Tag Archives: State of the City

Mayor Very Optimistic During State of the City Address

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Every year, Burbank’s Chamber of Commerce holds the State of the City Address and 2019 saw a packed house at the Burbank Airport Marriott Conference Room Wednesday morning. Just about every leader in the City, both public and private was in attendance to hear about Burbank’s direction.

This was the second ‘official’ time for Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy with a third time being when she pinch-hit for an ailing Will Rogers. She was fully prepared and confident saying when asked what she wanted people to get out of this year’s presentation., “I would like people to redouble their pride in the city of Burbank which is a world-class city and I want to tell that story today. We have really lifted ourselves up in a way that us at the head of any city in this country so I want people to walk away feeling proud that Burbank is a world-class city.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

When asked about all the new projects and construction in the City, Gabel-Luddy responded, “All of it is to the good. Besides Disney and Warner Bros., Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, we now have Netflix coming and that was announced this week.”

There is also some concern, “We can’t forget about the people who are less fortunate than any of us, but that we have the engine and the power as an integrated media center to really develop the City to greater jobs, higher-level investment in our infrastructure and higher-level investment in our city services like police and fire.”

As for the future though, the Mayor seemed genuinely enthusiastic, ” As extraordinary as the burgeoning visitor industry here in the community of Burbank that we have more hotel rooms coming online, Warner Bros. will be developing their Second Century Project shortly with the Frank Gehry designed buildings so, besides the median synergies that are going on, there is iconic architecture that going to be built. We are going to have improvements in our transit and we are looking to get more housing in our community and at the same time we are not going to forget the people who are not as well off as any one of us is today.”

Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO, Tom Flavin, was very direct when asked about his opinion on the day ahead. “Optimism about the future”. He feels it is important for the Chamber to be involved with the speech every year. “This is important to us and our members because it (State of the City) underscores our partnership with the city”

During her speech after lunch, Gabel-Luddy spoke to the assembled as she touted much of Burbank’s present saying over 2,00o film permits were granted this year which does not count what happens behind studio walls.

She also spoke about the impacts of passing Measures T and P, and the effect it has had already on the City, “Your Measure P funds are already hard at work. Our Public Works Department just finished its largest local/residential paving project the City has ever embarked upon. We have more than doubled our annual paving schedule, which now includes 180 local and residential and arterial City blocks, upgrading about 100 curb ramps and diverting approximately 150,000 discarded tires from landfills using rubberized asphalt.”

Of course, the homeless situation is a current crisis which she addressed by saying, “Last year, the City Council approved the homelessness implementation plan and we have had some success. We will use funds from a Measure H planning grant to establish a storage facility for a homeless person’s property. This will allow the City to enforce regulations that prevent the storage of personal items in the public right of way.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Partnerships are key in creating affordable housing that’s why we came together with Burbank Housing Corporation and Family Promise to rehabilitate a triplex for use as a transitional homeless facility. Additionally, we have partnered with the Downtown Business Improvement District to hire Street Plus for the downtown, including the Metro Link facility. Street Plus works with our police department’s Mental Health Evaluation Team and Ascencia, a non-profit homelessness organization, to connect those in need with available resources.”

Housing in Burbank is also an issue with the City Council setting a goal to build 12,000 units during the next 15 years, focusing on transportation corridors.

Construction has completed or expected to start already as she praised developments like the Talaria Project, which houses Whole Foods and 241 housing units and has been recogined with many awards.

“Recently approved is the First Street Village Mixed-use project across from the AMC Theaters. This project will result in the development of 275 housing units, 14 of these will be workforce affordable units along with first-floor commercial. We have other residential development proposals that will soon come to the City Council that include the La Terra Project at 777 Front Street with 573 units of housing and a 307-room hotel, and the proposed Premier on First that will result in 108 new housing units, retail, office and conference space along with a 314-room hotel.

