By Kresse Armour
Since the High Speed Rail project broke ground in Bakersfield, you’d be hard pressed to find any Southern California community willing to let Sacramento’s Iron Horse charge through its streets and neighborhoods at breakneck speeds.
Nor farmers ready to sell prime agricultural land at lower than fair market prices. Nor environmentalists supporting the blasting of tunnels through pristine wildlands.
Though Californians did pass the HSR measure, it was a close vote. In round numbers, 53% voted for and 47% voted against the project. Hardly a ringing endorsement, and opposition from both wealthy and working class neighborhoods is swelling. From the Bay Area on south, protests are gaining ground.
Public transportation, yes. But Sacramento’s slash and burn routing proposals? Not on your life. Impact should be judicious, Californians are saying, with routing paths tracking consistently with existing high traffic corridors.
Even local city leaders are taking up the sword. A recent community meeting in San Fernando, sponsored by the High Speed Rail Authority, was met with stunning protest. It came from San Fernando’s elected officials. Spearheaded by mayor pro tem Sylvia Ballin, who led a small army of some 70 people, the angry group staged a coup of sorts in the city auditorium where the HSR meeting was being held.
With city police standing by, officials set up their own competing sound system, and Ballin bluntly informed HSR Authority representatives that they were not welcome in San Fernando.
As Ballin voiced a litany of objections, HSR representatives refused to address any of the mayor pro tem’s complaints.
San Fernando is not alone in its fight. Earlier this year, more than 2,000 residents from the Foothills communities gathered at All Nations Church to voice their absolute opposition to high-speed rail tracks being built above or below ground –– either proposal portending a devastating impact on the region.
Still, the HSR Authority presses on. And residents are still protesting the proposed routes.
As part of its “Community Open House Meeting Series,” HSR representatives set up at Verdugo Hills High School on May 30. Community reception was at best lukewarm, with many attendees referring to the event as a ‘dog and pony show’ designed simply to placate the locals. Most attendees sported stickers featuring “E2” under a red circle and slash, signifying their opposition to any rail routes through forested areas.
Under a big show tent there were big screen monitors staffed by HRS reps, free snacks and lots of free literature. And glum faces.
Leading the local fight against an HSR route through the Foothills communities is “SAFE” –– Save Angeles Forest For Everyone. The Shadow Hills Property Owners Association is also very active on the HSR issue. For more information visit the website at: www.DontRailroad.us.