The City Council voted this week to approve a resolution apologizing for racist “sundown town” policies in Burbank’s history and pledging to pursue local, state and federal measures that promote equity. A sundown town is defined as a city whose practices discriminate against non-white ethnic groups, particularly Black people, such as by requiring them to exit city boundaries by sundown. The resolution itself contained no concrete policies aimed at combating racism, and there was little discussion from the council on the item during its Tuesday meeting, but city officials have hailed it as a critical first step that could later lead to action. “It’s OK to go wrong, but it’s not OK to stay wrong,” said Councilman Jess Talamantes. “And this is one thing that we can change, this council and future councils can definitely change, moving forward.”
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.
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.
In the first six months of this year, City Council candidate Paul Herman had raised only $2,500 — a single loan he himself had given to his campaign. Less than two months later, he had raised more than $36,000. With that total, Herman became the candidate with the largest campaign coffers through Sept. 19, the most recent contribution reporting deadline, and surpassed Nick Schultz, the previous leader in contributions this year, who trailed at about $32,700. Close behind him was Konstantine Anthony, who had raised roughly $31,600. Contributions totaling tens of thousands of dollars for the local election are nothing new; in 2015, current Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy’s campaign collected nearly $25,000. But records available on the city’s website, which go as far back as 2013, don’t show dollar figures as high as the ones seen in this year’s race.
After years of dogged pursuit, the city of Burbank is finally getting a park where pups can run free. The city recently accepted a $150,000 donation from the Kari and Dick Clark Foundation, which will go toward creating a dog park section at Johnny Carson Park. The dog park project is estimated to cost between $500,000 and $700,000, according to a staff report submitted to the City Council for its Tuesday meeting, at which it voted to accept the donation. Parks and Recreation Director Marisa Garcia, who presented the report to council members, said in a phone interview that her department will continue to look for funding sources, including grants and additional donations. “We’re fortunate, especially during these economic times, that we’ve had a great sponsor who wants to come in and help us meet these goals,” she said. “Especially during this current pandemic, we know that it’s extremely important for individuals to be outdoors and recreate in a really safe manner.”
The City Council divvied up federal grant funds to several projects Tuesday, including programs for the homeless and the local Boys & Girls Club. But the project that received the most comment from residents was the Burbank Youth Center’s solar panel installation, an initiative council members referenced frequently as they shuffled funds around, trying to determine where to allocate portions of the federal Community Development Block Grant. In nearly all cases, project managers received less money than they requested — funding all the projects in the amount applied for would have put the city more than $350,000 over the line. “Everybody’s in need. Everybody would like to have more money,” Councilman Jess Talamantes said during the panel’s meeting. City staff members recommended that the council not issue any funds to the solar panel project for the BYC, an organization formed by the Armenian Cultural Foundation, believing the money could be better used for housing and homelessness initiatives. But after about a dozen callers asked council members not to divert the grant from the BYC during the meeting’s public comment period, the council agreed to find funding elsewhere for the causes advocated by the staff.
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.
Although people across the country usually celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, some in Burbank have been setting off the explosives early this year — except they are illegal.
Sgt. Derek Green of the Burbank Police Department said via email that “estimations are that [fireworks] complaints have about doubled compared to last year.” But some comparisons showed a much greater difference: There were more than 100 firework-related calls in June 2020, compared to only 10 in June 2019.
Green also said that fireworks activity appears to have started much earlier this year than in previous years. Residents have shared worries on social media that the noise from the fireworks could negatively affect people with post-traumatic stress disorder and frighten pets.
“We just don’t know what to do,” resident Robin Randell told the City Council during its Tuesday meeting.
Randell, who called the council during its meeting’s public comment period, said that she represented more than 90 other residents concerned about the use of fireworks, with some members of her group telling her “it’s a war zone.”
Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy added at the meeting that she has received numerous reports about the fireworks, with some residents saying that they’ve seen drivers throw fireworks out of their windows.
Fireworks, included those labeled “safe and sane,” are illegal in Burbank, Green said. Those caught using fireworks can also be held liable for any injuries they cause. Continue reading “Illegal Fireworks Spark Complaints in City”