Vocal Anti-BRT Sentiment Dominated Metro Input Meeting in Northridge

Post-it notes on Metro's map were primarily anti-BRT. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Post-it notes on Metro's map were primarily anti-BRT. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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.

Metro's planned North San Fernando Valley BRT - in green
Metro’s planned North San Fernando Valley BRT – in green

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.

A long line formed well before the Metro BRT meeting started at CSUN
A long line formed well before the Metro BRT meeting start time

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.”

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.

Approximately 250-300 people attended last night's BRT meeting at CSUN
Approximately 250-300 people attended last night’s BRT meeting at CSUN
  • Grant Beaudette

    I was at the previous meeting in Panorama City fully expecting this kind of behavior, and never saw it. (One lady raised her voice a little, but she seemed more interested in getting in her 2 cents about the rail line than anything else)

    Maybe the difference is Panorama City doesn’t have as many entrenched homeowners to cling on to keeping things exactly as they are.

  • Jonathan Weiss

    Remember the design charettes for freeway widening? Oh – wait ….

  • TonyW79SFV

    That Panorama City meeting was held at Plaza Del Valle, which also hosted the Metro East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor LRT meeting a few months back. The difference in attitude has more to do with the East Valley’s support for the LRT project, a predominantly-Latino neighborhood who are also transit-dependent. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like enough CSUN student attended last night’s BRT meeting, instead it’s a bunch of grumpy homeowners, the same ones that stopped the Metrolink double-tracking through Northridge. You wonder how the East SFV successfully got LRT built while the West Valley keeps fighting everything Metro proposes. It’s alsi unfortunate that CSUN student
    Kenny Uong had to be belittled by the older anti-BRT crowd; shows you that older doesn’t always mean wiser.

  • Julio

    Yup. Different demographic in PC.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Panorama City and the East Valley is more low-income than the West Valley– that’s a big factor in meeting turnout I think. We got more folks that are just too busy with family, work, etc. that can’t make it out to meetings like this (even if they’re on the weekends). If anything, Metro should try going to more places in the neighborhoods. Plaza Del Valle is a big hub but is isn’t the only one. Panorama Mall is across the street. Woodman has a big shopping center too. Canyon Plaza at Laurel Cyn and Roscoe could be another place. It was just incredible to see the difference in attendance and vitriol– being from Panorama. I expected something big but it was a little too much for me at the time. As a brown man I know that I have to be careful around crowds like this. I’m in favor of the project but I do support the need for more meetings on this at least, especially in the East Valley.

  • This is the same batch of NIMBYs that have fought the double tracking of the Metrolink Ventura County Line (which is also used by the Pacific Surfliner) between Burbank-Van Nuys-Northridge and Chatworth:

    http://nodoubletrack.com

  • Mathew

    Ignoring all of what happened, here’s what I hear (paraphrasing of course) when I finally left from an middle-aged couple in front of me:
    “Well that’s a No”
    “It’s too bad, we need alternative transit, but not this”
    “I guess all that’s left is the next meeting”
    Nimbys don’t see their irony.

  • jannos

    What possible alternative could they want? There is already buses in mixed traffic Anything short of a subway would be just as intrusive to their car culture. If they really think a subway would go there, they are well beyond help.

  • Ennnne

    Your new friend is not in the least irrational. She just has a different set of preferences from you. It’s not as if a busline or stop location can never be changed. Or the distance requirement could change (possibly almost overnight, knowing LA). I think she is quite correct to fear upzoning because of any and all transit improvements. In fact, there is a clear danger of it. I know it’s not what you want to hear. Or, rather, you don’t want regular people to realize it?

  • Yorkman Lowe

    I left LA in 71 but well remember the social disdain and contempt many LA residents held for those who rode transit, as well as for the poor, not realising that one may be unable to drive, or be poor, for no fault of one’s own. As the middle class is being reduced to marginal economic status, perhaps the disdain and contempt will subside. Remember, a man who doesnt drive is a subhuman !

