Joy Forbes left her post last week as Director of Community Development for the City of Burbank and is starting a new chapter as Vice President Global Real Estate Planning with Comcast-NBCUniversal.
She takes more than 17 years experience working in city planning to her new position of helping an entertainment giant in renovating its property.
Her decision to make planning her career, she said, was realized during her college years. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Riverside and attended the master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona.
Forbes wanted to follow a career in politics, she said, but preferred to stay on the local city level versus the regional planning or larger scale planning.
She started with the city of Burbank in 1995 as a contract intern in the Redevelopment Division. Gaining experience in the field, she quickly rose within the Planning Division to the positions of Assistant Planner, Associate Planner, Principal Planner and Deputy City Planner.
Her promotions came almost yearly, she said, and she was fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of confident colleagues — mostly men — who believed in supporting strong, smart women.
Forbes then served four years as Deputy City Manager where she oversaw the Public Information Office, City Council office staff and worked closely with the city manager and the Community Development Department on economic development issues. She was named Director of Community Development in January 2013, and that brought her back to city planning.
She believes bringing the Chandler Bike-way to fruition was her highest accomplishment in the planning department before she was named director.
“My predecessor Mark Yamarone [had the project] and he handed it off to me in 1997 and said ‘Joy go get this done’ and we finally opened Chandler Bikeway in 2004,” she said. “It was a difficult project, very controversial at the time. Many residents were concerned but many were supportive of it as well. I’m really proud of that and it’s really the only capital project I managed.”
Chandler Bikeway continues to be enjoyed by children, adults and seniors 11 years after it opened.
“Residents are happy with it and property values have increased, so it’s really a bright spot in Burbank and before it was an eyesore,” she said.
The Chandler Bike-way has become a favorite gathering place for residents, said City Council member Emily Gabel-Luddy.
“Joy’s signature accomplishment is not just a bike path, it’s really a location where the community gets together on a daily basis, on the weekends and for special events. It’s a place where people come out and gaze at stars, where we have our National Night Out and is really just a remarkable community gathering space that happens to be the Chandler Bikeway and I think her vision and push and follow-through to get that completed really speaks well of how committed she was while she was working here for the city Burbank.”
The success Forbes has had in her career with the city is also a great American success story, Gabel-Luddy said.
“She is a daughter of an immigrant … she worked her way up from an internship all the way to Assistant City Manager and then become the Director of the Community Development Department, so that is also an American story of fantastic achievement. I’m so glad I got to know her and so glad I got to work with her over the last 14 years,” Gabel-Luddy said.
As the director of Community Development, Forbes said, her main accomplishment has been having the ability to cover for staff when they need it and stepping aside and letting them lead and take the credit they deserve when leading a project or managing an application.
“We are really lucky in Burbank to have some great professionals working here that really care about this community and I help them to make sure they get a chance to do that good work,” she said.
In her new position at Comcast-NBCUniversal, she said she will be helping to implement the master plan for the properties as the theme park and other uses on the lot grow.
“Part of what I’ll be doing is being sure the mitigations NBC/U has committed to get implemented that help protect the residents around the property, which I spent years doing here in Burbank,” she said. “The company’s growth is identified in the master plan that was approved by both the City and County of L.A. and the mitigations to offset that growth were also included. So it is more making sure those get implemented.”
She will also be working with other agencies that will be affected by the property’s growth, like Caltrans, the Army Corps of Engineers and others, but mostly the City and County of Los Angeles, she added.
While she will be stepping off the nonprofit boards of the Boys & Girls Club and Leadership Burbank, she will continue to attend their events and lend financial support as she can, she said.
Serving the city of Burbank, Forbes said she has been so thankful for the relationships she has built here.
“I hope I’ve made steps to strengthen the community here in Burbank and I know that will continue when I’m gone as well,” she said.