First published in the Feb. 26, 2022, print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The City Council recently voted to support legislation that would allow Burbank to partner with Glendale and Pasadena to seek additional housing funding.
The Burbank Glendale Pasadena Regional Housing Trust, if approved by the California State Legislature, could pursue funding sources only available to authorities representing multiple cities. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who represents all three cities, introduced the legislation — Senate Bill 1177 — last week. If the bill passes the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law this year, it would go into effect at the beginning of 2023, though Burbank officials cautioned it will likely take longer to finalize an agreement between the three cities.
Burbank City Council members unanimously agreed to support the initiative during its most recent meeting on Feb. 15. The city councils of Pasadena and Glendale have also expressed unanimous support.
“The Burbank City Council Members and I are excited to support Sen. Portantino’s proposed legislation to create the Burbank Glendale Pasadena Regional Housing Trust,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said in a statement. “The establishment of this housing trust will be beneficial to the tri-city area, allowing us to generate additional funding to help finance affordable housing projects that otherwise would not be available.”
“Our goal is to tackle the affordable housing crisis with a long-term regional approach,” Portantino said a statement. “SB 1177 provides an opportunity for these cities to collaborate on affordable housing projects based on their unique needs.
“The three cities are prepared and committed to working together to develop more affordable housing for the region and I look forward to working with them to help make this happen. I couldn’t be more proud to represent a district that endeavors to use creative solutions to solve our regional housing needs,” he added.
Due to recently drawn state maps placing Burbank in a different district, Portantino will no longer represent Burbank in the California Senate following this year’s elections.
Maribel Leyland, Burbank’s housing authority manager, noted during the council’s meeting that there is a chance that the state Legislature will approve the formation of the housing trust but not allocate funds to it this year. But she added that the group could apply for funds in future years or from other programs, and a city staff report to the council said that Newsom’s upcoming budget projects a $20.6 billion surplus for the upcoming fiscal year.
If formed and funded, the housing trust could help the cities reach their state-mandated affordable housing goals, Leyland explained. Burbank has to identify sites where 8,772 housing units can be built in the next eight years, and while it is not required to create those units, a lack of construction would reduce the city’s influence over future development proposals.
Leyland explained that city staff members have been discussing how funding would be allocated, noting that Pasadena and Glendale are also concerned about getting their fair share. The distribution of money could be based on a number of factors, she added, though nothing has been decided.
“There’s no set answer at this point, but we’re certainly taking your feedback,” Leyland said.
Burbank would have to negotiate several points with its neighbor cities if the housing trust is created, with topics including determining how the organization will be run, ensuring that the group is funded by non-municipal sources and deciding how funds will be allocated.
That last point was particularly important for the City Council, with some members expressing concern that Glendale and Pasadena — being larger cities — would hold greater control over the funds.
“I hope as we move forward that whatever funding mechanism, hopefully it doesn’t go by the size of the city but [instead] some other type of more fair allocation of the money,” Councilman Bob Frutos said.
Burbank currently has a joint powers agreement with Glendale and Pasadena to manage the Hollywood Burbank Airport. The three cities are also part of the Arroyo Verdugo Joint Powers Authority, a group of regional cities that oversee the distribution of Measure M transportation funds.