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Burbank, Los Angeles County officials discuss housing and homelessness issues

Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Glendale Police Chief Carl Povilaitis during the 5th Annual Burbank
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and the Burbank City Council discussed city and county projects addressing the housing shortfall and homelessness on Wednesday. Above, Barger talks with Glendale Police Chief Carl Povilaitis during a police luncheon on April 25, 2019.
(File Photo)

Burbank’s housing goals and the issue of homelessness were key topics covered this week when the Burbank City Council met with Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Council members gave updates to the supervisor during a special community meeting held Wednesday at the Community Services Building.

Councilman Jess Talamantes told Barger that Burbank has committed to building 12,000 dwelling units over the next 15 years to address the housing shortfall in the city.

“Burbank is experiencing a job-to-housing imbalance where not everyone that works here can live here,” Talamantes said.

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He added the goal isn’t to merely construct more buildings but also to provide responsible housing for all income segments in the city, while protecting existing neighborhoods.

Barger noted Burbank isn’t the only city in her district or in the county as a whole that is facing similar housing issues. The supervisor said building more housing is the best way to tackle the problem, as opposed to implementing some type of rent control.

“I’m a firm believer that we need to build more [housing],” she said. “We are way behind what was needed to keep up with the population growth in the state.”

Vice Mayor Sharon Springer talked about the current status of the homelessness issue in Burbank, explaining that a survey conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority this year found 286 people in the city without a permanent home, a 40% jump over last year’s figures.

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Springer said the city has been collaborating with several nonprofits and organizations as well as county officials to combat the issue.

Burbank has been working with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to create the Burbank Mental Health Evaluation Team.

Additionally, the city in March launched an ambassador program in the downtown area to make contact with the homeless and guide them toward the appropriate services they might need.

“We still face significant challenges and we understand that it all takes time, but we do have some needs to address public health and safety,” Springer said. “We need county help with reducing illegal behaviors and criminal activity and providing meaningful quality of life for those living on the streets.”

Barger said the key to fighting homelessness is figuring out the root causes as to why people end up not having permanent shelter.

She mentioned the city of Arcadia is testing a pilot program in which its fire department will pick up a mentally ill homeless person and drop them off at a mental health facility rather than a hospital.

The supervisor said the county is looking to expand the number of mental health beds available at care facilities to get the homeless off the streets and provide them with the care they need.

Barger also provided the City Council the current status of Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2017 to address homelessness.

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She said many cities have been frustrated with how the funds are distributed and the lack of flexibility on the county’s behalf, adding that she and her colleagues are working on that issue.

In addition to housing issues, the meeting covered other territory of mutual interest between the city and county. Talamantes updated Barger on a handful of development projects that are in the works, including the replacement terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport, the First Street Village mixed-use project, the Avion Burbank business park, the Warner Bros. Studios expansion and new emergency and urgent care facilities at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.

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