Our View | David, Goliath and the Fast-Moving Train Coming

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By The Signal Editorial Board

There’s a long and storied history of Santa Clarita Valley residents playing the role of David versus one Goliath or another.

In the 1980s, Sacramento and Los Angeles politicians wanted to put a state prison here. Local residents — without yet having the benefit of a local city government to carry the SCV flag — banded together and fought.

Then-Signal Editor Scott Newhall wrote one of his famous fire-breathing editorials about it: scvhistory.com/scvhistory/sg110185.htm

The scrappy band of SCV Davids won. No state prison.

Similar battles would be fought later in the 1980s and into the 1990s, as local residents and the new city of Santa Clarita worked together to fight off seemingly relentless efforts by the county and city of Los Angeles to turn the SCV into L.A.’s trash dump.

Those efforts, too, succeeded in fending off the menaces from outside our valley — and today, Towsley and Elsmere canyons are protected open spaces instead of landfills stuffed with L.A. garbage.

Still pending is the battle by local residents and the city of Santa Clarita to keep the multinational mining company, CEMEX, from creating a massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, on Santa Clarita’s eastern doorstep. That battle involves the federal government, and while we are waiting for a ruling from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, our fingers remain crossed.

But you get the idea: There’s a track record here of “bigger” government agencies trying to ram something undesirable down the SCV’s throat, and our community standing up to the bullies from beyond — and winning.

We’ve got at least one more “good fight” left to fight. The opponent is a fearsome one at that. The Goliath du jour is California’s planned high-speed rail line, and it’s headed our way.

We’d like the entire project to go away. But for multiple reasons, that appears highly unlikely — including the fact that the seed money for the high-speed rail boondoggle comes from a $9.95-billion voter-approved 2008 ballot initiative, so those billions are being spent on high-speed rail, period, because they can’t be spent on anything else.

Meanwhile, the costs keep spiraling, with the latest estimates topping $77 billion and counting. It’s evident that Sacramento politicians — hello, Democratic supermajority — will spend whatever they deem necessary to stay on their high horse and tell Californians to get out of their cars when traveling between the Bay Area and the Southland, even if the cost of a high-speed train ticket will closely approach the “Wanna Get Away” airfares from Southwest.

And, of course, the currently planned route runs through the Santa Clarita Valley.

So at this point, a favorable outcome for Santa Clarita residents would be one that minimizes the new train’s negative impacts on our valley and its property owners, because killing the high-speed rail project in its entirety is highly unlikely.

The prospects are concerning. The High Speed Rail Authority is going through the motions of hearing public input as it finalizes the route for the Palmdale to Burbank leg of the rail line. The rail authority’s current recommended route calls for the train to travel near the eastern boundary of Santa Clarita, following the 14 freeway and tunneling underground at depths anywhere from 400 to 500 feet deep. According to state rail authority staff, the train would emerge from a tunnel adjacent to Lang Station Road.

Santa Clarita city officials are advocating that the train remain fully underground through the SCV — which, of course, would likely increase costs, but would reduce the train’s negative impacts on the community. “The Santa Clarita City Council remains adamant that only a fully underground alignment, which significantly minimizes or eliminates any impact to neighborhoods and communities, is the only acceptable approach,” Mayor Laurene Weste wrote in a letter to rail authority Chairman Dan Richard.

Regardless of which route is taken, issues abound. Seismology. Noise. Proximity to the aforementioned proposed CEMEX mine site. Vibration for those whose property is poised above the tunnel. Impacts on neighborhoods and already-approved local projects, like Vista Canyon, a 185-acre mixed-use development west of the proposed rail alignment.

But make no mistake. The High Speed Rail Authority and Sacramento politicians intend to shove it through. Those pushing for the train are going to get their damn train, no matter who or what they run over — or, apparently, under — in the process.

Santa Clarita leaders are appropriately expressing concerns about the route and its impacts on not just city residents, but also the city’s nearest neighbors to the east. We know that, to the extent they can, our city leaders will fight the good fight.

But this time, will it be enough, as it has been in the past?

Be warned, Santa Claritans. This Goliath is bigger, meaner and more relentless than those we’ve vanquished before.

Warm up your slingshots. 

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