Letter to the Editor:
Formed in Burbank in 1993, Dreams to Reality Foundation® provides assistance to the general public in order to support and aid in all types of humanitarian efforts, including, but not limited to, the raising of funds in accordance with the provisions of tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Funds raised provide assistance programs for families with children, the sick, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry, the impoverished or otherwise needy.
Dreams to Reality Foundation® receives donated items and resells them online to raise funds. This has been the foundation’s primary fundraising mechanism since 1999. Prior to that, the organization raised funds through direct mail, phone solicitation and events. Dreams to Reality Foundation®’s landmark events included performances and participation by such individuals as Oscar-winner Helen Hunt, Gregory Harrison, Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winner Bruce Davison, Grammy-winner Debby Boone, Golden Globe-nominated Stephanie Zimbalist, Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated Stephanie Powers, Oscar-winner Shirley Jones, Tatyana Ali, Daytime Emmy-winner Michelle Stafford and Kathy Najimy. Corporate partnerships include, but are not limited to Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Miracle Network, Paramount Studios, Warner Brothers Studios and many local and national organizations. The foundation’s program efforts include direct college scholarships under the Dream Scholar® Program, hand-delivered groceries to low-income individuals and those living in vehicles, service recognition awards under the Dream Angel program, job placement assistance, grants to other 501(c)(3) organizations including bi-weekly grants to local groups in Burbank, and legal assistance for low-income persons. These are core however there are other projects the foundation takes on if the need is urgent.
The former site of The Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, Inc. is publicly-owned by taxpayers and once the club moved, the City Council voted to lease the property to a nonprofit organization. Dreams to Reality Foundation® participated in the proposal process and submitted their plan to lease the property for 50 years. The foundation’s proposed facility uses and programs provided at the site would be to raze the current dilapidated improvements and construct a new multi-use building that exclusively serves the low-income and homeless community. The City of Burbank’s taxpayers have paid substantial legal fees as a result of coping with State-mandated housing statutes. According to reports from the community, developers are challenged to find suitable available sites to build new housing. Dreams to Reality Foundation® proposes a public/non-profit partnership for the construction of micro-apartments. The subject property is zoned R-2. The surrounding area is highly-commercial and in close proximity to a busy freeway. The proposal would be to permit the property to become high density residential with at least 20 units of low-income housing, a shelter at ground floor for transitional housing in a dormitory-style living configuration, and dedicated space earmarked for other non-profit organizations. For example, ground-floor space could be potentially used as a small free clinic, free dental clinic, battered persons’ intake center, homeless job placement counseling, or any number of proposed uses. The proposal would limit uses to non-profit purposes that serve low-income and the homeless of Burbank. The ground-floor space can be earmarked for non-profit organizations that serve low-income and homeless persons in Burbank.
Dreams to Reality Foundation®’s proposal meets at least three of the City Council Goals which are: housing/homelessness, City services and quality of life.
Should the foundation’s proposal be accepted, the proposed housing, shelter and non-profit space would serve persons who have been determined to be low-income, homeless or otherwise in need; and would offer space to organizations that serve these same vulnerable persons. A best and highest use of the land will be determined in cooperation with the City so that the most benefit is provided to as many people as possible.
According to the Wall Street Journal, apartment developments with 20 units or more average 13.4 months for construction. Adding to that time for planning, City approvals and permits, and headwinds resulting from COVID-19 logistics delays or materials availability challenges, the foundation estimates that occupancy could be possible in a timeframe of less than 24 months.
On May 24, 2022, Burbank’s City Manager received a notice of violation relating to the Pickwick Gardens Housing Project because, under Senate Bill 35 (“SB35”), the City has failed to meet the State’s mandated housing requirements. As a result of this, the City Council approved a $1 million tax-payer funded amendment to the City Attorney’s budget to address legal costs related to the alleged violation.
“By accelerating housing projects on publicly-owned land, the beautiful neighborhoods of Burbank can be protected from over-development. Many residents object to having large developments near their homes and by developing public property such as 2244 North Buena Vista, offering micro-apartments to Burbank residents with the greatest need, the requirements of SB35 can be met quickly and future damage to the Burbank community can be averted,” said Helen Wong, programs manager for Dreams to Reality Foundation® and a volunteer since 2007.
“Many residents do not understand that SB35 only forces the City to permit developments even if they aren’t wanted by the community, if the local housing numbers are not meeting the State’s mandate. By adding micro-apartment projects in more commercial areas such as the Buena Vista property, owners of single-family homes will not be forced to cope with over-developed projects near them,” Wong added.
The foundation’s proposed 220 square foot micro-apartments are petite and complete. Each has space for a large bed, a full bathroom, a complete kitchen, a dining and work space, and a balcony. Each apartment offers total privacy in a security building. The ground-floor space of the concept includes units for nonprofit services and a transitional housing shelter. The concept’s common areas are robust, above-ground for maximum privacy and security, and include workout spaces, vast areas for play, BBQs, sunbathing and relaxing.
The former homeless shelter Burbank operated at the National Guard Armory and suffered some setbacks. According to the Burbank Leader, only 17% of those housed in the closed shelter were from Burbank and eight registered sex offenders made their way into the facility. To avoid these mistakes from being repeated, Dreams to Reality Foundation® would require a policy of intense background checks and verification that residents in the micro-apartments and shelter would be addiction-free and of good moral character. Persons born in Burbank or with family here would be prioritized over those from out-of-town seeking to apply for housing at the building.
“I am currently living in a trailer, I have no running water and no toilet in my place. I do not use drugs and I have a job. I grew up in Burbank and I would like to apply for one of the micro-apartments once they are available,” said Hannah, a longtime Burbank resident who graduated from high school here. Hannah is a client of Dreams to Reality Foundation®.
The City Council will review all of the proposals including the one from Dreams to Reality Foundation® and make a final decision on next steps.
Dreams to Reality Foundation® recommends that residents contact the City with comments or questions. The City contact is Simone McFarland at SMcFarland@BurbankCA.gov or (818) 238-5202.
Christopher Matthew Spencer
Board Member, Dreams to Reality Foundation®, Burbank