After 21 years of working to create safer neighborhoods and more affordable housing in Burbank, Judith Arandes, executive director of the nonprofit Burbank Housing Corp., told a crowd of about 100 people Thursday night that she’s ready to pass the baton.
“I didn’t even know I knew so many people,” Arandes said as she scanned the outdoor patio at the Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown Burbank, where her retirement party was held.
Although Arandes said her farewells on Thursday, she will be with the Burbank Housing Corp., or BHC, on a part-time basis until early February before retiring for good.
Throughout the night, Arandes shook hands or hugged people who she has either worked with or who has had an effect on her over her two decades of service to the community.
She received multiple honors at the gathering, including a joint commendation from state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) recognizing Arandes for her tireless efforts on the affordable-housing front.
Over her two decades with BHC, Arandes helped establish 322 affordable housing units in the city for low-income residents, veterans and victims of domestic violence.
This past November, the nonprofit completed its Fairview Cottages project, a three-unit apartment complex at 2300 N. Fairview St. geared toward extremely low-income residents.
“While we were doing what we were doing, it never felt like it was a job,” she said after several speeches were made.
“I just felt like it was the time to focus on affordable housing for the city of Burbank. There were too many people working in the city that were not affluent that had no decent place to live. It felt good being able to make a little dent in that,” she added.
Arandes was hired by BHC in 1999 after working on affordable housing and community development for the city of Bellflower.
She said her move from the public to the nonprofit sector was based on her wanting an opportunity to tackle the lack of affordable housing head on without having to go through the intricacies of city government.
“It was a huge risk, but I was attracted to the idea of making something from scratch,” Arandes said. “When I joined, BHC was barely starting, and we built it up to where it is now. That was fun for me.”
Taking over the reins when Arandes leaves will be Sylvia Moreno, the nonprofit’s senior project manager.
Moreno has worked alongside Arandes for 18 years and said during her speech Thursday that she and BHC would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for Arandes’ efforts and passion to create affordable housing.
“You’re my family away from home, and you’ve cultivated in me a belief that I could be successful at both,” Moreno said, referring to Arandes. “You always gave 100% whether it was at work or in your home life ... BHC is a success because of you.”