‘Rags Riches’ – Tuesday Nights City Council Actions

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
EDITORS NOTE: Today marks the debut of Rags Madison who will be writing columns about the political happenings in Burbank. Rags’ first assignment and primary responsibility are the Tuesday night Council meetings where he will throw in the facts along with some color to help you get through what is sometimes a tedious process. We have named his columns “Rags Riches” and we hope you enjoy his style as much as we do!

Rags Riches

Greetings my fellow Burbankers! I was thrilled to be asked by MyBurbank to attend the city council meetings and fill you all in on the seen-behind-the-scenes at our beautiful downtown Burbank City Hall. I’ve never done this before and a few of you are longtime residents with agenda’s, sacred cows and other land mines I’ll probably step on or in. I figure the most vocal of you either watch City Hall on television or attend in person when you feel the need to. I may do it all wrong for your tastes.  But for the rest of us… here goes!
After the meeting opened at 6:00 PM we did the Pledge of Allegiance after being led in prayer by a man in uniform named Bob. The first thing I noticed is that the 3 page agenda I was handed stated, “Invocation: The Courts have concluded that sectarian prayer as a part of City Council meetings is not permitted under the Constitution.” I love this town already.
The Mayor announced after Roll Call that city services will be closed for Martin Luther King Day.
The Burbank League of Women Voters will host in the City Council Chambers on January 20th a taped but delayed-broadcast election forum with the 2015 crop of council candidates. The only way to see this event live is to be there. Contact the League for details. There will be no city council meeting that night. There was no mention of what the Burbank Channel will be showing us instead. This reporter hopes it will be a continuous running loop of what should be called the best neighborhood traffic expose I have ever seen. Or, the “Are you kidding?” tape.


More on that later. Burbank has warm fuzzy business always at the top of it’s city council agenda. Specifically, the warm and fuzzy Tournament or Roses Parade float our fair city sent down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day.
Ginny Barnett of the Burbank Tournament of Roses gave an impassioned presentation of our Burbank float getting the Past President’s Award to the assembled audience of  59 people – half of whom left as soon as she was done.

“It was an exceptional year for our float… this is Burbank’s float… Council member Emily Gabel-Luddy even helped attach monkey hair to it with the other volunteers”.
The Mayor read his “certificate of recognition” honoring all the crew of the city’s Rose Bowl Float effort. Jenny Barnett specifically added, “I want the to thank Burbank Water and Power and the city for helping build a float that Burbank can be proud of”.
Emily Gable-Luddy: “I was happy to do it. It (attaching monkey hair) gave me a new definition of what a nail brush is.” Councilman Gary Bric noted that it took “two and a half hours to drive the float back from Pasadena to Burbank”.
Vice Mayor Frutos noted that, as for the float “I also noticed the “striping of the monkey hair on the float and how much hard work it was and it was very impressive”.
I didn’t get to see the parade, or, our fine city’s float but millions of people did. My Burbank would be delighted to have your photo of it posted on our Facebook Page.
Our city manager reported attending the ground-breaking of the new high-speed rail that will be built from Fresno to Merced: “It is called the train to nowhere which I take umbrage at.” The City Manager is from Fresno. He also noted that the plans are for the train to eventually come to Burbank. “It is unfortunate that some of our citizens received a letter asking for permission to enter their property to assess an environmental impact of the project on Burbank. …We don’t know why which properties were chosen for this assessment.” He went on to add that these assessments “in no way meant a future plan to remove those homes” to make way for the tracks.
A job seeker addressed the council, James E. Blancarte:

“I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself as a candidate for the Airport Authority. I live (near) Reese Place, Burbank.

I was with the City of Los Angeles during the L.A.riots, the Northridge earthquake and …other disasters.

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I am currently a member of the Claremont University Consortium… the LA County FairPlex… I brought updated copies of my resume because there were errors in the ones you have now.” His application was praised by two council-members.
Ann Landry made the city staff’s presentation on a recommendation to proposed changes in Burbank law that are “consistent with the adopted language of 2005” which I gather was the last time Burbank had to be consistent with State laws.

