Resident Appeals Major Mixed-Use Project

First published in the Nov. 13 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council will consider a resident’s appeal against a large development project planned for the former site of Fry’s Electronics on Tuesday.
The Burbank Aero Crossings project would build 862 apartments units — including 80 allocated for very low-income households — two restaurants and a five-story office structure at 2311 N. Hollywood Way. The defunct Fry’s, which closed in February, sits empty on the roughly 450,000-square-foot lot. The Burbank Planning Board unanimously approved the project in late September.
Roy Wiegand, a resident who often has spoken against what he calls overdevelopment, filed an appeal against the Planning Board’s decision in October. The filing itself contains little information, arguing only that the group “erred on all resolutions approved for this project and on the recommendation made by staff that staff presented to the Planning Board.” The filing also mentions a provision in the city’s municipal code that allows developers to exceed density limits if they create affordable housing (the Burbank Aero Crossing project received such a density bonus).
Burbank’s Community Development Department has recommended that the City Council deny the appeal, noting that the filing doesn’t explain how the project fails to comply with California’s density bonus regulations.
Wiegand, who is scheduled to argue his position before the City Council on Tuesday, told the Leader that he is concerned by the project because he believes it will significantly burden Burbank’s infrastructure, pointing out California’s ongoing drought. He also said that the city should raise fees it charges developers for their projected impact on city services.
“The project also fails to pay [its] fair share of the increase on all other city services and burdens the current residents by forcing them to absorb the costs while the developer enjoys the bulk of the benefits,” Wiegand, an administrator of the “Save Burbank Neighborhoods” Facebook group, said in a statement.
A city report on the project’s potential impacts said the increased water demand it would produce is within Burbank Water and Power’s forecast, which assumed a substantial increase to housing units. The project will also require improvements to Burbank’s sewer infrastructure, which the developer would pay for.
The Burbank Aero Crossings’ developer — LaTerra Development, LLC — believes the appeal is meritless, according to managing director Chris Tourtellotte. In a statement to the Leader, he emphasized LaTerra’s promised benefits to the city, such as the project’s sustainability features, its proximity to transit and the addition of a public pedestrian path through the site.
“The [Planning] Board recognized that the project will provide numerous benefits to the city, including providing 80 affordable units, which is the largest number of affordable units in any project in the city for 20 years,” Tourtellotte said. “The project’s affordable and market-rate units, which will include a range of unit types including family-sized units, will help the city meet its regional housing obligations.”
Wiegand was not the only entity to appeal the project. The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters also filed an appeal, arguing — among other things — that the city should have required LaTerra to hire local and certified workers, and that the project warranted a deeper analysis into its potential impacts on air quality. However, the group withdrew its appeal about two weeks after filing it.
A representative for the group declined to comment.