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SGV Connect

SGV Connect is Streetsblog Los Angeles' podcast that explores the people, places, projects and events that make up the changing face of transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. SGV Connect is hosted by Damien Newton and Kris Fortin. This feed also hosts SGV Connect's predecessor podcast, #DamienTalks.
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May 19, 2020

This week, SGV Connect talks to government executives that are overseeing some of L.A. County's largest departments as they respond to COVID-19 and do long-term planning for the future.

First, Kris talks to Norma Garcia, the Acting Director of the L.A. County Department of Parks. Fortin and Garcia discuss the county's plans to continue to re-open public space, should the numbers support greater openings, and the experience inside of the re-opened parks and trails last weekend. So far, things seem to be going pretty well. Fingers crossed that the numbers stay low.

Next, Damien talks to Kome Ajise, the executive director of the mammoth Southern California Association of Governments, the regional planning organization for the nine county Southern California region. A little under two weeks ago, SCAG approved it's long-term plan for the region, a document that helps guide development in large cities and small municipalities throughout the region. Efforts were made to change language in the plan around density, citing how overcrowding is partially responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in some cities. However, Ajise and the SCAG staff resisted, and he eloquently describes the difference between density and overcrowding in the interview. That section of the plan remains unchanged from the draft in the fall.

During what is usually a short between-interview segment, Damien asked Kris his take on the SCAG plan. Kris had been engaged with SCAG on behalf of Santa Ana Active Streets, and he surprised Damien with a nearly ten-minute detailed answer. It's as though we had three interviews this week.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

May 9, 2020

This week, SGV Connect goes macro and micro with a look at the just started public process on the county's water plan and studies why Pasadena is resisting the call to eliminate pedestrian crossing buttons before allowing people to legally cross the street at most intersections.

Kris spoke with Matt Frary, Acting Principal Engieneer at Los Angeles County Public Works, about the County Water Plan. The board of supervisors decided at last week’s meeting to hire a consultant to develop the plan by 2021.

This plan would try to create a regional approach to water resource management. It would be a practical, policy document, that would help to articulate a shared vision with the more than 200+ water agencies in the County. Frary said.

For folks in the SGV who want to get involved with the development of the County Water Plan, or actions taken as part of the Safe Clean Water Program, there are 3 dedicated Steering Committees focused on this topic.  Each committee is comprised of 17 committee members, five of which are community stakeholders and at least one watershed coordinator to help facilitate additional involvement.  The three committees are as follow:

  1. Upper San Gabriel River Watershed Area Steering Committee
  2. Lower San Gabriel Watershed Area Steering Committee
  3. Rio Hondo Watershed Area Steering Committee

Second, Damien speaks with Misch Anderson, an advocate for safer transportation options in Pasadena. Anderson has been vocal about the city's response to COVID-19, criticizing the city in Colorado Boulevard (not once, but twice) for not turning off the "Beg Buttons" that need pressing before one crosses the street.

Damien and Misch discuss Pasadena's login in not following the example of Los Angeles and other peer cities and make the case that once the buttons are turned off, they should never be turned back on.

Last, we have a programming note on the expanded SGV Connect we announced in last week's podcast. Future podcasts and articles that are written as part of our agreement with Foothill Transit will have a place to signup for the new SGV Connect Newsletter. We're going to launch the newsletter in two weeks, May 22, and we hope to have hundreds of you joining us.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 28, 2020

A new BRT line connecting San Bernadino County to a series of cities in the San Gabriel Valley is expected to be approved at the May 6 meeting of San Bernadino County's regional transit agency's Board of Directors. Phase 1 of the BRT line, known as the "Miliken Alignment" of the West Valley Connector BRT will reach from the Pomona Downtown Metrolink station to Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga.

For more information on the board meeting, and directions on how to participate, click here.

This week, Kris speaks with Victor Lopez, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority's Chief of Transit and Rail Programs. Lopez gives Fortin an overview of the project, which would be the second BRT project in the San Gabriel Valley. The first one is the E Street BRT, which started in 2014 and is a 16-mile route with 16 stations.

