Part 4 – Posted 11/24/17-THE HARD TRUTHS About High Speed Trains – There Are Zero Benefits, Only Psychological, Social, Economic And Physical Damage Threatened By The Train

HAPPY THANKSGIVING – My Thanksgiving Gift to You!

In the last post, we walked through the decision making process for the high speed train project, explaining there is a high speed train “Authority” (appointed by the Governor and other electeds) and the role politics and environmental law play in the larger scheme of things. Note the SAFE Coalition refers to the project as the high speed “train” project and not the “rail” project. That’s to correct what we believe to be intentional subterfuge by the project’s sponsors to take attention away from what is a 220 mph TRAIN running every 5 minutes from about 5 or 6 a.m. until about 11 pm that would forever change/damage the character of our communities in the northeast San Fernando Valley. A rail sounds benign, but a TRAIN worries people.

In this “Part” we’re going to walk through most, but not all, of the damaging impacts posed by the project to help all the readers understand why this fight is so important and why it will take brains, guts, patience and partnerships to defeat this project. Many of these impacts/damages are years down the road, but it’s the responsibility of community leaders and elected officials to have that long-term view, so that’s why SAFE exists and works so hard. Keep in mind, that the project has already outlived a bunch of local elected officials who have moved on for one reason or another, but we, the residents and businesses, remain in the path of the train. So anyone who wants to put their trust solely in our elected officials, and not take grassroots action, is naive and a fool.

The first DAMAGING HARD TRUTH is that this process, which has already taken three years, has the potential to take another 10-15 years before a train ever runs through this area. That threat is akin to the threat communities east of here have faced with the 710 freeway extension. That threat impacts property values, people’s decisions about whether to move here, stay here and invest here (in homes and businesses). It’s also taking an inordinate amount of time away from good deeds in our communities by residents, community leaders and elected officials who must keep a keen eye on the deceptive and non-transparent high speed train AUTHORITY.

The second HARD TRUTH is how divisive this project has become by which the authority and some electeds are pitting communities against one another. Namely, nimbyism or “don’t put it here, put it over there!” It’s that issue that led to the creation of the SAFE Coalition, which pulls together so many communities under the banner of “common ground,” or opposition to ALL above ground routes through densely populated areas. We don’t in any way endorse tunneling through the Angeles National Forest, but we believed early on and are being proven correct, that tunneling at the depths and lengths needed to go through the Forest are so environmentally and financially infeasible that it’s a dead end for the TRAIN. Thus, we believe the “Authority” is trying to re-study above ground routes throughout this area due to the difficulties mentioned above, but we believe they are doing such studies non-transparently, without talking with the public (note there have been no public meetings by CHSRA in our area for well over a year).

The third HARD TRUTH is the environmental study phase and intentional misleading of the public, the press and elected officials. When CHSRA first came to our communities in August 2014, they said their environmental studies (EIR, EIS, water, air, traffic, noise, wildlife, etc.), would be completed in August 2016 and that the project would be operational in some parts of the state by 2022 and in our area by 2025. Later they projected operations would start by 2029, so we’d only have 12 more years to worry or be threatened by the studies and construction phases. SAFE called “bull$%&#” on that given our collective experience in land use issues. Yet, CHSRA told us and elected officials those timelines were accurate. They do that because they want our electeds to believe it’s only a temporary, short-term inconvenience so the electeds can tell us, the residents and businesses not to worry cause it will be over soon. And some of our electeds were complicit in that…and here we are three years later. Just two weeks ago, the “Authority” announced that 2020 would be the soonest their environmental studies would be completed, and they neglected to state if that changed their operations date from what was 2029. THE HARD TRUTH is that’s at least two more years of being held hostage by the environmental study phase alone.

The fourth HARD TRUTH is how long and damaging the construction phase would be – CHSRA has told us various aspects of the construction phase would be from 5-10 years long. For route E2, that means 5-10 years of construction of tunnel openings in Shadow Hills and Lake View Terrace, 5-10 years of road closures and disruption to Foothill Blvd., 210 Freeway, Wentworth Street, San Fernando Road, 5-10 years of construction (and trail closures) throughout the Big Tujunga Wash, 5-10 years of truck traffic and dirt movement/excavation, and 5-10 years of the 125-acre Vulcan landfill on Glenoaks/Peoria serving as their construction headquarters (just 700 feet from Stonehurst Elementary School). For route E1, that means 5-10 years of construction along San Fernando Road through Pacoima and Sun Valley which also includes tunnel openings, truck traffic, dirt movement/excavation and more.

So THE HARD TRUTH is that the soonest the high speed train will ever run in this area is 2031 given the recent 2 year delay in environmental studies. If that time period gives you comfort, you don’t need to read any longer or get involved. If you care about your long-term investment and our shared legacy in this area and protecting it for future generations, read on.

To summarize, and SAFE Coalition shows all of this on its website – www.dontrailroad.us – here is a listing of the impacts you should be concerned about and fight against:

  • Quality of Life damaged forever.
  • Eminent domain and displacement – your home or business can be taken from you at a financial loss.
  • Damage to local economy due to uncertainty and construction-related closures.
  • Depressed property values.
  • Two 80-foot tunnel openings in each of these communities: Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace, Sun Valley and Pacoima.
    Closure and disruption to trails network, equestrian economy and equestrian lifestyle.
  • Health impacts (nervous system disorders and asthma, for example) to humans, horses and pets due to noise, dust, truck emissions, vibration.
    Pollution and damage to water supply and water resources due to damage to underground springs in the mountains and Haines Canyon Creek in the Big Tujunga Wash.
  • Violation of Environmental Justice protections in Lake View Terrace, Sun Valley and Pacoima.
  • Visual blight created by tunnel openings and bridges similar to the windmills on the hillsides near Palm Springs.
  • More than ONE MILLION truck trips to move dirt and supplies in and around the NE San Fernando Valley, creating massive traffic congestion.
    Noise, dust and vibration at nearby schools such as Stonehurst Elementary, Brainard Elementary, Vinedale Elementary, Sun Valley High School.
  • Damage to Angeles National Forest.

The final HARD TRUTH is this: There are zero benefits to our northeast San Fernando Valley communities. Only damaging impacts. No jobs. No economic improvements. The train won’t save time or money compared to air and car travel from northern to Southern California.

This fight is not over. The Authority will be releasing its new, 2018 Business Plan early in 2018. Believe us, they have every intention of moving forward, right through our communities. They have billions of dollars of funding and just want to outlast us. Like we said, elected officials come and go in this area, but we the property owners and residents and businesses have everything at stake.

The next HARD TRUTH will delve into the local politics. We will share what every local, NE San Fernando Valley elected official has done to date related to this project. And we will explain what we are asking our local elected officials to do in the very near future so that the 2018 Business Plan removes above ground routes from further consideration…freeing us from this threat.

DECEMBER 2 IS THE THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THIS DEBACLE BEING STUFFED DOWN OUR THROATS. ARE YOU GOING TO JOIN WITH THE SAFE COALITION, NOT SETTLE FOR LACK OF REPRESENTATION BY OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS, AND FIGHT?

David DePinto
President SHPOA
SAFE Coalition