City Denies Appeal of Mixed-Use Project

First published in the Nov. 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

A plan to build hundreds of apartment units at the former Fry’s Electronics site will move forward, Burbank officials decided this week, despite opposition to the development.
The Burbank Aero Crossings project, located at 3211 N. Hollywood Way, will feature a total of 862 housing units, two restaurants and office space. Those units include 80 homes that will be designated for very low-income households.
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Rents Continue to Skyrocket, Concerning Tenants

First published in the Nov. 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

When Kari C. moved into her two-bedroom apartment about eight years ago, she thought she had a great deal.
She was paying just $1,500 a month in rent, and her landlord — an independent owner — had raised the price by just $50 over five years, Kari said.
Then, in 2019, the owner sold the building to a major property management company. Soon after, according to Kari, she received a letter: the company was increasing her monthly rent from $1,550 to $2,150.

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Residents Debate Police Presence in Schools

Burbank Police Commission Chairman Nidal Kobaissi, pictured here at a January meeting, presented a series of recommendations to the City Council this week, opening the door to hours of discussion.

On the same night the Burbank City Council designated February as Black History Month for the first time, the panel heard a commission’s recommendation to establish an annual appreciation day for local police officers.
The council quickly moved over the recommendation without adopting it, but some of the nearly 40 people who called during the public comment period for Tuesday’s meeting were frustrated it was included at all, pointing to Black History Month’s significance. It was one of several grievances expressed that night regarding the Police Commission’s recommendations.
The meeting, which stretched past midnight — forcing officials to push the planned discussion of homelessness to a future date — served as the culmination of months of work by the Police Commission to generate recommendations for the Burbank Police Department, a task the City Council charged the advisory body with following the death of George Floyd and widespread calls for police reform.
But when those recommendations were presented to the council, many residents took issue with their content, particularly with the advice that the school resource officer program — which assigns two specialized officers to the local school district — be retained or expanded. Several callers said they were concerned that the program intimidates and criminalizes students, particularly students of color, with some alumni saying they or their children had bad experiences with the officers.

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12 Months That Ushered in Hardship, Change

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Businesses faced strict restrictions, events were canceled and families lost loved ones in 2020 due to the coronavirus — a pandemic that seems to show little signs of receding. Nonetheless, many Burbank residents sought to inspire hope and joy where they could, supporting their neighbors during the tumultuous time.

With the passing of 2020, many would likely be grateful if they never heard the word “unprecedented” again.
The just-finished year’s news cycle was largely dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its effects on every aspect of daily life. But as COVID-19 surged through California, the United States and much of the world, other stories also hit the front page: renewed calls for racial justice, a frantic election cycle, wildfires.
Through it all, Burbank residents reflected much of what was happening around them, echoing the fear, sorrow and disappointment felt by their neighbors. Many struggled with previously mundane tasks, made frustratingly complicated and often wholly dependent on a decent internet connection. Some lost loved ones. Others saw their small businesses close down forever.
But there were also points — however small — of optimism, determination and hope. Restaurant and shop owners pledged to one day open new businesses. Churches, nonprofits and businesses partnered to give food and other necessities to those in need. Families found ways to celebrate traditions while staying safe, or to remember those who had passed.
And many, over time, learned to adjust to the unprecedented.
Here are some of Burbank’s biggest stories of 2020.

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Frutos to Serve as Mayor for Second Time

Bob Frutos

City Councilman Bob Frutos was appointed this week by his fellow members to serve as Burbank’s mayor for the next year, with Jess Talamantes to hold the position of vice mayor.
Frutos, who was Burbank’s mayor from 2015-2016 and has been a council member since 2013, was quickly appointed by his peers — who include newcomers Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz — during the council’s annual reorganization meeting on Monday. Frutos was nominated for mayor by Talamantes, who was in turn nominated for the vice mayor position by Anthony.
Frutos, a former Los Angeles police officer and Burbank police commissioner, has served for the past year as vice mayor. Former Mayor Sharon Springer, whom he replaced, remains a City Council member.
“I know the road ahead of us will be the most difficult in modern history to serve on any council,” Frutos said Monday. “Like so many other cities across our nation, we’re just beginning to see the economic devastation of a sort that we really haven’t seen since the Great Depression. … Our top priority will be maintaining the fiscal health of our city and to continue to work on the economic recovery of our city.”

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Council Talks Housing Goals in Year’s Final Meeting

In its last meeting of the year, the City Council was told by municipal staff members that Burbank is required by the state to make room for the construction of 8,751 housing units between 2021 and 2029.
As city senior planner Lisa Frank explained to the council on Tuesday, Burbank doesn’t have to actually ensure that its allocation is built within that time frame. In fact, 97% of cities don’t meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals, which are set by the state to address an ongoing lack of affordable housing.
Rather, the city must show its housing policies could accommodate that number of units if developers wish to build that many.
“It’s not a construction mandate,” Frank said. “A lot of housing that gets produced is sort of dictated by the market. … There [are] a lot of factors that are outside of any jurisdiction’s control.”

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Pandemic Recovery and More: Councilmen-Elect Detail Plans

Change could be coming to Burbank, according to the two new City Council members its residents elected.
Both Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz ran on progressive platforms that included ideas involving police reform and increased resources for people experiencing homelessness, and pledged to help the city recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We absolutely need change in the city,” Anthony said, pointing out that only two of the eight candidates, himself included, had run for a seat on the panel before. “There is not a single person I’ve talked to who didn’t have something that they needed changed in this city. It was a change election. So let’s do it — let’s make some change.”

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Konstantine, Schultz Win Council Seats

Nearly a month after Election Day, the final ballot results from Los Angeles County are in: Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz are expected to join the Burbank City Council in December.

Anthony soared into first place early in the ballot count process, with 17,529 votes as of Monday, Nov. 30 — when the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk certified the results. Schultz maintained a consistent lead for the second open council seat, with 13,105 voters having cast a ballot for him. The pair will be sworn in to the City Council at a reorganization meeting on Dec. 14.

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Konstantine, Schultz Lead as Ballot Counting Winds Down

With Los Angeles County election officials whittling down the number of ballots remaining to be counted, the leads of Burbank City Council candidates Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz late this week showed little sign of fading.
Anthony and Schultz have led the race for the two open City Council seats since the first wave of results was announced on Election Day. With 17,448 votes as of this Tuesday, the most recent count available, Anthony’s place as a presumed council member-elect seemed unshakable.

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Challengers Lead in Council, School Board Races

Anthony Surges, Second City Seat Contested

Days after the election, Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz continued late this week to be the front-runners for two seats on the Burbank City Council, though Tamala Takahashi added suspense to the race by hovering in third place.
Anthony’s expected presence on the council would be only the latest development in his complicated relationship with the city: If he clinches victory, the disability services provider will have gone from suing Burbank this year to joining its lead panel in December.
As of the most recent update from Los Angeles County on Thursday evening, Anthony had 15,222 votes, or 20.7% of the total of votes counted, while Schultz had 11,328 votes, or 15.4%. If their leads hold, the two will sit on the council for the next four years.
Takahashi was not far behind, however, nabbing 10,862 votes, or 14.77%, in the Tuesday election in which eight candidates vied.

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