First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank Planning Board this week approved a project that is expected to bring offices, restaurants and hundreds of residential units to the site of the now-defunct Fry’s Electronics.
The mixed-use project at 2311 N. Hollywood Way, dubbed Burbank Aero Crossings, will feature two seven-story buildings with a total of 862 apartments ranging from studio rooms to three-bedroom spaces, with 80 units designated for very low-income tenants. A restaurant will be located on the ground floor of one of the residential buildings, while another will stand on its own. A five-story office building is also planned for the space.
Construction, which will include the demolition of the Fry’s building, will add outdoor plazas to the more than 450,000-square-foot lot, as well as a public bike path allowing access from the southern end of the property to the Metrolink station.
LaTerra Development LLC, which is also overseeing Burbank’s 777 Front Street apartment and hotel project, plans to include more than 1,600 parking spaces across three parking structures and small subterranean areas. Barring a last-minute appeal to the City Council that would need to be filed by next week, construction could begin as early as July 2022 and could finish as soon as December 2025, according to planning documents submitted to the city.
Cost of the project is nearing $500 million, LaTerra President and CEO Charles Tourtellotte said at the Planning Board’s Monday meeting.
The application for the project was submitted under Senate Bill 330, whose streamlining provisions for housing projects include shortening approval deadlines and requiring cities to base their decisions on applications on “objective development standards.”
If Burbank Aero Crossings produces its estimated population increase of more than 2,100 residents, it would account for nearly a quarter of the Southern California Association of Governments’ projected 2021-2045 population growth for Burbank. It would also move the city toward its share of the region’s housing goals (the addition of 8,772 dwelling units between October 2021 and October 2029).
The incorporation of 80 units priced for very low-income renters (in Los Angeles County, a designation that includes one-person households with an annual income of $41,400 and three-person households with an annual income of $53,200) makes the development eligible for waivers that allow it to bypass some local restrictions. For example, the Planning Board is allowing developers to exceed the zone’s height limit of 85 feet and build a residential building 94 feet tall. The project’s density is also 42.5% more than what is normally allowed for that site.
In letters to developers that were shared with the city, the Federal Aviation Administration said the height of the project’s residential buildings would not pose a hazard to nearby Hollywood Burbank Airport if the facilities included lighted markings for visibility.
LaTerra will also pay the city development impact fees, install a new crosswalk at Vanowen Street and Hollywood Way, insert electric vehicle charging stations at the site and pay the city $250,000 for neighborhood protections against the project’s impact on local traffic.
An analysis of the project’s potential effects conducted for the city of Burbank found that it would likely increase traffic to the level of a “nuisance” on Maple Street and Screenland Drive. Additionally, drivers traveling from the southbound ramp at North Hollywood Way and Vanowen Street would see the most significant impact of any intersection, the study said, adding 17-26 seconds of delay.
Multiple people who addressed the board on Monday expressed concerns that Burbank Aero Crossings would also worsen traffic on Hollywood Way, where large developments such as the Avion project and Media Studios North add to vehicular travel.
LaTerra representatives told city officials that the site’s proximity to bus lines and the Metrolink station would mitigate traffic impacts, though board member Bob Monaco feared that residents would still need to travel to other parts of the city via car.
“I’m always concerned about having what I call the ‘residential desert,’” he said. “If you want a quart of milk, you’re going to have to get in the car and drive. … You’re still going to have a lot of people having to get in a car to go get basic services.”
Nonetheless, Monaco and his fellow board members present on Monday unanimously approved the project, with the group complimenting its design, high number of dwelling units and location.
“I think it’s going to be a plus for Burbank to have this,” board member Tammy Heiner said. “This would be the place to put it.”