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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Local Women Honored by State Senator

State Sen. Anthony Portantino recently saluted his district’s “women heroes of the pandemic” during a virtual ceremony, and at least five of the honorees have ties to Burbank.

Joyce Powell and Cynthia Triola, longtime nurses at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center; Sharon Springer, a Burbank City Council member;  and Simone McFarland, the city’s assistant community development director — all were commended by Portantino. Additionally Burbank resident Marcella Marlowe was recognized as a hero in San Marino, where she is city manager.

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Judge Confirms Ruling Barring Tinhorn Flats Operations

Photos by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
A pair of counter-protestors stands near Tinhorn Flats while police speak with the larger crowd of the restaurant’s supporters. Tensions between the two groups were high, and Burbank police later had the counter-protestors move to the opposite side of the street.

A county judge has ordered a preliminary injunction against Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, issuing the tentative ruling he made two weeks ago.
The preliminary injunction legally replaces the temporary restraining order the city issued barring Tinhorn Flats from operating since March 8. The injunction, as Judge Mitchell Beckloff noted in his tentative ruling, doesn’t place any new requirements on the restaurant.
Beckloff issued a tentative ruling on March 26 but Tinhorn Flats’ attorneys requested two weeks to meet with the city’s representatives and seek a compromise. None was reached.
“[Tinhorn Flats parent company] Barfly suggests it will suffer grave or irreparable harm from the issuance of a preliminary injunction,” Beckloff wrote in his tentative ruling. “Barfly fails to offer any specific facts or evidence to substantiate its argument. In reality, any harm Barfly has suffered is related to the loss of its health permit and [conditional use permit] after administrative hearings.

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Storage Facility for Homeless to Open by June

A new storage center allowing people experiencing homelessness to temporarily secure their belongings will open by the end of June, city workers said this week.
The storage facility is planned for a space at 401 S. Front Street and will allow up to 60 people to use roughly 60-gallon containers to store their items. Funding for the development of the facility comes from Measure H, a Los Angeles County sales tax initiative for homelessness services passed in 2017, and federal grants.
City staff members also reported during the homelessness update at the City Council meeting on Tuesday that they are working on a potential site at 322-323 S. Front Street that could be converted to a temporary housing shelter. However, officials have not yet decided what to do with the property.
Burbank has seen less of an increase in its number of unhoused persons compared to the county, representatives added, and dozens of people have been reunified with families or placed in shelter or housing recently. But municipal employees also said that they don’t have enough staff dedicated to homelessness.
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Residents Remember Fry’s Following Closure

Fry’s Electronics closed its stores nationwide on Wednesday, prompting Burbank residents to lament the loss of a local location famed for its elaborate sci-fi decorations.
The business announced it was stopping regular operations this week after nearly 36 years in business, citing “changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement on its website.
On social media, many community members shared photos of the Burbank store on North Hollywood Way, whose decorations were themed after an alien invasion — taking some inspiration from the classic sci-fi film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Fry’s was known for styling its stores after various subjects, such as “Alice in Wonderland” or a Mayan temple.
Though several residents noted, as media outlets have in the past, that customer service was sometimes poor and bare shelves seemed to indicate the store would soon go out of business, many also spoke fondly of their memories of the business.

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Burbank Threatens Defiant Restaurant With Permit Loss

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill’s reopening of its outdoor patio in violation of county and state health orders brought the attention of news crews, supportive diners and frustrated residents. Now, the city is stepping in.

Nearly a month after the eatery announced it would serve diners in-person, despite prohibitive state health orders, Burbank officials have pledged to revoke Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill’s permit unless it complies.
Community development director Patrick Prescott issued a notice of violation to Baret Lepejian, owner of Tinhorn Flats, on Jan. 8, saying the restaurant must return to offering only delivery and take-out services and require all employees and patrons to wear face coverings by Tuesday. If Lepejian continues to keep his eatery’s outdoor patio open, the City Council will hold a public hearing to consider suspending or revoking Tinhorn Flats’ conditional use permit on Feb. 22.

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Deal for Housing for Homeless People Falls Through

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A city official said this week that the city is no longer seeking to purchase the Scott Motel, which would have been rehabilitated and used for temporary homeless housing.

The city has withdrawn an offer to purchase the Scott Motel for use as transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness, a city official confirmed.
Burbank’s Community Development Department had presented the plan to the City Council in September, explaining that staff members hoped to purchase and arrange to rehabilitate the motel for $4.9 million, $2.8 million of which could potentially come from the state’s Project Roomkey grant program. The 11 units of the motel could then be used to temporarily house homeless individuals.
But when the expected property manager, the nonprofit Burbank Housing Corp., toured the property, its representatives “found a number of concerning items,” according to Simone McFarland, the city’s assistant community development director and communications manager.

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Netflix Leases Building Near Empire Center

Streaming service Netflix recently signed a lease for a new Burbank office, according to a news report.
The office is located at 2300 W. Empire Ave., near the Burbank Empire Center, said an article from real estate news website CoStar News on Monday. The site called the lease Netflix’s “most aggressive move into a territory dominated by its rivals.” A recent tweet from the official Burbank Twitter account called the newly leased space “Netflix’s first dedicated Animation studio.”
Netflix is leasing about 151,000 square feet, according to Simone McFarland, Burbank’s assistant community development director and communications manager, who said the “Media Capital of the World” has been working with the streamer on its leasing plans for months under “tenant improvements” and possible building adjustments.

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Youth Center Wins Share of Federal Grant

The City Council divvied up federal grant funds to several projects Tuesday, including programs for the homeless and the local Boys & Girls Club.
But the project that received the most comment from residents was the Burbank Youth Center’s solar panel installation, an initiative council members referenced frequently as they shuffled funds around, trying to determine where to allocate portions of the federal Community Development Block Grant.
In nearly all cases, project managers received less money than they requested — funding all the projects in the amount applied for would have put the city more than $350,000 over the line.
“Everybody’s in need. Everybody would like to have more money,” Councilman Jess Talamantes said during the panel’s meeting.
City staff members recommended that the council not issue any funds to the solar panel project for the BYC, an organization formed by the Armenian Cultural Foundation, believing the money could be better used for housing and homelessness initiatives.
But after about a dozen callers asked council members not to divert the grant from the BYC during the meeting’s public comment period, the council agreed to find funding elsewhere for the causes advocated by the staff.

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