First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The year 2022 was full of firsts for Burbank. The city held its first-ever pride event, started work on its first homeless shelter, and celebrated the first time that women held the majority on the City Council.
At the beginning of the year, COVID-19 still dominated the collective mindset and topped headlines as it did at the pandemic’s outset. But as cases waned, other news hit the front page: the war in Ukraine, a frantic election cycle, the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade and more mass shootings.
Through fear and disappointment, Burbank residents echoed much of what was taking place around them and fought to make change. Burbank cried out for gun control in the wake of Uvalde, demanded state leaders codify abortion rights into law and elected a new slate of local leaders with more women than any other in recent Burbank history.
Opting for action over stagnation, the city ushered in ambitious change and set the stage for more firsts to come.
Here are some of Burbank’s biggest stories of 2022.
The year kicked off with record cases of COVID-19 transmission with a rise in cases after families gathered for the holidays amid the discovery of a more transmissible Omicron variant — which supplanted Delta as the dominant strain.
Still, the year was marked by many as a return to normalcy after two years of cautious masking, routine vaccinations, stay-at-home policies, and working and learning from home.
With COVID-19 transmission rates declining and some concerns about the pandemic allayed as a result of vaccines and other treatments, mask mandates in schools, government buildings, and on public transportation were all cast aside.
Globally, weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 hit milestone lows in September, falling below March 2020 figures.
In response, the World Health Organization issued positive remarks over the state of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press event in September. “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
The Burbank Unified School District aligned with state and federal agencies in easing coronavirus restrictions. After hearing from stakeholders during a meeting Sept. 15, the Board of Education directed Superintendent Matt Hill to amend a policy that required students and adults to be vaccinated when attending overnight field trips. The revised policy allowed unvaccinated students to participate but still required adults to be inoculated.
“Moving a major institution through a pandemic is very difficult. It takes time,” said board member Steve Ferguson. “This is because the state has not chosen to weigh in on vaccination policy as it relates to K-12 kids.”
Businesses faced an uphill battle after years of unstable patronage. On this, Vice Mayor Nick Schultz told the Leader: “We continued to facilitate a strong economic recovery for big and small businesses in Burbank despite the challenges of supply chain and inflationary pressures.”
Despite forward strides, cases are once again on the rise after holiday travel and large gatherings have increased transmission. Much like the beginning of 2022, next year is likely to kick off with a surge in recorded COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the county reported 3,410 new positive cases and 28 new deaths due to COVID-19. Reporting is expected to spike in early 2023. In Los Angeles County, death rates also continue to climb, especially among older people. To date, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County is 34,563.
HOUSING DEVELOPMENT BLAZES ON
The Burbank City Council approved a record number of pro-housing measures and developments throughout the year, and ushered in its new state-required housing element of the city’s 2035 General Plan, detailing its plans for 12,000 new housing units. These ventures represented a departure from the city’s slumping development patterns, signaling significant changes for Burbank’s Downtown and Golden State districts.
“We approved more units of affordable housing [in 2022] than were approved in the last decade,” Schultz told the Leader.
The housing element document is the result of a large undertaking by city staff in building a list of sites eligible for development to meet the state’s mandated regional housing needs assessment, or RHNA. This assessment ensures that Burbank plans to build 8,772 units through October 2029 — about half of which should be designated for low-income housing.
Developers in Burbank built 700 new units between 2010 and 2020 — a 1.5% increase — while the city hopes to see 12,000 new units built by 2035. The rate of new units has continued to slow decade over decade since the 1990s.
That seems to be changing in Burbank, as city officials shift their focus to bringing in new development.
In contrast, nearby Glendale and Pasadena have trended upward in housing unit development, by about 5% and 6% respectively.
That seems to be changing in Burbank, as city officials shift their focus to bringing in new development.
The housing element details more than 1,000 units that could be built at the Burbank Town Center alone, and thousands elsewhere throughout the city.
To accommodate these significant housing goals, the city will develop plans specific to each area in Burbank. These district specific plans will detail how the city plans to sustainably make way for new housing, taking into consideration strains on water and power grids, rezoning, transportation and public input.
PICKWICK DEVELOPMENT SHAKES THE RANCHO
Many multi-family housing developments are cropping up throughout Burbank, and few appeared without complaint from residents. One stands out above the rest as the most controversial.
After months of discourse and deliberation from residents and Burbank officials, the City Council approved a townhome project that seeks to convert the Pickwick Bowl into 92 residential units under state Senate Bill 35 during its meeting Tuesday, Oct. 25.
