A proposal to lay high-speed rail tracks through California's Angeles National Forest brought thousands of opponents to a rally Tuesday night in the eastern San Fernando Valley.
An estimated 2,000 people, mostly from communities along the preserve's southwestern boundary, packed All Nations Church on Foothill Boulevard in Lake View Terrace.
"The alternatives are so poorly done they are unacceptable," said David DePinto, an organizer of the rally and a board member for the Shadow Hills Property Owners Assn. "We don't want an alignment with the least impact. We are looking for the most beneficial alignment."
The event focused on a proposal by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich to consider a high-speed-rail route that would run 35 miles through the southwest portion of the forest.
The route would head north out of Burbank, go around the Hansen Dam Recreation Area and run through the forest before exiting near Lake Palmdale. About 18 to 20 miles of tunneling would be necessary.
The California High Speed Rail Authority is studying the alignment along with two original proposals that would parallel the 14 Freeway. A decision on the route is expected this spring.
"We are committed to listening to the communities and stakeholders as we go through the process of evaluating alignments between Palmdale and Burbank," said Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the authority.
She added: "We are early in the process of developing a range of alignments that are subject to change and improve as more feedback is received and more detailed studies are performed."
Considerable opposition to the forest alignment is coming from Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace, Kagel Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga and La Tuna Canyon.
Residents are concerned that their property values could decline or the semi-rural setting of the area and ecology of the national forest could be hurt, including the disruption of valuable watersheds.
Those at the rally were informed about potential environmental consequences of the forest route, as well as the process of acquiring private property for right of way. They even heard about the effect of high-speed trains on horses, as many residents in the area own horses.
Representatives of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and California Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-Arleta) both told the audience that their bosses oppose the forest route.
In a letter sent to high-speed rail officials this month, Schiff and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) urged the the authority to abandon the alignment.
"We do not believe the East Corridor is a viable alternative to connecting high speed rail between Palmdale and Burbank," Schiff and Chu wrote. "Any benefit gained by going through the forest does not outweigh the far greater costs to the project and damage that might be done to our environment."