Meet four members of the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project’s Community Leadership Council

Have you heard about Metro’s Community Leadership Councils (CLC)? A CLC is a diverse group of members who live, work, attend school, or own businesses in the neighborhoods within the project area. Once selected, members attend quarterly meetings on a variety of topics related to the project. The goal of the CLC is to help the community stay informed about the project, promote and help foster community dialogue with Metro throughout the project construction. It’s a tall order, and requires tenacity, diplomacy, and a lot of passion.

We are delighted to announce that 15 residents have been selected to serve on the CLC for the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit (ESFV LRT) Project. “We were looking for people who had history in these neighborhoods and were also involved in their respective communities,” says Jesse Leon, Metro’s Community Leadership Council Manager. The Council is made up of people who know in detail what is happening in their neighborhoods. “For Metro, it is important to listen to them and learn about their lived experiences so our construction and outreach efforts take into account community nuances that may exist in each respective community.”

This project is large and diverse, which is why the CLC needed to reflect the breadth of the communities. The East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Southern segment is a 6.7-mile at-grade alignment that will include 11 new stations connecting the communities of Pacoima, Arleta, Panorama City and, Van Nuys along Van Nuys Boulevard —one of the most congested corridors in the Valley. It will also connect at the end of the southern portion to the G (Orange) Line’s Van Nuys station. We are currently conducting a study to evaluate design options for the 2.5-mile northern segment, from San Fernando Rd/Van Nuys Bl to the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station. This study is anticipated to be completed in Summer 2024.

CLC members come from all backgrounds and locations within the project area. Four of them represent Pacoima, three represent Arleta, four represent Panorama City, and another four represent Van Nuys. In this post, we introduce four of the new CLC members — one from each area of the project. Keep reading to learn what they think of the new light rail project and what motivated them to join the CLC.

Roxy Rivas – Pacoima

The 29-year-old was born and raised in the northeast San Fernando Valley, where they and their family have lived in Pacoima for more than two decades. When Roxy found out that light rail was coming to ESFV, they felt happy. In earlier years, they used to go to school, to the park and to the bookstore by bus, but always felt that a train was needed.

They believe that the new train can help reduce gas emissions. “Our city is like ‘trapped’ by the 5, 118 and 210 highways… all those cars pollute the air. With this project, my mother could go visit my uncles without having to use her car,” says Roxy, who is part of Pacoima Beautiful, an organization that focuses on environmental justice and education.

Roxy, who studied public health and urban planning, joined the CLC because they believe it is important to have diversity and demographic representation in the group, – whether in age, race or profession. “The voice of the community is very important. For example, one of the topics to discuss is the future parking situation.” They are ready to work to keep the Council and their community informed, so people are aware of the phases and updates of the project.

“Light rail is for us and for future generations. Many people complain that there is no change in the Valley, but you can get involved in this positive project that is going to come to our community. It is an investment for everyone, and it is important that people are informed.”

Sonya Kay Blake – Van Nuys

When Sonya found out that a train was coming to ESFV, a place where she has lived for more than 20 years, she was excited. She says that the Valley is a very large region, and that mobility is important because it creates access options for everyone. “Many people here depend on public transportation to go to work, study and even to go to the supermarket.”

Sonya is the president and CEO of The Valley Economic Alliance, an organization that seeks to help small businesses grow. According to her light rail can attract a greater flow of customers once they find out it will reduce congestion. “A train can create an exciting magnetic commercial cluster where visitors can come into the Valley, patronize businesses, and strengthen the local economy.”

Part of her organization’s mission is to help locals who are looking for jobs. “Transportation can help them connect with education, get to training, job fairs and job interviews on time,” she adds.

Sonya believes that the arrival of light rail creates potential in the area but understands that business owners want to know if the construction will impact their premises in the short term. Therefore, she joined the CLC to be able to share their questions, concerns, and ideas with Metro. “I want businesses to stay strong and I think with communication we can do a better job.”

Sandra Sanchez – Arleta

Public transportation has always been present in Sandra’s life, since her aunt took her on the bus when she was 8 years old and then when she went to high school and college. She believes transit is a useful tool for getting around. So, when she heard about the project, she was excited about the possibility of getting to places in the Valley and to Downtown LA faster.

“When I was a girl, driving to Downtown seemed difficult. With light rail, you will be able to connect with the G Line, which takes you to the subway, and then go directly to DTLA. Having efficient transportation that connects us is important to me,” says the 21-year-old.

Sandra serves on the Panorama City Neighborhood Council –– a group that educates people about new policies and listens to community concerns – and believes having a CLC is a good idea. “I think it’s an opportunity to listen to community concerns, on issues such as parking during construction. Being able to express what the community needs can help us work together. The fact that Metro has a Council like this is greatly appreciated,” says Sandra.

Sandra, who studies public affairs at UCLA, says that being involved in this process will be an interesting educational experience. Additionally, she believes that being bilingual can help her communicate more effectively with the community. “In this region, many speak Spanish and are working class, some will not be able to make it to the community meetings or find out about the construction from the news, so being able to collect their concerns and points of view and explain to them later how the project is progressing is key for me.”

Maria Nieto – Panorama City

A year ago, a collision took away Maria Nieto’s desire to drive. For this reason, the Panorama City resident travels only by transit. She enjoys it because she disconnects and can see more places and businesses than someone who focuses on a steering wheel and the Valley’s very busy roads.

She was also happy to learn about the ESFV Project. The first thing she imagined was less traffic, fewer bus stops and therefore, shorter travel times. “It’s crazy at rush hour here, and Van Nuys Boulevard is very busy. It is used a lot to go to the stores, to the doctor, and to the court,” she adds.

“I wanted to be part of the CLC because it is a new experience and I know many people who use transit. That allows me to collect their concerns and take them to the meetings. For example, people want to know if there will be lane reductions and enough access ramps for people with disabilities during construction.”

Maria knows that to achieve the project’s goal, it will cause certain challenges. “Progress implies process… I think it is worth it to have better transportation in the Valley.”

The team is ready, let’s get to work!

3 replies

  1. My Parents Moved to the Valley in 1984 and at that Time there was no Orange Line Busway lane it was a Southern Pacific Rail and Amtrack passing By My Mom took the RTD Bus to work and back from work. I grew Up in Van Nuys most of my life and I used to take the bus from school and home as well as in College. After Decades of waiting for a Rail in the San Fernando Valley I am So excited about it, I hope the Construction would get started as soon as possible, because Traffic on Van Nuys BLVD and the rest of the San Fernando Valley is always bad and I hope More Mix-use Development change on Van Nuys BLVD and more Safety Cameras on Van Nuys BLVD to Reduce of Car Accidents and Drivers Violating the Rail Line.

  2. “When I was a girl, driving to Downtown seemed difficult. With light rail, you will be able to connect with the G Line, which takes you to the subway, and then go directly to DTLA. Having efficient transportation that connects us is important to me,” says the 21-year-old.

    Wait, this is a selling point? Transfering twice on 3 different modes of transit when in the 1980s-2003 just one Freeway Express bus did the trick?

    Just saying: when one bus that departs from point A at noon can almost beat a multi-BILLION dollar infrastructure project that departs at the same time to point B, you kind of lost me there. Spare me the rush hour stats, if a train is slower than a car after 7pm, you’re more really making a valued argument for public transit.

    Sure you’re serving more people, but you’re NOT making things anymore convenient for long distance commuters, but hey, that’s the one track mind for public transit in The U.S.

    Let me know when you finally decide to invest in Express/Rapid Express Trains, then I’ll be intrigued.