First published in the Oct. 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The city of Burbank approved a settlement agreement for the Pickwick housing lawsuit on Tuesday.
The arrangement represents an alignment between the developer of the townhome project, the city and the surrounding Rancho Equestrian neighborhood after months of litigation.
Laguna Beach developer Matthew Waken, who purchased the property last year, had submitted the project application to convert the Pickwick Bowl into townhomes under California Senate Bill 35, but was denied by City Council in April over zoning concerns.
Under SB 35, developers are allowed to apply for a streamlined approval process if their development contains affordable housing units.
Waken celebrated the agreement, and thanked the city and the Rancho neighbors in an interview with the Leader. “I appreciate the city of Burbank staff, city council, neighbors and friends. I think that everybody came together and worked toward a common solution.”
The settlement agreement slightly amends the original design of the townhome project, reducing its density from 98 units to 92 total units — 10 of which are still slated to be low-income housing. It also calls for an equestrian trail along with other pedestrian and equestrian safety measures. The settlement ensures that future development will preserve the existing width of Main Street, and deploys noise safeguards like sound blankets to block construction noise.
The agreement requires Burbank to fund the noise measures and to prepare a Rancho Specific Plan, which will further outline land uses in the neighborhood. The city must also contract an outside consultant to train council members and planning staff on state housing law.
“The city appreciates and recognizes the efforts of the developer and the Friends of the Rancho for Equestrian Safety in reaching this settlement,” city officials said.
Many Rancho neighborhood residents lobbied against the Pickwick townhome project, believing it would increase traffic in the equestrian community and endanger the safety of horses and their riders.
Friends of the Rancho for Equestrian Safety in the Pickwick Investment, LLC, was included in the settlement as an intervenor representing Rancho residents and agreed to the terms of the settlement. Its director, Emily Gabel-Luddy — former Burbank council member and president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority — signed off on the settlement.
“The settlement provides benefits that would otherwise not been achievable, both in terms of the neighborhood and also benefits for the rest of the Burbank community,” Gabel-Luddy told the Leader.
“Everybody came together and worked toward a common solution. And it took some time. And I think that everybody gave a little bit. And that’s kind of what makes [it a] successful resolution,” Waken said.
These project improvements will be described in further detail in the developer’s amended application, which will come before City Council at a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
The Pickwick project is one of many in Burbank that promise to build low-income housing.
“This is an affordable [housing] project all across the board,” Waken said. “Even with the market rate housing units — it’s going to allow people that work nearby to live within the community and become a part of it — I think that’s important.”
Burbank City Council set a goal to reach 12,000 new housing units by the year 2035, and plans to build more than 300 public housing units as part of the new Civic Center project.“The Burbank City Council is committed to its goal of making affordable housing options more readily available while preserving our existing neighborhoods. The city is doing this in a number of ways such as approving new housing through responsible development, collaborating with nonprofit partners, and working with other government agencies on sourcing funds to build affordable housing,” said Jonathan Jones, Public Information Officer for the city of Burbank.
The International School of Los Angeles announced the purchase of a 3.8-acre portion of the neighboring Pickwick property just adjacent to the proposed Pickwick development.
The parcel — which includes the ice rink currently home to the L.A. Kings hockey team, the attached parking lot and a section of Pickwick Gardens — is the western half of the Pickwick property, and does not affect plans for the Pickwick townhome project.