Housing Proposals Prompt Burbank Insistence on Local Control

The Burbank City Council unanimously agreed this week to adopt a resolution opposing potential state legislation they believe would lessen the city’s ability to make housing development decisions. (Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader)

Keeping with its traditional stance, the Burbank City Council voted this week to oppose proposed California legislation that members said would threaten local control of housing development.
Council members voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt a resolution reaffirming Burbank’s desire to retain authority over local housing. That resolution will go to the offices of state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and Sen. Anthony Portantino, whose districts include Burbank. They and the rest of the California Legislature will reconvene on Monday.

The resolution argues that “the majority of [California housing] bills usurp the authority of local jurisdictions to determine for themselves the land use policies and practices that best suit each city and its residents and instead impose mandates that do not take into account the needs and differences of jurisdictions throughout the state of California.”
Burbank is far from the only California city to oppose housing policies from Sacramento intended to address the state’s critical lack of affordable housing. City staff members said in a report to the council that 76 cities, including San Fernando, Beverly Hills and Whittier, have adopted similar resolutions in favor of local control.
Burbank’s state policy platform includes support for affordable housing and the Section 8 program, and the city has resolved to build 12,000 housing units by 2035. But the council and many vocal residents have often balked at projects and legislation they feel could change the character of local neighborhoods or infringe on their own decision-making.
Councilwoman Sharon Springer, who requested the agenda item on the council’s July 13 meeting, said she believed city staff members could determine where to put local housing better than state leaders. She, along with Mayor Bob Frutos and Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes, passed a motion to oppose Assembly Bill 1401, a Friedman-authored measure that would prevent some cities — including Burbank — from requiring developers to build parking in projects located within a half-mile of public transit.
Council members Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz abstained from that vote. Schultz told the Leader that since the staff report provided little detail regarding AB 1401 and the council hadn’t previous discussed the bill in as much detail as it had discussed others, he didn’t want to cast a vote on it. Anthony did not return an email from the Leader requesting comment this week.
He, Schultz and Talamantes joined to defeat Springer’s motion to oppose Senate Bill 10, which would allow local governments to increase the housing density of parcels in “transit-rich” areas or an urban infill site. Anthony and Schultz pointed out that the measure would not mandate cities to do so, though Springer expressed concern that that could later change.
Conversely, the council voted unanimously to support Assembly Constitutional Amendment 7. If approved by legislators and voters in its current state, the amendment would establish that cities’ land use ordinances override conflicting general state laws, except in certain conditions.
The new positions add to Burbank’s state policy platform that includes opposition to Senate Bill 9, which would require cities to approve duplexes on parcels zoned for single-family housing, with some exceptions, and to approve the splitting of parcels in certain circumstances. Burbank also supports Portantino’s Senate Bill 15, which would give cities incentives to convert retail sites into housing.

Council members also moved up a discussion on Senate Bill 35, legislation passed in 2017 that has received renewed scrutiny from some residents because of its potential use to turn the Pickwick Bowl site into a residential plot.
The proposed development, first reported by myBurbank, would create 98 three-story town homes — 10 of which would be reserved for low-income residents — and garages on the 5.1-acre site, according to the city’s Community Development Department website. The invocation of SB 35, which requires cities to accept development applications that meet certain standards if the municipality hasn’t built its state-mandated housing quota, riled community members who said they felt blindsided by the news.
Between 2014 and 2019, according to Burbank’s housing plan website, the city permitted about 500 new housing units. The municipality’s quota for the 2014-2021 cycle was nearly 2,700 units; the overwhelming majority of California cities do not meet their allocation.
City staff members will present an informational report regarding SB 35 at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 24; it was previously scheduled for Sept. 28.
Community Development Director Patrick Prescott cautioned the City Council against discussing the project in detail on Tuesday, saying the development was still in a preliminary stage and the city had not yet received a formal application. He also said his department believes the project qualifies to be submitted under SB 35, but stopped short of saying that it actually qualified.
But several residents from the Rancho district of Burbank called on the City Council during public comment to provide more information regarding the project and to minimize the impact they believe it will have on the equestrian community, which is active in that area.
Springer pressed city staff members to bring back a report on the potential Pickwick Bowl development, saying residents — particularly those in the Rancho area — had a right to know more.
“Our community has had questions since March, April and May, and now we’re being told that it’s too late,” she said. “I don’t think that’s open and transparent government.”
City Attorney Amy Albano advised the council against discussing the matter further, however, saying doing so would presuppose the project meets SB 35 requirements and emphasizing that the developer needs to go through other processes before an application reaches the city.
After Talamantes dropped his support for Springer’s initial motion, which was to hold a discussion on both SB 35 and the Pickwick Bowl development, the council unanimously agreed to simply advance the legislation topic to the next meeting.