Burbank City Council gives First Street Village the green light

The Burbank City Council unanimously approved the proposed First Street Village project.
(Courtesy of the city of Burbank)

The Burbank City Council gave a local developer approval on Tuesday to move forward with a project to construct three mixed-used buildings — each five or six stories — in downtown Burbank after discussing the project during two meetings.

Council members voted unanimously to OK the First Street Village project, which will develop properties on the southwest side of First Street between Magnolia Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue.

After getting lengthy feedback from council members during a meeting on May 23, city staff members went back to Tim Behunin, the project’s developer, and approached him with several proposed changes to the conditions of approval to ease concerns some residents raised about the project.

Behunin, who owns the multiple pieces of property on the site, agreed to many of the changes, which included giving Burbank $50,000 for a new elevated bike lane on First Street and $175,000 toward the city’s downtown park development fund as well as putting Behunin in charge of maintaining all of the public amenities surrounding the project, said Fred Ramirez, the city’s assistant community development director.

One of the biggest changes to the project was the additional number of apartments to be built. Behunin had initially agreed to construct 261 units, but after some concern about the project not having enough affordable units, he agreed to add 14 workforce-housing units — one-bedroom micro-units that will be between 387 and 460 square feet that will lease for about $1,200 per month.

The City Council decided to let Behunin determine which buildings will have workforce-housing units.

The project will be built in three phases, in which one building with varying numbers of apartments and amounts of retail space will be constructed per phase.

The first phase, which will involve the middle property, will have 6,388 square feet of retail on the first floor and 94 apartments — seven of them being workforce-housing units — on the upper levels.

The second phase, which will be built on the First and Palm Avenue plot, is set to have 6,436 square feet of retail at the ground level. Behunin can then choose to have either 100 apartments constructed, with seven of them being micro units, or 98 apartments built, of which five units would be workforce-housing units.

If Behunin chooses to build seven micro-units in the first and second phases, then the third phase, which will be on the First and Magnolia side of the site, will not have any workforce-housing units, but would still have 81 apartments. However, if Behunin chooses to build five micro-units in the second phase, then the remaining two workforce-housing units would be be constructed in the third phase, which would bring the total of number of units in that building to 82, Ramirez said.

The last phase will also include 6,152 square feet of retail at the ground level.

Some residents expressed concerns about a pocket park that would be built along the Magnolia side of the project. They said they were worried that a separate project to widen a bridge on Magnolia could eventually result in removal of the park.

Behunin agreed to build a narrower pocket park to compensate for the upcoming bridge-widening project, ensuring the amenity will be permanent. Also, the park will be constructed during the first phase of the project instead of the third.

An additional concern that residents and Councilwoman Sharon Springer expressed was the project’s proximity to the Golden State (5) Freeway and its impact on noise and safety for the future residents at First Street Village.

After hearing those comments, the developer proposed to construct a sound wall that would stretch the length of the third phase of the project to about a third of the first phase. Ramirez said city officials had asked if the wall could run the length of the project, but Behunin declined.

As a compromise, council members decided it would be unfair for the developer to pay for the entire cost of a sound wall the length of the project and agreed to split the cost — two-thirds paid by the city and one-third by Behunin.

Twitter: @acocarpio