First published in the Aug. 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to affirm that a proposed mixed-use project located at 3201 West Olive Avenue, called the Bob Hope Center Residential project, meets the requirements for a California Senate Bill 35 project.
The proposed project site — currently a vacant, triangular dirt lot north of the 134 Freeway in the city’s Media District — is slated to become a “mixed-use and housing development project” that will feature 144 units including 15 designated as low-income units and about 1,000 square-feet for commercial use.
“This is that eyesore of a triangle that is just a dirt patch right?” Vice Mayor Constantine Anthony asked staff during the meeting. “Yeah, let’s put something there. Let’s get some housing, some mixed-use, some commercial, and we get some affordable housing for very low income too.”
The lot was once intended to be the site of a Bob Hope Museum, Mayor Jess Talamantes said at Tuesday’s meeting. Now as part of the development, a portion of the lot could be recast as a public park named in honor of the entertainer with a statue of Hope featured prominently onsite.
Senate Bill 35 streamlines municipal approval for housing construction in California counties and cities that fail to build enough housing to meet state requirements. The bill is designed to combat the state’s housing shortage.
Under the bill, developers can apply for a simplified approval process in cities such as Burbank and more than 500 other municipalities that have not met the state’s requirements for new housing units.
The city is required under California law to build 8,772 units through October 2029, about half of which should be designated for low-income housing, according to Burbank’s Housing Element.
Burbank has slightly fewer housing units than it did in 2010 despite an increase in population. In contrast, nearby Glendale has seen a smaller increase in population but has increased its number of housing units by nearly 5% since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Census data also indicates that 29% of Burbank renters set aside more than half of their income for rent payments.
Last year’s California Comeback Plan invested an unprecedented $22 billion to tackle these systemic issues, with $10.3 billion to build more affordable housing and $12 billion allocated for homelessness and behavioral health services.
“We’re building more housing for people at risk of homelessness to prevent folks from ending up on the streets, and we’re doing it faster than ever before,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a February press event after announcing more than $923 million in awards for affordable housing projects across California as part of the California Housing Accelerator.
“We’re getting shovels in the ground in a matter of months, creating thousands of new affordable homes for people at the economic margins who need these new units the most,” he said.
The city had an opportunity to reverse the decline in housing unit figures earlier this year when a developer proposed replacing the Pickwick Bowl in the Rancho neighborhood with nearly 100 condominium units.
Instead, the council voted against the development, arguing that the site wasn’t zoned for residential usage despite disputes from the city’s own planning staff. The council met in a closed session with Burbank City Attorney Joe McDougall on Monday to discuss the litigation of three separate lawsuits against the city regarding the Pickwick development.
Three other potential SB35 sites between 2814 W. Empire Ave. and 3001 W. Empire Ave. are set to appear before the council for approval after submitting SB35 applications.