First published in the Sept. 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
A triangular slice of Burbank saw the quickest rate of population growth in the city from 2010 to 2020, according to census data.
The tract, whose U.S. Census Bureau-assigned number is 3105.01, is adjacent to the east side of the Hollywood Burbank Airport and bounded by San Fernando Boulevard to the north, Victory Place near the eastern end of the Empire Center, and Hollywood Way and Empire Avenue to the southwest. From 2010 to 2020, the tract saw a population increase from 3,205 to 3,788 residents, an 18.2% rise.
The next-highest population increase by percentage for a Burbank tract was 11.3%, for an area roughly between Eton Drive, East Grinnell Drive, East Sixth Street and San Fernando Boulevard.
The airport-adjacent tract also hosted the largest jump, by both percentage and absolute number, in housing units. The 3105.01 tract had an estimated 1,144 units in 2010 and 1,496 in 2020, Census Bureau data says — growth of about 30.8%.Overall, Burbank’s population rose from 103,340 to 107,337 during the decade, while its total of housing units jumped from 44,309 to 45,616.
Much of the housing increase in the 3105.01 tract, whose residential zoning includes high-density apartments and single-family homes, appears attributable to the 2010 Empire Landing project. Simone McFarland, assistant director of the city’s Community Development Department and a Burbank spokeswoman, said the luxury apartments account for 276 units. The city estimates another 24 were constructed in that tract during the 10-year period, she said.
That estimate may not be completely accurate, McFarland added; it’s not clear where the remaining units counted by the Census Bureau are located.
Census experts and media outlets have also warned that workers may have undercounted some populations. The Census Bureau struggles to count renters, according to the Associated Press, because they move more frequently than homeowners. The census’ historical trend of undercounting people of color, combined with the difficulties of surveying households amid a pandemic last year, also likely affected some communities’ estimates.
The Census Bureau is expected to release a report evaluating the accuracy of the survey findings early next year.
CITY IDENTIFIES HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES
The 3105.01 tract shares much of its area with the city’s Golden State District, also located immediately east of the airport. In Burbank’s draft housing element — a state-required guiding document that undergoes occasional updates — the city identified that district as one of two areas with substantial opportunities for housing development (the other was the downtown district).
The city must identify these areas to show it could accommodate a number of units assigned by the state, if developers decide to build. The Burbank City Council has also set a local goal of constructing 12,000 housing units along transportation corridors by 2035, McFarland explained.
In a community meeting last year, city representatives told residents that they planned to rezone much of the Golden State District — largely designated at present for general industrial use — for high-density residential, commercial, media and other uses.
But several community members expressed concern that increased development would bring more traffic, noise and pollution to the area. Municipal employees have argued that the nearby transportation options would alleviate some of the potential car-related issues.
McFarland said drafts of a blueprint for the district and an environmental review document would be available for public review at the start of next year.
Besides its potential for future housing, the 3105.01 tract is also notable for having the city’s highest percentage of single-race, nonwhite residents, 69.3%, according to the Census Bureau.
The state’s CalEnviroScreen, an online map that analyzes and compares environmental conditions of census tracts, found that the 3105.01 tract ranked lower than 89% of California tracts and third worst in Burbank. Issues the state cited included heavy traffic, poor air quality and drinking water, and high housing costs relative to household income.
In emailed answers to questions in June, Burbank senior planner Lisa Frank acknowledged at the time that the tract “is both considered high opportunity and disadvantaged.” The upcoming Golden State Specific Plan, she said, will include project design features to help mitigate environmental issues, including open spaces, increased tree plantings and higher-rated air filtration systems.
While no census tract came close to the 3105.01’s rate of population growth, many saw modest increases. Those who spoke with the Leader about their move to the city between 2010 and 2020 — mostly homeowners — consistently said they came to be closer to their jobs or to start a family, often citing the quality of the local school district.
“[Burbank is] its own neighborhood, it’s got its own identity,” said Chad Peiken, who moved to the city in 2012. “L.A. is so spread out and you all have these different pockets … but Burbank feels very self-contained to me, like it has its own personality.”
Peiken said he does feel concerned that large apartment structures and corporate developments could spoil the charm of local neighborhoods, though he believes there’s a way for new housing to appropriately come to Burbank.
Chris Rummel, who came to Burbank in 2018, said he’s not surprised the city is growing. His next-door neighbor has lived here for 70 years, he said, and younger families are buying up homes that go on sale.
That’s a cause for optimism, said Majelane Bautista-Dinh, who purchased her Burbank house in 2019. It was hard to afford a place, she said, adding that those who are looking to buy their first home tend to struggle with the amount of competition in the market.
When it comes to housing development, she explained, she’s trying to look at the bright side.
“It is hopeful to hear there are more opportunities to be homeowners,” Bautista-Dinh said, “and just to live in Burbank, and to add to the dynamic that is our city.”