The following letter was sent to California High Speed Rail Authority from S.A.F.E. on Dec. 8, 2015. Here is the PDF version to download: SAFE-Anniversary-Letter-12-8-2015


December 8, 2015

California High Speed Rail Authority

770 L Street
Suite 1160
Sacramento, CA 95814

 

SUBJECT: HALT ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES IMMEDIATELYCall to Action from                                                                                Community Leadership Meeting Held December 2, 2015 – The One Year Anniversary of the East Corridor Routes

Dear Chairman Richard, CEO Morales, Board Members, and Southern California Regional Director Boehm:

We are writing you in the aftermath of an important community leader meeting held in Shadow Hills on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, attended by approximately 100 community leaders representing nearly every leading community organization and every elected official in the northeast San Fernando Valley. What gave rise to this meeting was the cancellation of several briefing meetings promised to our communities prior to the end of the year by CHSRA. At the December 2nd meeting, our community leader group reached consensus on both the failures of CHSRA and a series of informative and corrective actions needed, and called for the information to be communicated to the CHSRA Board and elected officials in conjunction with the December 8, 2015 board meeting in Sacramento.

Our communities are in a state of extreme distress and mounting anger over the continued inclusion of route alternatives featuring damaging above ground elements in the Project Section’s environmental studies. Dating back one year, the inclusion of these alternatives has been met with universal opposition from all stakeholders – residents, businesses and elected officials – as evidenced by thousands of written and stated public comments. Their continued existence and CHSRA’s continued ignoring of facts and community solidarity on this matter is a travesty for affected individuals and our community-at-large. It is an abuse of your Agency’s authority, non-transparent and irresponsible to continue to hold our communities hostage to this ongoing cycle of biased and inadequate studies, poor communications, delays and wasted taxpayer dollars. We note with no surprise your recent statement that the draft environmental studies have been delayed at least 6 months, from mid-2016 to late 2016/early 2017. We have been stating publicly for many months that the mid-2016 DEIS/DEIR completion schedule was inaccurate. Anyone familiar with EIS/EIR studies would know that. They would also know that the studies will take several more years to complete in draft, let alone final, form, thus holding communities hostage for an interminable period of time.

Our residents were convinced, given the preponderance of evidence already in CHSRA’s possession, as well as feedback from a local elected official, that the SAA Report reviewed by the Board of Directors at its June 2015 Board Meeting would call for the elimination of above-ground portions of the Project Section. While we were surprised by the Board’s lack of action in this direction, we accepted that the Board called for upfront studies, the results of which would be reviewed in 6 months time. We took this to mean that the up-front studies would yield the type of scientific, concrete “proof” that CHSRA would require to remove one or more alignments from consideration, and we have been very patient over the last six months as we awaited those results. We put our faith in the process as we were urged by our elected officials, to whom you must also have assured your ability to meet this critical deadline, to exercise patience and wait the six months. To not meet this 6-month deadline, given the knowledge you had and the resources at your disposal, is unacceptable.

CHSRA representatives such as Michelle Boehm continued to represent to the Board and to the public that the studies would be completed on time, when in reality, the USFS Special Use Permit had not even been approved until last week. CHSRA’s permit application specifies that the testing within the Forest will be completed within one year. Since this testing has yet to even commence, how can CHSRA now represent publicly any meaningful studies on water, seismic or tunneling impacts will be completed early in 2016? It cannot happen, as your studies are not only late – their scopes are flawed, off track, and must be revised.

This is a very serious breach of trust that is causing irreparable harm and duress to our communities. We told CHSRA and our elected officials back in May/June 2015, when the SAA Report was publicized, that we would not tolerate another holiday period, nor a new year, with the threat of the above ground elements remaining.

At this point, the CHSRA Board must act immediately to remove the above ground elements from further consideration. We asked for this matter to be agendized at your December board meeting and were denied. We’ve documented changes to and elimination of less damaging and less opposed route alternatives from SAA Reports throughout the state being accomplished by staff and by action of the Board. We’ve provided CHSRA staff with an exhaustive study enumerating CHSRA’s own reasons why alternatives had been eliminated up and down the state of California. That study reveals a “double-standard.” The reasons for eliminating routes elsewhere in the State pale in comparison to the “show stoppers” that have been demonstrated to CHSRA about the surface routes in the Burbank to Palmdale project section.

