Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Ballin

The High-Speed Rail Authority (HSR) is having an open house in the City of San Fernando on Thursday, May 28, at Las Palmas Park at 5 p.m. and they said, “No” public comment. They just want to talk at us, not listen to us.

I don’t understand how a public agency can organize a meeting and say “NO,” we do not want to hear from the community. They just want us to listen to them and accept their findings, their recommendations, and visit their workstations/displays so they can convince us they know what is best for our community.

Maybe they haven’t heard about first amendment rights, maybe they don’t understand how a public agency must listen to the community, maybe they just aren’t interested in the true impact to our community. Why should they care, it’s not their homes, businesses, or livelihood.

 The City of San Fernando is historic. It is the first established City in the San Fernando Valley. We are a predominately Latino community with strong ties to Pacoima and Sylmar, which are also on the SR 14 path of destruction. Latino communities have historically been abused with displacement due to projects not wanted in more affluent communities. We will NOT be forcibly removed from our homes again through eminent domain or because of the color of our skin, and expected to listen and be told how this project will improve our lives.

The bullet train will NOT run on Metrolink tracks, it requires at total of 100 feet and it’s own set of tracks. What High-Speed Rail is trying to sell us is a path of destruction, which will affect access to the first and largest Caesar Chavez memorial. All the businesses along Truman will be  demolished — James’ Restaurant, Denny’s, Starbucks, IHop, and the list will continue to grow. The San Fernando Police Station will also be destroyed, along with the businesses along First Street. The newly built bike path will also be demolished and parts of our historic mall.

 There are so many negatives as to why the SR 14 route should not be considered, including economic and environmental injustice. The City of San Fernando will lose approximately $1.3 million in revenue annually, and we don’t even know the additional unintended consequences. The HSR will build a 20-ft sound wall, but I call it a “death” wall. We all know that it will be a canvass for graffiti and a stage for gang territorial activity. The blood of all the people who die as a result of the “death” wall will be on the hands of the decision-makers who vote to move forward with SR 14.

 Governor, your legacy will be devastation to our communities, loss of revenue, loss of family generational homes, loss of businesses, loss of livelihood, and you will forever be remembered for the total disrespect you continue to show to the disadvantaged communities. YOU set a bullet train on a path to destroy the most densely populated communities.

I don’t understand how the Governor recently approved $500 million to expedite the high-speed rail project, yet cut critical programs for California’s need. Why would the Governor increase the high-speed rail budget? Why is the High-Speed Rail Authority even considering a route that will hurt communities most in need?

We are proud people, we deserves respect not displacement, and we will stand together in unity and yell “NO” SR 14.

Sylvia Ballin is the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of San Fernando.