For more information, visit the project website, here.

Instead of a second interview, Damien and Kris discuss an expanded SGV Connect that will be ramping up in May. Thanks to reader support and the ongoing support of Foothill Transit, we will start seeing regular written articles by Fortin, a weekly e-newsletter on issues related to transportation, public health, equity and planning by Damien and the launch of an SGV Connect Instagram. Stay tuned for more details on all of these, and we hope you enjoy the expanded #SGVConnect.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 17, 2020

This week's SGV Connect focuses on how the Coronavirus is impacting planning and transit throughout not just San Gabriel Valley, but all of Southern California.

First up, Kris speaks with Demi Espinoza of the Safe Routes Partnership about the upcoming approval of SCAG's Connect SoCal document.

Connect SoCal is a long-range plan that seeks to balance future mobility and housing needs with economic, environmental and public health goals. SCAG is the regional planning organization for a mammoth six-country region that includes Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.

Before their interview, Damien and Kris discuss whether or not it even makes sense to push such a plan right now. Damien references a recent statement and action put out by The Untokening that urges governments to stop planning processes that will not be able to reach many populations during COVID-19. Kris also mentioned, and it comes up again in the interview, that things have changed so much since the outreach began for this process that does the plan still make sense? 
 

Second, our hosts talk about the impact COVID 19 is having on the transit agencies that serve the San Gabriel Valley. This week L.A. Metro announced another round of service cuts while revealing sharp declines in ridership: Bus Ridership Down 65 Percent, Rail Down 75 Percent. For more on Metro's cuts, read this article by Joe Linton, published on Wednesday.

Three agencies have suspended regular service: Carson, Montebello and Monterey Park. Other agencies are scaling service back as agencies see steep ridership declines and loss of other income that bolsters transit budgets such as sales taxes and parking fees.

While many agencies are still providing on-demand micro transit or ride-hailing services for residents in-need of transit, there is no doubt that both the present and future of many transit agencies is uncertain. If you're planning a transit trip, we recommend double-checking the relevant websites in advance and immediately before your trip to see if there are any changes.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 6, 2020

For anyone who lives in the SGV, and frankly throughout Los Angeles County,  coyotes are a regular reality. Whether hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or walking down Valley Boulevard, hearing a coyote’s yelp or spotting its thin frame crossing a street is common. But how we should interact with these wildlife neighbors isn’t always clear.

On part two of this week’s SGV Connect, we spoke with Natalya Romo, the program manager of the Neighborhood Coyote Program, and Alexander Fung, a management analyst with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, about how this program is engaging and educating residents to become better stewards to the coyote population. The program has been sharing with residents information about how they should act when coming across a coyote, how to report a sighting, and how residents can deter coyotes in a nonlethal way from making themselves at home in a neighborhood --- leaving pet food and water out would be a no-no.

People can find this info on the SGV COG website or by calling their hotline at (626)278-8039. Residents who also want to report a coyote sighting can call the number; calls are documented and reported to the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Coyote Cacher program.

The Coyote program is a pilot of 10 SGV cities which include:

  • City of Arcadia
  • City of Alhambra
  • City of Azusa
  • City of Covina
  • City of Irwindale
  • City of Montebello
  • City of Rosemead
  • City of San Gabriel
  • City of San Marino
  • City of Temple City

Residents outside of these cities can call and will be referred to their local animal control agency or their respective government agency.

Neighborhood Coyote Program

Hotline: (626)278-8039, 8:00 a.m.-6:00p.m., Monday-Thursday

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Mar 31, 2020

April 1 is Census Day! Every ten years, the United States government sends out a questionnaire to ask people living in America where they live and other questions about their lives. The final count of where people lives helps determine how the federal government allocates its money. So, the more people that fill out the census, the more money will flow into their community.

Today, we broadcast this half-episode with Adriana Pinedo of Active SGV who is leading the advocacy group's efforts to get as many people counted in the San Gabriel Valley as possible.

In this time of Sheltering in Place and Safe at Home, there's no excuse to not fill out your census form online today. Right now. Go ahead, we'll wait.