Why is our community being held to a higher standard? Is it because CHSRA faces mounting timeline/deadlines and increasing budget shortfalls? How is it acceptable for this failure by CHSRA to be communicated to our communities by an outreach consultant a week before Thanksgiving when your agency is funded entirely by our tax dollars and one whose chairman recently boasted, in response to a highly critical LA Times story, about its unprecedented transparency? Your missed deadlines, Authority Board members and staff, are not our problem; those are CHSRA’s responsibility and should not be placed on the backs of our communities any longer.

We hope you realize that December 2, 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of the CHSRA open house in Santa Clarita, where members of our Foothill communities were shocked to learn at an out-of-town meeting of the addition of the three East Corridor routes to the Palmdale to Burbank alignment maps, each with horrendous above ground elements. Why on earth would CHSRA present OUR community-altering event at a venue 22 miles away? We could not believe CHSRA staff lacked the perspective, mindfulness, courtesy and decency to present that information first to us in our home community. We were also incredulous that CHSRA would propose such alternatives after the scoping period and public comments from August 2014 through December were unequivocally opposed to the project. Clearly, public comment is being ignored by CHSRA whose insensitivity also led to our communities finding out about the “yellow banana” in the mail last August and our residents being mailed “Permit to Enter” letters last Christmas Eve.

Given CHSRA’s broken promise to host outreach meetings prior to the end of 2015 to update our communities on the progress of the Palmdale to Burbank segment, as leaders of our communities, we hosted a meeting of our own. We invited Chairman Richard as our board member representative, since we have had no board member representing our region for several months. Neither Mr. Richard nor other representatives from CHSRA elected to attend. Instead, we received a terse, dismissive letter from Mr. Richard that shows further what is wrong with this Authority and its sense of entitlement. That was followed by the disrespectful statement in our local Daily News from CHSRA spokeswoman, Lisa Marie Alley, “At the end of the day, nothing we do would be suitable for these opponents,” she added, “because nothing we do makes them happy.” Are these public servants?

Despite the lack of participation by CHSRA, we were pleased, however, that leadership from nearly every major community group and elected official in our area was represented, including the following which represent hundreds of thousands of stakeholders in the northeast San Fernando Valley:

  • Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council
  • Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council
  • Sylmar Neighborhood Council
  • Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council
  • Shadow Hills Property Owners Association
  • Kagel Canyon Civic Association
  • Lakeview Terrace Improvement Association
  • The City of San Fernando
  • The City of Santa Clarita
  • Sylmar Neighborhood Council
  • City of Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee
  • Equestrian Trails Incorporated (ETI)
  • Pacoima Community Leaders/Communities Against Displacement
  • Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce
  • A.F.E. Coalition

We were pleased to have Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, City of San Fernando mayor, Joel Fajardo, and a representative of Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean in attendance, as well as the support from representatives of the following San Fernando Valley elected officials:

  • Congressman Adam Schiff
  • Congressman Tony Cardenas
  • Senator Bob Hertzberg
  • Supervisor Mike Antonovich
  • City of San Fernando

In the course of developing an agenda for our meeting, a number of issues became clearer – specifically, the number of ways in which CHSRA and its project management group and consulting teams have failed our communities over the past year. Those in attendance unanimously determined that the points raised at the meeting should be communicated to the CHSRA Board and that a response and actions be called for. Therefore, to fulfill the promise made to those in attendance, we present a summary of the failures documented at our meeting.

