Opinion: They are the Burbank City Council, Not the Rancho Area Council

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It’s just my opinion…

On Tuesday night, the Burbank City Council had to make a hard decision, which was not a popular decision. Once again, SB-35 is at the heart of the problem.

Another developer has come into Burbank and forced the city’s hand. When it comes to an SB-35 project, or Senate Bill 35, was designed to increase housing in cities that did not have a proportional standard of affordable housing.

No one is happy with it, except for the out-of-town developers who come in and snatch up land, forcing the city to approve their projects based on a minimal amount of low-income housing provided. We have seen Pickwick become a project as well as three different pieces of land on Empire.

Tuesday night saw the Rancho residents show up in mass at a hearing in which the City Council had to determine if the project had 901 S Mariposa Was in compliance with the SB35. Mandates. The council bent over backward to make sure everybody was heard. And they did their due diligence in trying to find a loophole to be able to deny the project.

When it came down to the end after about four hours of deliberating, the council was forced to make the determination that the project met the standards set forth by SB-35. Not one council member was happy with their vote, ut they did what was right for the city of Burbank.

For once, the City Council had to make a hard choice. And they did just that. The alternative was to deny the project in which a lawsuit would no doubt have been initiated by the developer and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. It did not matter to the residents of the Rancho, however. They wanted the council to deny the project and go to court.

What was also somewhat troubling, though is that the residents who came to the hearing did not respect the meeting and repeatedly, near the end yelled out comments to the council. Thanks to the examples set by our Congress, it has now become okay for people to interrupt and yell, disturbing the decorum at meetings. Civility has taken a back seat to just plain being rude.

Yes, I understand that the Rancho people are upset with this project and I am sure most people in Burbank are, but that is not the point. The real point is our leaders have to make tough decisions for the benefit of the entire city, and that also means keeping the city out of litigation whenever possible.

Over the years, our council has had many situations where their actions have cost Burbank taxpayers millions of dollars.

Let’s travel back to 1979 and the Starlight Bowl. At that time, Burbank was in a contract with Cinevision Corporation, which had signed an exclusive contract to operate the Bowl. Council members began to ban concerts by performers like Jackson Browne, Todd Rundgren, Patty Smith, and Al Stewart, saying that these shows would attract drug users, homosexuals, and anti-nuclear demonstrators. You gotta love the 70s.

After the council banned these acts from appearing and then refused to renew the contract they had with Cinevision, they were sued and had to pay a $3.8 million settlement plus attorney fees. That money came out of the pockets of everybody in Burbank because of a council member’s decision of what they thought was right or wrong morally.

After that came the pension crisis. Councils of the past made promises to employee unions and never bothered to fund pensions in the future. When the bill came due in the last 10 years, the city had to scramble to make sure they funded all of the pensions and are continuing to do that to this day based on bad council decisions in the past. Other cities were forced into bankruptcy at the time.

Even our last City Council put their hearts over their brains when they decided to deny the project at Pickwick, which came up for the same review process as the project of Mariposa. By denying the project, the developer sued the city, and it wound up costing the taxpayers of Burbank over a half million dollars. Three of those five council members no longer serve.

Once again, a new SB-35 project has raised the ire of the Rancho people, and they came in droves to the Council meeting to stop it. The only problem was the council had no legal reason to deny the project and to do so, would have sent the city to court one more time. They say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and thankfully council members remembered recent history.

We can also play the blame game because there is a lot of blame to go around in a lot of areas.

Let’s start off with our state elected officials and our governor. They passed a bad bill, and he signed it. Let’s now move on to our local city officials. This bill was signed back in 2017. At that time, the council could have looked into it and strategized to make sure that portions of the city were protected.

They didn’t. The failure also occurred with the legislative analyst the city hires to warn them of what’s going on with new state laws, etcetera. Either they did not inform the council, or the person they did inform did not think it was an important matter and did not pass it on to the council. Either way, the ball was dropped leading up to the events now.

In fact, it was not until the Pickwick project came to fruition that they had any clue about what SB-35 was. In fact, one of the speakers at the meeting last night was on the council at that time and could have proactively put blocks in place so this would never have happened.

