UCLA grad students analyze Magnolia Park in urban-design project

Burbank officials are hoping that a group of UCLA graduate students can help them figure out how to solve some of the issues surrounding the Magnolia Park neighborhood.

Since last month, 16 graduate students enrolled in an urban-planning course have been interviewing residents and business owners in Magnolia Park as well as city officials to identify problems along the corridor and possible ways to solve them.

The students are from a class called “Transportation and Land Use: Transportation and Urban Design Studio.” It is taught by lecturer Gaurav Srivastava every winter quarter at UCLA, in which graduate students find a real-world planning issue that focuses on transportation and develop feasible solutions.

“It aims to expose students to real-world issues that planning practitioners will encounter in their professional lives,” Srivastava wrote in an email. “The focus of this class is to study the relationship between land-use patterns and transportation networks and analyze how, together, they shape cities.”

He added that his students, who will be focusing on traffic and transportation issues, are about halfway through their research project on Magnolia Park and that their findings should be ready by next month, when the quarter ends.

Burbank officials have previously identified what they think are the most troublesome issues in Magnolia Park, which are small mom-and-pop stores being pushed out by increasing rents and overcrowding of the neighborhood because of more popular businesses — including Porto’s Bakery and Morphe Brushes.

The neighborhood is known for its quirky independently-operated stores. However, many small businesses have been forced to relocate or close over the last several years as property owners have hiked rents.

Simone McFarland, a spokeswoman for Burbank, said Srivastava reached out to the city to get permission for his students to use Magnolia Park as their topic this quarter.

McFarland, who is also an assistant community development director of business and economic development for the city, said that, although she doesn’t know if the solutions the students develop will be feasible, having additional input from an outside source will be valuable.

“Maybe their ideas are too expensive or we don’t have enough staff to do that, but they’re still ideas that are good to have,” McFarland said.

“These ideas aren’t something that the city is going to automatically implement. We’re going to have to use those ideas with how they fit in with everything else. They might have some good ideas. Who knows?” she added.

Twitter: @acocarpio