The Burbank Rancho Equestrian Neighborhood — a pocket of Burbank defined by its horse-loving residents and proximity to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center — has scored a much-anticipated exemption through a recent Senate bill that prevents developers from building large housing projects in the area.
The protection was worked into Senate Bill 423, which is an extension to the controversial Senate Bill 35, after Burbank and Glendale activists spent years protesting housing developments near equestrian infrastructure.
The bill is Sacramento’s answer to the housing crisis, and like SB 35, it streamlines municipal approval for housing construction in California counties and cities that fail to build enough housing to meet state requirements.
Under the bill, developers who supply a percentage of low- or mixed-income units 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 bill was originally designed without any equestrian provisions, however, after former Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy and other Rancho leaders lobbied state Sens. Caroline Menjivar, Anthony Portantino and Scott Wiener, they were able to work an exemption into SB 423, making it so the streamlined approval process does not apply to equestrian districts.
Effectively, this gives power back to the City Council and Burbank residents to exercise discretion when developers plan to build near equestrian sites.
Two controversial developments were already approved in the neighborhood. One 96-unit complex will be built across the street from the L.A. Equestrian Center in Burbank, while residents say another 23-unit site on Mariposa is planned in the heart of historic and critical equestrian thoroughfares, including the Mariposa Equestrian Bridge that serves as Burbank’s only equestrian entrance to Griffith Park and its many horse trails.
Gabel-Luddy and Portantino worked with other equestrian activists to draft the language into the bill that levies protections for equestrian districts.
“I want to make it clear that there was no gray area in the intent behind these amendments. Mr. Wiener, [Ms. Menjivar] and myself all agree that the equestrian communities like the Rancho are important historical places in our communities and 423 was amended clearly and intended to preserve those properties,” said Portantino at the Tuesday City Council meeting.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law in October.
The City Council this week voted in favor of an urgency ordinance clarifying terms of approval for commercial properties in the Rancho and enabling qualified properties to be eligible for the relief afforded to equestrian districts per SB 423.
Council members expressed relief that they would finally have some discretion in handling development proposals in the Rancho, as the state has, until now, restricted their control in deciding where developments can be built. The city settled a lawsuit last year after attempting to deny a streamlined approval application for a development at the site of the former Pickwick Bowl. That decision was eventually overturned, allowing the development to proceed.
If that same situation were to occur with the new exemptions in place, the Council would be within their power to exercise discretion and deny the development.
“It’s exciting. For the first time, I feel my hands are not tied. Finally, the process did work with our Rancho community,” said Councilwoman Zizette Mullins.
First published in the December 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.