CHSRA FAILURES

  1. Failed to complete environmental studies promised by the Board at June 2015 meeting.
  • Over 400 residents of our collective communities were in attendance at the June 9, 2015 CHSRA Board Meeting, more than 100 testified, and we were hopeful when the Board unanimously agreed to conduct a number of upfront studies, including a hydrology study, a tunneling study, and a seismicity study. The Board’s deliberations and promises are recorded on your own video from the 2 hour-31 minute mark until the 2 hour-39 mark. As Chairman Richard himself stated, while the studies would assist in the overall environmental review of the potential alignments, they could yield a “show stopper,” which would provide CHSRA with enough information to either modify or remove a particular alignment from consideration entirely. The time frame presented for such upfront studies was 6 months, with the understanding that the Board would review the results of the studies at its December 8 Board Meeting. As of this date, CHSRA has yet to receive all needed permits for GI testing within the Angeles National Forest, let alone commenced or completed such testing, which is predicted in HSR’s Special Use Permit application to take upwards of one year, and has not applied to LA County Public Works for permits to study water in the Big Tujunga Wash.
  • We have requested in writing several times that the promised review of the upfront studies be agendized for the December 8 Board Meeting. Our request was ignored and denied.
  1. Failed to respond to community and elected official requests to eliminate surface elements.
  • Communities and elected officials along the entirety of the Palmdale to Burbank segment have been consistently united in their call to remove surface elements through densely populated areas and environmentally sensitive areas. On June 2, 2015, County Supervisors Antonovich and Kuehl and Councilmember Fuentes jointly issued a letter to CHSRA highlighting the flaws in the currently proposed alignments, and specifically calling for elimination of surface elements. These well-documented and legitimate calls for action from our elected officials and our communities have been ignored.
  1. Failed to update and maintain communication with our community since June, canceling promised Fall/Winter 2015 outreach meetings.
  • A field visit was conducted for members of the CHSRA environmental and construction team at Haines Canyon Creek in October, however, CHSRA personnel provided no updates or status on the environmental studies at that time. Other than that field meeting, there was no communication from CHSRA for more than 5 months leading up to text and voice messages, and a phone conversation, from CHSRA just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday that the promised public, informational meetings would be canceled, nor that the environmental studies would not be completed on schedule. Stakeholders and leaders of S.A.F.E. encountered project management team members Michelle Boehm, Juan Carlos Velasquez and other CHSRA staff/consultants at several community meetings in the region during this time (e.g. St. Didacas Church in Sylmar) and received no direct or specific response to questions on this matter.
  1. Failed to appoint a new, Southern California board member to represent impacted
  • Southern California Board member Katherine Perez-Estolano resigned several months ago. Despite phone calls and emails to both Governor Brown and Chairman Richard, the seat remains vacant and our communities lack their required and deserved voice at this critical time. Ms. Perez-Estolano took the time to meet with our community leaders and tour our impacted areas shortly before the June Board Meeting, and we were able to express to her many of our concerns regarding the proposed alignments. At the June Board Meeting, these concerns were translated into a motion that was sponsored by Ms. Perez-Estolano, which was subsequently approved unanimously by the Board, mandating the commencement of the upfront studies. It is another breach of trust to be without representation during the conduct of the environmental studies. The Governor’s office and CHSRA share responsibility for filling that vacancy with a responsive, knowledgeable person as soon as possible.
  1. Failed to transparently, collaboratively and correctly plan scope of work for independent, third-party review of environmental studies.
