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.”
“We set the table,” added city attorney Amy Albano, “We can’t force you to come to our restaurant, but we’re hoping that restaurant will be enticing enough that you will actually sit at the table with us and start building.”
Frank and her colleagues in the city’s Community Development Department agreed that the allocation, which is more than three times the amount Burbank had been assigned from the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2020, was in sync with the City Council’s goal of building 12,000 new units by 2034.
Cities whose housing plans do not facilitate the construction of units risk being sued by the state or disqualified for some grants, or temporarily losing local control of land use.
By the end of 2019, the city had issued permits for only 512 of the roughly 2,700 units it was allocated in the RHNA cycle ending next year. Data for the current year is not yet available, according to Frank.
About 29% of the next Burbank RHNA allocation, 2,546 units, is for very low-income housing, while another 16.2%, 1,415 units, is assigned for low-income housing.
The city has sought for years to address its jobs-to-housing imbalance; Burbank has a 3-1 ratio of jobs to units, meaning that an estimated 88,000 workers are commuting into the city. For comparison, Los Angeles has a jobs-to-housing ratio of 1.25-1.
One way Burbank and other cities have sought to address their housing needs is through accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which typically are small, cheap units built next to single-family homes. Frank said many of Burbank’s new housing units are ADUs, and Community Development Director Patrick Prescott noted that the city is receiving a substantial number of applications to build them — as many as 25 in one week.
Konstantine Anthony asked city staff members to include a report on municipal ADU approval processes and small-scale developments in Burbank’s midyear budget review in February.
Albano also briefly addressed complaints from residents regarding Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, a local restaurant that has reopened its patio to in-person dining despite county and state health orders banning the practice.
The city attorney said the city doesn’t have the power to suspend the restaurant’s health permit, as L.A. County does, or revoke its alcohol license, as the state does. However, she added that Burbank agencies, including code enforcement and the Burbank Police Department, have reached out to the county and state. Representatives from both have made contact with Tinhorn Flats, with L.A. County issuing citations against it.
She also said that revoking a license takes time, as a hearing is involved and the business can appeal the move.
“None of these processes will close a business immediately and there is no immediate ‘Shut them down,’” Albano said. “I know there is a certain growing frustration [of] ‘Why are they still open?’ but there is no magic ‘We just flip a switch’ and they’re closed.”
A judge recently ruled that L.A. County’s controversial health order banning in-person dining to help curb skyrocketing COVID-19 case numbers lacked sufficient justification and could not be extended beyond its Wednesday, Dec. 16, expiration date, a decision to which the county filed an appeal on Wednesday.
It is unclear whether the county can continue to pursue enforcement options since its health order has expired. The state’s order banning in-person dining will last through at least Dec. 27 for Southern California, and will be lifted only if the region is above 15% ICU capacity.
Recently, 11 California state senators, including two Democrats, signed a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to reclassify restaurants as essential businesses and allow them to operate indoors.