Laguna Beach developer Matthew Waken had submitted the project application to convert the Pickwick Bowl into townhomes under SB35, a law that allows a streamlined approval process for projects with affordable housing units, but was initially denied by City Council in April over zoning concerns.
Waken sued, citing that the city “acted in bad faith” and was “knowingly and willingly in violation of state housing law.”
In an initial court filing, Waken’s attorneys argued that both the city’s Community Development Department and the state Department of Housing and Community Development told the council that the project qualified for SB 35’s provisions.
“The City Council’s action is yet another example of how local governments abuse their position to deny housing to the detriment of the state of California,” the attorneys said in the filing. “The state’s housing crisis is the collective result of this political self-preservation, played out again and again across the state.”
Waken and the city of Burbank settled the lawsuit, agreeing on a collection of terms including reducing the project density from 98 units to 92 total units — 10 of which are still slated to be low-income housing.
The agreement also requires that Waken build an equestrian trail along the perimeter of the property with other pedestrian and equestrian safety measures.
In a reversal from their April decision, the council now recognizes that the Pickwick parcel does meet zoning requirements under the Rancho neighborhood plan, which allows for 20 housing units per acre on that site.
“We are pleased that the City Council approved our project. In addition to providing the city with 92 new homes, we think our project will enhance and contribute in a real positive way to the character and the vitality of the Rancho neighborhood,” Waken told the Leader.
Many residents of the Rancho equestrian neighborhood still expressed opposition to the development, worrying that the density will overwhelm city resources and change the character of the neighborhood.
BULLDOGS BEAT BEARS IN ‘BIG GAME’
The appropriately named “Big Game” always sits at the end of the regular season, looming large for both Burroughs and Burbank football teams, and the prize is city bragging rights.
This season, it would be the final game for Burbank and a tune-up for the upcoming playoffs for host Burroughs.
Teams’ records seemingly go out the window when it comes to this rivalry game, which was being played in October for the 74th time.
The big winner this season was Burbank, which never trailed en route to a 30-27 Pacific League victory over the Bears at Memorial Field.
“Tonight we played our best, and it is a good way to cap off the year,” Burbank coach Adam Colman said.
Bulldogs quarterback Dylan Robinson rushed for four touchdowns, each from one yard out, and finished with 69 yards on 20 carries. The senior also completed 5 of 8 passes for 73 yards.
“We’re never going to forget this for the rest of our lives. This is something we are going to be looking back on in 20 or 30 years and be like, ‘That is something we did,’” Robinson said. “To end on a win, a rivalry win, is the best feeling ever.”
CITY DOUBLES DOWN ON HOMELESSNESS SERVICES
November’s midterm election cycle highlighted Angeleno’s concerns over the worsening homelessness issues throughout L.A. County.
Homelessness was the biggest issue for city of Los Angeles voters, according to polls, and Burbank was no exception. A community survey conducted on the city’s behalf earlier this year showed that homelessness and housing costs dominated residents’ collective mindset.
In November, the Burbank City Council unanimously adopted its 2023-2028 homelessness plan, formalizing its intentions to expand services, laying out plans to build the city’s first supportive housing shelter and establishing a new Homeless Advisory Committee.
The homelessness plan is Burbank’s most expansive effort to combat and prevent homelessness so far.
“A year ago, one of our big critiques here on the dais was that we didn’t have a detailed homelessness plan. So, I really appreciate the thoroughness of this. I think it covers every single aspect of not just what we have requested, but what the community is asking for,” said Councilman Konstantine Anthony during the panel’s November meeting.
The city has made strides over the last few years to combat the homelessness crisis. Between 2020 and 2022, Burbank reduced the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Burbank from 291 to 264, defying trends in the greater Los Angeles area. The city and its service partners did so by employing several programs including rapid rehousing, behavioral and mental health assistance, housing voucher programs and family reunification — all while operating on limited funding.
The homelessness plan establishes several goals, many of which will expand existing strategies, such as outreach, housing and shelter options, data, prevention and mental health and substance abuse services. The city plans to invest efforts into expanding data collection and collaboration with regional agencies to integrate data more effectively with support service providers.
“The city’s methodology consists of a holistic, humane approach in supporting people experiencing homelessness by acknowledging that homelessness is an extremely complex social dilemma that impacts the quality of life in our community,” said Marcos Gonzalez, Burbank housing development manager, in a report.
AIRPORT STAVES OFF LAWSUITS, ADVANCES NEW TERMINAL
Just this month, The Hollywood Burbank Airport closed on a contract with builders for its new 14-gate replacement passenger terminal, which officials estimate could be completed by 2026.
