Originally published in the Dec. 17 issue of the Burbank Leader
On a 3-2 vote, the Burbank City Council on Tuesday decided that a controversial proposal to build town homes in the Burbank Rancho neighborhood is eligible for a streamlined approval process, bringing the plan a step closer to full approval.
The vote followed comments by a procession of opponents that the plan for 910 Mariposa St. in the equine-centric neighborhood would endanger horses and riders and disrupt activities there.
The six-building, 21-unit complex with 46 parking spaces, is proposed by Butterfly Gardens LLC, a three-person development team made up of Garen Gozumian, Charles Boyajian and Garo Manjikian.
A similar town home project just across Riverside Drive was approved in October. Developer Matt Waken seeks to replace Pickwick Bowl with 92 town home units. This proposal also generated public ire before being approved by the council in October.
The concerns of residents opposing the Mariposa proposal are the same: that higher-density housing will bring traffic and activity that could startle horses, causing accidents like one that occurred in 2019, when a horse was spooked by a sound and tossed its rider over a fence into the Los Angeles River.
Council members acknowledged that they do not have much say in the matter. Because the application submitted by the developer is for an expedited ministerial approval under Senate Bill 35, they, as local officials, are unable to deny a project that is eligible under the legislation’s requirements.
SB 35 requires cities that haven’t met the state’s lofty housing goals to grant streamlined approval to developments in which at least 10% of the units are classified as affordable housing. That is Butterfly Garden’s intent in the Mariposa project.
Because of that 10%, the City Council is beholden to SB 35’s requirements, meaning its members are unable to deny a project that qualifies under the bill. Planners and the Rancho community disagreed on whether the surrounding zoning and land uses qualified the Mariposa project for SB 35.
While the city found that the site meets all site eligibility requirements, Save Glendale Riverside Rancho — a community organization representing Glendale Riverside Rancho, Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Burbank Rancho Equestrian District — brought up concerns about the council’s decision.
“We disagree with their determination that this site location qualifies for SB 35,” said James DeCarli, a spokesperson for the organization. “We disagree with and are currently investigating the validity of their calculation of the 75% urban use requirement.”
Save Glendale Riverside Rancho also believes that the 46 included parking spaces would be insufficient for the volume of residents intended for the town home project, and that the number of residents, traffic density and construction sounds could endanger horses and riders.
“Construction and horses do not mix,” said Linda Rappaport, a general contractor and horse rider who frequents the Griffith Park equestrian resources, during the meeting. “Who is going to be responsible for the serious accidents — or fatal ones — that may occur? The council that passes this measure. And if you do pass this measure, the equestrians are prepared to hire an attorney to sue.”
The Mariposa project is located near a bridge that in effect serves as Burbank’s only equestrian entrance to Griffith Park from the Rancho neighborhood.
“Horses could be going over that bridge, feel the compressive force from construction, and be triggered,” Josh Claus, another rider, told the council. “They don’t have much of an option but to take off running because they’re scared.
“None of us bring our kids around these horses and ponies to be hurt.”
The council denied Waken’s similar SB 35 application for the Pickwick project last year, triggering a series of lawsuits against the city by Waken, the law firm YIMBY and others. The city ultimately settled with Waken, with former Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy signing as an intervener under her organization Friends of the Rancho for Equestrian Safety.
The agreement called for lower housing density, an equestrian trail and other pedestrian and equestrian safety measures and provides precautions to mitigate construction impacts to protect nearby residents, such as installation of sound blankets.
Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony prefaced his decision to vote yes on Tuesday on the Mariposa project, saying, “I would like to save some money by not having another lawsuit, and hopefully move forward with purchasing a property to actually have some real stables run by the city,” he said, referring to the recent settlement.
Councilwoman Sharon Springer and Councilman Bob Frutos voted no. Springer said she felt the land uses described by city planners were inconsistent.
FOR THE RECORD
In the Dec. 17 issue of the Burbank Leader, Matt Waken was mistakenly named as developer of a housing project at 910 Mariposa St. in Burbank. The correct developer is Butterfly Gardens LLC, a three-person development team made up of Garen Gozumian, Charles Boyajian and Garo Manjikian.