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Residents Work Towards a Healthy Northeast San Fernando Valley

This is part of series exploring issues surrounding the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles, produced in partnership with the California Endowment.


The northeast San Fernando Valley is tucked away in the far-flung reaches of Los Angeles, an area that many outsiders associate with landfills, winding freeways, and sprawl.

But for those of us who live here, this pocket of the city means much more. It's our home, full of heart and triumph, with a culturally vibrant community that is determined to ensure we have access to every opportunity that we deserve.

With a focus on well-being, the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles has launched a commitment to ensuring that the city's neighborhoods are places where residents can thrive. Pacoima Beautiful has been an active participant in the process, and we are working to ensure that the residents of the northeast San Fernando Valley have a role in shaping that future.

For many years communities like Pacoima have been planned and built for us, instead of with us. The effects of the lack of community input are evident: polluting industry next to homes, lack of economic development opportunities, lack of green space, and substandard infrastructure. In order to take control of the future of our community, Pacoima Beautiful has worked to empower residents to make their voice heard at City Hall, because they know the issues and possibilities of our neighborhoods better than anyone.

There are many opportunities to plan for health in the northeast Valley. Many residents in Pacoima bike and walk as their primary form of transportation and have great ideas on how to make it easier and safer. While these active forms of transportation provide exercise, many people commute in hazardous conditions, including polluted air, dangerous proximity to truck routes, and unsafe road conditions. Our residents want cleaner air, improved sidewalks, and safe bike lanes to fully realize the public health benefits of active transportation.

Pacoima Beautiful has been working to empower residents to make these demands. We offer leadership training, educational resources, and information about planning issues happening in the community. We bring the community to City Hall and to other spaces where decisions about the future of our communities are taking place. Each year, we host a People's Planning School to introduce community residents to the planning process. Last year, we hosted the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles for a session on the city's efforts to create healthy communities for all Angelenos. Our residents made it clear that they want to participate in shaping the vision of health for their communities, voicing their desires to have more green space for their children to play in, housing that isn't next to polluting industry, more opportunities to access fresh and affordable produce, and tree-lined streets with safe sidewalks. As Pacoima Beautiful continues to participate in the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles, we will continue to reiterate this vision of health for our communities.

Our community is making important strides in ensuring that Pacoima is part of the transformation toward a more sustainable future. Pacoima is a participant in the Clean Up, Green Up program, which will work with local businesses to help mitigate the impacts that industry has on local residents. We are also working on developing a greenway along the Pacoima Wash, a 10-mile flood control channel that could be revitalized to provide our residents with much-needed open space. These projects are examples of the grand potential that exists in the northeast San Fernando Valley to move toward a healthier city.

About the Author

Yvette Lopez-Ledesma is Deputy Director at Pacoima Beautiful, an environmental justice organization that works to create healthier, more equitable environments in the northeast San Fernando Valley.
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