Builders will break ground on the replacement terminal next year. It will have the same number of gates — 14 — but will increase from 232,000 square feet to about 355,000 square feet. It will be built at the northeast end of the airport, replacing the almost 100-year-old terminal in the southeast.
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley, spoke out against the project, saying progress should be halted until the FAA addresses noise and environmental impacts on the community.
The city of Los Angeles is suing the FAA, arguing that its environmental review of the terminal project did not consider designs that could have a lesser impact on the surrounding community.
In August, on direction from the FAA, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority (BGPAA) voted to seek funding from the Bipartisan Federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) to extend an agreement with a consultant “for additional support for the Environmental Impact Statement litigation related to the Replacement Passenger Terminal Project,” according to the commission’s meeting notes.
The BGPAA agreed to allocate $269,663 to the consultant, RS&H, in order to lengthen the contract bid to Dec. 2022.
Sherman has said he opposes this use of funds. “The situation at the Burbank Airport is unacceptable. We should not even be considering any airport expansion plans that could lead to more noise or other negative community impacts until the FAA has taken successful steps to dramatically reduce aviation impact on the community,” he told the Leader.
“This money is supposed to be for building things that people agree should be built, not to fight litigation battles for things that shouldn’t be built,” he added.
BGPAA officials disputed this, telling the Leader: “These AIP and IIJA funds are not being used for litigation. They are being used, at the FAA’s direction, for additional environmental consultant services related to the environmental impact statement for the RPT Project.”
In a report to the City Council in November, BGPAA Executive Director Frank Miller expressed excitement regarding the project, announcing steps to prepare the community and partnering agencies for the start of construction. “We want to make sure that — as we start to talk about a groundbreaking — everyone is in sync,” he said.
Local residents and advocacy groups have widely criticized the replacement terminal process. Burbank City Councilmembers, however, have spoken out in favor of it as airport operations ramp up to pre-pandemic levels.
BURBANK HOSTS CITY’S FIRST PRIDE EVENT
“Burbank is such a diverse community with a vibrant LGBTQIA+ population, and this is really the first time we are able to fully celebrate as a city,” said Tracy Tabb, President of Burbank Pride. “We hope this event will be the first of many more to come.”
At the same time — just across Magnolia Street and past four busy lanes of traffic — a group of about 20 people formed in protest of the event. They chanted “leave the kids alone,” “monkeypox” and “trans is a mental disorder,” and cast other homophobic comments and slurs.
On the event side, a much larger group of LGBTQ+ allies formed a shield between eventgoers and protesters. “We are trying to have a good time, but we have to set up a wall of people to protect these guys who are just trying to sing songs and have fun. These people come here full of hatred and they’re yelling slurs at us. It’s not right,” said Connor Whittaker.
Protesters said they showed up in opposition to the event’s “Ms. Knightley’s Kid Zone,” a play area for kids hosted by drag star Jackette Knightley, who also performed at the event.
“I was asked and I accepted to do the family-friendly kid’s fun zone for the first LGBTQ+ pride here in Burbank, I said yes for many reasons. I think our LGBTQ+ youth need visibility, they need to see role models,” Knightley said.
“This is a groundbreaking event. It’s one of a kind. We got some pushback, but that’s OK. I always say whenever you’re doing something important, you’re going to get pushback. Today is all about love — we’ve got family, we’ve got pride, and we’ve got love and love wins.
That sentiment seemed to be reflected by eventgoers. As the entertainment ramped up, music and festivities drowned out the chants.
RAISING CANE’S PATRONAGE CAUSES TRAFFIC AGONY
Despite being a source of controversy in its surrounding neighborhood, a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers location opened in Burbank in April. The fast-food restaurant, known for its chicken fingers and Texas toast, was originally scheduled to open in September 2021.
The delay was due to concerns from residents of the Rancho Providencia neighborhood, several of whom addressed the City Council in early 2020 with worries that the restaurant’s drive-thru would attract traffic, noise and trash to their residential area.
Not long after the restaurant’s opening, resident’s concerns were validated.
Drive-thru patrons of Raising Cane’s spilled out onto West Olive Avenue and formed a line down the major thoroughfare, sometimes as long as 500 feet, to the corner of North Parish Place.
Beyond that, some Raising Cane’s customers scaled a wall separating the business from its neighboring restaurant Tallyrand, a 63-year-old Burbank staple, on their way to pick up an order, according to Karen Ross, owner of Tallyrand.