A quick note, in the interview I make reference to an old Saturday Night Live Skit. After filling out your census, you can watch that skit, here.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Mar 24, 2020

This week, SGV Connect continues our coverage of the Coronavirus and our regional response.

First, Kris speaks with Laura Raymond of ACT-LA and Jessica Meaney of Investing in Place about transit agencies' (especially Metro) response to the Coronavirus. Like many groups and organizations, transit agencies find themselves learning as they go along and trying their hardest to react to and learn from what other agencies are doing. The role of advocates, to point out some things the agencies may be missing can help save lives.

In the interview, they discuss a letter sent by ACT-LA and Investing in Place for things agencies should be doing to protect riders and drivers. That letter can be read, here.

In our second interview, Damien talks with Eli Kaufman, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition about how people can stay healthy and safe while bicycling during the "Safe at Home." The conversation swerves into a discussion of the River Ride (get up to date information, here) and what we, as a society, can learn from our time sheltering in place.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Mar 14, 2020

Following Damien's interview with Foothill Transit earlier today, Kris speaks with Rick Jager at L.A. Metro about the region's flagship transit agency's response to the Coronavirus.

As we heard with Foothill Transit, Metro is working to transit clean and service running on time. There has been no talk of discontinuing or modifying service, although things remain fluid.

Metro holds dozens of public meetings every month, but those are on hold for now as well. Cancellations include meetings for the NextGen bus reorganization, although you can still provide feedback online. Metro has also cancelled all events at Union Station for 30 days.

To keep up to date on any changes, be sure to follow Metro on Twitter or check their newsblog The Source.

Mar 13, 2020

Earlier today, I spoke with Felicia Friesema, a spokesperson with Foothill Transit about the agencies response to the Corona Virus. As you will hear, the agency has been proactive and plans to continue service to those who need it while maintaining as clean an atmosphere as possible to slow the spread.

She also stresses that things are extremely fluid, and that passengers should double check that there has not been a change in service during this crisis. Riders can get more details at the Foothill Transit website, a special "Footnotes" page setup for Corona Virus update, or join one of their battery of social media outlets that can be found on their webpage. A special link to sign-up for email updates can be found at the bottom left corner of the webpage.

Kris Fortin is completing an interview with Metro later today similar to the one above. When it is posted, we will update this post with more information.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Feb 28, 2020

This week, SGV Connect checks in with two old friends about two of our favorite projects in the pipeline: The Gold Line Foothill Extension's next phase and the Puente Greenway Project.

First, Damien speaks with Albert Ho, a spokesperson for the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority. In advance of outreach meetings in Glendora, La Verne, Pomona and San Dimas in the next couple of weeks. The outreach meetings will include information on the stations that will be built in each city, the construction schedule and a chance to meet the artists who will be customizing each of the stations.

For more information, visit the meeting announcement, here.

Second Kris speaks with David Diaz, the executive director of Active SGV about progress made on the Puente Greenway Project. Diaz gives us an update on where the project is in the pipeline and what progress has been made since we last checked in last July

Also, a quick note...Ho and I joke about how he has "caught back up" to David Diaz for "most appearances on the show." When we recorded this interview, we didn't know that our other interview was going to be with Diaz.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Feb 7, 2020

Metro is conducting outreach on two programs that could dramatically change the way people move about the San Gabriel Valley and all of L.A. County: the Metro Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 and the Next Gen Bus Plan.

The last of the outreach meetings for the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 is tomorrow, Saturday the 8th, from 10 to noon at the Ark Montebello (details). To get you all the details about the ways the Gold Line might grow, Kris interviews four members of the outreach team: David Mieger, Jenny Cristales-Cevallos, Lauren Cencic and Lillian De Loza.

If you can't make the meeting, but want to learn more about the project and options being considered, visit the official website, here.

Metro is also holding meetings for its Next Gen Bus Study that will revamp the way the agency schedules and manages its gigantic bus fleet. After their initial outreach last year, Metro is holding meetings on proposed changes throughout the entire county, including a meeting at the El Monte Bus Station Monday night. Damien gets the rundown with Stephen Yu, the Director of Service Planning at Metro.

