City Council Election Question #8 – Infrastructure

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As part of myBurbank’s Election 2022 coverage, we have asked all of the candidates in the three races some tough questions to help voters decide who deserves their vote.

In the race for City Council, there are seven candidates, and we asked ten tough questions. We told the candidates they could write as much as they wanted, and we did not edit their responses in any way. We rotated the order after every question.

Today is question 8 of 10 – Infrastructure: Plans are forming around a new Civic Center / Library to replace the main Library on Glenoaks. How do you feel about this project and what do you feel are the most pressing needs for Burbank infrastructure?

Nikki Perez

I feel strongly and enthusiastically about the new Civic Center/Library project. As the Chair of the Library Board of Trustees, I have seen this project develop and have discussed it with my fellow board members extensively during our meetings. 

Our current library was built in 1963 and although library staff and public works do their best, the age and infrastructure of the building no longer meet our community’s needs. Not only are we lacking study rooms and outdoor space in comparison to our neighboring libraries like Glendale, but there are very serious structural issues. The plumbing and electrical systems are in constant need of repair and the library does not meet current top ADA or seismic standards. 

The city has assessed that a simple renovation of the building is unfeasible. It would be wasteful to continue spending money on the current library, especially given the limited benefits to our community compared to a new library.

The new library development would be built in the parking lot area of the city services building, using a mixed-use development model that is supported by all of us on the Library Board. The benefits of this building would include educational opportunities, community spaces, housing, and entertainment – all the things a city should be investing in to promote a high quality of life and the open access to education that allows all of our residents to grow and thrive. More so, with a mixed-use development and the proposed 400 or so units we can help resolve the city’s housing shortage issue and put the onus of initially financing and maintenance of the building on the developer. Essentially, the developer is responsible for maintaining the building, including the Public Library in a state of good repair. This will ensure that we have a strong central library at no cost to the city for about 30 years. The city would then gain a new revenue source for the remaining 35-40 years of the ground leases. According to City staff reports, this could account for about roughly $200 million or more in the 35-40 years after the project is paid off! 

Sharon Springer

I support the proposed public private partnership (P3) to develop the Civic Center/Library project.  It’s early in the process, but an important component of the P3 is that it will involve a land lease, cash flow to Burbank.  Burbank will retain ownership of the land for the benefit of future generations of Burbankers.   I am grateful that in 1963, Burbank built the existing Central Library for the community, but now it is functionally obsolete and requires replacing. I support that the new plan includes housing and open green space. 

There are challenges to all Burbank infrastructure, water, energy, waste, transportation as we move forward with our housing goals and Regional Housing Needs Assessment – RHNA within the context of climate change and diminishing resources.  

As part of balancing the budget, and the passage of Measure P, Burbank City Council promised accountability to residents and set up the Infrastructure Oversight Board, the IOB.  From the City website:

The Infrastructure Oversight Board oversees and make recommendations to the Council regarding the infrastructure of the City (not part of an enterprise fund). The mission of this new Board, in part, is to ensure the reliability, maintenance and safety of the City’s infrastructure. Some oversight parameters may include: safety, funding, planning, construction, (i.e. high level review of scope, schedule, cost, and risk of infrastructure projects), operations, maintenance (reviewing the adequacy of existing maintenance programs), and implementation of best practices related to infrastructure. The Board shall also make recommendations on traffic programs.

Powers and duties include:
1. Act as advisory body to the Council on matters related to City infrastructure (nonenterprise funded) and traffic programs including parking.
2. Provide annual review and recommendation to Council as recommended by City staff for infrastructure projects and programs, such as: a. Capital Improvement Projects – Major Projects (i.e. construction or renovation of a municipal facility); b. Programmatic Capital – routine and regular annual capital renewal (i.e. the City’s pavement management program, HVAC replacements, roof replacement, etc.); c. Maintenance Programs;
3. Annually review staff’s recommended infrastructure funding prioritization for Council consideration and review the proposed general fund infrastructure expenditures. Review of funding and recommended prioritization of annual budget and ten-year infrastructure plans. Annual review of funding shall include a review of use of prior year funding and what was and was not accomplished versus planned project and program specific goals.
4. Receive quarterly reports on the status of funded projects.
5. Review and recommend infrastructure policies, practices, and programs in accordance with adopted plans (i.e., the General Plan, Specific Plans, Complete Streets Plan, and Bicycle Master Plan, etc).
6. Assist in communicating with the community concerning infrastructure projects and programs and the importance of properly maintaining the City’s assets.
7. To perform such advisory functions as are delegated to it by the provisions of this code or other action of the Council or as prescribed in the Burbank Municipal Code, adopted plans and governing rules, laws and regulations.

Tamala Takahashi

As the current chair of the Burbank Infrastructure Oversight Board (IOB), I support the downtown specific plan as well as the civic center portion of the plan. It’s time to update our downtown to be vibrant, modern, safe, and full service.

The new civic center plan is smart, taking into consideration the most viable ways to fund the project with minimal impact to the city infrastructure budget. It includes outdoor space which is desperately needed downtown. It also includes multimodal transportation and pedestrian areas for all. It rezones the area to allow for grocery and pharmacy which is currently not allowed in the area. And it will be a flexible space that will allow it to grow as our central community event area.

As we move forward with this project, it’s important to keep in mind the new state-level housing, transportation, environmental, and zoning laws to ensure that we are proactive and not reactive in creating a new, updated civic space.

In addition to this project, the city will be facing some larger infrastructure challenges, including updating our current infrastructure to comply with new environmental and sustainability laws, updating our transportation network to fulfill our complete streets plan and make it safer and accessible to all modes of travel, and to redesign our neighborhoods to incorporate new housing while keeping the character of our community.

I am confident we can meet these challenges by using a holistic and proactive approach, similar to the collaborative and standardized process we have developed on the IOB working with the infrastructure budget.

Carmenita Helligar

Plans are forming around a new Civic Center / Library to replace the main Library on Glenoaks. How do you feel about this project and what do you feel are the most pressing needs for Burbank infrastructure? I sit as the secretary on the Library Board. I am proud of Burbank for creating a Civic Center that will include housing, open event space, office rental and a library.

Zizette Mullins

The City is in the early stages of looking at options to create a new Civic Center & Library complex in our downtown that will also include additional office space for city services, a large public open space, additional public parking, affordable housing and retail space to serve the public. I support this project because all of these uses are important for our community, and it is the expectation that this project will be processed through a private/public partnership that minimizes the overall costs to the city, while providing valuable public benefit to our community.

Continuing to build and maintain our civic infrastructure has always been at the forefront of the long term planning of our city, and as a Council Member I will lead and support our ongoing commitment for maintain our civic infrastructure.  Our most pressing infrastructure needs in addition to a new Central Library and the ongoing maintenance of our civic building stock and park and recreation facilities, are street and sidewalk repair and improvements to our traffic and transportation systems that will reduce traffic congestion across the community.