here, not like up by the beach. We don’t want to be them.”

Barrio Carlsbad goes to the park

Pine Avenue Park

3333 Harding Street, Carlsbad

Pine Park opened in 2006, on the east side of the barrio. It includes a soccer field, a baseball diamond, a basketball court, an amphitheater, and a playground. Most evenings, soccer and basketball players from all over Carlsbad — but especially the barrio — play informal games until the lights shut off at 8:30 p.m.

“I grew up in the area,” says park-goer Mario Dana, “and I go to [Pine Park] three or four nights a week to hang with my friends. A lot of people here live in apartments, so it’s a way for them to blow off steam.”

Holiday Park

Chestnut Avenue at Pio Pico Drive, Carlsbad

But Holiday Park, which is outside of the historic boundary of Barrio Carlsbad, is considered one of the most important outdoor spaces for barrio residents. Located north of Chestnut Avenue, just east of I-5, the park is one of the primary locations for birthday parties and other social events for the residents of Barrio Carlsbad. Birthday parties are usually hefty affairs with at least 50 people attending and inflatable bounce houses for the kids. “I love the parties at the park,” Mary Salgado said. “The kids and the grandparents interact, and the food and the piñatas are so colorful and delicious. This park is so important to our culture. I think a lot of people think it’s Chicano Park, but really anyone can use it. We just seem to have more parties. We like to have fun.”

Barrio anchors

The Carlsbad Historical Society points to the Ramirez House as an important Barrio Carlsbad icon. It is located on the corner of Roosevelt Street and Walnut Avenue, diagonally from Lola’s and across the street from the Barrio Carlsbad Museum. One of the first residents of Barrio Carlsbad, Pablo Ramirez built the house in the early 1900s and it is considered the oldest home in the barrio. Owners have added to the home over the years, but the original structure is still largely intact.

St. Patrick's Church

3821 Adams St., Carlsbad

St. Patrick’s Church is also geographically located outside of what are typically considered the limits of the barrio, at the intersection of Adams Street and Tamarack Avenue. According to officials at the church, it is an important place within the barrio socially because approximately 90 percent of Hispanic residents within the barrio attend St. Patrick’s. Most of the baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals in the barrio happen here. St. Patrick’s annual garage sale, for which unwanted items are donated to the church for sale, raises money to help the poor of the parish with funeral costs.

The church has also met with the Carlsbad Police Department to discuss the status of illegal immigration in the barrio. St. Patrick’s Church also owns and operates the Father Raymond Moore Hall on Madison St, located within the barrio. Hall staff help Barrio Carlsbad residents fill out important forms for social services, including those related to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (usually called WIC), food-stamp programs, and medical insurance forms. The church also provides a referral for congregation members looking for a job, which is a service particularly important for new residents without an established social network in the community.

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