Guest blogger: Yvette Lopez, Pacoima Beautiful

As part of the conversation about how to make Los Angeles a healthier city, more about the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles has invited guest bloggers to share their vision for the City. Today, we host Yvette Lopez, Deputy Director at Pacoima Beautiful. Yvette serves on our Community Advisory Committee. Our first community planning forum will be held in the North Valley on March 15. 

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 North Valley residents 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, 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 safe bike lanes, cleaner air, and improved sidewalks, to fully realize the public health benefits of their active transportation choices.

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 wanted 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 buy 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.

Los Angeles is taking a bold step to make health a priority in the city’s future growth and development. The Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles will provide a blueprint to improve the quality of life of our residents and address the many environmental issues that have long plagued our community. With environmental justice and equity as a goal, we are working to ensure that the northeast Valley is included in the vision of a healthy and vibrant Los Angeles.