This is also on the Rancho community. Over the years, when there’s been a project they have not liked, they have gathered in force and marched down to City Hall and demanded the project not happen, such as the Whole Foods store that was once planned in that area. Now they figured they could just do that again, and the entire project would just go away. That just will not happen anymore.

Rancho residents now claim they have a new bill in the works to help protect the Rancho neighborhood. It is up to them now to be a force and get the Assembly and Senate to pass this bill and get the Governor’s signature on it. That’s how you stop future developments, not by going up to City Hall and yelling at local officials whose hands are tied because of these state lawmakers.

Yes, developers want to put projects in the Rancho area because it is one of the most unique areas in Southern California and one of the last urban neighborhoods to allow horses. It’s a very special section in Burbank, and it needs to be protected.

What needs to happen is the council needs to immediately put together a plan to combat where SB-35 projects can be located, something they should have done six years ago. We cannot wait until a new law is passed and hopefully signed into law.

At the meeting on Tuesday night, we saw the worst in some people. Yelling during a meeting and threatening members of the council that they would not be reelected is not productive. I thought the mayor, Konstantine Anthony, as well as other Council members, bent over backward to make sure people were heard. In the past, councils would have had people ejected from the chambers for the outburst, but he understood it was a sensitive and passionate matter and tried to work through it.

You have to remember that City Council represents all of Burbank, not just a portion. While they will fight for you in a cause, if the cause is just and they can do something about it, they will. But when their hands are tied, it is also their responsibility to protect all the citizens from Burbank from unwanted lawsuits they cannot win. Not one person at this meeting brought up the fact that through SP-35, over 700 housing units are being proposed in a three-block area of Empire.

People should care about the entire city, not just their local neighborhood. We have council districts possibly proposed for the future, yet very little public comment regarding it. If the election goes through, the Rancho will have one person on the council, which means just one vote and just one person to represent their interests. Rancho residents should be fighting against district elections, so they now have five members of the council instead of just one.

This is one of the many new battles that need to be fought. As far as the Mariposa project goes, the cows have broke out of the barn and instead of blaming the barn, let’s fix the problem.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. Mr. Sherwood, rewatch my public comment. I most certainly mentioned the SB-35 project on Empire. And I pretty sure I also gave a web-site where people to learn more about what I’m calling “monster” projects that will be the most disruptive to our city ever built. Lobby the assembly and senate to remove the bills that allow for hyper densification.

    2. As to the city council and the SB35 bill and the ministerial process. First in your article it never once mentioned the calls from the equestrian community for an Equestrian traffic safety study at the highest equestrian traffic in the Rancho at the Mariposa horse bridge. As to the audience being rude what did you expect the Rancho has been fighting for our preservation and protection and every council has passed the subject on to the next council still no preservation and protection for an equine culture in a fight for it’s very existence. Let’s start with the Rancho Marketplace it was the Pickwick Drive In and Mark Smith stables which had around fifty horses . This project was negotiated for certain conditions to be met one was for a Rancho Master Plan that was done and zoning and used were incorporated into the city general plan intact including the commercial recreational zoning on the Pickwick recreational center which made it exempt to SB35 the zoning put on Pickwick was for preservation of the neighborhood the way it was. Magically the city changed this zoning to Rancho Commercial after it was incorporated into the general plan intact. There are some very questionable aspects to the Pickwick project. Another thing you conveniently left out was the fact that there were offers to buy this property 910 s Mariposa at a profit for the developer but he refused two I know of. Let’s be clear we are not against affordable housing however this is a special circumstance that will put approximately 100 plus cars at a critical point of equestrian safety this may be an estimate but the proposed project will have 46 parking spaces if you consider they all go to work and come home that’s 92 cars on the street add trips to shop or appointments it can easily go over 100 that does not include the existing vehicle traffic this is why a equine traffic safety study is of immense importance and why despite state law the city is in dereliction of it’s duty to the citizens who’s safety and well being are at tremendous risk. I suggest you go to the Rancho and get our side of the story before you brand us unruly and rude perhaps you might change you position in who is unruly and rude when you are on horseback and your safety and well being can be stripped from you by an indifferent motorist.

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