Burbank could have a new guiding document for its downtown area by December 2021, with city planners aiming to add housing and promote transit.
The downtown Burbank Specific Plan will guide land use in the roughly one-mile area, according to city staff members, who added that its principles will aim to “create a pedestrian-friendly environment,” introduce housing units and protect existing residential neighborhoods.
The project area is bounded by Lake Street, Victory Boulevard and Mariposa Street to the west, San Fernando Boulevard and Amherst Drive to the north, Glenoaks Boulevard and Fifth Street to the east and the city boundary with Glendale to the south.
A report on the plan, which was presented to the City Council on Tuesday, is an early step in a roughly yearlong process. A virtual community workshop on the plan is scheduled for November 2020, while plan adoption and implementation are projected for December 2021.
An environmental impact report and additional workshops will also be available later in the timeline. The city’s future analyses will include a study on how the new plan would impact traffic in the area.
Leonard Bechet, a senior planner with the city’s Community Development Department, also said the city will create a website to allow residents to submit comments and keep track of the process.
He added that downtown Burbank faces several design issues, such as a “generic architectural character,” poor connectivity and an outdated development code that emphasizes commercial over residential use.
The 5 Freeway’s bifurcation of the area presents another difficulty, said Stefanos Polyzoides, a consultant from the company contracted by the city to prepare the plan and its related documents.
“There are both important opportunities and sincere challenges that we have to face,” he told councilmembers.
California’s housing department is requiring Burbank to build 8,700 housing units by 2028, and the City Council has also pledged to introduce 12,000 housing units by 2035. Reimagining the downtown area to include more housing while maintaining its commercial presence could help the city get closer to those goals, according to Bechet.
Councilmembers were eager to float suggestions to city staff members, with Councilman Jess Talamantes advocating that they look into closing San Fernando Boulevard to vehicle traffic (implemented this year to allow businesses more outdoor space) permanently. He also suggested, alternatively, that it be made a one-way street with no parking.
San Fernando Boulevard previously served as the site of the Burbank Golden Mall, a pedestrian-only commercial strip in the city.
Mayor Sharon Springer encouraged city planners to seek more open space, or even a linear park, citing the success of the San Fernando Boulevard closure.
Vice Mayor Bob Frutos also asked city staff members to look into the feasibility of an electric trolley bus that would take pedestrians around downtown Burbank, a service he said would decrease the public’s dependency on cars in the area.
“One of the problems that I see is … there’s no feasible type of transportation to take them from areas like the Empire Center to the other parts of San Fernando Road [and] downtown Burbank,” he said.