PUBLIC COMMENTS were requested. There were NO Pink Card comment-time requests from the remaining 19 interested and volunteer attendees in the audience. However the tension among staff was palpable.
The Mayor noted “The reason that we are doing this is so that there is no difference in R4 and R5 zones. R3 allows for 43 residential units per acre which is considered high density. In a commercial zone with reviews it (a new project) is allowed to have 87 residential units. Transit zones, he noted,  let “developers get up to 25% more than the 87 residential units.” This reporter sensed that the members of the audience were very aware that these questions were meant to clarify density concerns related to the area where Burbank is getting a new big-box-locally-sourced- sustainably-farmed grocery store that gives lots of free samples in it’s first few weeks of existence. Or, as we at MyBurbank call it: a future advertiser.
“The concern is that in a transit zone with (this allowance) this could impact density levels” the mayor voiced. The City Manager responded that “I was hoping, I could, with council’s blessing, tell future applicants that the so-called Exceptional Developments of this kind will no longer be considered.”
Councilman Talamandes stated that these questions were not germane to the item before the council…

“I’m the mayor, it is…” was the Mayor’s response.
Emily Gabel-Luddy then MOVED to “Elimination of R-5 Very High Density Residential Zone and MDR-5  Media District Very High Density Residential Zone from the Zoning Ordinance and Zone Map”.  Gary Bric seconded:

“Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes”… “Thank you council that motioned passes 5 to zero” proclaimed the Mayor.

PUBLIC COMMENTS were allowed:
Fran Avery: “I live on Fairview and I’m here about this idiocy! You’re going to funnel all this traffic to us on Fairview! I don’t wish any ill for my neighbors on California, Lima, etc. …but we are not Kansas… we are a small town of 100,000 surrounded by cities. In the morning and evenings at Stevenson School with these changes people will be making U-Turns on these streets because of the closures you are intending. Residents on Alameda with garages on the alley will be forced to drive 2 blocks farther with these closures.” she said.
Stephanie Gerrard: “I want to thank my neighbors for putting this petition together. … I don’t want my street to become more encumbered with traffic. It IS fair if the traffic is disseminated on the other streets. …I appreciate that THIS TIME you guys (the city) took the time to notify us – you didn’t last time.”
Nancy Locker  of North Lima Street:  …”I am here tonight because I DO AGREE with the closures. …We are badly in need of protection. We are already impacted with heavy traffic. I know this is going to be an inconvenience… It is going to be an inconvenience to all of us.”
Patrika Darbo: 41 Year resident on Avon Street …”I first want to point out that these closures are a TEST… just a test. I want to ask that you continue to do this as a ‘study’.
Anthony Bondi (resident of Burbank for 50 years in the same house – he is also a California @ Alameda triplex owner) …”I am very VERY strongly opposed to the removal of the parking on Alameda Avenue. All the plans that you have are fruitless and my tenants have told me that if you do this they will not renew their leases.”
Mary Christ …”I say to these people ‘where were you people when we had all these meetings and we were walking the streets trying to get involvement in this’? Our City didn’t let us know… This is a test ,and… We are where we are because our city has done this to us.”
Mr. Susan “I am completely blindsided by this whole Talaria Project”
Bradley Davis and his wife Peggy Davis used their 10 minutes to present a video which was a hit piece with the peeps in media row. Those of you watching this on television were treated to a devastating “Are you kidding” video. The now 25 attendees assembled burst into applause afterwards. The City Council was treated to video evidence of lawbreakers who ran red lights, failed to yield on turns, passed on the left and the right of other cars illegally, jaywalked, sped, blocked intersections, drove in the wrong lanes, etc. all within an unedited few minutes. What you did NOT see on your television set was the burbank Chief of Police taking copious notes. Some people are going to get letters, soon. In this reporter’s eyes it was as though a disaster movie was showing people escaping godzilla attacking Warner Brother’s entrance.
Alice Howell: …”I have to follow that?”

