Council Backs Initiative for Local Control of Housing

First published in the Jan. 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council agreed this week to draft a letter supporting a campaign seeking to give local jurisdictions power to override some state housing laws.
The “Our Neighborhood Voices” initiative, run by a group of California city representatives, aims to place a measure on the November ballot that, if approved by voters, would amend the state constitution to give city and county laws precedence over conflicting state rules on land use regulations and zoning codes. The campaign needs to collect nearly 1 million valid signatures by April 26 to qualify for the ballot.
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Testing Policy in Place for City Workers

First published in the Dec. 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

About three months after the City Council approved the policy, Burbank will soon require unvaccinated workers to undergo regular testing for COVID-19.
The requirement is scheduled to begin next week, assistant Community Development Director and city spokeswoman Simone McFarland confirmed to the Leader. A document detailing the policy has remained on the city of Burbank website since September, when City Council members adopted it to limit transmission of the coronavirus.
“I feel like there is some benefit to this, and doing it as quickly as possible,” Councilwoman Sharon Springer said during that meeting.
McFarland said the process of implementing the policy, which was originally slated for October, took longer than city staff members first expected.
The policy states that testing will occur weekly for workers who have not been fully vaccinated, which as of the most recent update — in October — was about 27% of city employees.
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Talamantes Takes the Reins as Mayor

First published in the Dec. 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Jess Talamantes, the Burbank City Council’s most veteran member, was unanimously appointed by his peers this week as the city’s mayor for the next year.
Talamantes, who previously served as mayor in 2011-12 and 2016-17, returned to the role during the council’s annual reorganization meeting on Monday. Continue reading “Talamantes Takes the Reins as Mayor”

Christmas Comes to City Hall

First published in the Dec. 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The City Council hosted a festive event for the mayor’s tree lighting ceremony at Burbank City Hall on Saturday, Dec. 4. Councilman Nick Schultz, Mrs. Claus, Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes, Mayor Bob Frutos, Councilwoman Sharon Springer, Councilman Konstantine Anthony and Santa himself attended the event, which included musical and dance performances.

City Council Seeks Early Review of Streamlined Housing Proposals

First published in the Dec. 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council appears likely to give itself a larger role in determining whether housing proposals are eligible for a controversial streamlined process passed by the state legislature.
The panel voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve an amendment to a proposed ordinance establishing the city’s policy for the California Senate Bill 35 review procedure. If the council adopts the revised ordinance when it returns for a final vote — and it was unclear this week how soon that could be — the panel would review staff members’ determinations regarding whether a proposed development even qualifies under SB 35 provisions.
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After Virtual Year, Local Fundraiser Delight Supporters

First published in the Oct. 23 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

After far too many months of local fundraising events being canceled, put on hold or presented virtually, the good times are back — so much so, that many had to decide which event to attend this week.
Some supporters even made it a “twofer,” attending both benefits held by the Burbank Arts & Education Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley, with fun and fundraising for the good causes going all night long.
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Council Approves Vaccine Mandate for City Employees

First published in the Oct. 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Despite concerns that employees could quit over the policy, the Burbank City Council approved vaccination mandates for municipal workers and some contract laborers.
The mandate that the council approved by a 3-2 vote on Tuesday will eventually require city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face termination. A separate policy for contractors, which passed with unanimous support, will require businesses to prove that their employees who come onto city property or interact with the public are vaccinated.
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Council Wary of Law’s Impact on Local Housing

A visibly frustrated — and at times, seemingly defeated — City Council dove into the weeds at its meeting on Tuesday as it sought to clarify the requirements of state Senate Bill 35 and its potential repercussions on housing density across Burbank neighborhoods.
Ultimately, however, the council voted 5-0 to resume discussion of the subject at its next meeting, on Sept. 14, after requesting that the city staff provide more details on the bill’s language and key provisions.
SB 35, which took effect in 2018, streamlines approval of housing development project applications that meet specified criteria, bypassing the conditional use permit requirement in cities — like Burbank — that have failed to develop enough residential units as required under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The legislation essentially removes local control in the approval process and prohibits the often nuanced decision making through which the council and Planning Commission decide if a proposed development is appropriate for a site or meets a neighborhood’s character. Continue reading “Council Wary of Law’s Impact on Local Housing”

Burbank Rescinds ‘Friendship City’ Status with Hadrut

The City Council voted unanimously this week to sever Burbank’s Friendship City relationship with Hadrut, an action that proponents said was necessary because of Hadrut’s capture by Azerbaijan and the resulting displacement of many Armenians there.
The council also agreed to consider a resolution to recognize Artsakh, a self-declared republic whose jurisdiction included Hadrut until a recent war, as an independent state. Both motions were approved Tuesday at the urging of community groups, as well as state and federal politicians.
The City Council has rarely taken a public stance on international issues, but has made an exception recently for the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Council members voted to condemn Azerbaijani aggression last October, about a month after the two nations resumed armed hostilities over Artsakh, also called Nagorno-Karabakh.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim historical ties to the region. The majority of Artsakh is Armenian and its leaders have expressed support for uniting with Armenia in the past, though it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan’s territory.
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City Officials Hold First Equity Subcommittee Meeting

A Burbank City Council subcommittee on racial equity and diversity had its first meeting last week, with members discussing potentially providing training to city employees.
The subcommittee, which met virtually on Feb. 24, was formed late last year following renewed outcry for racial justice and equity. The group, which includes Mayor Bob Frutos, Councilwoman Sharon Springer, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse, Assistant City Manager Judie Wilke and other municipal staff, will meet “as needed” to discuss potential initiatives for promoting equity and diversity.
Frutos emphasized that the early meetings of the subcommittee would be “flexible and fluid,” allowing the members to develop ideas to present to the full City Council.
“We are committed as a city and as a council to discuss the tough painful issues to make sure our city is working toward [being] inclusive of everybody,” he said.
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