The New Year brings a time of reflection and hope. The Media City has plenty to look forward to in 2014, though the calendar seems packed with development. The airport is planning to open its transportation center, two hotels are slated to break ground, and work on the new IKEA property is likely to begin later in the year. And, of course, Walmart foes are lauding the stalled development of the store in the Empire Center.
In other areas, Burbank is bracing for the loss of the "Tonight Show," Burbank educators are getting ready for Common Core, and the school libraries will be staffed — by district employees.
A new $112.6 million transportation center is slated to open this summer at the Bob Hope Airport, brining all bus, rail and rental-car services under one roof.
The 520,000-square-foot transportation center broke ground in July 2012.
The project also includes a new five-level, 351,785-square-foot parking structure that opened this past August. It's meant to replace the 1,000-plus parking spaces lost in Lot D to make room for the transportation center.
The new structure has 1,043 spaces and is being used by the airport's valet parking service for now. The surface-lot spaces that were formerly used by the valet operator are not yet being opened to self-parking, however.
The project will also feature a 19-foot-high elevated and covered walkway that will connect the center to the airport terminal, spanning 1,100 feet.
For now, efforts to bring a Walmart to Burbank have been put on hold following a ruling handed down by Judge Allan J. Goodman in September that rescinded the building permits issued for the former Great Indoors store adjacent to the Empire Center, in which the mega-retailer had planned to open a store.
While City Council members voted last month to not appeal Goodman's decision, Walmart officials said they do plan to file an appeal.
At the heart of the lawsuit filed by Burbank residents Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo were uncompleted street improvements outlined in an ordinance approved by the Burbank City Council 13 years ago.
The improvements include more turn lanes at key intersections on Buena Vista Street at Victory Boulevard and Empire Avenue.
Regarding the street improvements, Goodman ruled that "the city has violated its obligations to complete the [traffic] mitigation measures for the specified roadways by the time of completion" of the Empire Center, which opened in 2001.
News of the potential loss of the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in the spring had the then-mayor of Burbank threatening a hunger strike, but in a little more than a month, the show will be gone.
On Feb. 6, the "Tonight Show" — which has been one of Burbank's claims to fame for decades — will air its last episode, Variety reported.
After that, more than 160 employees will be displaced.
But Burbank is still a magnet for the media industry and with NBCUniversal moving out of their studio on Alameda — now called Burbank Studios — Clear Channel's Internet radio platform iHeartRadio has already signed a 10-year lease for part of the space, said Mary Hamzoian, the city's economic development manager.
"We're a city that's full of media-related jobs and media-related companies, so we're hoping those individuals being displaced will be able to find other work in city of Burbank," Hamzoian said.
Meanwhile, reports have indicated CNN president Jeff Zucker recently paid a visit to Leno, perhaps to discuss his next career move.
Common Core curriculum to infiltrate Burbank schools
The Burbank Unified school board adopted a $3-million plan in September to implement the new Common Core state standards.
According to state educators, the new standards will encourage students to use critical thinking to analyze, research and write about nonliterary texts and apply mathematics to real-world problem solving.
School officials plan to spend about $2.3 million so teachers can attend conferences and collaborate with others who teach at their same grade level as they write a new Common Core curriculum.
The district is also planning to expand the number of computers available to students, in order for them to be tested on the curriculum fully by the spring of 2015.
Burbank Unified Supt. Jan Britz said the district's technology department has already anticipated how many more computers will be needed at school sites before students take the exams in 2015.
School libraries will be equipped with district employees
By the end of January, Burbank school officials plan on equipping Burbank's 11 elementary schools with district-funded classified employees.
In mid-December, the district was in the process of advertising a portion of those jobs and conducting interviews, according to Anita Schackmann, who is director of human resources for Burbank Unified.
The issue of staffing the libraries came before school board members in November when they learned for the first time that a handful of libraries had closed since the beginning of the year or in the weeks after because the schools could no longer utilize volunteers or teachers, according to the rules of a contract between the district and its classified employees union.
The agreement prohibited volunteers, teachers or staff members without library duties in their job descriptions from assisting students with checking out, returning or shelving books.
The district once provided library staff to all of its elementary schools, but years of budget cuts and the absence of library block grants eventually led each elementary school to rely on its own funds or donations to pay for library assistants.
However, in light of the agreement reached in August with the union, a handful of Burbank schools that had once relied solely on volunteers or teachers either closed their libraries or remained open, but students could not check out books.
By the end of November, the school board approved hiring library assistants or clerks for an amount of time that depends on how many classrooms each school has, starting with at least three hours per day, with some schools getting help for four or five hours.
Amy Beck trial
A trial is scheduled for March 2014 in the civil case involving former Burbank Unified teacher Amy Beck, who turned herself in to police in March 2010 and confessed to having had a sexual relationship with a male student.
In January 2011, the victim's family sued Beck and the Burbank Unified School District, alleging that the teacher groomed the teenager for two years before initiating a sexual relationship that lasted from March to September 2009.
The student, who was 14 at the time, has not been identified.
Beck, the mother of three young children, pleaded no contest to two charges of unlawful sex with a minor and served time in prison.
According to the lawsuit, she made repeated and unsolicited sexual advances, telling him she wanted to "teach him about sex."
The suit also names her husband, Nathaniel Beck, and his employer, the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging that he threatened to kill the teen with his department-issued gun.
According to a state database of registered sex offenders, Beck, now 37, is living near Westwood. She is required to register as a sex offender for life.
A number of multiyear development projects are in the pipeline for Burbank, many of which will break ground next year.
Construction for two hotels — which are lined up to sit a block away from one another in the South San Fernando Boulevard corridor — will start next year, said Deputy City Planner Patrick Prescott.
The 170-room Grandview Suites hotel, to be located on San Fernando between Santa Anita and Providencia avenues, will be built just a block away from where a six-story, 210-room Hilton Garden Inn will be constructed.
Developers touted the projects as an opportunity to revitalize downtown by drawing business and leisure travelers to the area.
Swedish furniture giant IKEA has had its sights set on Burbank to build its biggest store in the nation, and the proposal is slated to come before the Burbank City Council in February. If approved, residents can expect the demolition of existing buildings on the site — located at 805 South San Fernando Boulevard — to begin mid- to late-2014, city planners said.
The council is also set to consider "Talaria at Burbank" — a 241-unit luxury apartment complex on top of a Whole Foods market in the city's Media District — sometime during the first quarter of next year.