Developers are making major changes to the Burbank landscape this month, as two iconic Burbank sites are demolished to make way for new buildings.
The Warner Bros. Ranch Lot and the Pickwick Bowl are both being razed this month, as developers for both projects make the finishing touches to the demolition efforts.
The Ranch Lot — once home to dozens of iconic sets from “Hocus Pocus,” “Blondie,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and the famous “Friends” fountain — has been completely flattened. Developer Worth Real Estate brought in dozens of bulldozers, excavators and loaders to knock down the historic sets to make way for soundstages in what developers are calling the “largest studio development in the country.”
Located a mile north of the studio’s main 100-acre lot in Burbank, the Warner Bros. Ranch Lot has long served as a major hub of production activity in Burbank and houses the offices of both Warner Bros. Animation and The CW.
First acquired and operated by Columbia Pictures in 1934 until Warner Bros. took ownership of the property in 1990, the Ranch Lot has famously seen the production of thousands of films.
The lot will be replaced with 16 soundstages, large soundproof structures used for filming and indoor sets, as part of a larger expansion of the Warner Bros. studio presence in Burbank.
The 926,000 total square foot studio campus, which is fully leased to Warner Bros., will also include a parking structure, a commissary, mill space and a 326,000-square-foot office complex on the 30-acre former Warner Bros. Ranch Lot.
PICKWICK BOWL’S FINAL MOMENTS
The Pickwick Bowl closed its doors after 62 years of business in Burbank. Once a hub for locals to mingle and have fun, the space hosted banquets, served countless drinks at its bar and was the place to go if you wanted knock down pins in the city.
The site was the subject of years of public scrutiny when the parcel was purchased by Laguna Beach developer Matt Waken in 2021.
Waken proposed a 92-unit townhome complex at the site in 2022, and locals in the surrounding Burbank Equestrian Neighborhood cried out that the project would endanger horses and their riders, who frequently use city streets in that area to access amenities at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, which is just a few hundred feet from Pickwick.
Tensions mounted when it came time for the City Council to review the new Pickwick project application. He submitted for “streamlined review” under Senate Bill 35, a law that allows a fast approval process for projects with affordable housing units.
The law, passed by the state in an effort to combat California’s housing crisis, greatly reduces local control over where and how a development is constructed. As long as the development meets local design and zoning standards and maintains a percentage of affordable units — 10% — developers can avoid being denied by the Council.
Hundreds spoke out at the Council meeting, and against staff recommendations, the City Council denied the project in April 2022 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 October 2022, 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.
First published in the January 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.