After repeated attempts to meet face-to-face with its representative, Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Sylmar’s equine community will hold a virtual meeting with her  from Stetson Ranch on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

The meeting is described by Rodriguez’ office as an opportunity to discuss project ideas at Stetson Ranch and to provide feedback on improvements.

However, among the many current issues that members of Sylmar’s large horse community have with her office are communication, safety and the preservation of their community.  

In the  Oct. 6 issue of the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, riders spoke about the accidents that have occurred and drivers not respecting the rights of horse riders traveling on the street. They also discussed the recent law to require night time reflective gear on horses or riders and the new requirement for helmets to be worn by young riders. 

A most serious concern, though, is the recent law signed by Governor Newsom to allow for multi-family housing in
single-family zones.

Newsom and proponents claim this will alleviate the housing crisis in California. But others point out that communities of color are already vulnerable, and haven’t been able to stop gentrification in their neighborhoods, and have been pushed out.

Newsom said, “the housing affordability crisis is undermining the California dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity.” Opponents maintain the new law will change the character of single-family neighborhoods, and at its heart will be real estate interests. 

Opponents maintain an example of the new law can already be seen in Latino communities throughout Los Angeles. They say it is ironically pushing out hardworking families who have lived in their communities for generations.

Sylmar’s equine community believes the new law — if not appealed case-by-case — could forever change the long-held tradition and large tightly knit equine community that makes up a most unique fabric in Sylmar.

It could leave homes here, some of which sit on a ½ acre of land or more that is zoned for horses and stables without protection despite the community’s work to protect it.

It’s a way of life in the Northeast Valley even if you’re not an equestrian. Seeing the horses is a unique pleasure for residents to enjoy.

“You see people walking their dogs on the trails, enjoying the peace of the trails and enjoying seeing the horses and riders.  We’ve worked on a community plan since 2016, and an overlay that designated protected horse property,” said Cheri Blose, the equestrian representative for the Sylmar Neighborhood Council.  

What the equine community wants is to maintain support for the community plan and hope it can find that support from the representatives they have elected.  

“They are supposed to represent us,” said Geronimo Bugarin, and to date, they have had difficulty getting calls returned. Although they have taken Rodriguez’ field rep on several tours of their unique community, there has been no communication thereafter, or a plan of action that will help to enforce the local protections that were put in place despite the passage of Newsom’s bill.

Calls to Rodriguez’ office were not returned by press time.

“In the community plan there was designated streets for development. The community plan was designed to protect and preserve horse property and our way of life,” Blose said.

“You can already see areas that weren’t protected and they have already been carved up. You can  see a condo building off in a short distance behind Geronimo’s property. When I was a young girl, my aunt lived in Sylmar and coming to visit here was like going to the country.”

 Blose bought her property in 1981. 

Developers have already set their sights on building multi-dwelling apartments in these tranquil areas where there are wild chickens that roam freely among the horses, honeybees, butterflies and wildlife that live along the trails.

It seems it’s the developers who are the ones chomping at the bit to move in.

“I receive flyers and mail constantly,” Blose said. “Our property is gated so they can’t get in, but they stick flyers in our fence and anywhere they can find.”

She notes that nearby development is already going up, and is concerned that the density and traffic and lack of parking spaces will completely change her neighborhood — and if this is allowed to occur one piece at a time, Sylmar’s horse community would be shattered.  

“My son rides with me every day — if appeals aren’t made, my grandchildren may not have this healthy and rich relationship that we have with our horses and community,” Bugarin said. “I am leaving my home to my children and would like them to also teach this way of life to their children too.”  

He is an active community member, with a stressful job at the Olive View Medical Center as an environmental supervisor who manages the housekeeping staff ensuring that the rooms are thoroughly cleaned most especially during this pandemic.

Bugarin has also personally weathered financial strain as a business owner of Sabores Michoacan Ice Cream Parlor In Sylmar.  Riding each day with his friends and family, he said, pulls the weight off of his shoulders.

Riding with his son, who is a survivor of childhood cancer is a gift.  He is a member of the Asociacion de Charros de Sylmar and is on Rodriguez’ Equine Advisory Board. 

The Oct. 19 meeting is from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. For those who need assistance prior to the meeting, you can call the Sylmar District Office at (818) 756-8409. You can also sign up for the zoom link:  https//bit.ly/3uqwpDP  or https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUtcuiqqTkpH9wegO-mljmqRR849VH_zSce.

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