  • PDiddy

    I’ve never thought older means wiser.

  • Joe Linton

    I prefer when people don’t lie – like this woman did – repeating Keep L.A. Moving lies. (and fyi: bus TOC bonuses are about the intersection of two bus lines – that doesn’t move when a bus stop moves. Also changing the distance could not happen overnight – this was passed in Measure JJJ – to change would take an election vote, or a city council vote – those don’t happen overnight)

  • They don’t want alternatives. They don’t have any solutions except to turn back the clock to 1927.

  • danger d

    Just remind the NIMBY’s that if they don’t support transit than WAYZ will lead massive amounts of traffic into their neighborhoods! Things will change when they are all dead.

  • joe kozul

    Dear Joe,

    Thank you for coming to the meeting. I invite you to visit the Valley again, bring your bike and I’ll show you Valley hospitality and take you to some good places to ride.

    Re John Lee/BRT, he has stated that he is against the Nordhoff route, that Roscoe is a better route based on ridership, undeserved communities and equitable access; he is not against the BRT as described.

    Our community was very proud to turn out in the hundreds, something not seen in several decades. CSUN and METRO put on a disastrous, bumbling presentation.

    These two entities are responsible for the design on the routes, designed not with traffic studies but amateurish surveys. Compare the photos of the propaganda that CSUN used with a dozen students and Senator Hertzberg, to our turnout and the hundreds that showed up.

    The CSUN/METRO event was a bumbling presentation, here typical comments :

    It was a farce. The fact they held this on the campus that would almost solely benefit from this bus line, should have been a clue.
    Tanya Nelson
    Tanya Nelson, Wilbur East·1 day ago
    Exactly!
    Beth Virani
    Beth Virani, Wilbur East·17 hr ago
    I went with my neighbor. I really read the same info online that they were sharing there. It was a series of stations…not a presentation. Dissenters were limited to being outdoors talking with people in line. It did nothing to help me understand the best plan.

    Best regards, it was a pleasure to meet you.

  • joe kozul

    For over 20 years I helped to finance families in the Northeast valley. Many of them are not internet users or facebookers.

    METRO wants to make sure they don’t find out what is about to hit them.

    Give us a couple of months to educate them about the ramifications and see what will happen then.

  • joe kozul

    Many of you ignore the data/facts on the ground. The underserved communities are better served with the Roscoe Route. This should be about equity of access, not CSUN political influence with Hertzberg and METRO.

  • joe kozul

    False, we maintain the Roscoe Route should be the preferred route, despite the politics and influence of CSUN, which ignores the needs of undeserved communities along the Roscoe route.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Do y’all even want CSUN to have direct service? CSUN students aren’t the most well-off themselves you know. There’s a balance that can be struck

  • joe kozul

    CSUN doesn’t have ridership to support. Note how line # 166, (Front of CSUN on Nordhoff), there is no spike in ridership when school is in session or a big dropoff when school is out. One of the many reasons the Nordhoff route BRT doesn’t pencil out. Here is data directly from METRO showing that Roscoe blvd is a better option :
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1YY74U4b14xrsGwqs2K8bdJkSCkXY8bW1

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    I guess we’ll just ignore the wildly expensive parking passes (that don’t even guarantee access to a space) and heavy traffic during the year. The status quo isn’t exactly ideal. Even then, CSUN is a regional institution. It isn’t just Valley students who go to CSUN. I had peers commute all the way from South LA and East LA on transit. A dedicated line / service would be some measure of improvement.

  • Joe Linton

    Good to meet you – I think your analysis of Nordhoff vs Roscoe is worthwhile.

