Burbank Says 'No' to Vote on Making Builders Fund Arts

Times Staff Writer

Rejecting months of lobbying by a grass-roots cultural group, the Burbank City Council has decided not to offer a November ballot measure on a proposal to require developers to pay for cultural development and the arts.

The council voted 3 to 2 Tuesday night to reject the ballot measure, with opponents arguing that the proposal unfairly discriminates against developers. The measure called for 1% of costs of projects exceeding $500,000 to go for the arts and culture.

Kate Higgins, leader of the Fine Arts Federation of Burbank, said Wednesday that she may launch an initiative campaign to qualify the proposal for the February ballot. From 4,500 to 5,000 signatures would be needed, city officials said.

Higgins, 42, an artist and sculptor who runs a financial management firm with her husband, said her group may also initiate a recall movement against Councilmen Robert R. Bowne and Al F. Dossin and Mayor Mary E. Kelsey, all of whom voted against the proposal.

'Totally Jerked Around'

"We've just been totally jerked around for the past six months," Higgins said. "We had gotten a lot of encouragement from the city to continue this campaign, and a lot of advice from council members about how to approach it. But they just wasted our time, and all that work has gone up in smoke. I feel squashed."

Burbank officials had been working with Higgins and her 200-member group on the proposal since last October. The group, which calls for an "arts and culture renaissance" in Burbank, gathered 3,000 signatures on petitions supporting the proposal and Higgins said she thought she had enough council support to have it placed on the ballot.

Last week, however, council members said they would prefer to finance the arts from the city's general fund. City staff members were asked to investigate ways to allocate $400,000 to $1 million from the city's general fund to pay for the arts next year.

But Higgins and her group returned Tuesday night to protest that plan, and asked the council to place the original proposal on the ballot.

Storm Out of Meeting

Following the council's vote, Higgins and several supporters stormed out of the council meeting.

"The council is trying to stuff a sock in the mouth of the residents," Higgins said. "It is unconscionable for them to deny residents the vote."

"We've shown we have public support," she said. "We collected 3,000 signatures from people all over Burbank who said they desperately want art and culture in Burbank, and that they want the developers to pay for it."

Under her proposal, developers of all projects valued at more than $500,000 would be required to install art on their property worth .6% of their costs. The remaining part of the 1% requirement would be placed in a city-administered cultural trust fund to finance public arts.

Possible $6-Million Fund

Officials estimated that, with $500 million to $600 million worth of redevelopment being considered by the city, the proposed arts fund could eventually have drawn as much as $6 million.

Councilman Michael R. Hastings, who supported the proposal, echoed the anger of Higgins and her group. "The people should have gotten a fair shot," he said. "We're supposed to be a government by and for the people, but this was an example of the select few controlling the city."

But Bowne said the group should go through the initiative process and collect the required number of signatures.

"I just feel that, as it stands now, the proposal discriminates against developers," he said.

The board of directors of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors had both opposed the proposal.

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