“I sit on the (neighborhood) committee as well”, she said, “and we really need this traffic study. …We have this project and other projects coming at us too. …I would ask the council extend the testing period.”
David Parolli… “I’m not in love with cull de sacs and I’m not in love with (traffic)chokers either. Imagine exacerbating the problems we have now with project after project in this area.”
Mike Nolan: …”Tonight, while I was waiting for a bus, a candidate, a marine, running for city council office ran by me. I offered to shake his hand but he said it was too sweaty. That’s a reason why I love Burbank.”
Emily Gabel-Luddy: “I want to thank you ALL for coming down to comment. I want to note that I asked for staff to come up with options. I still think it’s important for neighborhoods to be involved.”
Talamantes: “This should have been dealt with ten years ago…” Attendees began talking back at him until the Mayor silenced them.
Bric: “When I was on the traffic commission, every time speed bumps were (opposed) they would be put on another street.”
City Attorney: “No one is being cut off from their driveway” in response to the mayor.
Mayor: “This (lack of notification) we have heard before… We all have to have our radar screens on like they did in Peal Harbor.”
The Resolution Approving “Traffic Controls” meant closing Cordova Street, California Street, Lima, and more at Alameda. This area is ironically called the Alameda North Neighborhood Protection Area. All the neighbors who spoke during public testimony felt violated by the City rather than protected.
Staff member Ken Johnson who was filling in for Mr. Kristi stated that (in response to the Mayor’s measured but irritated question about the traffic study used to approve the Talaria Project being conducted in just one day) that past studies conducted in only one day are representative of multi-day studies. The City Manager noted that when he was with Beverly Hills he often had a second day studied …”only to answer this question (posed) by the public”.
Emily Gable-Luddy …”I think the City Manager’s experience in Beverly Hills with regard to testing a second day is important.” She also asked that the results of the study be unfiltered in the public comments.
The City Manager noted that Bradley Davis who was the narrator of the video shown has some experience in traffic matters as a former member of the California State Highway Patrol.
The Mayor stated he would support this “protection of the neighborhood”  amendment. The vote was called for and was unanimous in council approval.
PUBLIC COMMENTS after the vote:

Fran Avery: “This is exactly what I expected from you! We had only 5 days notice from you. This morning on Florence I saw a man in a car back over the counter 5 times! I will be with my little clipboard in front of that school when this disaster hits”
Patrika Darbo: (see her IMBD listing, she is a famous actor) “The one day traffic study you talked about… that’s why traffic is horrendous in Beverly Hills and now in Burbank.”
Stephanie Gerrard:  “I thank you for now putting together a… six, weeks, study, however, closing off streets is going to cause problems.”
Bradley Davis: “I want to thank the council for your “studied decision”. We have what we have… here. I always knew there was going to be a phase two. Because the public WILL find a way to mitigate for themselves their own traffic (solutions).
Emily Gable-Luddy responded to Mr. Davis that his efforts were remarkable and wanted to acknowledge his comments. Viewers noted that Ms. Gabel-Luddy was mentioned in the video’s intro white text crawl on a black screen that melodramatically had creepily no sound. I was too stunned to remember to type what it said. MyBurbank readers are reminded that the City of Burbank maintains on its website all past city council meetings and that the highlights are tagged so that you too can watch this video and read what was said and draw your own conclusions.
MINUTES of September were approved.
WATER ORDINANCE 12-0000004 To comply with current state laws:

Mayor; YES, Vice Mayor; YES, Talamantes; YES, Bric; YES, Gabel-Luddy YES.
But of course this was not without some drama. The Mayor proposed an amendment that should there be other changes in state law then there would be appropriate action taken with notification to whoever the City Council will be at that time. The last time a Burbank Council dealt with this was 8 years ago. The Mayor and Vice Mayor were verbally opposed to staff’s recommendation until the amendment was agreed to.
The Mayor closed the session with the comment that “We can’t depend on the City to notify everyone of everything. It’s unfortunate that the process of managing the City of Burbank involves responding to things “after the fact”. I encourage everyone to “get involved.”
Well, there it is. My first report on the happenings at city hall in the Media Capital of the World. Please don’t kill the messenger… rags madison.

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