  • joe kozul

    Lorenzo, I’m a 40 year resident of the area, 1 block S Nordhoff East of Etiwanda. CSUN causes the traffic spike, there is no problem on Nordhoff when not in session. Look at campus housing, they only have 1170 living units for a student population of 40,000. The CSUN student population has “doubled” since 1995. Yet, CSUN never built additional parking. THere are about 4,000 spaces for 50,000 students and staff.
    At what point do you tell yourself that maybe it’s too many for the campus/neighborhood infrastructure ?
    You also make a very valid point, it’s not just Valley people communting, and that is my argument for why the Roscoe Blvd. Route is better. It needs relief, as it is carrying 11,000 plus v Nordhoff is is barely 5,800. Yet Nordhoff has more frequent service, and still there is no student ridership spike when school is in session nor a big drop when school is out.

    Please check this data that I have obtained from METRO and lets have a “beer/transportion” summit between users/community, Joe Linton ?.

    I would love to engage you.

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1YY74U4b14xrsGwqs2K8bdJkSCkXY8bW1

    https://la.curbed.com/2019/4/24/18513557/sb-50-california-transit-density-bill-los-angeles-effects

    Joe Kozul (818)772-6326, 40 year Valley resident, member of “Friends of Northridge Academy High School” and the Northridge East Neighborhood Council Education Committee

  • joe kozul

    Question for forum: Assuming autonomous self driving vehicles are perfected in 5 years, what would be the impact on a bus BRT as well as our transportation system, how come we don’t talk about this technology when discussing transit ? Thank you

  • Ennnne

    You seem like a nice person, so I am almost reluctant to quibble, but – you say this person lied – but she referred to all of Nordhoff, whereas your assertion that she lied appears to reference … um, what, a gesture towards a specific block? During a wide-ranging if brief conversation you helpfully recalled for us later? (I am glad though that you did say you were doing it from memory.)

    Point is, I would trust you more as a writer if you weren’t so bombastic. She doesn’t sound like a liar any more than you do. When I come here, I know I am getting your emotional viewpoint. But, I don’t go around calling you a liar.

    And fwiw … on the larger point, I still think she’s correct.

    But I don’t live or go to that area and I am *very confident* that the people who live there are fully competent to determine what makes sense there. I think the people who live in a place should have more influence – even though regional matters are important too. (Having said that … my guess is, many many people in the area have no idea any of this is happening.)

  • JTRusso

    Joe,

    You are quite wrong. LA’s TOC up-zoning is not dependent on the intersection of two bus lines. It is applicable to a ½ mile radius around any transit station, rail, ferry terminal served by bus or rail, the intersection of two or more bus routes AND any bus route that has a service interval of 15 minutes or less.

    That would put all sections of the proposed Chatsworth to NoHo BRT, and the portions of the NoHo to Pasadena BRT that are in Los Angeles, vulnerable to up-zoning per the Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentive Program.

    Might want to print a correction to this (and many more) story. I know you won’t believe me, so read it for yourself:

    https://planning.lacity.org/ordinances/docs/toc/TOCGuidelines.pdf

    From Department of City Planning Commission, Technical Clarifications to the Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentive Program Guidelines (TOC Guidelines)

    TOC AFFORDABLE HOUSING INCENTIVE AREA

    1. Each one-half mile radius (2,640 feet) around a Major Transit Stop, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 21155 of the California Public Resources Code, and provided in Section II of these Guidelines, shall constitute a unique TOC Affordable Housing Incentive Area.

    From Section 2155 of the California Public Resource Code:

    https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtmllawCode=PRC&sectionNum=21155

    CHAPTER 4.2. Implementation of the Sustainable Communities Strategy [21155 – 21155.4] ( Chapter 4.2 added by Stats. 2008, Ch. 728, Sec. 14. )

    21155.

    (b) A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable regional transportation plan. For purposes of this section, a high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours.

  • Joe Linton

    Your interpretation is incorrect. You’ve left out the main definition and provided a misleading subsection of it. Your initial quote states “and provided in Section II of these guidelines” which you’ve conveniently omitted. The definition in Section II states:

    “Major Transit Stop is a site containing a rail station or the intersection of two or more bus routes with a service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak commute periods. The stations or bus routes may be existing, under construction or included in the most recent Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).”