  • We originally proposed the notion of independent, third-party studies early in 2015 to both CHSRA project management staff and local elected officials. It was our suggestion and it was proposed at working group meetings and in small group meetings involving key CHSRA personnel and elected officials. We provided explicit detail about how the studies could be organized and scoped to benefit stakeholders and The purpose of the recommendation was to provide diverse, un-biased expert opinion to CHSRA on the pressing issues of water, seismic and tunneling impacts. Not only did we feel such expertise would be helpful, we proposed it due to the lack of trust which we’ve witnessed statewide and experienced locally between CHSRA and stakeholders. We articulated on numerous occasions that a proper process for such work would include the following:
    • water and seismic experts from federal, state, county and city governments, as well as environmental leaders such as the Sierra Club
    • collaboration with these experts, elected officials and community leaders about the scope of work of the upfront environmental studies
    • regular meetings and feedback from CHSRA and the independent, third-party experts to elected officials and stakeholders (in fact, Chairman Richard pledged to present the information on the CHSRA website and that has not transpired).
  • In addition to the above failure, CHSRA’s current range of studies, which includes GI testing in Angeles National Forest involving the U.S. Forest Service, is incomplete. CHSRA has failed, as called for by stakeholders and elected officials, to initiate similar field testing (not desk studies) of water, seismic and tunneling impacts in the Big Tujunga Wash (location of source of LA drinking water: spring-fed, perennial stream Haines Canyon Creek), and along San Fernando Road near Pacoima Reservoir, San Fernando Reservoir and nearby spreading grounds.
  • Urgent Update: CHSRA’s project section update, released late Wednesday afternoon, December 2, 2015, reveals very troubling information about CHSRA’s actions related to the upfront studies. Not only are the studies late and incomplete as outlined above, but CHSRA’s selection of “experts” for those studies is seriously flawed. The selection of close allies of CHSRA to do the upfront studies (e.g. Mineta Transportation Institute, based at San Jose State University), allies’ whose ties to the transportation industry and to CHSRA are a clear conflict of interest (e.g. CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales sits on the Mineta Board of Trustees), represent exceedingly poor judgment and render the studies themselves, whenever they may be completed, as biased and lacking credibility. Choosing “experts” so far away geographically also reduces the ability to conduct field studies rather than limited desk studies. While we did not ask for an equine study, it’s bewildering that CHSRA would ask San Jose State University-based Mineta to conduct a local equine study. It would have made much more sense if CHSRA had followed our clear advice to contact local universities and government agencies with appropriate expertise such as CalTech or Cal State-Northridge re: seismicity; the State Department of Water Resources, the California Water Resources Control Board, Army Corps of Engineers, Cal Poly or LA County Flood Control re: hydrology; UC Davis or Pierce College re: equine studies; etc. We conclude that CHSRA’s haste to complete the studies, given its well-known financial shortfalls and time constraints, led the Agency to hand-pick industry contacts who would potentially produce obviously biased reports but who would also complete such reports in timelines directed by CHSRA. This obvious conflict of interest renders the studies useless, and warrants starting over. We strongly feel that the studies need to be conducted by mutually-agreed upon (between CHSRA, elected officials and impacted communities) third-party organizations to satisfy the “independent” criteria.
  1. Failed to be transparent/truthful by falsely promoting unattainable schedules and timelines.
  • As Congressman Schiff wrote nearly a year ago, CHSRA has reached its conclusion and is working backwards. We are convinced that due to timeline/deadline challenges facing CHSRA for work completion and funding, CHSRA is racing through the process and communicating unrealistic and infeasible timelines to elected officials and stakeholders in a desperate effort to buy time. The most recent example of this is CHSRA’s current statements that the upfront studies that were due to be completed in December 2015 will be completed in early 2016. That’s impossible given the lack of permits for needed environmental studies. It’s important to note here that the nearby 710 freeway extension project draft EIR took 4 years from initial scoping to draft EIR. It is with that backdrop that we have continuously challenged CHSRA’s deceptive assertions that its draft EIS would be public in summer 2016 – about 2 years from the 2014 scoping period. Finally, last week, CHSRA capitulated and communicated what will be the first of many more delays by stating the draft environmental studies will be released in late 2016/early 2017. We continue to challenge CHSRA’s assertions that this much larger project EIS can be done any sooner than a 4-5 year period.
