By Jose Herrera
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The City Council agreed Tuesday to rename Pacoima Wash Natural Park in honor of municipal leader Cindy Montañez, recognizing her contributions to the cities of Los Angeles and San Fernando.
The council voted unanimously to rename park, located at 801 Eighth St., for Montañez, who was the youngest elected member of the San Fernando City Council at 25, served in the state Assembly and continued her environmental advocacy as the assistant general manager of the LA Department of Water and Power.
In August, the San Fernando City Council approved a motion to rename the park, which is shared by both cities, in tribute to Montañez, who now serves as the CEO of TreePeople, a local nonprofit focused on protecting the environment.
Montañez has been fighting an aggressive form of cancer.
“I said to you a few weeks ago when the community rallied and came together to celebrate your contributions, but we wouldn’t let anyone forget what you do,” said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who represents the Seventh District, which includes portions of the East San Fernando Valley.
“It’s true today, and it will continue to be true each and every day. I’m so grateful that we have the opportunity to celebrate you not posthumously, but when you’re here to hear it. You deserve to hear it for every sacrifice, for every hit you ever took on our behalf.”
For over 30 years, Montañez has been a “fearless, committed and effective advocate” for the residents of Los Angeles, according to a motion introduced by Rodriguez and Council President Paul Krekorian.
Montañez’s advocacy began as an undergraduate student at UCLA when she joined a hunger strike calling for a Chicano Studies program. The hunger strike led UCLA to establish what is now called the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, which educates students on the life and history of Chicanas/Chicanos and Latinas/Latinos.
In 1999, she was elected to the San Fernando City Council. Montañez later resigned from her position after being elected to the Assembly, representing the 39th District, where she served from December 2002 to November 2006.
In 2004, she was named the chair of the Assembly Rules Committee. At 30, she was the youngest person to ever chair the committee as well as the first Latina and first Democratic woman to chair the committee.
Her legislative work focused on education, the environment, health care, and consumer and worker protection. Montañez stepped down in 2006 to run for the 20th District state Senate seat. She lost that primary to then LA City Councilman Alex Padilla.
She was later appointed to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the LADWP. In 2014. Montañez resigned from her position as assistant general manager of the LADWP to run for the Sixth District council seat, which represents portions of North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, Panorama City, Pacoima and Arleta.
In March 2016, she was appointed as the CEO of TreePeople, and elected to the San Fernando City Council in 2020.
Rodriguez thanked Montañez and her parents who accompanied her for all of the “sacrifices that you made on behalf of making our community better,” adding, “Your legacy will live on forever.”
Krekorian recounted Montañez’s accomplishments, and he emphasized her “deep commitment to her hometown” by initiating the concept that transformed the Eighth Street Park into what became the Pacoima Wash with walking trails, view of the Angeles Forest, picnic area and a stormwater capture project.
In addition, it is her wish to have milkweed planted to attract Monarch butterflies.
Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez and Councilwoman Imelda Padilla shared their gratitude with Montañez for her commitment to her community. Padilla echoed Rodriguez’s sentiment that Montañez was a powerful influence and a source of inspiration for young girls.
After council members shared their comments, the Council Chamber erupted in applause and those in attendance – family, friends, former and current colleagues from the cities of Los Angeles and San Fernando – gave Montañez a standing ovation.
Montañez, sitting in a wheelchair, cried and struggled to speak as her mother and father stood by her. She was able to thank the council for its work, leadership and for recognizing her efforts.
Montañez also shared how grateful she was to work for the city and learn from her many years of service. She said that “only God knows how long you’ll have on this planet … so do everything you can.”