After months of public ire over traffic and speeding issues, the residential streets around the Raising Cane’s drive-thru restaurant in Burbank received speed humps, preferential parking zones, and a temporary road closure. Members of the Burbank City Council hoped that these changes will mitigate issues that residents say are destroying their quality of life.
The Council voted unanimously in August to establish a preferential parking district in the area. The city also installed speed humps on South Reese Place, and instituted a temporary street closure on South Orchard Drive.
Said residents: “None of it worked.”
David Emma, a resident of South Reese Place, said he believes Raising Cane’s should be relocated altogether to a new location. “I personally think speed bumps, permits and blocked streets will not solve the problem. I think it’s more of a Band-Aid. … I personally believe that Cane’s should be moved to a more suitable location. Cane’s belongs in a wide-open space with more ample parking — more of a commercial area,” he said.
GUN STORE MORATORIUM, PROTESTS AFTER UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING
In May, a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, shook the country, leaving 21 dead, and raising questions about police preparedness and access to guns.
In the wake of the attack, a group of Burbank community members put pressure on local and state officials in July to implement gun restrictions. The high number of firearm dealers in Burbank — 14, city officials said in February — has attracted particular criticism, as the per-capita figure is significantly higher than those of neighboring cities.
Concerned residents have primarily targeted Gun World, which is largely phasing out its previous site because of its comparatively large size and proximity to Roosevelt Elementary School — which is roughly 1,000 feet away. But outspoken community members have said they want Burbank’s zoning code to limit the number and location of gun dealerships citywide.
“It’s too close for comfort,” said resident Judith Annozine, one of the dozens of people who protested. “I don’t like guns, but that’s beside the point. … This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s time for Burbank to really change its arcane laws.”
In response, the city levied a 45-day moratorium on new or replacement gun stores in July. The Burbank City Council in August voted to extend that moratorium for another 10 months and 15 days. The decision is intended to prevent the establishment of new gun stores while the city investigates further zoning regulations on the retailers.
In a July report to the city and BUSD, Burbank Police Capt. Adam Cornils addressed the shooting in Uvalde: “I don’t have to know all the facts to know that there were failures there … If you were to unplug the Uvalde incident and drop it into Burbank, you would see a very different response.”
Cornils told the council and board members that BPD officers are prepared to respond to threats on Burbank campuses. Police have developed site plans for each Burbank school to help officers better navigate building layouts.
NEW LEADERS CHOSEN; ANTHONY BECOMES MAYOR
This year set records for voter turnout in Burbank with 36,443 ballots cast in the November midterm election.
Five women campaigned for open positions on the City Council over the better part of the year, a first in Burbank history. In another first, three women were elected, swearing their oaths on Dec. 19, and taking their seats on the dais.
Jess Talamantes, Burbank’s departing mayor, chose to retire from the council after serving more than 13 years. Councilman Bob Frutos also concluded his final term in office after nine years. Additionally, Councilwoman Sharon Springer lost her reelection bid after five years on the panel. Their vacancies were filled by Tamala Takahashi, Nicki Perez and Zizette Mullins.
“I am thrilled and honored to be here today, and particularly proud to be here in this historic time in Burbank where, for the first time, there is a majority of women on council,” said Takahashi in her inaugural remarks.
“Today, I want to promise to the people of Burbank that I will fully dedicate my entire time to serving you — to keeping the vision of the Burbank we love, while building for that future we deserve,” Perez said during her first meeting.
Mullins echoed that sentiment in her address and said, “Whether or not we agree on everything, I feel it is my job to factor your needs and concerns into solutions for Burbank’s future.”
Mullins moved a seat up to the dais from her former position as city clerk, making way for Burbank Unified School District executive assistant Kimberly Clark to assume her new role as Burbank’s city clerk.
During that same meeting, the group voted on a new mayor, ultimately deciding to promote then Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony to the position.
Elected to the council in 2020, Anthony grew up in the small suburban town of Castro Valley, just outside of Oakland. He pursued a degree in film from San Francisco State University where he was immersed in a diverse network of students from all over the world. He’s been a member of the Screen Actors Guild American Federation of Television and Radio Artists since 2006 and the Service Employees International Union since 2019.
Anthony has a passion for social justice and garnered a record-setting total of 17,529 votes during his campaign for City Council. Anthony also proudly claims the title of first openly autistic mayor in the country.
“It’s a privilege to serve as Burbank’s mayor and I appreciate the City Council’s confidence in me,” Anthony said. “Burbank is a wonderful city with a rich history and many opportunities for growth. I’m committed to bringing our community together for a more sustainable and equitable Burbank for generations to come.”