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Year in Review: Media City had a busy 2016

Changes at Hollywood Burbank Airport

A lot has happened, and many things are in the works, at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

Since 1978, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority has been trying to replace the 14-gate terminal, which was originally built in 1930. After years of litigation, pushback from residents and persistence, 2016 saw a shift for airport officials.

In the Nov. 8 election, Burbank residents approved Measure B, allowing the airport authority to construct a 355,000-square-foot, 14-gate terminal on a plot of land at the airfield known as the B-6 parcel in the northeast quadrant of the airfield. Once the construction on the new facility is completed, the other terminal will be demolished.

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On election night, 29,587 voters, or 69.7% of those who voted, supported Measure B and gave the airport authority the green light to move forward with its terminal project.

Burbank's airport saw a few more changes during the year, such as getting a new name. In 2003, the airport authority legally changed and marketed the facility as Bob Hope Airport as a tribute to iconic comedian Bob Hope.

Officials were looking to attract more travelers east of the Colorado Rockies and decided that a new name was needed.

Working with South Pasadena branding firm Anyone Collective, the airport authority selected Hollywood Burbank Airport as the new brand name. However, the airport will legally remain Bob Hope Airport.

Along with a new moniker, Anyone Collective helped create a new logo for the airport, which is a two-toned chevron with an image of an airplane in the middle.

With or without the new name and logo, the airport has already seen a bump in passengers this year.

The airfield had a rough start at the beginning of 2016, but the number of passengers grew each month from May through October compared to last year. Also, the tallies were higher, in most cases, than airport officials had projected.

Walmart opens at the Empire Center

The Walmart Supercenter in the Burbank Empire Center finally opened its doors to the public after being delayed for several years due to pushback from some residents and litigation.

The 143,000-square-foot remodeled retail facility, which used to be a Great Indoors store, employs about 400 people, many of whom are Burbank residents or live in the surrounding area.

The Burbank Walmart was one of the first stores in Southern California to introduce large black overhead signs with a picture and description of each store section. It also was the first to set up its produce and bakery sections to mimic the feel of a farmer's market.

The store was set to open in 2013, but a lawsuit between three residents and the city made the retail chain pump its brakes. The residents claimed that construction on the store should not start until street improvements are made to address the additional traffic.

After a few years in court, the 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with Walmart, saying that the city should not have stopped the retailer from getting its building permits. However, the city did need to address the traffic in that area, according to the ruling.

In April, the City Council approved a supplemental environmental impact report that stated that traffic improvements did not need to be made currently.

Low police morale impacting department

Current and former officers with the Burbank Police Department expressed low morale and dissatisfaction within the organization, according to police union survey administered earlier this year.

Approximately 75% of the officers who answered the survey felt morale was low, and one officer wrote that working at the department is "depressing." About 60% surveyed indicated they wouldn't recommend working for the organization to their relatives or friends.

Officials with the Burbank Police Officers' Assn. said the survey was meant as a way to identify problems within the department and work with leadership to fix and improve conditions.

Survey respondents offered several suggestions for changes that could be made, including the hiring of more officers, increasing special assignments and work on improving overall leadership.

They also suggested the department should end its use of predictive-policing technology, which utilizes crime reports to predict potential problems areas. Officers are then required to spend 15 minutes in each of three identified areas.

Critics said the system would sometimes come up with obvious areas to patrol, such as the Empire Center, where shoplifting is known to occur, and even the police station, where people come to report crimes.

The department suspended its use of the technology in October after receiving pushback from officers.

Bicycles banned on Mariposa Street Bridge

After several months of arguing and pleading their case with the Burbank City Council, equestrians persuaded members to ban bicycles from the Mariposa Street Bridge, which connects Burbank to Griffith Park.

Many horse-owning residents in Burbank and elsewhere complained that bicyclists were making the bridge unsafe and that bikes easily startle horses, possibly leading to injuries for the rider.

In December 2015, council members approved an ordinance that allowed bicyclists to walk or carry their bikes across the bridge but barred them from riding across it. However, many equestrians did not like the compromise and asked the City Council to outright ban bikes from the 140-foot-long bridge.

In February, the City Council approved the bicycle ban on the bridge, which rubbed one Burbank resident the wrong way.

Doug Weiskopf claimed that the ban was unenforceable and decided to test the city's new ordinance throughout the summer .

During an afternoon in May, Weiskopf attempted to get a citation or be arrested by Burbank Police. He even called the police on himself, but all he received was a warning.

Police department establishes new unit

In response to growing community concerns over a rise in gang activity, the Burbank Police Department established a new hybrid gang-enforcement unit in June.