The Marriott-brand AC hotel will soon start construction on 3rd Street across from the Colony Theater. It is estimated that it will contribute more than $1.7M in Transient Occupancy Tax to the general fund annually. Additionally, there are two hotels proposed adjacent to the existing Airport Marriott. These would include Aloft and Residence Inn brands totaling 420 rooms.”

In the end she went on to say what made Burbank a world-class city saying, “We protect our existing single-family neighborhoods while building responsibly. With your help, we are fiscally sound and are taking care of our current infrastructure. Burbank offers strong social networks through our diversity in population, backgrounds, and beliefs.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

We are embracing change while determining our future through planning,  setting goals and following through. We beautify our community with arts, culture, and entertainment. We also work with our many non-profits who provide much-needed services the City itself can’t offer.”

There was also a video presentation shot and edited by the City’s Public Information Office that was as well shot and edited as many shows that you see from the studios who dot our community.

Are there still problems to be worked out in the City, yes. And while the outlook of the State of the City left a positive taste, it will take much work in the future to obtain all of the goals.

Editior’s Note: October 25 at 5:00 pm – We now have the video shown at the State of the City Address – you can watch below


Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy Tells A Good Story at Annual State of the City Luncheon

Chamber CEO Tom Flavin, Chamber Chairman Gema Sanchez, and Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

“We’re a wonderful melting pot,” said Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy near the beginning of her State of the City Address at yesterday’s luncheon at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel.  Wonderful indeed in a big little city that’s an industry powerhouse and magnet for talent all over the globe, a place that’s being described as “the town behind the tinsel” of Tinseltown.

The Mayor’s short film, “Classic Burbank Short Stories,” proved to be a fitting ambassador for the Media City, where professional storytellers mingle with people with interesting stories. Like “a nun’s story” 75 years ago, when The Sisters of Providence founded a hospital that has since grown to regional importance.  Like the saga of Beatriz Porto fleeing the concentration camps in Cuba and founding the legendary Porto’s, whose Burbank bakery is a veritable “Café Americain” for industry hopefuls looking to book passage to Hollywood success.  And like the stories of dreamers and drawers at Cartoon Network and Nicolodeon putting their stamps on popular culture alongside Disney, who back in the day had hired many a talented refugee who had escaped, often barely, from Hitler’s Third Reich.

“Burbank’s economy is strong and the outlook is good,” said the Mayor, a definite attention-getter in a state where many communities are financial basket cases. Burbank had been able to persuade its entertainment industries to stay rather than bolt for Texas or Canada, and it had succeeded in replacing Lockheed with the revenue casino known as the Burbank Empire Center. It also hasn’t hurt that Burbank welcomes 3.5 million visitors annually, many of them making Burbank their base camp for various Hollywood safaris.

Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

But there’s a second part to the logline: Many people who work in Burbank can’t afford to live in Burbank (as many businesses have noted,) and the municipal government needs more money, or it may have to close several parks and libraries as well as reduce police and fire presence.

Housing affordability is in part a problem of success.  Employment in Burbank has grown to 150,000 people as compared with 107,700 residents, which has made the real estate market hot even by LA standards.  It’s a daunting challenge even with Burbank’s median household income of over $76,000. Recently the Council allowed accessory dwelling units (“granny houses”) and is already processing 200 applications. The Mayor is also hopeful that several projects underway or under development would not only offer more housing, but also a greater range of housing choices for single Millennials as well as larger households.

And sadly, some can’t afford housing of any sort, even though they may be working.  “This past year homelessness has come to the forefront,” said the Mayor.  The City is enlisting the help of several agencies, including the Burbank Housing Corporation and Family Promise of the Verdugos.

Needing more money is largely due to the elephant in the room for many California cities: pension costs.  In Burbank, the City Council and administration have taken steps to shrink the elephant. The Mayor pointed out several measures that will generate an expected $9 million in annual savings, most notably by having City employees bear a greater share of their retirement costs.  In the short term, the Council has enacted a hiring freeze, leaving 223 positions vacant. (The Mayor thanked City employees for holding the fort and keeping customer service at a high level.)

