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.
John Molinar, assistant public works director, told the Leader in a phone call that, while his department has continued to sweep streets throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the presence of vehicles makes it “very difficult” for sweepers to do their jobs.
He added that staff members have received several complaints a day from residents about the debris in the gutter lines.
The council voted 3-1 to approve the resumption of parking enforcement, with Vice Mayor Bob Frutos absent from the meeting and Mayor Sharon Springer dissenting.
Councilman Jess Talamantes, who voted in favor of the move, said during the meeting, “People are wanting, demanding to get back to normalcy. … This is one step forward to becoming normal again.”
Springer, however, felt the city wasn’t ready to return to the full swing of parking enforcement, briefly voicing her support for resuming citations only for violations related to street sweeping, while continuing to suspend enforcement of overtime parking violations.
The BPD suspended enforcement of parking violations in March as the pandemic began to keep many people at home, but noted in a staff report that the reopening of certain businesses is leading some cities, such as Los Angeles and Pasadena, to resume enforcement.
COUNCIL ORDERS BOOST TO BWP AID
The City Council also passed a Burbank Water and Power proposal that will offer electricity bill credits to residents receiving unemployment insurance.
Council members also pushed the utility to increase the overall amount of its aid from $1.5 million to $2 million. The money will be used to give bill credits totaling $200 distributed over four months for multifamily residences, and $300 distributed over four months for single-family residences. Multifamily homes tend to use less electricity, according to Joe Flores, BWP marketing manager.
Assuming all the funds are used, the program could help between nearly 6,700 and 10,000 people.
The program will begin on Nov. 1, 2020, and run until funds run out or on June 30, 2021 — whichever is sooner. Funding for the program comes from the utility’s Public Benefits Fund, which according to BWP General Manager Jorge Somoano holds about $7 million and gains about $4.5 million annually. BWP is expected to return to the council near the end of the year with an update on the program’s funding.
Unpaid utility bills from Burbank residents have ballooned during the pandemic, Flores told council members. About $1.24 million has been past due for 91 or more days, compared to about $100,000 in March.
BWP is not issuing late fees or disconnecting services for unpaid bills, but Flores warned that residents who are behind on their bills could face a huge payment once that policy changes.
“At some point, customers could face a balloon-type payment once council authorizes the normal collection process that may include disconnections,” he said.
Businesses are not eligible for the program.
Springer expressed concern about people having difficulty navigating the state’s unemployment insurance system. Flores said such residents, like others, could defer their utility bill until they begin receiving that insurance.
The council voted 3-1 in favor of the program, with Councilman Timothy Murphy dissenting. He explained he was uncomfortable adding $500,000 to the program after BWP officials said they had been saving money in the Public Benefits Fund for some projects to meet greenhouse gas goals, though he added he was open to the idea of adding the extra money later on if necessary.
PROPERTY COULD HOST HOMELESS SERVICES
The council also approved the purchase of a $5.35 million property, hoping to use the plot as a part of future development for homeless services.
The property, which hosts the Hollywood Piano Store at 323-333 S. Front St., presents a good opportunity for development because of its proximity to the Metrolink station, according to a staff report submitted to the council. The city also owns several adjacent properties.
After about three years, according to the staff report, the property could be used for transitional housing and/or a homeless shelter for women and children. Staff members from the Community Development Department also proposed adding a reuse store that would sell discarded household items.
There are six current leases on the property, with the annual revenue at just under $300,000, while expenses are at about $76,500 annually. Profits from the site will be used to fund homeless services, with leases scheduled to expire by November 2023.
The staff report notes that the property, with a lot size of more than 20,000 square feet, is appraised at $5.68 million. Funding for the sale will come from state funds issued when California dissolved its redevelopment agencies.