  1. Failed to protect local property values and community character.
  • The number of residential real estate transactions in the Palmdale to Burbank project section since August 2014 (introduction of the yellow banana) is approaching 6,000. There is no doubt that the threat of high speed rail has impacted each of those transactions in a material way and kept many others from occurring. We have heard from both realtors and residents about buyers who have walked away from contracts on homes in our area once they read the required disclosures that CHSRA may select an alignment in this area. We have many retirees fearing their life’s investment in their homes is at risk. As a result, the threat of CHSRA has already depressed property values. Additionally, along with Councilman Fuentes, we can document business opportunities that would have brought needed goods and services to our communities, whose developers walked away from the table simply due to the possibility of high speed rail in the vicinity. Obviously, the closer the properties are to proposed routes and potential eminent domain, the greater the damage. If property sales are negatively impacted (volume, sales price or both), property tax revenue is depressed, resulting in loss of revenue to each city’s general fund, each city’s school district, LA County flood control, LA County Fire, and several other agencies which rely on property tax revenue for their funding.
  • We’ve also made the point repeatedly, especially with regard to the above ground elements, that such proposals would damage and alter forever the character of impacted communities in a way that is immitigable and, thus, must be eliminated immediately from further consideration.
  1. Failed to define “rolling EIS/EIR process” and “tunneled” transportation corridor.
  • Many of us have extensive experience with environmental studies at the federal and state level. We object to CHSRA’s decision to circumvent CEQA guidelines in lieu of less stringent NEPA/EIS guidelines for environmental study and mitigation. In addition, we’ve asked repeatedly “when” the EIS process began and the response from CHSRA has been, “we have a rolling EIS/EIR process.” That terminology is new to us and we’ve not received any explanation. It’s important to restate again here that the draft EIR for the nearby 710 freeway extension project, which covers a 5 mile area, took 4 years from initial scoping to draft EIR. We’ve pointed out for a year that CHSRA knowingly deceived the public throughout 2014/2015 when it stated that the elapsed time for the “largest infrastructure project in the United States” from its scoping period to draft EIS, for a 35-45 miles span, would be two years in duration. This project is far more complicated than the 710 project due to its length, the number of government agencies involved and the need to traverse the National Monument, National Forest and San Andreas Fault. While CHSRA’s recent acknowledgement projecting that the draft EIS is due in late 2016/early 2017 confirms our assertions, that time frame is still obviously unachievable and presents both a deceptive representation of the amount of time our communities will be held hostage and a false impression of how well the CHSRA project is doing overall within the state.
  • Further, we’ve stated repeatedly that CHSRA’s definition of “existing transportation and utility corridor” should not include either routes through the National Forest and Monument, or include tunneled routes under the Forest and Monument. When the public voted to support the Proposition, the public expected unobtrusive routes along existing transportation and utility corridors; not through a National Forest and Monument, and not above ground through densely populated areas.
  1. Failed to modify or remove routes that damage water resources and endangered species.
  • The text of Prop 1A mandated that “the high-speed train system shall be planned and constructed in a manner that minimizes urban sprawl and impacts on the natural environment.”  Yet all routes included in the SAA Report and environmental studies irrefutably contravene that mandate. By traveling over, under, and through the Angeles National Forest, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, the Big Tujunga Wash, Santa Clara River and San Fernando Road corridor, all proposed routes threaten to irreparably damage these protected natural areas in ways that were never contemplated or intended by the voter-approved legislation which specified “existing transportation and utility corridors.”

S.A.F.E. brought water concerns to the attention of CHSRA nearly one year ago.  At the January 13 meeting at All Nations Church, we presented evidence of the network of springs and streams in the San Gabriel Mountains, including Oak Springs, which is one of the historic headwaters of the LA River — about which CHSRA was to that point admittedly unaware.  Each of the proposed East Corridor routes bisects these springs, threatening one of the few local sources of drinking water in the Greater LA Region.  Additionally, the Forest routes jeopardize the private wells within the Angeles National Forest that provide the only source of water for residents there.  CHSRA engineers and officials have repeatedly stated that if tunneling damages or destroys our water supply, they “will mitigate that,” but they have never offered any explanation as to what form such mitigation measures could possibly take.

We requested the upfront hydrology studies so that CHSRA would be able to eliminate any routes for which the water in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Big Tujunga Wash, and/or along San Fernando Road and the San Fernando Reservoir, would prove to be, in Chairman Richard’s words, “a show-stopper” and yet the failure by CHSRA to commence or complete these studies means that our water supply remains unstudied and in jeopardy.

Additionally, the San Gabriel Mountains offer critical habitat and biological corridors for dozens of endangered, threatened, and sensitive species.  Again, S.A.F.E. brought these to the attention of CHSRA at the January 13 meeting, and has continued to present evidence of these species in follow up meetings over the past year.  The recent ruling by the California Supreme Court rejecting the EIR for the Newhall Ranch development project should be of keen interest to CHSRA. The status of the unarmored threespine stickleback which prompted the ruling is akin to that of our own local Santa Ana Sucker, a threatened species which now has only a handful of areas remaining that it calls home – one of those being the Big Tujunga Wash, and specifically Haines Canyon Creek which was toured recently by CHSRA engineers and environmental representatives. Further, we recently conducted a tour for LA County Public Works’ Water Resources Division of the Mitigation Area including Haines Canyon Creek at the intersection of Wentworth Street and Wheatland. Their concerns were evident about the proposed “footprint” of the E2 tunnel portal, bridges, road demolition, staging areas, trestles and deep boring in the midst of an active flood plain.

The insistence of CHSRA to continue to include these routes which jeopardize critical water supplies and endangered species is unconscionable. The infrastructure that would be required on or below the Forest floor to support any East Corridor route is antithetical to the ecosystems of the National Forest, and CHSRA’s positioning that tunneled routes have no surface impacts is deceptive and disingenuous. S.A.F.E. continues to request that CHSRA propose new and different Project Segment routes that do not compromise the integrity of our National Forest and National Monument.

  1. Failed to obtain funding for the project and failed to disclose potential cost overruns.
  • We have serious concerns that the deterioration of property values, overall stress and significant time our communities have to divert to keeping CHSRA accountable may be an exercise in futility given CHSRA’s well-documented funding shortfalls. We find it irresponsible for CHSRA to impose these damages on our communities when it does not have financial assurances for the proposed studies, construction and operation.

CALL TO ACTION/DEMANDS OF CHSRA

In light of the foregoing failures, we have no choice but to call for a halt to all environmental studies along the Palmdale to Burbank segment until CHSRA commits to the following:

  1. Remove Surface Elements – CHSRA must remove surface elements from all route alternatives near densely populated and sensitive environmental/water resources NOW.
  1. Operate TransparentlyCHSRA must honor commitments, avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, set realistic and defensible timelines and meet deadlines.
  1. Disclose Status of and Communications Related to E2 Prior to Release of SAA Report – CHSRA must reveal fully the facts re: the status of E2 in the final stages of preparing the SAA Report in May/June 2015. We were advised that the removal of E2 was communicated to local elected official(s) prior to releasing the SAA Report in June 2015. That information was communicated to us in May 2015. Consequently, when the SAA Report was released, and E2 remained in the document, we were surprised and disappointed. Thus, we seek full public disclosure and transparency of which CHSRA representatives communicated the removal of E2 to elected official(s), which elected officials were so advised, what research and analysis led to its recommended removal, why that decision was reversed, who made the decision to place E2 back into the SAA Report, and how that change was communicated to elected officials formerly advised of its removal.
  1. Add New, Non-Forest and No Project Alternatives to SAA Report and Environmental Studies – Upon the called for removal of surface elements from the SAA Report and environmental studies, we call for addition of two, new tunneled alternatives to the SAA Report/environmental studies, including a Non-Burbank alignment and an alignment tunneled beneath an existing freeway, and clear communication of a “no project alternative” to all stakeholders in all project sections. Both of these options are in keeping with the intent of the high speed rail ballot measure supported by voters. Further, current presentations by CHSRA present its alternatives as a fait accomplis and should be modified to include “no project” alternative(s) in every presentation statewide.
  1. Conduct GI Tests in Big Tujunga Wash and San Fernando Road Corridor – CHSRA must apply the same rigorous testing of water, seismic and tunneling in the Big Tujunga Wash and San Fernando Road Corridor as it plans for the Angeles National Forest.
  1. Halt Upfront Studies Involving Mineta Transportation Institute – CHSRA must cease tunneling and equine studies initiated with Mineta Transportation Institute due to perceived/actual conflicts of interest. In addition, we seek full disclosure and transparency by CHSRA of how both Cal State Fullerton and UC San Diego were selected for work on the upfront studies. We have identified the following conflicts of interest related to Mineta:
  • CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales sits on the Mineta Board of Trustees.
  • CHSRA contractor, HNTB, sits on the Mineta Board of Trustees.
  • Mineta’s executive director emeritus is Ron Didion Sr., a former CHSRA board member and CHSRA chairman emeritus.
  • Mineta is a sponsor of a high speed rail conference in downtown Los Angeles from December 9-11.
  1. Work with Elected Officials and Stakeholders to Retain Acceptable Independent, Third-Party Experts – CHSRA should work collaboratively with elected officials and stakeholders, as conceptualized many months ago by the S.A.F.E. Coalition, to create the scope of work and review results of said studies. Further, the process must be collaborative and inclusive of the following:
    • Independent, third-party experts in water, seismic and tunneling impacts with federal, state, county, municipal and environmental/Sierra Club backgrounds
    • Regularly scheduled meetings to report on scope of work and findings to elected officials and S.A.F.E. Coalition stakeholders, including presentation of findings on the CHSRA website as promised by Chairman Richard at CHSRA’s June 2015 board meeting.
  1. Appoint Southern California Board Representative – CHSRA must work with the Governor’s office until such a board member is appointed, and the Board must then allow time for that Board member to tour proposed routes, meet stakeholders and become proficient on issues presented by impacted communities in the Palmdale to Burbank project section.
  1. Hold Management and Consultants Accountable – The CHSRA Board must provide oversight and direction to management and consultants. Remedies must be prescribed when significant failures occur, such as missed deadlines, poor stakeholder communications, deceptive timelines, etc.

