Brian Velez was a people person, a lifelong Baldwin Park resident with an artistic mind, a passion for community work, and an affinity for horses. The BikeSGV team had the great fortune of getting to know him after his sister Diane Velez began volunteering with us, and he found himself with some free time upon completing Public Affairs work for the Foothill Gold Line Azusa Extension. In short order Brian graduated from part-time volunteer to full-time staff, serving as the BikeSGV’s lead Outreach Coordinator, along-side his sister Diane Velez, BikeSGV’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator.
Brian’s contributions to our small team cannot be understated. He played a major role in making 626 Golden Streets a success, leading community engagement for a record-setting event involving 8 communities that had never hosted a ‘ciclovia’ before. Born to parents from Bogota, Colombia - home of the first ciclovia over 40 years ago - Brian educated countless San Gabriel Valley residents about the concept of ‘open streets’ and why they should care about active transportation. Brian was also the creative mind behind many of the event’s novel activations, including the participation of the 501st Legion, the Star Wars cosplay group who were immensely popular at the South Pasadena hub (among other things, he was a Star Wars fan). His only regret from the project was not convincing any local horse riders or marching bands to participate in the festivities.
In January 2017 Streetsblog LA asked BikeSGV for references for an SGV-based person with the skill set to conduct community interviews and cover local transportation news. BikeSGV’s leadership immediately recommended Brian, who was soon brought on board as a correspondent for ‘SGV Connect’ podcast. During his short tenure with Streetsblog LA Brian covered stories on President Trump and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Duarte’s first bike lanes, and horses as a means of transportation in the SGV, a topic he pitched and had a personal interest in. The latter episode hit a nerve with the listening audience, becoming the most popular Streetsblog podcast to date, inspiring a follow up piece by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Brian became a nationally certified bicycle safety instructor in March 2017, helping teach and lead bicycle safety classes for local youth and adults. He was leading community engagement for a 5-city SGV regional pedestrian and bike master plan, and similar programs in 3 more SGV cities. He wasn’t just dreaming, he was doing, a lot, to better communities like Baldwin Park. Young trees at the Jeff Seymour Family Center in El Monte benefited from his care and watering. He also mentored students in, and was a graduate of, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy Program.
Brian had a spot on impression of Governor Jerry Brown, liked to finish staff meetings ahead of schedule, and eat chicken wings - which later became known as “Chicken Time” in the Bicycle Education Center. He was a beloved colleague and friend who was doing incredible work to bring safer, healthier streets to some of the highest need communities in California.
A graduate of Baldwin Park’s public school system, Brian received a BA degree in Communications/Public Affairs from the University of La Verne, where he was a writer and section editor of the Campus Times, the weekly university newspaper. After college he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala as a Health Training Facilitator working towards improving the health of mothers and young children.
Brian was above all a brutally honest, non-judgemental and sarcastic human being. Brian serves as a reminder for us to look back at our mistakes, take responsibility for our actions, and continuously strive to improve ourselves and our communities. At home, Brian enjoyed spending hours making mixtapes for friends, helping his parents with their usual technical difficulties on their new apple tv, and texting his sister ridiculous memes in the middle of the night. In his free time he played with the family dogs, Maya and Mila, visited museums alone while listening to music on his headphones, and created artwork for his blog @VelezMixtape.
Brian unexpectedly passed away due to an undiagnosed illness on Wednesday September 27, 2017, age 33. He is survived by his sister Diane Velez, his parents Nohora and Luis Alberto Velez, and extended family in Bogota. He is missed by his many friends.
A slow-paced memorial ride in Brian’s memory will be held on Sunday October 15th.
The Velez family is creating a Brian Velez Scholarship Fund to honor his service to the community and give back to other young leaders. If you wish to donate in Brian’s name, you can do so in the following manners:
Want to learn more? Check out ActiveSGV's new podcast, ActiveLab