First published in the April 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The city of Burbank is looking for a nonprofit to operate a facility formerly leased by the local Boys & Girls Club, which moved its headquarters last year.
The City Council directed officials Tuesday to collect offers from organizations that would provide a community benefit. City staff members also said that the Burbank-owned lot at 2244 N. Buena Vista St., which is roughly 20,000 square feet and has roughly a 5,000-square-foot building, needs about $1.75 million in improvements before a tenant can occupy it.
The bulk of the improvement costs are for bringing the building up to code and fixing safety issues, Burbank’s real estate and property manager Sarah Eskandari told the council. While staff members will look for a nonprofit that can cover a portion of the costs, she explained, interested organizations may not be able to afford any or all of it.
“We’re not expecting a nonprofit to be able to cover the entire scope of the work, but the most qualified tenant will be … whoever can cover the largest scope and show the financial ability to pay for ongoing maintenance costs,” Eskandari added.
The location was originally a Burbank Fire Department station, which the department stopped using in 1993. In 1994, the city agreed to lease the facility to the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley. The nonprofit eventually outgrew its space and moved to a former Salvation Army site.
The club’s lease, according to a city staff report, included a nominal rent of just $1 a year, and did not cover the cost of building maintenance or cosmetic improvements.
The City Council also had the option of selling the property, with California law requiring Burbank to first consider selling it to a developer building affordable housing, open space or school facilities. None of the council members expressed interest in the notion.
Instead, they unanimously supported officials’ recommendation to pursue another nonprofit tenant. But Councilman Bob Frutos emphasized that he wants the operator, who will depend at least in part on city funds, to focus on benefitting local residents, alleging most of the Boys & Girls Club’s members were children from outside Burbank.
“I really want to make sure the majority of whatever nonprofit moves in benefits the people, the residents, the taxpayers of the city of Burbank,” Frutos said.
Boys & Girls Club CEO Shanna Warren told the Leader that the description of the nonprofit was “completely false,” saying that nearly 78% of its members lived in Burbank last year.
Frutos said in an interview that, while he supports the club, a representative of the organization told the council years ago that most of its members were nonresidents. A document from the Boys & Girls Club submitted to the council for a meeting in 2015, when Frutos said he believed he received the information, indicated that 70% of members lived in Burbank.
Simone McFarland, assistant community development director, assured council members that the number of people being helped within the city will be one of officials’ criteria for determining who will lease the property.
City officials will spend about 45 days drafting a request for proposals from potential tenants, she said, and it will take two to three months before the results return to the council. Officials plan to bring back the final lease before the end of the year.