We demand that the environmental review process stop unless and until stakeholders and our elected officials agree that it is proceeding in the right direction. This is not only good for our communities, but also good for CHSRA, as cooperating with us on such studies will ensure the avoidance of further delay, further wasted resources, and further discord.

Pure and simple, given ample cause, we and many other informed stakeholders in the State of California, don’t trust CHSRA. Thus, that trust must be buttressed by independent oversight and accountability. From our early history of communications abuses by CHSRA, to Congressman Schiff’s statement that CHSRA “has reached their conclusion and is working backwards,” to the time and budget constraints facing CHSRA, to the lack of respect shown by the Authority and the Palmdale to Burbank project team, the public cannot count on CHSRA to do the right thing; it will only do that which moves its increasingly suspect process forward, abuses the rights of our communities, and damages our community’s character and environment.

We do not seek another sordid letter from CHSRA that seeks to buy time for CHSRA yet leaves our communities hostage. We call for action to remove the above ground structures first and foremost, and we call for a public meeting hosted by our elected officials and community leaders as soon as possible where transparency and accountability related to the upfront environmental study process are presented. There is absolutely no reason why this meeting should not occur prior to or immediately after the holiday period.

Sincerely,

The S.A.F.E. Coalition

Dave DePinto, President, Shadow Hills Property Owners Assn.

Fritz Bronner, Lake View Terrace, Board Member, Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council

Cindy Cleghorn, Board Member, Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council

Kelly Decker, President, Kagel Canyon Civic Association

 

cc:            Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom

Attorney General Kamala Harris

Congressman Adam Schiff

Congressman Tony Cardenas

Congresswoman Judy Chu

Congressman Jeff Denham

Senator Carol Liu

Senator Bob Hertzberg

Senator Bob Huff

Assemblywoman Patty Lopez

Assemblyman Scott Wilk

Supervisor Mike Antonovich

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

LA Councilmember Felipe Fuentes

LA Councilmember Paul Krekorian

LA Councilmember Mitch Englander

LA Councilmember Nury Martinez

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos

Burbank Councilmember Jess Talamantes

Burbank Councilmember David Gordon

Burbank Councilmember Emily Gabel-Luddy

Burbank Councilmember Will Rogers

Joseph Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration

Chairman Elliott and Honorable Board Members, Surface Transportation Board

Horace Greczmiel, Council on Environmental Quality