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.
The group was founded to coordinate regional transportation projects and the allocation of Measure M funds, gained from a half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in 2016 to improve traffic infrastructure. For instance, after each city receives approval for transportation projects from its commission or city council, the authority divides available Measure M funds among its members and grants the submission of the projects to the L.A. Metro transportation agency for consideration.
But in recent interviews with city officials, representatives from the Lee Andrews Group — which serves as a consultant for the authority — found that many felt the group’s mission needed to be expanded, with some saying they wanted it to address issues beyond transportation.
Most cities also agreed that the authority “should focus on identifying projects that benefit all of the member agencies instead of each agency protecting its own interest,” according to a report from the Lee Andrews Group that was presented at the Governing Board meeting Thursday.
Though concrete initiatives were not discussed at the meeting, where board members participated in a brainstorming session for a revamped mission statement, officials expressed unified interest in including transportation projects that promoted economic development.
Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, who was appointed the board’s chair on Thursday, voiced support for shifting the emphasis from transportation to mobility, a word she believed had broader connection with other modes of movement as well as housing.
“If it’s done correctly — it has to be planned, but it will just happen,” she said at the meeting. “It will result in affordable living [and] it will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in terms of housing.”
Though many city officials present at the meeting — which included city staff members not on the Governing Board — shared Springer’s desire to consider the extended impacts of transportation in the group’s decision-making, some were also wary of straying too far from the authority’s original focus.
“The reason I focus it on transportation is because that’s what we’re founded on,” said Pasadena Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, who serves on the board. “That’s kind of how we came into being, and I want to make sure we gain recognition in our core business before we start trying to go out in too many other things.”
Shahid Abbas, public works director for South Pasadena, also wanted the group to pursue environmental sustainability, referencing an executive order signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that required California to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Improvements to transportation, Abbas argued, are the way to achieve that goal.
Due to time constraints, board members decided to end the planning session, agreeing to continue the discussion at a future special meeting, which was still to be determined as of the end of the Thursday meeting.
But the board’s new chair emphasized at multiple points during the meeting that the authority’s central emphasis would link into the other points raised by the other members of the panel.
“The focus is mobility,” Springer said. “Everything else is enhanced if we do it properly.”