After much speculation, Amazon has confirmed that it is leasing a facility near the Hollywood Burbank Airport to open a new delivery station, expected to open this spring.
Amazon spokesman Justin Grayson told the Burbank Leader that the station would be within the 61-acre Avion site, though he explained information was not available regarding the square footage of the facility.
A few residents and a Burbank council member have said previously that Amazon was expected to have a presence at the Avion business park, but were unable to confirm the new site. City officials have declined to answer questions from community members regarding the matter, noting that they do not know details due to nondisclosure agreements between renters and the Avion developers. The developer declined to comment for the same reason.
While Grayson said the delivery station would help Amazon speed up deliveries for customers in the Los Angeles area, some residents who have closely followed the development of the Avion project said they are concerned that it will further increase traffic in an area already expected to see major congestion problems once the development is complete.
Grayson also said the new delivery station was designed to work with Amazon’s electric delivery vehicles, though he did not say how many of the local fleet would be fully powered by electricity.
Amanda Biers-Melcher, a member of the Save Burbank Neighborhoods Facebook group, which has frequently discussed the Avion project, said she’s concerned about the traffic that the site and Amazon could produce. She wondered what might happen when drivers cut through side streets while her son Lincoln, a junior at Burroughs High School, is skateboarding.
“Anyone who thinks that this doesn’t affect them, or isn’t going to affect them or is only going to impact one neighborhood in Burbank, they’re going to be in for a very rude awakening,” Biers- Melcher said. “Magnolia [Boulevard] and Hollywood Way [are] going to be a nightmare. Where are those cars going to go?”
She also expressed concern that Amazon’s cargo airline might use the Hollywood Burbank Airport itself, potentially contributing to noise issues in the area. Nerissa Sugars, a spokeswoman for the airport, told the Leader that the airline is not currently a tenant of the airport, and the airport is not in talks with the airline.
Kevin Muldoon, who has been a frequent critic of development and is a member of Save Burbank Neighborhoods, also said he doubted many of the new Amazon workers would be able to afford local housing, fearing an increase in commutes — already commonplace in Burbank — could impact traffic.
Though the environmental impact report — or EIR — for the Avion project estimates that more than 2,100 jobs could be available at the site after it’s completed, Grayson said information regarding how many jobs Amazon was creating at the delivery center was not yet available.
The city’s community development director Patrick Prescott also noted that the EIR took into account the potential presence of a delivery center at the Avion site, and said all tenants — including Amazon — would have to abide by mitigation agreements. But Muldoon said he was primarily concerned about the lack of information regarding Amazon from city officials.
“Our current council members were mostly all elected on ‘protect the Burbank neighborhoods’ platform, and for none of them to be curious or do any research on behalf of the residents … is disconcerting in the first place, because what we still don’t know might hurt us,” he said.
Prescott told the Leader that the city had discussions with Amazon last year but nothing was confirmed. Prescott added city staff members surmised Amazon’s plans only after they saw local job listings from the corporation.
“It is not uncommon for businesses to withhold lease information until their negotiations are complete and their projects are moving forward,” he said in an email.
COUNCIL MEMBER PROMOTES TAX EFFORT
City Councilman Konstantine Anthony has spoken publicly about Amazon, promoting an effort to tax the company and other large businesses.
Anthony, who was elected last November, said he was often asked during the campaign about Amazon, and eventually found a proposal made that summer for the business to lease space at the Avion site.
He recently spoke at the virtual kickoff event for Tax Amazon Burbank in a personal capacity, saying a tax on the corporation and others could fund schools, coronavirus relief and other initiatives.
“How are we going to pay for these things? There’s not some magic money fairy that’s going to say, ‘Oh, well, we’re going to save working-class people, so obviously you get more cash,’” Anthony said at the event. “I wish it was that way. I wish we lived in that society. But it’s up to us to create a system where that money is available for those kinds of things.”
Tax Amazon Burbank organizers pointed to a similar effort in Seattle, which faced severe opposition but ultimately passed, as a blueprint. But Anthony said he wanted to leave any potential tax initiative up to local residents and planned to take a “back-seat” approach to the topic.
“For me, it’s more about empowering local citizens to get together, talk amongst themselves and bring that proposal to City Council,” he said in a phone interview.
While Biers-Melcher, Muldoon and Save Burbank Neighborhoods administrator Roy Wiegand had their qualms about Tax Amazon Burbank — ranging from concerns with the group’s socialist roots to apprehension toward its supporters — they shared its calls to ensure Amazon is a “good neighbor.”
But Wiegand said he was worried that the city’s chance to intercede had already passed.
“The horse is out of the barn,” he said. “Whatever requirements we would have liked, either those have already been done or we missed our chance. And that, again, would have been great to have some community involvement — [hearing] what people here are concerned about.”
“We do know big companies can be good neighbors,” Wiegand added. “And I hope that Amazon is.”