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

But to shrink the elephant to the size of a rambunctious rottweiler, the public will need to vote for Measure P this November, which would increase the sales tax by ¾%, with all revenues staying with the City—some eliminating the remaining budget shortfall, and the rest available for major street work and other needed capital improvements.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

In the course her address, it became clear that the Mayor was putting forward her strongest selling point for Measure P: In Burbank, to use an industry turn of phrase, “the money stays on the screen.”  For example, the Mayor pointed out that Burbank police officers have caused violent crimes to shrink 11%.  And Burbank firefighters did not allow a single house to be lost to the flames, in spite of several major fires that ravaged the hillsides. (And Burbank’s firefighters are nationally recognized the leader in paramedic best-practice treatment protocols, which will be instituted throughout LA County.) 

The Mayor concluded her presentation with a moment of silence in memory of the late Mayor Will Rogers who, like his famous, rope-twirling namesake, knew how to tell stories that uplifted a community and helped make it a better place. 

Burbank Chamber of Commerce Hosts State of the City

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

On Wednesday, October 25th, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce hosted the State of the City. City council was present at the event, along with Mayor Will Rogers. The event was the largest of its kind, with over 520 people in attendance.

The event discussed Burbank’s accomplishments through the last few decades, with a focus on the accomplishments made within this last year. While speaking, Mayor Will Rogers described Burbank as a “city of dreamers.” Today, Burbank is called home by 12,400 creative businesses, 33,430 creative employees, and 152,600 in the workforce population.

Mayor Rogers also highlighted Hollywood-Burbank Aiport’s new terminal, the Burbank Pass program, and the recently approved First Street Village Mixed-Use Project. With new developments, and new businesses on the way, the city of Burbank is set to retain the title of “Media Capital of the World.”

Continuing with his speech, Mayor Rogers insisted at Burbank’s healthcare sector is “robust” and that the state of our economy is “strong.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

After the event, I asked Mayor Rogers for an update on the incoming budget deficit. Mayor Rogers explained that “the deficit we’re facing is not from overspending or anything of that kind, it’s coming out of the middle of the 1990’s. There are, I think, two, possibly three, much less painful alternatives to making any cuts. We have not done a good job at making those alternatives public…we’ve talked about them but have not given them nearly as much attention.”

Mayor Rogers went on to say that “ultimately, it’s going to be the people making the choice” in regards to how the budget deficit solution will play out. However, Mayor Rogers noted that the people in Burbank will have all of the options available and that the community will pick one or two solutions when the time comes. Mayor Rogers also assured that none of the solutions involve closing parks, youth sports, libraries, or anything that he described as a “dystopic future” during the first budget meeting.

If you’re interested, below are some of the new businesses opening in Burbank in the very near future:

  • Chick-Fil-A
  • H&M
  • Shoe Palace
  • Target Express
  • Naimie’s Beauty Center
  • Touchstone Climbing
  • World Market
  • Whole Foods Market

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Also highlighted at the State of the City address was the approved development projects going on within the city. Starting at the Burbank Town Center, the recent upgrades and continuing construction, which is set to be completed by late 2017, is adding 40,000 sq. ft. of new retail space. In total, the renovation cost $60 million dollars.

Next is the Talaria at Burbank. This development is listed as a mixed-use project. This site will play host to a 43,000 sq. ft. Whole Foods and 241 apartment units. Its completion is set for early 2018.

The Screenland Drive project is also listed as a mixed-use project with 3,730 sq. ft. retail/restaurant space and 40 apartments.

As mentioned previously, the First Street Village is set to have 18,967 sq. ft. of retail space and 275 apartment units.

