Burbank residents decry 'mansionization' of older neighborhoods

Sam Masarani purchased a Burbank home with a view in July 2013 and paid a premium for it, but that view is now being threatened by a project next door — a 30-foot-high “huge McMansion.”

Masarani says the house was allowed to be built because of “loopholes” in the city’s building code.

The property in question is in the 1000 block of San Jose Avenue but could be anywhere in the city, resident Sue Cleereman told the Burbank City Council last week. She’s a member of the group Save Burbank Neighborhoods, which opposes “mansionization,” or the demolition of small, older homes to build new ones that stretch the limits of the city’s building regulations.

Cleereman, Masarani and others want the city to curb oversize home projects, saying such development destroys the quaint character of Burbank’s neighborhoods and diminishes property values. The City Council could consider the issue as early as this week.

Two years after activists initially brought the issue to the council’s attention, officials have unanimously approved a consulting contract with architectural firms Dyett & Bhatia and John Kaliski Architects to develop guidelines for single-family-home designs.

Until the guidelines are drafted, council members have requested that city staff members draft an ordinance to address loopholes in the existing building code related to the size and scale of new home construction. The proposed ordinance would be aimed at ensuring better projects.

Carol Barrett, assistant community development director, presented a few of the recommended changes. They included setting height restrictions to make it more difficult for large, boxy homes to be approved, limiting the amount of floor area for houses on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet and setting building standards to establish better “neighborhood compatibility.”

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy called the recommendations “low-hanging fruit” and suggested that such changes be enacted quickly with an “urgent” ordinance. The new regulations would take effect 31 days after the ordinance’s passage.

“I don’t think we can get this soon enough,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor David Gordon called for a moratorium on big box homes that would block many home-building projects in the city for at least 45 days.

The crowd in City Hall erupted into applause in reaction to the mayor’s proposal.

After the meeting, City Manager Mark Scott said a moratorium could last as long as two years while the city develops comprehensive code changes.

The process of developing the building codes would be complex, he said, and could bring out “lots of people with lots of views.”

“It’ll be spirited,” Scott said.


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