Introducing Four East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project Community Leadership Council Members

    Metro’s Community Leadership Councils (CLC) are diverse groups of individuals who reside, work, attend school, or own businesses in the project area’s neighborhoods. These members, once selected, participate in quarterly meetings focused on various project-related topics. The goal of the CLC is to ensure that the community is well-informed about the project and to facilitate open communication between Metro and the community throughout the construction process. This role requires individuals to possess tenacity, diplomacy, and a strong passion for community engagement.

    The East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit (ESFV LRT) Project is an extensive and diverse undertaking. The CLC was carefully chosen to reflect the diversity of the surrounding communities. The southern segment of the project is a 6.7-mile at-grade alignment that includes 11 new stations, connecting the communities of Pacoima, Arleta, Panorama City, and Van Nuys along Van Nuys Boulevard, which is known for its heavy congestion. Additionally, this segment will connect to the G (Orange) Line’s Van Nuys station. A study is currently being conducted 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, with completion expected in Summer 2024.

    The CLC members are individuals from various backgrounds and locations within the project area. Four members represent Pacoima, three represent Arleta, four represent Panorama City, and another four represent Van Nuys. In this article, we will introduce four of the newly appointed CLC members, one from each area, and explore their perspectives on the new light rail project and what inspired them to join the CLC.

    Roxy Rivas, representing Pacoima, was born and raised in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Roxy and their family have been residents of Pacoima for over two decades. Upon learning about the introduction of light rail to ESFV, Roxy felt a sense of joy. In their earlier years, Roxy relied on buses for transportation to school, the park, and the bookstore, but always felt that a train system was necessary. Roxy believes that the new light rail can contribute to reducing gas emissions, which is critical in a city trapped by major highways that often pollute the air. Roxy’s involvement with Pacoima Beautiful, an environmental justice and education organization, further strengthens their motivation to be a voice for the community. As they join the CLC, Roxy aims to ensure diverse representation within the group and advocate for community concerns, such as future parking arrangements.

    Sonya Kay Blake, representing Van Nuys, has been a resident of the area for over 20 years. Upon learning about the light rail project, Sonya was thrilled. Recognizing the significance of mobility in such a vast region like the Valley, she believes that improved transportation options can enhance access for everyone. Sonya serves as the president and CEO of The Valley Economic Alliance, an organization focused on supporting the growth of small businesses. She envisions the light rail attracting more customers, as it will alleviate congestion and create an enticing commercial cluster that strengthens the local economy. Additionally, Sonya recognizes the impact of transportation on job seekers, emphasizing that efficient transit connectivity can facilitate access to education, training, and job opportunities. Sonya’s role in the CLC allows her to address the concerns, questions, and ideas of local businesses and ensure effective communication with Metro.

    Sandra Sanchez, representing Arleta, has relied on public transportation throughout her life. From taking the bus as a child to commuting during her high school and college years, Sandra recognizes the value of transit as a means of getting around. Upon hearing about the ESFV project, she became excited about the potential for faster travel within the Valley and to Downtown LA. Sandra has actively participated in the Panorama City Neighborhood Council, where she educates community members on new policies and listens to their concerns. Joining the CLC provides Sandra an opportunity to express and address the community’s needs, particularly related to parking during the construction phase. As a public affairs student at UCLA, Sandra’s bilingualism allows her to effectively communicate with the Spanish-speaking working-class community, ensuring that their concerns are heard and addressed throughout the project’s progression.

    Maria Nieto, representing Panorama City, no longer drives due to a collision experienced a year ago, making public transportation her primary mode of travel. She appreciates the ability to disconnect and observe more of her surroundings while commuting. Learning about the ESFV project brought Maria joy, envisioning reduced traffic, improved bus stop availability, and shorter travel times within the Valley. As a member of the Panorama City Neighborhood Council, Maria understands the importance of the CLC as a platform for addressing community concerns, such as lane reductions and access ramps for individuals with disabilities during construction. She recognizes that progress requires facing certain challenges and believes that the investment in better transportation infrastructure is worth it for the Valley.

    The CLC members are ready and eager to work towards their goal of fostering community dialogue and ensuring the community remains informed throughout the ESFV LRT project.

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