For a full list of meetings, click here. For more on the Next Gen Plan, click here.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.
Jan 21, 2020

After a holiday break and a look-ahead episode, SGV Connect returns to its regularly scheduled programming: looking at the issues and programs that impact the present and future of the San Gabriel Valley.

First, Kris Fortin talks to Kome Ajise, the executive director of the Silicon Valley Association of Governments. The two discuss the Multimodal Regional Corridor Plan for Arrow Highway and how people can get involved in the plan to make a car-centric freeway more appealing to road users who aren't traveling by car.

To leave comments for the project, visit their official website. Comments are due by the end of the month.

The two also discuss "Connect SoCal" the long range plan SCAG is developing that will guide planning for housing, transportation, planning and public health within the counties of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.

For more information, or to submit comments on the plan, visit SCAG's website

Later, Damien speaks with Joe Linton, the editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles about a discussion happening in Pasadena around transportation planning. In 2014, the city changed how it reviews transportation projects from the car-centric Level of Service to a more people-centered metric called "Vehicle Miles Traveled." When the city council asked for a report on how the change is impacting the city, local media reacted by implying that the city might be backing away from the metric. 

Linton explains that changing back to LOS is no longer possible under state law, however Pasadena can tinker with its goals and projections, something that some Council members seem keen on doing.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.
Jan 14, 2020

Welcome to the first episode of SGV Connect in 2020! This week's episode features Francisco Ojeda of Active SGV and Melanie Curry of Streetsblog California discussing the big stories of 2019 and what we can look forward to in 2020.

First, Kris Fortin interviews Ojeda with Active SGV. The two discuss a wide range of issues that Active SGV is engaged with, including its roots in bike advocacy but also a wider discussion of climate change and social justice.

After that, Damien Newton and Curry discuss some of the big stories of 2019 and how they will bridge into the issues of 2020. Of course, there's a long discussion of how we measure transportation impacts in the state, but also super-commutes and S.B. 50. (Note: the conversation between Newton and Curry happened before Senator Weiner reintroduced S.B. 50).

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.
Dec 13, 2019

Welcome to SGV Connect 54, which begins our transition from 2019 to 2020. This week we have two different types of interviews, one which looks forward to 2020 and the other that looks back on...2003?

Kris talks with Brian Wallace, executive director of the Pasadena Playhouse District, about a plan to bring new open space to the Pasadena with a new park that could break ground as early as next year. The interview is both a celebration of the coming park and to remember all the work that was done over a decade public process to get to this point.

Then Damien interviews professor emeritus Robert Gottlieb from Occidental College and one of the creators of the first Arroyo Fest. Earlier this year, Active SGV announced that in 2020 they will open a section of the 110 Freeway to cars and bicycles and other road users by closing it to car traffic, similar to its predecessor in 2003. Damien and Robert talk both about the experience of the original Arroyo Fest, and how much advocacy and policy have changed in the past seventeen years.

We have one more episode to the year, but in case you're traveling when we post, we would like to take a second to thank you for listening in 2019. Onward to 2020!

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Nov 13, 2019

With Kris still away on his travels, this week Damien interviews Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis about her leadership with the county and on the L.A. Metro Board of Directors. Our conversation touches on transit planning, vision zero, and congestion pricing.

Solis' interview was arranged as part of our support for Active SGV's Noche de las Luminarias, a once a year party celebrating the best in advocacy, government and volunteerism in the San Gabriel Valley. The event is tomorrow night, Thursday, November 14, 2019 (6-9pm). The event be held at the San Gabriel Mission Grapevine Arbor (324 S Mission Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776).

Get your tickets now by clicking here.

Event proceeds will support ActiveSGV's work, including the Bicycle Education Center and our Sustainable SGV Summer Internship program.

Joining Solis as an award winner are:

Outstanding Volunteers | Brian Velez Memorial Award - Luis and Nohora Velez
SGV Business - Pablo Tamashiro, Cyber Yogurt
Community Supporting Foundation - Water Foundation
SGV City - City of Baldwin Park

Kris will be back for our next podcast. We look forward to talking with you then.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Nov 6, 2019

This week's SGV Connect focuses on a trio of upcoming meetings at the local and regional level that will have an impact on how the SGV grows.

