By Mary O’KEEFE
Members of several communities joined in protest against the high-speed rail routes that would, according to them, divide their cities and decimate their homes and way of life.
Calling it a Unity Rally, residents gathered on Tuesday from the Central Valley, Acton, Sylmar and Santa Clarita as well as the foothills communities to voice their concerns and opposition to the proposed routes through the Angeles National Forest and through their cities.
About 200 residents met, protest signs in hand, at the Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles where they first invited people to speak in the courtyard in front of the building then continued to the meeting of the High Speed Rail Authority inside the building.
Kelly Rose and her young daughter Sophia were at the Unity Rally. They were holding a picture of Kelly’s young son petting a horse.
“I moved my family to the last affordable open space in [the L.A. area],” said Kelly Rose, a Kagel Canyon resident.
Sophia had asked her mom why the [HSR] was going to put a train in her backyard.
Rose said she understands there must be some sacrifice for progress but is concerned about well water, environmental issues and extreme changes to her family’s way of life.
“What sacrifice can you justify to this little girl?” she asked.
Shadow Hills residents Tom and Carol Love have lived in the area for 35 years. Their concerns included the construction of the HSR.
“It’s going to leave a [large] carbon footprint in the valley for years,” Tom said.
Officials including Mayor Marsha McLean of the city of Santa Clarita, Mayor Joel Fajardo of the city of San Fernando and Christopher Croisdale, president of Acton Town Council spoke at the rally voicing their opposition to the routes through their areas. Several neighborhood council members and concerned citizens joined them in their concerns.
The majority of the comments at the outside rally and during the board meeting were about miscommunication, non-communication and lack of respect for those communities represented.
“We have been fighting the HSR SR14 (Corridor route) for the last two years because we understand the economic destruction it would have on our town,” Fajardo said. “It would divide the city of San Fernando in half with a 20-foot-high wall effectively creating a north and south San Fernando.”
Acton representatives and residents shared the same concern of dividing their town. Many residents in Aqua Dulce and Acton spoke of the high-speed rail cutting through their backyards.
Feeling the board was not taking their concerns into consideration, resident after resident painted a picture of their areas … the open space, community feel and sky full of stars.
Acton residents asked the board that if they were going to consider an HSR underground tunneling system.
Kelly Decker from Kagel Canyon was worried about the water in the area and how the construction would affect their wells.
“Every resident of upper Kagel Canyon relies on wells for their water and the E1 route tunnels less than a half a mile from our homes,” Decker said. “HSR engineers have told us that if their tunneling accidently dewaters the aquifer they will mitigate that damage. Destruction of our water supply cannot be mitigated.”
Nina Royal of Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council felt the HSR project that was voted on was not the project that has been presented.
In 2008 voters approved a bond measure for the high-speed rail in the amount of $9 billion. The federal government and the state legislation have approved more funding. The cost is now estimated at over $65 billion.
The cost is significantly higher than what voters approved, Royal said.
Acton resident Tippi Hedren addressed the board. She has had an animal rescue since 1972 and based her Roar Foundation and Shambala Preserve in Acton. The preserve is a large animal preserve specializing in big Bengal cats and lions.
She told the board she rescues the large cats that are born in the United States and sold as pets.
“They are predators, they are top of the food chain and the most dangerous animals in the world,” Hedren said. “I fear them, I know them very well and they don’t lie. Frankly I think I am more afraid of all of you (the HSR board).”
She added she felt that many of the people in the room were scared and felt that the board has not sincerely listened to the towns’ people.
“This route is going through, right through Acton. It is going to kill that town,” she said.
Although outnumbered there were those who did approve of the HSR and praised the board for their work. Machinist and the aerospace unions members out of Palmdale also thanked the HSR for its work and were looking forward to the benefits for communities concerning unemployment.
The cities of Palmdale, Burbank and Anaheim all were in favor of the project touting the jobs that the project would bring to their areas. Those cities are on stops along the HSR. All three city representatives stated the HSR board worked in conjunction with their councils and even when they disagreed they were respectful of their opinion.
That was in direct contrast to those city representatives at the Unity Rally.
Those who opposed the routes through their communities were at times emotional and at times angry; however, there was a common thread from those who were part of the rally.
“You don’t listen” was repeated again and again.