D. Martinez / SFVS

A special San Fernando City Council meeting was held on Tuesday, June 2, that allowed the full council to meet with High-Speed Rail board member Katherine Perez Escolano.

While the meeting was described as an “open meeting,” and the protocol at council meetings is to have public comments, the public was not allowed to speak until after Perez Escolano exited.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol was later told by a city official, that  “she would have probably not agreed to the meeting,” if it had included public comments.

At the start of the meeting Perez Escolano announced that she only had one hour of time, as she was en route to attend an HSR community meeting in Palmdale. She indicated that she had a business and a job, but she was taking time out to “listen.”

  One at a time, city council members addressed Perez Escolano.

 “The City of San Fernando has had an ongoing campaign for a Healthy City, and the High-Speed Rail would demolish the town’s new bike trail,” Councilmember Robert Gonzales told Perez Escolano.

Gonzales also spoke of the one of the city’s treasures, the César Chavez monument that is nearly in the pathway of the SR 14 route, set to cut through the heart of San Fernando.

“The last thing that I was told was the high-speed rail would be built out right next to the monument’s mural. Having access to the mural would be very difficult.  Right now you can even bike there, and [there will be] access to even do that.”

Speaking of the city’s previous history of segregation, Gonzales said the SR 14 high-speed rail route through San Fernando would bring back that painful message.

“For many families like my own, that have lived here for generations, there was this unwritten rule that you don’t cross the train tracks at night. For the south side of the city where I currently live, there was that rule that you don’t go over to the north side during certain times. So with the high-speed rail building an actual wall, it would remind a lot of community members of that time when they aren’t supposed to cross the tracks,” Gonzales said.  

“Truman Street is basically obliterated. When we are trying to build restaurants and walk-ability and [create an ambiance] to sit outside of coffee shops, we are going to have to sit there and look at walls. So this will hurt our downtown corridor,” Gonzales said.

“This huge wall this cuts down our mobility and separates our city,”  Councilmember Antonio Lopez concurred. “We have a business corridor and we are building, and we have momentum right now.  Now, with this ‘threat’ going through our city, the board needs to take a look at that because this will not just affect today, but will affect many generations to come for our kids and grandkids.

“Visually we’ve seen what barriers do to communities, and the scale of our downtown — we don’t have sky scrapers, we have one- or two-story buildings maximum. That is the demise of many communities around the world. We definitely don’t want to have that here in San Fernando,” he said. 

Going through San Fernando would have a great negative affect to our community, to our businesses  and surrounding communities, said Lopez, who pointed out that the City of San Fernando currently provides arteries of transportation for surrounding communities that use Maclay Avenue and Brand Street to travel to their destination, and the creation of a wall, and SR 14 cutting through San Fernando, would impede mobility.

Lopez said it would also impede people from visiting the city.

“We are going to fight this with everything we have,” Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Ballin told Perez Escalano. “You are bullying our communities with displacement …Our town was able to pull ourselves out of the threat of bankruptcy and the high-speed rail will put us right back there.”

Ballin has been critical of the HSR’s process for outreach to the local community.

“You are having this board meeting next week [June 9] and you are affecting all of us living on the north side [of the San Fernando Valley]. Why don’t you have that meeting here instead of in downtown Los Angeles?” Ballin asked, referencing [indicating?] the weekday morning meeting being challenging for those who will lose money to take off from work. 

“Once again we are being disrespected. All of the communities that are being affected by this SR 14 route are absolutely being disrespected,” she said.

Perez Escolano said she has recommended that one of their future board meeting be held in the San Fernando Valley “at some point.”

“I would like to suggest that you reject the SR 14 plan. It needs to be rejected,” Ballin said. 

“There is no action being taken at this time,” Perez Escolano maintained, describing the upcoming meeting as “informational.”

“We are not there yet and that’s why we have held community meetings,” she said.

Mayor Joel Fajardo took exception to that information. He said he was told by the Regional Director for the High-Speed Rail Authority Michelle Boehm, regional director for the High-Speed Rail Authority, that no action allows at this upcoming board meeting allows them  to go forward and proceed with the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol asked Boehm what was the date to begin the EIR process. But although she was asked several times, she did not offer a date. “All of the routes are currently being studied,” she said.

Communications Director Valerie Martinez [previously] said that the HSR had deadlines to meet.

“I’m even more concerned that I was before,” Fajardo said.