Letter to the Editor: Former Mayor Gives Reasons for Working on Pickwick Settlement


Letter to the Editor:

It is never wrong to stand up for what you think is right. 

The Pickwick Settlement Agreement represents the conclusion of a lengthy, constructive negotiation that reached a resolution that contains community benefits that would not have been achieved otherwise.

Friends of the Rancho joined the case as Intervenors in the lawsuit filed by the developer in response to the City Councils’ decision to disapprove the project. We felt it was important to have a seat at the table to defend the city’s position.

The Settlement Agreement was reached through extensive negotiations. Despite what has been said, there was no trial and no judge issued a ruling that  “the SB35 project was properly submitted.”  We reached an agreement following  a constructive and lengthy negotiation. My signature is on the Settlement Agreement and that is no secret. 

I am proud that we stepped up on behalf of our neighborhood and the city. We did the best we could under the circumstances. We achieved changes that improve the proposal and are memorialized in the Settlement Agreement but there were areas where we could not come to agreement. We agreed to disagree, and that is in the Settlement Agreement as well.

I want to acknowledge developer Matt Waken and the City for a settlement that will bring benefits to the project, the neighborhood as well as benefits to the Burbank community and  hope to focus the discussion of the merits of this Settlement Agreement for the Amended Project.

Of significance in the Amended Application are the following issues from the Settlement Agreement:

Item #1, Equestrian Trail. 

In response to issues raised at the April 18 Public Hearing the developer agreed to install a grade separated equestrian trail along the Main Street and Riverside property boundaries. Sheet L-12 in the Amended Site Plans — called the Schematic Complete Street and Equestrian Trail Exhibit —  L-12 now illustrates  the width, footing, railing, safety crossing hardware, length of trail requirements and reflects the standards of the city’s adopted 2020 Complete Streets Plan. 

Item #5.  Affordable Housing:

Ultimately, the density was determined by the developer. The reduction in the number of units to be built to 92 was a decision by the developer and not related to our negotiations.

We advocated for a higher percentage of affordable units than 10% affordable housing contained in the project as required by SB35 for the project to qualify for expedited processing by the city. We wanted a higher percentage because 10% is not even sufficient to meet the 16% minimum that the State has established for Burbank under the City’s RHNA requirement for low income housing.  It is amazing and absurd that SB35 provides no protection for its own requirement.

Not succeeding here, instead we asked for and will receive a copy of the City’s final agreement to keep resale controls on the for-sale low income townhomes. It is important to guarantee that these homes remain restricted to affordable units for subsequent sales to future qualified buyers.

Item #6. Sewer Study:

Because sewer pump failures have been a chronic problem in the Rancho neighborhood it was important for the study of  sewer capacity to be addressed. The Sewer Capacity Analysis  provided on September 27, 2022. disclosed that the Pickwick project will “require additional capital improvements” to the existing sewer lines feeding into the Mariposa Pump Station. The conclusion of the study calls for the developer to pay a 4% or his fair share of construction costs, and the City will pay 96% or nearly $1.25 million. The study is included in the Settlement Agreement.

Item#12. Noise Abatement:

 Noting riders, including the rental riders, of the Griffith Park public equestrian trail system will be about 200 feet away and that the closest homes are between 70 and 130-feet away, advance warning of significant noise and hauling from demolition is essential for recreational users of the public space and homeowners who often work at home.

The Settlement Agreement requires that an advance schedule for demolition and grading will be posted on the site readily visible from the public right-of-way to provide notice to residents and equestrian. In addition the project will install noise abatement equipment on site.

Item#13. Rancho Master Plan:

In order to bring the Rancho neighborhood plan up to current standards the Settlement Agreement calls for the Council to consider an update to the Rancho Master Plan. This condition  reflects the  pro-active direction we advocated in order to continue preservation of this unique neighborhood.

We believe that the issues addressed in the Settlement Agreement represent the results of good faith negotiations among all parties, and has resulted in an improved final project proposal. Perhaps more importantly in the long run will be the proposal to review and update the Rancho Neighborhood Plan.

This plan, as well as similar plans in other Burbank neighborhoods like Magnolia Park and the Media District can and should establish the basis for Neighborhood Protection Plans. They can provide residents and businesses alike the assurance of what can, and cannot, be done with their neighborhood, something we all would profit from.

For those who argue for an audit of litigation costs to the City, it is important to remember SB35 is an Unfunded State Mandate which means that for any action not covered by a filing fee, Burbank taxpayers are on the hook. The greatest harm to our City coffers comes from the State itself through unfunded mandates, unfunded infrastructure costs, and continuing loss of property that helps to support the general fund through its commercial uses. 

Emily Gabel-Luddy
Former Burbank Councilmember and Mayor


    1. Ms. Gabel-Luddy, please let me respond to a few of your points.

      Item #1, Equestrian Trail: Perhaps it is time to recognize that horses and city life are not a good mix. Most certainly it is not a good life for the horse, just as circus life has been phased out for most animals it might be time to phase out horses in Burbank.

      Item #5. Affordable Housing: Riddle me this: You cry out for affordable housing yet you consistently do everything in your power to increase the cost of construction to the developer knowing that those costs you mandate will ultimately be passed on to the end user (the buyer or renter)?

      Item #6. Sewer Study: All of us already pay excessive water/electric/sewer/trash bills. Part of the fee’s we pay monthly are transferred to the city’s general fund. If this transfer were to be halted, the sewer department would have the money for maintenance, improvement and upkeep (It is called good planning). Please remember, the new units will be paying monthly for use and contributing to the initial outlay. Making the developer pay twice is redundant.

      Item#12. Noise Abatement: Here is a clue for you and your friends Gabel-Luddy, Demolition and construction can create sounds that are out of the ordinary. The Burbank city code ALREADY lays out specific days and times that construction is allowed. ALLOWED. The real question here is: Why are you so special that you require additional notice? This is an unfair, onerous, and needless burden on the developer, and it accomplishes nothing. Do you actually believe the person(s) hearing this sound will go to a hotel? How about simply closing the window?

      Item#13. Rancho Master Plan: Several years ago City Manager Hess called an emergency council meeting at the end of December. He told the Council that it was imperative they vote to re-certify Measure 1 – you remember, that little thing that Golanski put together? Hess did not mention in his presentation that within it was a GUARANTEE to let the studios expand in the millions of square feet. Where were you and your group of “Intervenors”?

      Good day.


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