Below are some of the proposed development projects:

  • AC Hotel
    • 550 N Third Street
    • Planning Board Consideration in 2017
    • 196 Hotel Rooms
    • 3,800 sq. ft. of Restaurant Space
  • Premier on First Mixed-Use Project
    • 103 E Verdugo Ave
    • City Council Consideration in 2017
    • 154 Residential Units
    • 9,695 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant space
    • 230 hotel rooms
  • Avion Burbank
    • 3001 N Hollywood Way
    • City Council Consideration in 2018
    • One Million sq. ft. of industrial/warehouse space
    • 142,250 sq. ft. of creative office space
    • 15,000 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant space
    • 150 Hotel Rooms
    • Mixed-Use Campus
  • Ikea Site Redevelopment
    • San Fernando BLVD
    • City Council Consideration in 2018
    • 1,150 residential units
    • 200 Hotel Rooms
    • 47,420 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant space and outdoor mixed-use residential
  • Laterra Mixed-Use Project
    • 777 N Front Street
    • City Council Consideration in 2018
    • 542 Residential Units
    • 700 sq. ft. of retail space
    • 317 Hotel Rooms


State of the City: Time to Welcome Change

It was the second time in two years that Burbank’s Mayor, Jess Talamantes, delivered the State of the City address. Last year as Vice-Mayor, Talamantes filled in for then Mayor Bob Frutos who had taken ill that week.

2016 State of the City for MB (© Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Now addressing a crowd made up of the top business leaders, Talamantes delivered well in his third time at the podium. He was also the ‘Centennial Mayor’ in 2011 when Burbank turned 100 when he gave his first speech.

Each year, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce sponsors the State of the City, this year moving from the Airport Marriott to the Castaway, quickly selling out the 400 seat plus venue.

This year the theme was about embracing change. Many things are changing in Burbank and not necessarily in more, but in improving. Some of the items mentioned included the recently approved Measure B vote that will allow the airport to rebuild its 14 gate terminal and the improvements to the Burbank Town Center.

2016 State of the City for MB (© Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Referring to the Burbank Economic Development Annual Report put out by the Community Development Department, Talamantes said there are over 108,000 residents in the city with an average household income of over $87,000. Burbank home prices average $725,000, which is approximately 33 percent above the Los Angeles County average home price of $545,000.

Tourism is also a large industry in Burbank with just over 3.1 million visitors coming to the city, spending an estimated $725 million dollars, generating $31.6 million in local tax revenues.

There is also proposed changes to the development landscape. Besides the new Ikea and the Talaria projects that are in progress and will be completed soon, there are several more developments on the horizon which include:

  1. The Burbank Town Center Renovation. This already approved renovation will be completed by late 2017.
  2. The former Ikea site. The City Council will decide in early 2018 on a proposed 15-story building that will feature 70 residential units, three 7-story buildings that will host retail and restaurant spaces as well as 259 apartments and a 200 room hotel as well as an outdoor plaza.
  3. A new development at 103 E. Verdugo that may feature 154 residential units with a hotel or office option which will go in front of the council in mid 2017.
  4. The Avion Burbank, which will be located across from the new terminal being built at the airport and will feature six 2-story industrial/warehouse buildings, nine 2-story creative office buildings, two 1-stort restaurants and a 150 room hotel on the 61.5 acre area.
  5. First Street Village, located at Magnolia and First, will be considered by the Council early in 2017 and will have three 5-story buildings for 283 apartments and includes amenities such as a dog park.
  6. A new, mixed unit project on the 100 block of Screenland that will be 13-stories high holding 40 apartments. The Planning Board will take this up next month in December.
  7. There are also new proposed airport hotels that are in discussion at 2500 Hollywood Way that would be 8-stories and in phase 2, one of thye options includes a 9-story hotel.
  8. Another long range development is the AC Hotel at 550 N. Third St. that will be a 6-story hotel with 198 rooms.

So yes, change is in the air and with more hotels and retail space proposed as well as new residential housing, the tax base will continue to improve for the city and the residents.

