The following are highlights from the top stories of 2019 in the Burbank Leader:
Ongoing aircraft noise from Hollywood Burbank Airport leads to lawsuit
For the past two years, residents in the south San Fernando Valley have said they’ve had to deal with noise from aircraft departing from Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Airplanes leaving from the airfield used to head south and make a northbound turn near the 101 Freeway. However, since 2017, aircraft have been making that turn farther south near the communities of Studio City and Sherman Oaks.
Some people blame the increased noise on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, a satellite-based navigation system that aims to make flights more efficient and safe.
However, federal officials have claimed that they have not changed the departure procedures at Hollywood Burbank.
Officials at Hollywood Burbank, as well as officials from the Los Angeles World Airports authority, which owns the Van Nuys Airport, teamed up and organized the Southern San Fernando Valley Airplane Noise Task Force in August to hear suggestions from residents about how to address the issue.
After four meetings, residents and task force members — which are made up of local officials and federal representatives — said they have grown weary of the lack of response from the FAA regarding the noise issue.
Then, on Dec. 12, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit against the FAA, alleging the federal agency has not adhered to departure procedures out of Hollywood Burbank, which were published in 2017.
The task force is scheduled to meet a few more times in 2020, but local officials are looking to find immediate relief for their constituents.
Avion Burbank breaks ground
After four years of planning and refining those plans, developer Overton Moore Properties broke ground this year on the 60-acre site of its long-awaited Avion Burbank mixed-use project.
However, Avion Burbank isn’t a typical mixed-use project, which usually includes residential units with retail space.
Instead, Avion Burbank is an industrial park slated to have six creative-industrial warehouses for media production and e-commerce companies, nine buildings for creative office space, two buildings for retail and restaurant use and a 150-room hotel.
The project is located at 3001 N. Hollywood Way, which is known as the B-6 site — the lot where Lockheed had its Skunk Works operations until 1989.
Excluding the hotel, officials from Overton Moore say the industrial park should be completed within 16 months, with the first building scheduled to be completed by summer 2020.
City and business officials view the project as a new industrial hub for Burbank that will focus on media, technology and aerospace.
Empire Avenue interchange completed, Burbank Boulevard bridge demolition to follow
Caltrans’ Golden State (5) Freeway project in Burbank has encountered several delays, but the transportation agency, as well as motorists, have seen improvements this past year.
In late September, the Empire Avenue interchange was finished and opened to the public, allowing commuters to get to and from the Empire Center or the northern side of Burbank without having to take Burbank Boulevard or Victory Place.
The new interchange will give motorists an alternate way to get on and off the 5 Freeway when Caltrans works on the demolition and reconstruction of the Burbank Boulevard bridge as the freeway is widened.
Caltrans officials have said they want to complete all of their major projects along the local stretch of the 5 Freeway by 2021.
Pickwick Gardens partners with the Los Angeles Kings to rehabilitate ice rink
The ice rink at Pickwick Gardens has faced challenges for some time, but a partnership between Pickwick owner Ron Stavert and the Los Angeles Kings and American Sports Entertainment Co. breathed new life into the aging facility this past year.
After a two-month renovation, the renamed L.A. Kings Ice at Pickwick Gardens opened to the public in August, and the rink was immediately filled with children from existing youth hockey leagues that have called Pickwick their home.
In December 2018, the three entities entered into a 10-year lease, in which the L.A. Kings and American Sports Entertainment Co. will be the rink’s new operators.
There have also been plans to construct another ice rink on the property.
Speed limits around schools lowered
This past August, the city lowered the speed limit around 24 Burbank schools from 25 mph to 15 mph ahead of the 2019-20 school year.
City officials said the decision was made a year ago after a round of public discussions concluded a lower speed limit would be in the best interest of pedestrians and students.
In addition to the new speed limits, the city also added new crosswalks near school sites and upgraded existing crossings with high-visibility markings. Four-way stop signs were also placed at 12 intersections near campuses across Burbank.
When they were announced, Burbank Police Sgt. Derek Green said, the new limits and crossings would help reduce speeding through school zones and better control the flow of vehicles.
After months of debate, David Starr Jordan Middle School loses name
Committees were created, policies updated, forums held and passions raised during an 11-month process that began in May 2018 and ultimately led to a vote for the removal of David Starr Jordan’s name from a Burbank middle school.
David Starr Jordan Middle School was founded and named in 1948 after the famed fish scientist and first chancellor of Stanford University.
However, Jordan was also a proponent of eugenics, a system that looked toward controlled breeding and separation of certain people to increase the chances for desirable heritable characteristics.
After a lackluster first meeting in December, Burbank Unified’s facilities-naming committee held two public forums on the issue, which each drew about 100 members of the public.
The facilities-naming committee unanimously voted in February to endorse a name change, and the Burbank Unified school board voted in April to drop Jordan’s name.
Despite recently losing a close parcel tax vote, Burbank Unified decides to try again
For months, several Burbank Unified administrators, teachers, staff, supporters and even parents have talked about the bitter electoral defeat on Nov. 6, 2018, of the district’s proposed parcel tax, known as Measure QS, which fell short of passing by 938 votes.
The measure would have needed a two-thirds majority to have passed.
The tax would have generated roughly $9.1 million annually to the district at a cost of approximately $170 per year for the average Burbank homeowner, and the tax had no expiration date.
The measure is nearly an identical 10-cents-per-square-foot fee on all types of property that is again expected to raise a little over $9 million annually at the cost of roughly $170 per year for Burbank homeowners.
In a compromise urged by some community members, including officials at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Measure I includes a 12-year sunset clause.
The Burbank Unified school board pushed aside any other accommodations from the chamber, including caps on how much could be charged on businesses.
As in the previous proposed tax, because the measure is a parcel tax, it needs 66.7% of the vote to pass per Proposition 13 requirements.
Burbank Unified signs off on $3.5 million in budget cuts, including 3 music teachers, but community rallied to save those jobs
After Burbank Unified’s proposed parcel tax, known as Measure QS, failed to gain 66.7% in November 2018, district officials warned of budget cuts.
Then, Burbank Unified officials announced $3.5 million in financial slashing in January, which included cutbacks and the layoffs of three elementary school music positions.
City philanthropic organizations, led by the Burbank Arts for All Foundation and Burbank Educational Foundation, launched fundraising efforts to eventually bring in $275,328 to save those music positions from reduction for this school year.
The Burbank Arts for All Foundation cut the district its single-largest donation ever of $100,000 in February, while the Burbank Educational Foundation raised $82,000 by the end of the same month to help the cause.
The Chuck Lorre Foundation kicked in $65,000, while $25,000 came from the Roosevelt Elementary School boosters and $3,328 was raised by individual donors.