More than a thousand residents concerned about the impact of the high-speed rail traveling through their neighborhoods attended an emergency community meeting Monday, April 27, held at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita.
Adding their voices to the opposition were representatives from Acton, Agua Dulce and the City of San Fernando. These cities along with SAFE (Save Angeles Forest for Everyone), which includes residents living in Shadow Hills and L.A.’s foothill communities, recently formed the North L.A. County Communities Protection Coalition — a new group with the goal of presenting a unified regional front to keep the high-speed rail out of their communities.
A large number of residents held up signs reading, “Keep HSR out of Acton.”
“The best thing we can do is to push this train away from our schools, away from our homes, away from our livelihoods,” said Chris Croisdale, president of the Acton Town Council. “Because it will affect every one of our lives if we don’t.”
While some representatives have supported an option to place the train underground wherever it travels, opponents point out that there is a risk in contaminating ground water and increasing seismic activity, and that the would still displace residents and businesses.
San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo told the crowd the train would physically divide his city, destroying businesses its downtown mall, impacting the city’s tax base.
“The high-speed rail will decimate the City of San Fernando if it comes through our town. It will split the city in half, overtake our bike path and depress property values,” Fajardo said.
“Worst of all, it may take out a major section of Truman Street, resulting in an annual loss of $1.3 million of our budget and placing us on the road to fiscal ruin. We must continue fighting the current alignment of SR 14 at all costs,” he said
The SR 14 route currently being considered by the California High-Speed Rail Authority would cut through the communities of Pacoima, the City of San Fernando, and Sylmar.
“This alignment violates principals of environmental justice. Large projects shouldn’t disproportionately and exclusively burden working class communities,” Fajardo said.
Of particular concern for residents in and around the Santa Clarita Valley is the proposed “SR 14 Corridor,” which after traveling through the northeast San Fernando Valley follows the Highway 14 freeway, the Sand Canyon area, Agua Dulce and Acton after making its way north from San Fernando.
While communities attempt to organize against the project, the High-Speed Rail Authority is proceeding.
Last week High-Speed Rail officials announced that they had entered into a station-area funding agreement with the city of Palmdale, which would initiate the planning process for the construction of a station adjacent to the city’s civic center.
“This agreement allows both parties to study ways to promote economic development, encourage station area development and enhance multimodal connections between the station and the city,” the Rail Authority said, in a statement.
“The development of a high-speed rail system is a game-changer for Palmdale and all of the communities in the Antelope Valley,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford in the statement released by the Authority.
“We’re working very closely with the Authority to deliver this project as quickly as possible, and one of the key steps is this station planning component. From the economic development opportunities to the shops, services, housing and jobs this station complex will provide, we’re eager to get this station planned and built with trains providing critical and essential mobility for our residents.”
While the city of Palmdale will receive the economic benefits to their town by having a station, and commuters there can quickly travel to Burbank and downtown Los Angeles, those from other communities along the route, however, are not so enthusiastic.
San Fernando Mayor Pro-Tem Sylvia Ballin told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol there would be no benefit for the bullet train to travel through her small 2.4-mile neighborhood.
“Those in our community aren’t likely to even afford the train’s very expensive ticket and we will have the burden of all it’s daily disruption. Our kids can wave at the train as it speeds by at 200-plus miles per hour. We will get all the negatives but no benefit,” Ballin said.
“We must continue fighting the current alignment of SR 14 at all costs,” Fajardo said.“It is wrong to even entertain the notion of bankrupting a city and damaging a town.”