Proposed changes to Burbank city code address group home concerns

Burbank officials on Thursday proposed changes to the city’s code that would address concerns from the public in recent months centered around allowing group homes in residential areas.

A couple dozen residents attended Thursday’s community meeting, which came as a result of public backlash after the city adopted its state-required housing element to allow community care facilities, which may include sober-living facilities that don’t require licensing, in single-family residential neighborhoods.

The city’s housing element states that if six or fewer people live in the home, the facility would be considered a “standard residential use” and not have to obtain a permit.

With the help of Barbara Kautz, an attorney specializing in land-use law, city officials drafted a set of proposed definitions they argue would strengthen the city’s code.

For example, officials defined “family” as people in a single household that share common areas, housekeeping and household expenses. Additionally, the proposed definition states that the household must not limit the length of stay or have more than two leases, and all residents must be selected by all existing adult members of the household. Sober-living facilities in residential zones would fall under this definition, and therefore have to meet the criteria.

Housing rights advocate Paul Dumont, however, said during the meeting that he felt that the intent of the rules were to prevent certain protected classes of people from residing in their neighborhood of choice.

The Burbank City Council on June 24 is tentatively slated to consider adopting the new definitions, as well as further discuss a moratorium on major home expansions.

In the fall, city officials plan to host another community meeting to discuss implementing operating standards for community care facilities, which Kautz said would “protect people living there as opposed to trying to keep them out.”

Some residents asked if there was any way residents could be notified about neighboring group homes, which Kautz dismissed as discriminatory since it treats residences that serve disabled people differently than those that do not.

While some residents worried that the density of the group homes could cause traffic and parking burdens and change the character of residential neighborhoods, others worried the homes could increase crime and reduce property values.

City officials have said there are at least three sober-living facilities in Burbank that don’t require licenses — just one of which is in a single-family residential zone.

Records show that police have responded to that home twice in the last two years, once in response to an alarm and a second time after a caller reported four youths “prowling” around her house. In both cases, police determined that no crime had occurred.

“If you have a well-managed facility, you will be problem free,” said Burbank Police Capt. Mike Albanese, adding that the department tracks locations at which there are an inordinate amount of calls and at local sober-living facilities, calls are “surprisingly low.”

At the home located in an industrial zone, police responded to two calls for service, took one vandalism report from a group-home resident whose car had been scratched, and conducted one compliance check.

Meanwhile, at the home located in a multifamily zone, police responded to one call regarding a loitering transient, conducted one well-being check, took one missing person report in which the person was later determined not to be missing, and took one report in which a group home resident’s iPod was stolen from his car.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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