Made up of four officers who are overseen by two patrol sergeants, the unit is tasked with contacting gang members and gathering intelligence while also handling regular service calls. The department had been without gang officers for the last two years because of staffing shortages.

During that two-year period, a single detective from the agency's vice/narcotics unit handled gang-related crimes.

The lack of gang officers drew criticism from residents as the city experienced an increased number of violent, gang-related crimes this year including several shootings and stabbings.

Eighty-nine gang-related crimes were reported by police last year, and almost half of them involved graffiti.

Juniors refuse to take state exam

Nearly 300 juniors refused to take the state's standardized exam in April after Burbank High student Sam Gorman initiated a school-wide opt-out movement, alerting them how to get out of the test with a parent's signature.

Gorman stood against taking an exam based on "big data and redundant standards instead of the acquisition of long-lasting knowledge," he said.

In all, about 350 Burbank High juniors out of about 640 took the test.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said he heard from both students and parents about juniors' desires to take and prepare for other exams, such as the SAT, ACT and AP tests, to determine if they are ready for college.

"I'd encourage the state to continue to look into the value of administering the test to our juniors," Hill said.

Investigation leads to change

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights closed its investigation into Burbank Unified several months after a Burbank parent alleged discrimination against her son based on his disability.

Kelly Duenckel filed a complaint after her son, Robert, who has learning disabilities, was told he would not participate in a popular cow-eye dissection lab, which he ultimately did after Duenckel pressed school officials to include her son and fellow special-education students in the lab.

The complaint alleged that special-education students were denied an opportunity to participate in science labs that were provided to general-education students.

The investigators found that general-education students completed 45 science labs compared to the 26 labs that special-education students completed during the 2015-16 school year.

Investigators closed the case after learning Burbank school officials took immediate steps to resolve the allegations.

As part of the changes, Burbank special-education students at all three middle schools have access to the same curriculum, labs, equipment and trained teachers as general-education students.

Burbank parents influence National PTA convention

When the National PTA passed four resolutions in July during a convention in Orlando, Fla., two of the four had been introduced by Burbank parents or students and already adopted by the California PTA.

The first one, called "Homework: Quality over Quantity," pushes for more meaningful homework instead of a lot of it. It was drafted initially by John Burroughs High School parents Suzanne Weerts and Tina McDermott, who surveyed fellow parents and found that homework caused stress and tension in many homes.

The second resolution passed at the National PTA convention was "Recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Individuals as a Protected Class."

PTA members, including Steve Frintner and Barbara Miller, along with students, helped draft the resolution after former John Burroughs High student Brian Kaplun advocated for sexual-health-education curriculum acknowledging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and those who are exploring their sexual identity.

Equine herpesvirus appears

A section of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center had to be put under quarantine by the California Department of Food and Agriculture last month after several horses at the facility tested positive for equine herpesvirus, which resulted in one horse being euthanized because of the disease.

The disease appeared at the equestrian center after eight horses returned from a horse show in Las Vegas on Oct. 27 through 29.

One of the horses, a 5-year-old saddlebred, showed signs of severe neurological symptoms and had to be put to sleep for humane reasons.

Another horse, a 10-year-old saddlebred, showed moderate signs of neurological symptoms and was put into quarantine, where it eventually recovered.

The Department of Food and Agriculture becomes involved if the disease is found to be equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy, a rare neurological form of the illness. Equine herpesvirus typically causes a respiratory infection for horses.

As it stands, there were a total of 228 horses under quarantine and 15 cases of equine herpesvirus — eight of which were the rare neurological form and seven that were not.

Officials with the state agency had to extend the quarantine at the equestrian center after they discovered that a horse owner took their horse back to their house while the facility was still under quarantine.

To make matters worse for the equestrian center, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses canceled the annual Equestfest horse show at the facility because of the outbreak.

Burbank on Parade expands event

Burbank on Parade turned into an all-day affair to mark the 35th year of the annual celebration.

In addition to the marching bands and dance groups that grace the parade each year, the April 23 event expanded to include a run/walk, a bicycle ride and a post-parade festival. While past parades included post-event activities, organizers said this year's festivities were a way to put the attractions surrounding the parade "into the limelight" and garner more participation.

An estimated 10,000 people attended this year's parade.

Burbank on Parade originally had its start in 1945 as a celebration for the end of World War II and went on for 12 years. It was revived in 1981 by a group of Burbank residents who wanted to a hold a spring festival celebrating life in the city.

Copyright © 2017, Burbank Leader
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