    Below is the city’s TOC incentives map (from the city link you provided) – or look at Zimas. There are no TOC benefits along “all sections” of a BRT line – see the Orange Line – but just at stations where there are intersections of multiple transit lines.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6947bc699af5fe9fe7e6f68416b87c9d2a75268aa22caedcdffdacb14312a3b5.jpg

  • joe kozul

    Translation: The Roscoe Blvd. route is more appropriate for a BRT based on ridership, underserved communities. Rail is better, that’s what the crowd is saying .

  • joe kozul

    It’s lack of outreach. They’re posting on facebook,nextdoor, our families in the Northeast valley don’t use either. Wait until they are told some of the houses to be gone in favor of rapid transit and the revolution starts. Undersigned 25 year FHA/VA Down Payment assistance lender in the Northeast valley.

  • JTRusso

    Joe,

    You have correctly quoted the definition from Section II of the TOC guidelines. However, you have “conveniently” ignored what is said on the next page. In Section III, paragraph 1, the definition of “Major Transit Stop” is expanded. This is what I quoted before, and will quote again, because it is very important to this discussion:

    “Each one-half mile radius (2,640 feet) around a Major Transit Stop, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 21155 of the California Public Resources Code, and provided in Section II of these Guidelines, shall constitute a unique TOC Affordable Housing Incentive Area.”

    The addition of Section 2155 to the definition of “Major Transit Stop” expands upon the definition stated in Section II, which you quoted. It’s the “and” that is so important. Per the TOC guidelines the definition of a “Major Transit Stop” is the definition you quoted from Section II of the TOC guidelines AND what is stated in Section 21155 of the California Public Resources Code.

    Subpart (b) of Section 2155 of the California Public Resources Code states:

    “A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable regional transportation plan. For purposes of this section, a high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours.”

    Per the language in Section III paragraph 1 of the TOC guidelines it appears that any transit stop, with a service internal no longer than 15 minutes, which the proposed BRT is, would qualify for TOC up-zoning.

    And this is what I’ve always said…that the neighborhoods within a 1/2 mile radius of all transit stops along the proposed BRT routes are vulnerable to up-zoning.

  • Ennnne

    Pardon the interruption … I would just note that the PRC 21155(b) also states: “A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable regional transportation plan. ” “Applicable.” Lots of room there, possibly. (Or not – in order to really pin this down, I’d need to invest a bunch more time.)

    Meanwhile, according to this website, the City’s narrowed definition – the one Joe mentions – wasn’t part of Measure JJJ language. http://www.allianceforcommunitytransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MeasureJJJ_FullText.pdf It just used the state language.

    So in theory, we might say that Joe is correct that not all of the City personnel are prodensity nutjobs. It seems like a mighty thin reed though.

  • Joe Linton

    Your erroneous interpretation is at odds with the language of the city’s guidelines, the city’s maps, city planning’s website Zimas, and the way TOC bonuses currently work in the city of L.A. – it would be good for more affordable housing, though.

  • neroden

    The Regional Transportation Plan is a specific document (one for each region, so one for the whole LA area). You can read it. It has specific *lists* of “major regional transit stops”, and they’re very short. Things like LAX are included. It adds essentially nothing to the list of transit stops.

  • neroden

    In 1927 they had a comprehensive network of streetcars.

    Yeah, turning back the clock to 1927 would be an improvement, for public transportation. I wish they wanted that.

  • Ennnne

    Yes, I looked at it. I was using a tablet and couldn’t navigate very well. It did seem like it wouldn’t be very detailed and what you say is probably true. My point was, that this could easily change. At any time. And that definition would be hard to change. You may feel comfortable with everything SCAG does and says, but not all of us are.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG