Planning board supports proposed Talaria project

Traffic impacts to surrounding neighborhoods and the displacement of a local church were among the top concerns residents brought up at a Planning Board meeting on Monday regarding a 241-unit luxury apartment complex on top of a Whole Foods market proposed to be built in Burbank's media district.

Even so, the Planning Board on Monday voiced unanimous support for the project, dubbed "Talaria at Burbank," citing that the current property was "underutilized" and surrounding streets can handle the extra traffic with mitigation measures.

The board's recommendation will be handed over to the Burbank City Council, which is slated to review the project next month.

Developer Michael Cusumano of the Cusumano Real Estate Group said the proposed pedestrian-friendly complex would cater to studio executives and employees, which board members said would fill a need in Burbank.

"We have a shortage of rentals," said board member Christopher Rizzotti. "We certainly have a shortage of options for people with regards to high-end."

But a number of residents from surrounding neighborhoods said they are worried about an existing traffic problem and voiced support for cul-de-sacs to be constructed where California, Lima, Avon and Cordova streets meet Alameda Avenue to prevent cut-through traffic.

Rachel Swierenga said her family planned to move if a cul-de-sac was not built on her street in conjunction with the project.

"As it is now, we have racers down the street, traffic is already a problem, a major problem," Swierenga said. "In our mind, it's just a matter of time before a child gets hurt."

Cusumano said the grocery component, as well as other amenities offered within the complex, such as a gym, an ATM, a pool and dry-cleaning-and-laundry services, would help curtail vehicle trips as residents could run errands on-site.

A traffic study found that out of the 24 intersections analyzed for potential traffic impacts, four would be impacted, which could be mitigated with traffic improvements, according to a city report.

The number of apartment units proposed exceeds the 58 dwelling units-per-acre density maximum for residential projects in the proposed zone. Under the general plan, a maximum of 223 units could be developed on the project site, though with 241 proposed units, developers are requesting a density increase of 8%.

Many of the speakers who voiced full support for the project included contractors who noted working with the Cusumanos in the past.

Meanwhile, dozens of members of the growing Victory Baptist Church worried about being displaced in a city that they said offers minimal zoning options for churches.

"It's not like we're in desperate need of a grocery store," said Ranae Shepherd, a congregation member. "Keep our church, our church is helping people."

More than 100 people signed a letter on behalf of the church asking that the city preserve the church building or help the congregation find another property.

Along with the church, the property site also currently includes three office buildings, a bar, 41 multifamily residential units and two single-family residences, all of which would be demolished.

The City Council is slated to review the project on Sept. 30.

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