HomePublicationBurbankCouncil Backs Initiative for Local Control of Housing

Council Backs Initiative for Local Control of Housing

First published in the Jan. 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council agreed this week to draft a letter supporting a campaign seeking to give local jurisdictions power to override some state housing laws.
The “Our Neighborhood Voices” initiative, run by a group of California city representatives, aims to place a measure on the November ballot that, if approved by voters, would amend the state constitution to give city and county laws precedence over conflicting state rules on land use regulations and zoning codes. The campaign needs to collect nearly 1 million valid signatures by April 26 to qualify for the ballot.
All five members of the City Council expressed support for the idea on Tuesday, believing it will help Burbank retain authority over future development as the State Legislature attempts to address California’s housing crisis by removing barriers to construction.
On its website, Our Neighborhood Voices argues that state housing laws have unfairly favored developers while taking away control from municipalities. The group has specifically targeted recently passed laws Senate Bill 9, which allows for the splitting of single-family lots and building of duplexes on those properties, and SB 10, which lets cities increase the density of certain urban parcels.
Our Neighborhood Voices alleges that SB 9 and 10 will gentrify and congest neighborhoods, though experts have expressed doubts that SB 9 will lead to massive housing construction and SB 10 doesn’t require cities to use its provisions.
Burbank’s City Council, which plans to concentrate future multi-family dwelling construction downtown and near the airport, has opposed state legislation opening up single-family neighborhoods to development. Local homeowners have also often lobbied the panel to resist policies they believe will lower their property values or overcrowd their streets.
“This is something that, [during] all of my years that I’ve been on council, I’ve been fighting for: local control,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said Tuesday. “We need local control, but somehow Sacramento tends to ignore us and just [does its] own thing.”
Proponents of SB 9 and similar laws have argued that increasing housing stock will help alleviate rising home costs in California. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that, between 2010 and 2020, Burbank’s housing growth (a 3% increase in units) was lower than that of Los Angeles County (4.3%).
City Attorney Joe McDougall warned the City Council that it’s unclear how the initiative, if approved by voters, would affect laws that Burbank has already integrated into its municipal code — which will soon include SB 9. The city, he added, would likely have to pass ordinances establishing policies overriding those state laws, a process that could take some time.
But the constitutional amendment would also curb Sacramento’s power over local regulations, according to McDougall.
“There will probably be fewer legislative enactments trying to further trim cities’ home rule, knowing that this language is in [the constitution],” he said, though he also cautioned that the initiative wouldn’t prevent the state from creating funds available only to cities willing to abide by certain land use or zoning requirements.
Councilwoman Sharon Springer, who has endorsed Our Neighborhood Voices, raised the idea of sending a letter of support at a previous council meeting. The panel, she said, needs to regain local control in development decisions.
“That’s what this is all about,” she added. “We owe it to our residents, to our people.”
Our Neighborhood Voices has received support from several California city council members, particularly those representing coastal or suburban municipalities. The Southern California Association of Governments and the South Bay Council of Governments, groups that oversee transportation and air quality impacts in their area, have also endorsed the initiative.
The committee is officially titled the Brand-Huang-Mendoza Tripartisan Land Use Initiative, named after founders Bill Brand, Redondo Beach mayor and executive director of a nonprofit affordable housing developer; Peggy Huang, Yorba Linda mayor; and Jovita Mendoza, city of Brentwood mayor. As of this week, the group had raised about $340,000 in donations, according to the California Secretary of State website. Of that sum, $200,000 had come from Reyla Graber, an Alameda retiree.
Other notable contributors included the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which donated $50,000; Los Angeles city attorney hopeful Hydee Feldstein Soto, who gave $9,000; and former Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, who donated $1,000.


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