Consultants for a project aimed at reimagining a district east of the Hollywood Burbank Airport held a workshop this week to share their ideas with residents, several of whom expressed support for more housing in the area.
Current plans for the area include converting industrial properties, which much of the district currently consists of, to residential use in “walkable” surroundings. At the same time, consultants and city staff members pressed during Wednesday’s workshop the importance of maintaining media, aerospace and motion picture jobs in the district.
The Golden State District is considered a major industrial center of Burbank and has been described as the city’s “front door” for visitors. Home to a somewhat eclectic mix of properties, the roughly 600-acre area features three of the city’s 10 largest businesses by number of employees — Entertainment Partners, Senior Aerospace SSP and Crane Aerospace & Electronics.
Currently, nearly 60% of the district is designated for commercial and industrial use, while less than 10% is assigned to residential use. In 2017, the area was home to about 15,000 jobs and 3,500 residents, city staff members said in a July report.
But with a dramatic imbalance of jobs to housing in Burbank, combined with a need to meet municipal goals and state housing unit requirements, the city is working on a plan shifting how the land in the district can be developed.
After the Golden State Specific Plan is adopted, a move projected to occur in winter 2021, properties sold to a new owner would have to adhere to land-use guidelines listed in the document.
“It’s the kind of change that happens over the long term, over time, as sites change hands and businesses turn over,” said Susan Ambrosini, project manager with industrial firm AECOM, a consultant to the city regarding the endeavor.
Consultants and city representatives presented two primary concepts for the plan. One, a “balanced” approach, would prioritize residential units, though still allow commercial usage, between parts of Thornton Street and Pacific Avenue and near Cohasset Street. Sites by San Fernando Boulevard would be primarily dedicated to businesses.
The “housing priority” option is fairly similar, but allows for more residential use along San Fernando.
After holding talks on the plan’s presentation with teams of residents, discussion facilitators shared their groups’ findings, with many indicating that residents supported an increase in housing in the area. Some specifically wanted to see housing units introduced into the district’s commercial areas, even if there was a more balanced approach at first.
One of the facilitators, Fred Ramirez of the city’s Community Development Department, also emphasized that houses and apartments already in the area would not be uprooted.
“The intent of this project is not to displace any existing residential in those areas,” he said. “That is the directive of the [City Council] and I wholeheartedly stand behind that approach. The idea is to integrate, not to displace.”
Current ideas for the area emphasize the advantages of its proximity to the airport, Metrolink station and the planned California High-Speed Rail project. The Avion Project, a business park in development that was approved by the city last year, is also planned for the area.
But some residents expressed concern that too much development in the Golden State District could affect traffic, air pollution and other byproducts of a busy economic center.
“When you’re talking about high density [housing] and increasing this and that and the other, I’m just seeing a nightmare,” Marva Murphy said, explaining that backed-up traffic from Victory Boulevard to the 5 Freeway is already a common sight.
Ambrosini tried to assuage worries, saying that the proximity of transit options could decrease the number of residents using cars.
“[We’re trying to be] really smart and strategic about where this new housing is located and offering people a variety of options for getting around,” she said.
A report analyzing the potential impacts of the project plan on traffic, pollution, noise and other factors is expected to be drafted next year. More information regarding the Golden State Specific Plan is available at goldenstatedistrict.com.