Last week the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol provided an article on three new candidates who are seeking a spot on the city council.
This week we reintroduce you to the three incumbent council members. Veteran council members, Sylvia Ballin and Antonio Lopez provided comment to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol on their bids for re-election.
Jaime Soto refused to speak to this newspaper.
Sylvia Ballin has been by fellow council members to serve as San Fernando’s Mayor for consecutive terms and is running for a third term on the city council. She is currently the only female serving on the city council. She has been consistent in her concern for proposals that she believes will “overdevelop the city, which will create high-density in San Fernando.”
It’s Ballin’s position that increased building will change the feel of the town and would strain the city’s infrastructure. She believes increased development would bring too many cars and further limit parking.
“It’s not that I don’t like people. I do,” she said. “But we already have a parking problem, we already have other problems, and I think this creates far greater problems.”
She said too much density creates more traffic and worsens air pollution, pointing out the area already has high rates of asthma among children.
Ballin maintains that San Fernando has affordable housing apartments that are already in place that have surpassed the required number for a city of its size. She does favor market-rate housing, and is interested in “responsible building” that could include condos in the city so that specifically young people, can have home ownership instead of renting in more apartments.
She also supports developing more programs for first-time homeowners so they can start building equity and secure a base of economic security for themselves and their families.
Ballin and her husband Gary, a local barber, have lived in the City of San Fernando for over 40 years. It is the place where she raised her children, who are now adults working for other municipalities and in health care. She graduated with a science degree from the University of La Verne and previously worked at the Metropolitan Water District as a principal analyst before retiring and running for office.
While in office, she has focused on turning the city’s bleak financial situation around, and making changes because she noticed “things were not getting done.” She cites her success with increasing street and sidewalk repairs, public safety, balancing the budget, business development, and states she “will continue to do so,”
Ballin said she is “proud” of making San Fernando more environmentally friendly by partnering with Tree People to plant more trees in the city, and adding more compressed natural gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations. She said in previous terms, she voted to block the development of new multi-family dwellings, including the conversion of the abandoned JCPenney department store into a 101-unit apartment building.
She said she wants to continue her work with young people and families, and has developed local scholarship programs for area students. Ballin is proud of her diligence to maintain the city’s historic charm and that includes her past work to stop the high-speed rail from cutting through town.
She supports the effort to increase health care in the city and supported bringing the county mental health facility currently being built across from the police station and city hall.
Vice-Mayor Antonio Lopez is openly pro-development and has been a strong supporter of increasing the building of more affordable housing in the city.
Lopez believes that “change is inevitably coming to San Fernando” with two planned Metro light-rail stops (one on Maclay and another on Hubbard) and it is best to prepare for it. Most recently he championed for the city to be more recreational and voted for policies that allow taverns, pubs, and restaurants to open in the San Fernando Mall.
He also takes credit for facilitating the San Fernando Brewing Company to open in the city, as well as creating policy that allowed the developments on Truman Street that brought a Chipotle, WingStop, and Yogurtland and the CVS Pharmacy that opened at the site where the Jimmy’s Place restaurant previously stood before it burned and closed.
Lopez said his family moved to the City of San Fernando when he was 1-year-old, moved out in 1984, and he returned in 2000 when he married and started a family here with his wife and two children. He graduated from San Fernando High School in 1993, received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Woodbury University, and is proud to be the national director of SAA Interiors & Architecture.
He served as a planning commissioner for three years, twice as mayor, and twice as vice mayor in the City of San Fernando.
“My uncle, my cousin, my sister live in San Fernando,” Lopez said. “I’m passionate about my city because I have family that lives here. I want to protect the future, I want to protect my family. I own a residence here, my family owns property here, we’re all invested in San Fernando.
“That’s really why I joined the council, because I felt that I would be a voice, not only for the community but also stewardship beyond our community — our region.”
When he speaks of development in the city, he often references other larger cities that — as an architect — he has access to and analyzes. In this interview with the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Lopez spoke highly of Monrovia, Sierra Madre, Aspen, and Washington D.C. and the way they control traffic and density.
“You look at these examples, they exist. We are not reinventing the wheel,” he said.
Soto declined to provide comment for this article but by indications from the candidate’s statement he provided to the city, he is running on a platform of fearmongering.
Soto’s statement mentions “contamination” and “bioterrorism” of the city’s water wells in bold letters. He alleges that the city has a silent plan to remove and deport thousands of residents and families, and also alleges collusion within the finance department and city attorney.
Since being elected, Soto has refused to speak to reporters from the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol, and tries to prevent having his photo taken.
In his statement, he said he would push to have access to 8,000 Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies to police the entire city, and would stop the “pillaging of the city’s General Fund for frivolous lawsuits claim.”
Ironically, the City of San Fernando has paid the price for a string of Soto’s antics. The city has settled more than $100,000 in lawsuits against Soto for Brown Act violations and sexual harassment.
His statement also says he wants to add a fire station and paramedic to the City’s services, but does not address funding.
Soto graduated from Chatsworth High School, received a bachelor’s degree in History and Chicano/a Studies from the University of California Los Angeles, and a master’s degree in Chicano/a Studies from California State University, Northridge. He currently teaches for the Los Angeles Community College District and Ventura Community College District.