San Fernando City Hall

Aspiring to have more control of the Pacoima Wash, the San Fernando City Council decided to support Assembly member Raul Bocanegra’s plan to make the Pacoima and Tujunga washes more recreational.

During its meeting on Monday, April 3, the council decided to draft and send a letter to Bocanegra expressing its support for his bill, AB466, which will create the Los Angeles River Tributaries and Watershed Working Group.   

The City of San Fernando is hoping membership in the working group would enable them to participate in decisions regarding the Pacoima Wash, which is currently managed by the county.

If the bill is signed into law, representatives from the communities along the Pacoima and Tujunga washes — two of the largest waterways that feed into the Los Angeles River— will form a working group that will create a revitalization plan for the canals. This working group is modeled after the existing Lower LA River Working Group, which was created in 2015 to plan the revitalization of the lower LA River.  

The Lower LA River Working Group includes representatives from communities along the lower LA River including the cities of Los Angeles, Bell, and Long Beach, as well as county officials, nonprofits, and organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Friends of the LA River.

Currently the group is conducting a survey amongst their communities inquiring what they would like to see toward recreation. Options include bike paths, pedestrian bridges, parks, and more.

Bocanegra’s bill still needs to go through the senate and be signed by the governor before the River Tributaries and Watershed Working group is created, but the city of San Fernando is eager to support and participate.

“If there is anything our city can do to assist in your efforts to move AB466 forward, please do not hesitate to reach out,” read the letter approved by the council and which is to be signed Friday, April 7, by former mayor Robert Gonzales.

Gonzales told the Sun Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that he was working with Bocanegra to improve the safety around the Pacoima wash following the death of 14-year-old Elias Rodriguez, who is believed to have accidentally fallen in during a storm in February, when Bocanegra’s staff presented the bill to him.

Gonzales said this work group, which was approved by the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in March, is an opportunity for the city to be involved in the future of the wash.

 “I think this is extremely needed, considering our recent tragedy with Eli,” Gonzales said.

“This is an opportunity to create a safe, well-maintained open space for the people of the Northeast San Fernando Valley, who crave for more recreation areas,” Bocanegra said in a statement released March 22.

“Creating a working group for these vital LA River tributaries will give our community a voice to improve our waterways and transform them into beautiful, green open space.”

Also at the meeting, in what Councilmember Sylvia Ballin described as “unexpected,” the council unanimously voted her in for another term as Mayor. Antonio Lopez was voted in as Vice-Mayor.

Councilmember Jaime Soto did not attend the meeting. With only four council members present, if there had been a 2-2 vote, Robert Gonzales would have remained in the position as Mayor.  

Ballin and Lopez are likely to create an interesting dynamic since Ballin has been outspoken in her opposition to building affordable housing in the city — so much so that she has supported a construction moratorium in town — while Lopez has taken an opposite position.

One controversial project has been to build affordable housing for veterans, near City Hall. Ballin has maintained that San Fernando, as a small town of 2.4 square miles, already has more than its fair share of affordable housing.

Yet, during her nomination, Ballin was flowered with compliments from her colleagues, being called a “uniter” by Fajardo and Lopez sharing the sentiment.

“I see her as a uniter more than anything and I think it’s important to show that to tally and have strong control of our meeting,” Lopez said.