Letter to the Editor: Burbank Residents Want Affordable Housing, Not Hotels

By On December 9, 2019

Dear Editor:

We are experiencing a massive wave of development in our city. Hundreds of hotel rooms and market rate units of housing are in the pipeline, and we have serious concerns about the ways in which this development might negatively impact our environment and our need for affordable housing. The project proposed at 777 Front Street exemplifies both of these concerns. It proposes hundreds of market-rate units of housing and a 307-room hotel. Burbank residents deserve more.

To be clear, the Project includes 69 moderate-income micro units. At 499 square feet, a micro unit is hardly comfortable living for an individual, let alone a working family that would benefit most from the project’s proximity to transit. Working families relying on affordable housing deserve access to an abundance of living space. They should not be relegated to choose between tiny micro-units or no housing at all. Their needs are no different than the families pursuing the project’s market-rate units. Furthermore, at 120 percent of the Area Median Income, moderate-income units in Burbank are unaffordable for many working families.

We are in the midst of an affordable housing emergency. The City needs to aggressively pursue low-income housing development if it hopes to come close to achieving its low-income Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals. According to Steven Sharp of Urbanize, Burbank will not meet its low-income RHNA goals until the year 3000 if it continues to permit low-income housing development at its current pace. Rent control is a crucial component to developing comprehensive and creative solutions to our housing crisis; however, more than anything, Burbank needs to build low and very-low income housing, and it needs to build it fast.

The City’s chosen rhetoric around the 777 Front Street Project is incredibly damaging to the pursuit of low-income housing development. We must push ourselves to think beyond the usual rationales used to support a project like 777 Front Street, particularly when those rationales lead us to make statements like “this Project is not a cure all, end all for our housing problems,” which was heard – over and over again – at the Project’s November 4th Planning Board hearing. This rhetoric only accomplishes one thing, which is to limit us in our pursuits to imagine and create a city, and project, accessible to all. Instead, conversations around housing development must be nuanced and comprehensive. Yes, housing development of all types is important. But what kind of housing are we building? And whose abilities to remain and thrive in our communities are we prioritizing? The City can – and indeed, must – require more from developers if it hopes to uphold the inclusive, diverse, and democratic values it claims to maintain. This is particularly true as we head into the 2020 municipal election, historic due to its inaugural alignment with the high-turnout general election.

We support housing development. We do not support housing development that is not accessible to working families, insists on the development of hotel rooms instead of community-serving spaces, implicitly prescribes deservedness to affordable housing tenants by relegating them to 499 square foot microunits, and drives up housing costs overall. Burbank can do much better than the Project as it is currently proposed, and it can – despite popular opinion – take the time to meticulously create a project that serves all people.

We urge the Burbank City Council to vote NO on the proposed Front Street project, and instead purse the alternative project that does not exclude working families from accessing quality living space, prioritize hotel development over community-serving development, or contribute to our environmental state of emergency.

Sincerely,

UNITE HERE Local 11
Burbank Democratic Club
Burbank Tenants’ Rights Committee