Is Beautiful Burbank California Being Over-Built? Is This The End for Small-Town California Charm?

City Council member Zizette Mullins stated that one of the reasons she moved to Burbank was the beautiful small-town charm, but that charm is rapidly being eroded by multiple high-rise office and apartment building projects. Many former Los Angeles residents state that the reason they come here is to escape high crime and the grunge of urban decay in the “City of Angels.”

In the heart of Los Angeles County, Burbank stands as a beacon of suburban tranquility, cherished by its residents for its small-town vibe amidst the sprawling urbanity of the Greater Los Angeles area. However, this cherished tranquility is now under threat, not from any external crisis, but from within, as state housing mandates compel the city to accommodate more residents in a bid to tackle California’s housing crisis. This story delves into the complexities of Burbank’s growth, the state’s intervention through Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) legislation, and the resulting tensions within the community.

The Tug-of-War Over Burbank’s Future

At the core of the issue is a series of large apartment projects poised to transform Burbank’s landscape. Notable among these is the LaTerra Select Burbank at 777 N. Front Street, a mammoth $375-million development offering 573 apartments. Similarly, the Aero Crossings project at 2311 N. Hollywood Way promises to deliver 862 residential units, while First Street Village adds 275 multi-family apartments to the mix. These projects represent a significant influx of new housing but have sparked concerns among residents over the potential dilution of Burbank’s small-town essence.

The ADU Controversy and State Housing Laws

Compounding the concerns over large developments is the state-mandated push for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). California’s housing laws, particularly Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) and Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), have made it easier for homeowners to add these units to their properties. While ADUs are touted as a solution to the housing shortage by increasing density without the need for large-scale developments, they’ve also raised fears about increased congestion, parking shortages, and the transformation of single-family neighborhoods into more densely populated areas.

Critics of the ADU mandate cite that some 80% of Americans live within 100 miles of a coast and that California does not have a housing crisis, but it has more demand than it has supply, and that people who cannot afford to live here can consider lower-cost cities. Not everyone can live in Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, and other exclusive neighborhoods, nor is there a simple “right” to live wherever you want at the expense of the character of a neighborhood.

Harry Timuryan, president-elect for the Burbank Association of Realtors, stated “so, we basically no longer have single-family residential zoning now,” while moderating a recent community meet-and-greet with County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

The State’s Stance on Housing

The state government, under the leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom, has made it clear that addressing the alleged housing crisis is a top priority. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) requires cities like Burbank to plan for significant increases in their housing stock. The rationale is straightforward: California is in the grips of an alleged severe housing shortage, with skyrocketing rents and home prices putting immense pressure on residents, particularly the middle and working classes. Critics disagree and claim that if a community is “full up” with people, they should seek housing in other cities or states where they can afford to live, not to destroy a community to fit their desire to live there. Local critics demand a return of local control.

Community Response and Republican Perspectives

Many Burbank residents, including those with Republican leanings, express frustration at what they perceive as heavy-handed state intervention. Critics argue that Sacramento’s one-size-fits-all approach fails to consider the unique characteristics and needs of individual communities. They worry that the push for higher density could undermine Burbank’s quality of life, erasing the very attributes that make the city a desirable place to live.

From a Republican viewpoint, the emphasis is on local control and the belief that communities should have the autonomy to shape their development in a way that aligns with their values and needs. There’s a call for policies that balance the need for more housing with the preservation of community character, without resorting to state mandates that override local zoning laws.

Looking Ahead: A Path Forward for Burbank

As Burbank grapples with these challenges, the path forward requires a nuanced approach that respects both the urgent need for more affordable housing and the desire to maintain the city’s character. Solutions may include targeted development that focuses on underutilized areas, innovative housing models that respect neighborhood aesthetics, and a collaborative effort between state and local governments to tailor housing strategies to community needs.

The debate in Burbank is emblematic of a larger conversation happening across California and the nation: how to balance growth and preservation in a way that serves both current and future generations. As this story continues to unfold, the decisions made today will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the fabric of Burbank and similar communities across the state.

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