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.
The BYC was allotted more than $78,000 after requesting $175,000. In its application, the organization, which hosts youth and after-school programs, said the electricity savings from the panels would allow it to launch tutoring programs for children from low- and moderate-income families.
“This center represents more than a place of athletics, scouting and community events,” Vana Mirzakhani, who identified herself as a Cub Scout leader, said during the meeting. “The Burbank Youth Center represents a beacon of inspiration for community members of all ages and backgrounds.”
City staff members had recommended that, rather than funding the BYC project, the council instead direct funds to an accessory dwelling unit program discussed at previous meetings, and LeSar Development Consultants, a firm that advises organizations in Burbank on developing homelessness programs.
After Simone McFarland, the city’s assistant community development director, told council members that LeSar’s work has been “one of the most successful programs that we have implemented in the last two years or so,” they agreed to funnel money from the ADU program into the LeSar fund.
The ADU program was left with just over $78,000 in CDBG funding. Other projects included the rapid rehousing program, which received roughly $43,600.
The Boys & Girls Club of Burbank, a local chapter of a nonprofit that provides after-school programs for children, received $500,000 in CDBG funds, the second half of a $1 million commitment to the organization. The funds will help pay for the nonprofit’s costs of purchasing and rehabilitating a new site currently owned by the Salvation Army.
RAIL PROJECT RAISES ALARM
The City Council echoed several concerns raised by staff members regarding the Burbank-to-Los Angeles section of the state high-speed rail project.
Staff members, after reviewing a draft environmental impact report issued by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, argued that the agency had not given enough information regarding the effects of the project on local neighborhoods and utilities.
“We’re going to be in for a world of hurt during construction,” said Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy.
For example, council members took issue with the fact that the rail would require the Avion Project, under construction near the Hollywood Burbank Airport, to be demolished.
Other concerns included vibration and noise pollution, and the impacts of construction for the 9-1/2-year project.
The rail authority aims to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, and eventually San Diego and Sacramento, with a bullet train operating at up to 220 mph. However, beset by ballooning costs and delays, much of the project was postponed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019.
The rail, as presented by the rail agency, would have a station adjacent to the airport and stretch through downtown Burbank, passing under the Burbank Boulevard, Magnolia Boulevard and Olive Avenue bridges before exiting the city at Alameda Avenue.
“The residents are very, very scared and they’re relying on us to submit a very good letter during this period to identify these issues,” said Vice Mayor Bob Frutos, noting concerns that the project would physically divide Burbank neighborhoods.
The council then voted to allow staff members to send a letter to the rail authority with their concerns.
The authority estimated in 2019 that it would complete its final environmental impact report for the Burbank-L.A. stretch of the project in mid-2021, though only after pushing the date back on multiple occasions.