Tonight in South Pasadena, the City Council considers funding a $200,000 plan to bring more bike parking throughout the city, especially along its commercial corridors and job centers. The bike parking is grant funded (back in 2012!), so the money exists. All we need is a little political will and the bike parking situation will quickly improve in SoPas.

Active SGV has setup an action alert for anyone interested in attending tonight's meeting or emailing the City Council. The details can be found here. The meeting is tonight, at 7:30, in the South Pasadena City Hall.

Tomorrow night and next Tuesday, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments will host a pair of community meetings about the COG's Regional Housing Trust Fund. 

The Trust will create a way for the San Gabriel Valley to receive both public and private money. The Trust will be able to distribute this money throughout the region to construct affordable housing and reduce the number of residents that are rent-burdened.

The funding and programs will be controlled locally, by a Board made up of elected representatives in the San Gabriel Valley. Thanks to recently signed legislation, the Trust will be open in early 2020.

The upcoming meetings will help guide what types of projects the Trust funds and explores various funding opportunities. The meeting details are below :

Thursday, Nov. 7, 6-7:30 p.m.
El Monte Aquatic Center
11001 Mildred Ave, El Monte, CA
 
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6-7:30 p.m.
Glendora Public Library
140 Glendora Ave, Glendora, CA

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Oct 22, 2019

Last week, Kris Fortin attended the CalBike conference in Los Angeles. This once-every-two-years conference brings together leaders from the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy communities throughout California including Active SGV, CalBike, California Walks, and People for Mobility Justice.

At the conference, Fortin interviewed a handful of leaders about Governor Gavin Newsom's disappointing veto of SB 127 (the Complete Streets Bill) and any good news that came out of the recent legislative session.

Reactions were varied, with some hopeful that the coalition that got SB127 through both houses in the legislature would be able to accomplish even greater things in coming sessions to frustrated and annoyed. "What the hell, Gavin?" asked Anaheim resident and local activist Edgar Arellano.

In addition to Arellano, this podcast also includes interviews with:

  • Linda Khamoushian, Senior Policy Advocate, California Bicycle Coalition
  • Arelis Reynolds, Costa Mesa council member
  • Esther Rivera, Deputy Director, California Walks

Following the interview, Kris and Damien discuss the legislative agenda for Active SGV and how many of their bills were passed. Despite the disappointment with the SB127, there were some victories. Damien created this Google Doc to show what parts of Active SGV's agenda became law.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Oct 8, 2019

This week, SGV Connect will be a little different than normal, both because of the format of our interview and the topic discussed. Damien and Kris both sit down with Shawn Morrissey of Union Station (Union Station) Homeless Services and Teresa Eilers, a coordinator with the Everyone In! campaign in the San Gabriel Valley.

The two discuss the state of the homeless crisis in the San Gabriel Valley based on recent surveys and initiatives to reduce homelessness. If someone wants to get involved in their community, they can click here and a representative from Everyone In will get in touch with you. If you’re looking for other options, Curbed has their own list of how you can help.

Everyone In and Union Station Housing both push the “housing first” philosophy of attacking the homelessness crisis. That is, that providing housing options that get and keep people off the street doesn’t just alleviate homelessness, but also help with the problems related to homelessness: addiction, joblessness, and personal and public health.

“We need more supportive housing, it is the tool that ends homelessness. Everyone agrees that homelessness is a problem, but not everyone agrees on the solutions. Permanent affordable housing has a tremendous success rate. Over 90% of the people that enter permanent supportive housing stay housed,” explains Eilers.

Before “housing first” gained wide-spread support in America, most government programs supported emergency shelters and finding people jobs. Then if people were capable of keeping that job and paying the going rate for housing they would leave the shelter. Hopefully, everything would work out. And sometimes it did.

