One day after the Burbank City Council ended six years of debate by approving a sweeping growth-control plan for the city’s Media District, opposing factions were preparing Wednesday for the dispute to move to another arena: the ballot box.
Executives at the Media District’s three major studios--Disney, Warner Bros. and NBC--said they plan to spend $200,000 to fight two growth-control measures on the Feb. 26 city ballot. The measures would essentially void the Media District Specific Plan, which won unanimous City Council approval late Tuesday and was supported by the studios.
“We are doing everything we can and will do everything it takes to defeat these measures,” said Jack O’Neill, vice president of real estate and facilities planning for NBC. “We think these initiatives are wrong.”
Measures A and B, written by Burbank residents dissatisfied with the course of development in the city, would allow less development in the 557-acre Media District, located in southwest Burbank. They would also impose new limits on projects elsewhere in the city.
Residents opposed to the Media District plan said that it does not go far enough to protect surrounding neighborhoods and that it allows high-rise buildings inconsistent with the small-town atmosphere of Burbank.
The plan restricts buildings to a maximum of 15 stories, although they could go higher in special cases. Developers will be allowed to build only 1.1 square feet of floor space for every square foot of property. For instance, a building with a floor area of 11,000 square feet could be built on a 10,000-square-foot lot.
Carolyn Berlin, a co-sponsor of Measure B, said the amount of money that the studios will spend is vastly more than homeowners have available for their campaigns. Measure A supporters said they do not expect to spend more than $2,000. Berlin said the campaign for Measure B probably will not cost more than $5,000.
“But that’s OK because I don’t think you can buy people’s votes,” she said.
Supporters of both measures said they will rely on volunteers to get their messages to voters.
Robert Olson, who has opposed the Media District Specific Plan, said the initiatives were written because city and studio officials paid little attention to the concerns of homeowners in hearings last year. He said many now view the measures as the only way to control growth in an area that is home to a number of entertainment-oriented businesses in addition to the major studios.
Burbank and studio officials have said the measures would choke development and might discourage businesses from moving to the city. Studio officials said the floor-area ratio, height limits and other requirements combine to make the plan among the most restrictive in the nation. They said they supported the plan because it was the best possible compromise.
“It doesn’t serve any one particular interest,” said Ed Medman, vice president of governmental affairs for Warner Bros.
The plan is intended to provide a blueprint for development in an area bisected by the Ventura Freeway, lying roughly between Buena Vista Street and Clybourne Avenue. The plan is a response to the rapid growth that occurred in the early 1980s, which prompted residents to complain that the area was becoming another Century City choked with traffic.
Had no restrictions been imposed, city officials estimated that an additional 30 million to 50 million square feet of commercial and industrial projects would have been built over the next 20 years. The plan caps growth at 16.8 million square feet over 20 years.
Measure A, sponsored by resident Dave Golonski, would limit buildings to five stories or less. It would close loopholes in the plan that could allow developers to build taller buildings with more floor space.
Measure B, sponsored by Michael Scandiffio and Berlin, would have roughly the same effect but does not place an annual cap on development as Measure A does.