Last night, Metro hosted the last of the current round of three public input meetings on its planned North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor. The project is anticipated to be some form of Bus Rapid Transit, predominantly on Nordhoff Street and Roscoe Boulevard.
The meeting was held at Cal State Northridge’s Orange Grove Bistro.
I arrived about 15 minutes early, and the line was already stretching out the door and around the corner. All in all, attendance was around 250-300. Most attendees were old, white, and opposed to BRT.
While waiting in line, here’s my recollection of a conversation I had with a woman wearing an anti-BRT sign: (Note that this isn’t a transcript – and I’ve certainly made myself sound a little more articulate than I was at the time – though all these points were part of the actual conversation.)
Woman: “Do you want to sign the petition?”
Me: “What’s it about?”
Woman: “It’s against BRT.”
Me: “Probably not.”
Woman: “You’re not against BRT?”
Me: “No. Why are you against it?”
Woman: “It’s going to automatically up-zone all along Nordhoff [Street] to six stories.” (pointing to a single family home section of Nordhoff – between Lindley Avenue and Matador Road)
Me: “I don’t think so. How would it up-zone?”
Woman: “The city up-zones all along transit corridors.”
Me: “Well, the city has a program [Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program] but that doesn’t apply to single-family housing right over there. It also doesn’t apply this far from a bus stop intersection like Nordhoff and Reseda Boulevard.” (TOC only applies to non-single-family parcels that are, at the most, 2640 feet – half a mile – from the intersection of two transit lines. The place where she had pointed to was about 3,000 feet from Nordhoff/Reseda meaning that it fell outside of TOC for not just one, but two reasons. It will experience exactly no automatic up-zoning. None.)
Woman: “Well, it’s going to happen under S.B. 50.”
Me: “S.B. 50 didn’t pass. The state legislature has tried a couple of times and failed to pass it.”
Woman: “It will pass in the next three years.”
Me: “S.B. 50 only had six-story buildings at rail stations, not bus or BRT.”
Woman: “No – it will up-zone the whole corridor” (again points to Nordhoff)
Me: “No – it’s not the whole corridor. It would only have up-zoned places by transit stations and frequent service bus stops, like Reseda and Nordhoff.”
Woman: “Well, then that’s what I’m here to stop. Don’t let it get started.”
Me: (pauses, exhales)
Woman: “Do you live in the neighborhood?
It didn’t get any better from there. The facts apparently don’t matter when you can just repeat false Keep L.A. Moving talking points.
I probably should have been happy to have, perhaps, taken her from “automatically – six stories – whole corridor” to something like “if state legislation passes – a couple of additional stories – at a couple of intersections.” But it left me feeling badgered, nervous – thinking this woman really hates new transit, new housing, people not from her neighborhood, and doesn’t value the climate that I’ve come to love and hope to pass along to my daughter.
After a while, I got to go inside to the actual meeting. Similar to last week’s Eagle Rock meeting, Metro utilized its new open house format. Attendees circulated among various stations talking in small groups with Metro project staff, then filled out comment cards. Overall, the atmosphere seemed fairly civil, though anti-BRT attendees were very vocal about their opposition.
Kenny Uong, a well-known and much beloved transit-riding CSUN student, was dismayed at the toxic behavior of so many of the participants. Not only were they open in their disdain for “poor people,” some dropped the coded language altogether, with one telling him he was “an ignorant oriental.”
She also said that “poor people will only use this service.” After I told her that I rely on public transit to get to CSUN, she told to me to “get a car and that I’m a joke.” Definitely going to write an e-mail to Metro about this experience.
— Kenny Uong (@_KennyUong_) August 13, 2019
That’s it. I’ve had enough of this semi-toxic meeting environment. I provided my support for bus lanes on Nordhoff St. on the charrette. Some folks told me that I’m wrong to think that way. Just b/c they’re older than me doesn’t mean they can silence my thoughts. #CSUN #BRT pic.twitter.com/bl1HmkOxne
— Kenny Uong (@_KennyUong_) August 13, 2019
Both Council District 12 candidates attended – John Lee (who has campaigned against BRT) and Loraine Lundquist (who favors studying it further and implementing where appropriate). Their election is taking place today.