“It took us fifty years to realize that the solution to homelessness was to give people a home,” Morrissey half-jokes. “Previous to that, we have been mired in this emergency shelter system.“

“For the few for whom that model worked, and who could jump through those hoops, they found housing.For many others with more complex needs and challenges, they languished in homelessness for decades,” Morrissey continues.

One of the ways that Everyone In! trains advocates is by conducting bus tours of previously built permanently subsidized housing programs. It was on an early September bus tour in Pasadena and Eagle Rock that I met Morrisey and Eilers who were leading the tour. The tour included two-dozen advocates already well versed in the issue, the mayor and a staff person from Arcadia, and others who were looking to learn more, but may not have been sympathetic to the cause of needing to support more housing as part of a larger solution.

Morrissey weaves his personal story into his advocacy. Morrisey is in his second job with Union Station where he previously helped manage their support services. However, he joined their staff after being one of their clients seventeen years ago.

He tells the story of being connected to services by a Union Station outreach team a few weeks before Christmas in 2002, who recognized his substance abuse and got him into a detox and then rehab program. From there, he entered the services system. Today, he is one of the most effective advocates for homeless housing, a walking success story of what can happen when people are given a chance and take advantage.

He introduced his story early in the tour, during the first part of the first stop to be exact. By stating his history upfront, and acknowledging that encounters with people experiencing homelessness can be scary, he steered the conversation for the rest of the day away from dehumanizing the homeless and towards how we can create more success stories.

Success stories such as the affable and passionate man who was leading the tour and pleading with everyone to join him in creating more opportunities for more people.

“There’s good and decent people that are homeless. When you look at a homeless person, the presentation can be scary. Someone who might not have slept, might not have bathed, might not have eaten; we tend to “other” these people instead of wrapping around them. We shun them. We need to recognize these are our brothers and sisters. These are human beings,” Morrissey said.

And like any good tag-team, Morrissey’s opponent brings a different tact to the debate. Eilers comes from a markedly different background, college educated with a previous job at the locally powerful Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), which dictates housing (and electoral) policy in the Westside city, worked to help get homeless residents of South L.A. or foster kids jobs at the Staples Center, and on the Measure M campaign.

Lacking Morrissey’s backstory, Eilers plays the organizer bringing as many people to City Council hearings, such as the one in Alhambra in September, and formal Everyone In events such as the bus tour, and Frontline Stories. (https://twitter.com/Storiesfront).

“Everyday is different, which is difficult but also a challenge,” says Eilers of her job. “My job is basically to make connections and build coalitions to bring about systemic changes.”

Eilers contends that many people recognize that increased housing and shelter options must be part of the solution, but political leaders are unwilling to make decisions to build that would be unpopular with housed, likely voting, residents. This leads to a “carrot and stick” approach to meetings and lobbying of city councils.

“We have been reaching out to elected officials and letting them know we’re there to help. That’s the carrot,” she explains. “Gavin Newsom has made it known he’ll come after you. He’ll sue your city (if they aren’t attempting to reach housing targets)”

That’s the stick.

Eilers also expresses frustration that some communities are welcoming to homeless housing for certain types of people experiencing homelessness (veterans, families with children), but not others. There are not homeless people that are more deserving of help than others.

“We need to stop homelessness in all demographics.” she concludes.

For more on and from Eilers and Morrissey, take the time to listen to SGV Connect Episode 50:

Sep 20, 2019

This week, #SGVConnect does our annual check-in with Foothill Transit on changes occurring at the San Gabriel Valley's transit agency. Damien speaks with Felicia Friesema, the director of marketing and communications for Foothill Transit, about an upcoming fare increase coming at the end of this month and changes to their rapid bus service starting next year.

You can read more about both the fare changes and the new rapid bus line, at the Foothill Transit Website.

Second, Kris interviews Kyle Tsukahira, interim director of Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement. APIFM has been analyzing the air quality of Alhambra and Monterey Park.

They’ve been doing this in two ways, by giving out air sensors to households and by installing sensors at Mark Keppel High School. They’ve also been working with Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College on a yearlong study to see the air quality around Mark Keppel High School.

