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Burbank Residents, Movie Executives Argue Over Plans for Media District

Times Staff Writer

Film studio executives and homeowners clashed at a Burbank City Council meeting Tuesday night over whether the studios should be allowed to build up the city’s Media District.

The executives pleaded that they need more office and studio space. Homeowners responded with complaints that the studio properties are already overdeveloped and that high-rise offices will bring congestion to their neighborhoods and ruin their views of the mountains.

More than 200 people attended a special meeting of the council at Stevenson Elementary School, held to hear public comments on proposals to restrict building in the Media District, which is dominated by movie and television studios.

Plea for Growth

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NBC Vice President Jack O’Neill said the studios must be allowed to grow “to be able to meet extreme competing demands of our industry.”

“We must be able to have the ability to strategically plan, implement and sustain that which is needed to continue in our leadership position,” he said.

But Jack King, a 36-year resident of Burbank, insisted that “we’ve had enough of these high-rises in Burbank. We need more single-family dwellings. There’s been too much already.”

Gordon Howard, a builder who lives in Toluca Lake, complained that the studios have little regard for surrounding residential communities. “They want to build high-rises on the perimeter of their properties and that just should not be allowed,” he said. “This plan of continued expansion has got to be stopped. The time has come to consider the homeowners.”

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Homeowner Mike Ragan defended the studios as an economic asset. “This city needs growth,” he said. “And if the growth is not there, they will pick up and move somewhere else.”

The 1.2-square-mile Media District--bordered roughly by the Ventura Freeway, Oak Street, Keystone Street and Clybourn Avenue--is popular with TV and movie firms because of its proximity to freeways leading to Hollywood, Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. One out of every five Burbank residents works in the Media District, according to city officials.

All the studios want to expand. The Burbank Studios, which includes Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures, wants to build almost 3.8 million square feet. NBC and Disney each want to build 1.4 million square feet.

A master plan was ordered three years ago when city administrators began to fear that the district was in danger of being choked by tall office buildings.

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Formulate Plan

Since then, Burbank officials have been attempting to formulate a plan that will accommodate both landowners who want to develop their properties and nearby residents determined to keep noise, traffic congestion and industry from overwhelming their neighborhoods.

About 5.2 million square feet of commercial development was built in the district before June, 1986; another 2 million has been built or approved since June, 1986, and an additional 5.9 million square feet is anticipated in coming years, officials said.

Tuesday night’s council session was the first of two public hearings on proposed building limits.

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Included in the proposed plan is what city officials call one of the strictest building codes in the state. Under one of the proposal’s provisions, developers might be allowed to build only one square foot of floor area for each square foot of property.

Other restrictions on high-rises have been suggested. Buildings 25 to 50 feet high would be required to be at least 25 feet from the edge of a residential neighborhood. Buildings 50 to 150 feet high would have to be 35 feet from such a neighborhood.

Height limits are also being considered, and developers who want to build structures more than 35 feet high might have to apply for conditional-use permits, which would require public hearings.


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