Young Vision Creates Flurry Of Activity in San Fernando By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter henever a parade is held, it’s usually a festive occasion to celebrate something. For the 30,000-plus residents of the City of San Fernando, a 2.5-square-mile municipality tucked away in the northeast San Fernando Valley, the holiday parade is a reminder from year-to-year of how the city was able to overcome blight and undergo an economic renaissance. “I think the parade was a culmination (of development),” said Hector Martinez, who, as president of the San Fernando Civic Foundation, helps to organize the parade, which will take place for the third straight year after a 20-year absence. “We have people who have stepped up and answered the call.” The story of San Fernando’s comeback dates back five years, when former San Fernando mayor Cindy Montanez successfully ran for a state Assembly seat, said her sister Maribel de la Torre, who currently serves as San Fernando mayor. De la Torre points to her own family, which includes six pairs of brothers and sisters, as representative of the average household in San Fernando, its attitudes, concerns and determination to reform the city. “We looked at San Fernando and said ‘it’s not the type of city we want to live in,'” de la Torre said, referring to how it was before the recent wave of development. “We saw a cute little town grow into blight.” And although San Fernando’s transformation didn’t happen overnight major development is in progress the city’s fortunes changed at a critical juncture when it could’ve gone either way. A number of San Fernando’s young natives that had gone off to college and were close to graduation were mulling their after-college living options. They could have made a choice of never returning to the city they grew up in but that’s not what happened. “The City of San Fernando was able to motivate a segment of our society who had to make a choice of moving to Santa Clarita or staying in the city and trying to make a difference,” Martinez said. “A majority has decided to stay.” Included in that majority was Jose Pulido, who returned to San Fernando after attending the University of California at Berkeley to assume the post of city administrator and help lead many of the development projects. Perhaps it was the idea of making something out of nothing, or the fact that San Fernando has a rich history and tradition as one of the oldest communities in the San Fernando Valley regardless, the turnaround of the city began with its young people coming back. Subsequently, developers joined the party. Pool project Among the most ambitious projects in the city is the San Fernando Valley Regional Aquatic Center, which will feature an Olympic-sized pool and two adjacent smaller pools. “We awarded the contract for the actual pool and we’re actually in the process of bidding out the 14,000-square-foot facility,” de la Torre said, touting it will be “the fastest pool in southern California by design.” The aquatic center may be completed as early as December, but the more realistic date is sometime next spring. Another water-related project is the “greening” up of the Pacoima Wash, which will include biking and pedestrian paths and possibly accommodate equestrians as well, de la Torre said. There is also landscaping work being done along the Maclay Avenue corridor covered by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority grant. And environmental and recreational is not the only kind of development to be found in San Fernando. In October, groundbreaking will take place at Kalisher and Hollister streets, the future site of 96 units of senior citizen housing. The impetus to build such housing exists to serve “a nice-sized senior population but also to have affordable housing,” de la Torre said. “As we went through the specific plan in our community, one of the things that came out was the need for senior citizen housing,” she said. “There are a lot of seniors who live in converted garages.” The entire specific plan is scheduled to be presented to the city planning commission this month and then to the City Council in September, and will suggest more “mixed-used opportunities” along the city’s major corridors; many of these are bustling with commercial activity, de la Torre said. “(We’re seeking) to really begin to take the commercial areas and develop commercial nodes and then fill them with housing,” she said. “We have a lot of single-family residences. Our young adults don’t necessarily want a single-family residence.” Low vacancy As far as the city’s downtown, plans are to add on rather than to redevelop the existing commercial space. Vacancy rates are “very minimal” as many stores are patronized by recent Spanish-speaking immigrants. “We haven’t been able to capture people who are second or third-generation Mexican immigrants,” de la Torre said. “We want to extend our downtown from First to Fourth streets. We don’t want to change what we currently have, what we want to do is add on to and enhance those services that are not currently available.” Surrounding the Library, there’s evidence of that already happening with a barber shop, a Yoga studio and a UPS Store. De la Torre said developers have shown interest in developing properties. “In the next two or three years you’ll see a lot of recycling of land,” de la Torre said. Overall, the city’s mayor said the goal is to “take more of a holistic approach” to development, in that the city wants to accommodate both its residents as well as bring in commercial development. “First and foremost it has to be about the people that choose to live here,” de la Torre said. “It’s a quality of life issue it goes hand-in-hand (with commercial development.” San Fernando -Pacoima Wash project: Creating a natural waterway with biker and pedestrian paths. -San Fernando Valley Regional Aquatic Center: (above) Three pools, including one that will be Olympic-sized, will open to the public sometime in the spring of 2005. -City Specific Plan: The plan will be before the city’s planning commission this month and the City Council in November. -Senior citizen housing: Groundbreaking in Octo-ber for two 96-unit senior citizen housing properties.