If you missed the news, earlier this week Curbed announced that Arroyo Fest will return in 2020. The granddaddy of Open Streets events in Southern California, Arroyo Fest opens the Arroyo Seco Parkway to all uses between Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. We're excited. Get the details at Curbed.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Sep 6, 2019

This week we return to our traditional two-interview format for a special edition featuring an interview with a sitting United States Member of Congress.

Kris Fortin interviews Representative Judy Chu about the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (HR 2215). Chu's legislation would add over fifty one thousand acres of protected forest land to the federally protected land surrounding the San Gabriel Mountains.

In our second interview, Damien talks with Melanie Curry, the editor of Streetsblog California, about four pieces of legislation that need to be voted on in the next week in Sacramento before moving to the governor's desk. That list includes legislation that would finally put an end to any hope that the 710 freeway could be extended north and that would require Caltrans to add more complete streets elements when repaving or working on state highways inside of cities.

To get in touch with your legislator about any of these bills in Sacramento, visit CalBike or Active SGV.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Aug 27, 2019

We're trying something new this week, both by hosting two podcasts in the same week and by conducting our first interview. This episode both Damien Newton and Kris Fortin interview David Diaz, the director of the Streetsie Award-Winning Supergroup, Active SGV.

We cover a lot of ground in this one, so if you're looking for more information, check out these links to both past episodes of SGV Connect and links to Active SGV's website:

A quick programming note, we promised an update on Foothill Transit in our "next episode" earlier this week. That interview is still coming, but since we spoke so much about tonight's meeting, we wanted to get this one live as quickly as possible. Look for that interview and much more in September.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Aug 23, 2019

This week's SGV Connect features big updates on the Gold Line Foothill Extension for the Glendora to to Montclair extension. With new funding in-hand and a contract signed with a construction firm, the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority estimates the line could be open in 2026. Damien talks with Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian about the Authority's big month and where they go from here.

Earlier this month, the Alhambra City Council approved a new general plan for the city after a five-year outreach process. Kris talks with planning commissioner Andrea Lofthouse Quesada about the process to create the plan and some of the highlights.

We'll be back in September with a special podcast focused on Foothill Transit. Talk to you then.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Aug 21, 2019

This week, SGV Connect looks at two issues impacting rideshare in the San Gabriel Valley. 

First, Kris Fortin interviews Mike Long, spokesperson for Mobile Workers Alliance, the umbrella group started by SEIU 721 to organize rideshare workers. Stories of Uber and Lyft drivers striking and demanding better wages have been a hot story locally and nationally. Fortin and Long dive into local efforts to improve the salaries and lives for rideshare workers.

Next, Damien Newton speaks with Maria Sullivan, the point person for Metro's contract with Via, a private rideshare partner. This Spring, Metro launched a pilot program where Via would operate around three areas including 13 bus and rail stations. To further its efforts to reach riders, the subsidized program is now completely free to transit riders who either begin or end their trip at one of the transit stations. More information on the program and the thirteen stations served, can be found here.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jul 31, 2019

One of the hottest transportation debates in the West San Gabriel Valley is the debate over the route for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system between North Hollywood and Pasadena.

If you are not familiar with the project or controversy, our podcast begins with an interview with Joe Linton, the editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles who gives an overview of the project and the recent controversies.

Next, Kris Fortin interviews Eagle Rock resident Michael McDonald. McDonald, best known for his advocacy as one of the leaders of Bike the Vote, attended one of the meetings and was shocked by the tone of the comments and out-of control nature of the public process. The meetings were so out-of-hand that Metro has vowed a different process for public input going forward.

Metro will host one additional NoHo-Pasadena BRT scoping meeting from 5:30-8 p.m. at Occidental College’s Samuelson Pavilion, in Eagle Rock. For details see Equitable Eagle Rock or Metro project page.

"Metro is keenly aware of the issues that arose at the prior meeting in Eagle Rock and will be using a different, open-house-style format at the upcoming Aug.7 meeting at Samuelson Pavilion at Occidental College that will still allow the public to provide comments in writing or verbally to a court reporter for the scoping process," writes Brian Haas, a spokesperson for Metro.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

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