Council Member Advocates Panel on Women, Minorities

City Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy this week encouraged her colleagues to form a subcommittee to discuss means of advancing the status of women and other minority groups in Burbank.
The request came at the end of a Tuesday meeting in which council members tackled a packed agenda including topics ranging from sidewalk vendors to issues with local coyote populations. Gabel-Luddy’s recommendation contained few details, but she made it clear she wanted the potential subcommittee’s scope to go beyond simply analyzing the status of women.

“The times have changed,” Gabel-Luddy said at the meeting. “We’re in a different world right now, and just talking about the status of women is not enough. The mission should be ‘women plus’ and include our LGBTQ community, include our communities of color.”
The councilwoman said the subcommittee should “bring together current efforts” of the Burbank Human Relations Council, the local Zonta Club, Family Service Agency and other organizations involved in pursuing equality and inclusion.
A subcommittee consists of two council members assigned to the panel during the annual reorganization session and meets with city staff members as needed. The next reorganization meeting is on Dec. 14 and will also feature the swearing-in of new council members.
Gabel-Luddy said she had been thinking about the formation of a commission on the status of women for some time, and that a subcommittee could be a “first step.” But she explained in a phone interview that she sees such a commission as a very “20th century” idea, one that has been suggested to the council many times.
“I think the contemporary way forward is a way that is not talking about the status [of women],” the council member said. “We walk to talk about the advancement. … What I’d like to do, though, is set the table and bring the voices forward to engage in an effective engagement about what is the best way forward for the city itself.”
Whatever the subcommittee finds in its work, Gabel-Luddy added, should be brought to the full council for discussion.
The cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Los Angeles each have a commission on the status of women. Nick Schultz, a Burbank City Council candidate who appears on track to win one of two open seats — which include one being vacated by Gabel-Luddy, who did not seek reelection — advocated the creation of such a commission while on the campaign trail.
Because Gabel-Luddy’s request did not regard an item on the night’s agenda, other council members could not voice support or dissent on the subject, though Councilman Tim Murphy briefly noted his support before being reminded of the rule.

‘IN LIEU’ BUILDING FEES
Council members also directed staff to dis-incentivize housing developers from paying a fee instead of building affordable housing during a lengthy study session on the city’s “inclusionary housing” policies.
Paying an “in lieu” fee is usually a more attractive alternative to developers than committing a percentage of their housing units to low- or very low-income residents as is required of some projects, said Burbank senior planner Lisa Frank, since doing so is usually more profitable for them in the long run.
However, because of enforcement restrictions — that were only overturned in 2017 — for rental projects and the city’s outdated fee schedule, the benefit of in-lieu fees has usually been minimal for Burbank. For example, according to a staff report submitted to the council, a 645,806-square-foot residential project would have given the city just over $6.63 million in in-lieu fees, enough to build an estimated 12 affordable units, compared to 69 units that could be built if just 12% of the project’s units were set aside for moderate-income households.
Council members largely agreed with city staff members that paying an in-lieu fee shouldn’t be as available an option to developers as it is currently. Frank noted that the Community Development Department was recommending that the fees be updated and that developers of larger projects be required to seek approval to pay an in-lieu fee to avoid commiting a percentage of their units to affordable housing.
“If we can make a win-win, that’s great,” said Councilman Jess Talamantes. “But obviously, I’m a council member for the city of Burbank. I’m not a council member for developers.”
Council members also voiced support for requiring some rental developers to set aside some of their units for moderate-income households, rather than just low- and very low-income residents.
Because the discussion was a study session, no changes were made to city regulations on Tuesday.

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