You can view the complete State of the City Video by clicking here.


State of the City: Burbank Remains in Great Shape

The tone of the State of the City Address that was held Wednesday at the Airport Marriott was that Burbank remains in great shape overall. In fact Burbank Wednesday was in better shape than Mayor Bob Frutos, who was under the weather.

Frutos, who also missed Tuesday’s City Council meeting, needed to stay home an extra day to recover but will be back in action next week – if not sooner. Vice-Mayor Jess Talamantes was on hand and delivered a flawless message to the ballroom backed with local businessmen.

Each year, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce puts on the State of the City Luncheon and this year they continued to put on a great program to a capacity turnout.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Eric Foster, Vice President of the Burbank City Federal Credit Union and the 2015 Chamber Board Chair started off by holding up a life-size cutout of Frutos in front of his face to welcome everyone and explained the Mayor’s absence.

After an Invocation by Pastor Sam Kim of the First United Methodist Church, new BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill was tabbed to lead the Pledge of Allegiance with the assistance of the Burbank Police Department Honor Guard.  Burbank Police Officer Kiyomi Roberts then sang an inspired rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

With Talamantes pinch hitting for Frutos, he helped present the State of the City with the extensive help of video messages. Each year the video messages have  improved in substance in quality and each Mayor has fully utilized it.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

There was a nice presentation of Burbank’s hosting of the Special Olympics with all of the fun and touring that the Olympians experienced during their Burbank visit.

One of the first topics was about the drought and what Burbank has done to support the Governor’s mandated 25% reduction of usage across the state. Burbank has renamed their portion the Billion Gallon Challenge and so far has saved 677 million gallons with still four months to go before the February deadline. Talamantes also reminded everyone that beginning November 1 residents go from two days a week of watering automatically to just one.

Burbank continues to grow in revenue with a projected 2.9% net increase in the next five years to fund the City’s budget which will also help in funding city pensions.

Some of that extra money will also be earmarked for several underfunded needs such as the City’s infrastructure, streets and bridges, as well as upkeep of municipal buildings. As Talamantes put it, ” there is a certain quality of life expected in Burbank”.

Some other great numbers included office vacancy rate of 11.1% compared to 12.5% in Los Angeles County. Employment growth is already 10% year to date and Burbank’s home values ($610,000) are 26% higher than the County’s $485,000.

After this the video message got a little Daffy, as in Daffy Duck.  You can tell that Frutos had put a lot of time, planning and work into the video presentation as he enlisted the talented animators at Warner Bros.  Daffy Duck was brought in and did several interactions with the Mayor as they discussed facets of the Burbank Studio such as Warner Bros. employs 12,000 people of which approximately 2,500 live in Burbank.

Lastly the Vice-Mayor touched on some new businesses locating in Burbank. Besides the new Ikea on South San Fernando Blvd., there are two new hotels in the same area with 379 new rooms between them along with a newly opened Tesla Motors.

There was an update of the Nickelodeon expansion that will house 450 new jobs to open in the summer of 2017, Talaria at Burbank that will feature a Whole Foods, 241 luxury rooms and will be one of the first LEED-certified green residential communities in Burbank that is expected to open in the spring of 2018.

Walmart is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016 and will generate 300 new jobs and the City Council will consider a new development called First Street Village located near Palm and Magnolia that will be a five-story structure with 283 apartments and 13,765square feet of retail space along with 662 parking spaces. One of the many amenities promised will include a dog park within the facility.

Talamantes did a great job stepping in for the Mayor on a short notice and has now been at the podium twice for this occasion and will once again be there in 2016 when he will once again serve as Mayor. Maybe next year he will let Frutos come up and have some of the fun also.

Mayor Gives Optimistic Outlook During State of the City Address

Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy presented her State of the City address to a packed house at the Airport Marriott Wednesday in the annual event sponsored by Burbank’s Chamber of Commerce.

Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel Luddy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Since 2008, other Mayors have had to go in front of the local business community and try and sound positive about the downturn of 2008, although the theme was usually about some budget cuts that would have to be made to balance the budget.

Finally in 2013, Gabel-Luddy was able to not only the business leaders that things were looking better, but that the City of Burbank now has a projected balanced budget through 2018.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Her presentation was split into three sections and moved quickly while giving out the necessary information.  The first part was in the form of a speech where the Mayor talked about the previous year and some of the turmoil that was beginning top end.  The hiring or a permanent Police and Fire Chief, as well as Community Development Department Head.

“Burbank’s financial status is strong, with Standards & Poor’s giving the City a AAA Rating”, said the Mayor, “and that is something that is earned and not just given”.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

City revenue’s are also on the rebound with home prices in Burbank helping.  The average home price in Burbank is close to $530,000 compared the average in Los Angeles County which is $377,000 and unemployment in Burbank is currently at 8.4%.

She also went on to talk about the improvements in Burbank’s infrastructure including the money earmarked for repaving streets, Johnny Carson Park, Northwest Library, and Verdugo Park’s Pool as well as the Reservoir #1 which is just about complete.

Mayor Gabel-Luddy with City Manager Mark Scott. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mayor Gabel-Luddy with City Manager Mark Scott. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

After a short video, she then asked a few questions to attendees including a not so surprised City manager.

Newly hired City Manager Mark Scott showed that he already fees at ease in his new position and his experience shows. Not only did he seem comfortable talking to the movers and shakers that make up the Burbank business community, he was able to inject a little humor when it came to his surprise at being picked from the crowded room.

Mayor Gabel-Luddy interviews President of The Downtown Business District Michael Cusumano (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mayor Gabel-Luddy interviews President of The Downtown Business District Michael Cusumano (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Scott commented about the small city feel of Burbank and commented that his has realized that everyone in Burbank went to one of the schools here and that people have a deep concern for the  City.  He also stressed that he looked to help businesses maintain their employment levels and stressed how he wanted to work with the many small businesses in Burbank.

Developer Michael Cusumano also spoke on the Downtown Businesses and their recent successful events as well as the future.  The members Downtown Burbank Partnership have been working tirelessly to attract business to the downtown area for years.

Gabel-Luddy showed that in her term as Mayor, it is all about the flow of information that can make a successful State of the City address, not the length that some would lose interest in.

Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy gets a high-5 from Planning Board Member Kimberley Jo a former City Council Candidate herself. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy gets a high-5 from Planning Board Member Kimberley Jo a former City Council Candidate herself. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

State of the City-8

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mayor Talamantes Pronounces Burbank ‘Healthy’ in State of the City Speech

Over 350 City officials and Burbank business leaders gathered at the Burbank Airport Marriott to hear Mayor Jess Talamantes talk about the State of the City (Photo By Ross A. Benson)


Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes gave Burbank’s annual State Of The City Address Wednesday morning at the Burbank Airport Marriott . The large crowd of over 350 business owners, Chamber of Commerce Members, and City employees were in attendance to hear how Burbank is doing during these rough economic times.  Mayor Talamantes presented his address that Burbank is healthy and presented a differently presentation than previous years.

This year, beside a video presentation, he had a panel of Burbank Business Administrators tell their story of how healthy Burbank’s business Community really is.   Don St. Clair of Woodbury University spoke on higher education, while representation transportation, Dan Feger, Administrator Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena Airport, addressed the current climate.

Speaking for one of Burbank’s Major Studios, Lisa Rawlins, Sr. Vice President at Warner Bros., gave the perspective from the entertainment industry and Julie Sprengel, Chief Operating Officer of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, spoke on their growth while Burbank Board of Realtor President, Alexandra Kelly, addressed that homes sales in Burbank continue to rise.


Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes called upon the leaders of the Burbank business community to give their perspective on today's business climate and the future ahead. (Photo By Ross A. Benson)