With the end of this challenging year in sight, many Americans are as acutely aware as ever that a plethora of ideological issues divides us. From political dust-ups to debates on who makes the best pizza in town, it seems that all too often we find ourselves to be either Venusians or Martians who can’t agree on anything. While we all bring a different perspective to the table on a variety of things, almost everyone has one thing in common: the memory of getting a bike for Christmas, a birthday or graduation. Getting a bike, unlike any other item, is something that almost always comes on a special occasion. Rare is the kid who has a memory of his parents just waking up one Saturday morning and saying, “Hey, what do ya say we get you a new bike today?” This, I solidly believe, is something we can all agree upon.
After issuing a proclamation denouncing prejudice, the Burbank City Council indicated its support for a nonprofit organization’s recommendation that the panel formally acknowledge and apologize for racist aspects of the city’s history. Early in the council’s Tuesday meeting, Mayor Sharon Springer presented a proclamation condemning “all forms of prejudices” and embracing “inclusivity, equality and diversity.” The decree also affirmed Burbank’s commitment to promoting equity and diversity in city programs and services, though it did not announce any new initiatives. But what could be new, if council members approve, is a formal recognition and apology from Burbank for its previous “sundown town” policies that discouraged people of color, particularly African-Americans, from living in the city.
COVID-19 cases are again trending upwards, with national records being broken in recent weeks and health officials urging the public to stick to safety protocols to slow the surge. As of Wednesday, according to the most recent data published on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dashboard on Friday, Burbank has had 2,140 cases and 74 deaths. A seven-day average of new coronavirus cases had crept up to 19.4 a day, surpassing summer peaks. A month earlier, on Oct. 11, that seven-day average was 11.3 new cases a day; it was as low as 4.7 in September. “There are many contributing factors to this increase,” Mayor Sharon Springer said in an email, “which include an uptick in cases in some of our skilled nursing facilities, an increase in Burbank residents being tested, and an increase in people becoming complacent and beginning to gather in homes, whether it be to watch sporting events or people just tired of the restrictions and wanting to socialize. Burbank has not seen a new reported fatality in over a week.”
Voicing some frustration that they hadn’t been consulted, Burbank City Council members voted this week to send a letter to Los Angeles officials to state their opposition to a potential Griffith Park project that could adversely affect local equestrians. The neighboring city is studying the feasibility of a closed-loop gondola system that would allow tourist access to the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. Though the possible project is meant to decrease traffic congestion in the area and the system would not cross Burbank’s borders, council members expressed concern that it would scare horses on the trails of the park. “An overhead gondola traveling only a few feet above a horse is a predator in the mind of a horse,” Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, who rides horses herself, said during the Tuesday meeting.
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.
The looming COVID-19 pandemic that forced 2020’s State of the City Address to be held virtually rather than in person was a major focus during Mayor Sharon Springer’s speech, but she encouraged residents that the city was adapting to the challenges. The Tuesday speech, titled “Burbank Together, Rays of Light,” took an optimistic tone, though it also acknowledged the threat posed by a coronavirus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans, including dozens of Burbank residents, and caused businesses to shutter. In a prerecorded 12-minute video streamed, clips were shown of Gregg Garfield, whom Springer described as the first person in the city to contract the virus. Personnel interviewed at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center said they did not expect Garfield to survive. Fortunately, he recovered weeks later.
After being suspended for months due to an ongoing statewide stay-at-home order, local enforcement of street parking rules resumed Thursday, with a grace period of sorts. The Burbank City Council voted during its Tuesday meeting to reinstitute citations for street sweeping and overtime parking violations, agreeing with the Police Department’s recommendation. Warnings will be issued through Oct. 14, with citations being issued for violations starting on Oct. 15. Council members generally agreed with the BPD that reinstating parking enforcement was necessary to allow the Public Works Department to clean street gutter lines. With the rainy season possibly beginning in November, according to the BPD, debris and trash blocking the flow of stormwater could lead to flooding.
A board made up of officials from Burbank and nearby cities is crafting a new strategic plan, potentially expanding its role in coordinating transportation initiatives in the area. Members of the Governing Board for the Arroyo Verdugo Communities Joint Powers Authority expressed interest Thursday in moving beyond traffic and infrastructure concerns to consider other modes of transportation, such as light rail and bicycle paths, for local development, as well as environment-related projects. The joint powers authority was formed in 2017 and includes officials from Burbank, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena and the Los Angeles County Fifth Supervisorial District, which takes in La Crescenta and Montrose.
Ramping up efforts intended to mitigate the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic to tenants, the Burbank City Council has voted to extend the municipal eviction moratorium and further defer rent payments. The latter measure, which was passed unanimously on Tuesday, gives residential and commercial renters six months after the eviction moratorium is lifted to repay the rent they owe. That moratorium, which was first issued in March, was extended to Sept. 30, lining up with a similar countywide ordinance, but could be extended again. An ordinance giving residents and businesses extra time to pay rent was already in place, setting the deadline at Nov. 30. However, City Attorney Amy Albano and Community Development Director Patrick Prescott noted in a staff report that renters may not have the financial means to pay their debts by then. Landlords are also not allowed to charge interest for unpaid rent during the moratorium and six-month grace period. Between 10.8% and 12.1% of local renters either deferred their rent payment or entered a payment plan in May and June, according to a city survey of local apartment owners. Between 2.4% and 3.3% did not pay rent at all and are not on a payment plan. Andrea Ureno, a Burbank renter and single mother who explained that she takes care of her mother and daughter, called the council in support of the moratorium extension during its Tuesday meeting. Her rent, she said, has increased by $150 every year — but her wages haven’t.