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Disabled housing project in trouble

Laura Sturza

Some of the city’s 17,000 disabled residents will continue waiting

while the builders of Burbank’s first fully accessible, subsidized

housing project look for more funding.


“We’ll get it done,” said Ronald Cohen, executive director of

United Cerebral Palsy for Los Angeles and surrounding counties.

“These are for the poorest of the poor.”

The $4.4-million project is a partnership between the nonprofit


group, which secured more than $2.1 million from the Department of

Housing and Urban Development, and the city, which contributed 17,500

square feet of land worth $600,000, plus $400,000 in federal funding

awarded to the city. The remainder of the cost is being covered by

other agencies.

Funding was committed to the project, although Cohen and city

officials did not initially have statistics available when asked

about how many disabled people live in Burbank, or how money was


promised without those figures readily available. The number of

disabled residents is based on 2000 Census figures.

The 18-unit apartment building was planned for an October opening

at 600 San Fernando Road, but is on hold until another $350,000 of a

$700,000 shortfall can be secured.

Because obtaining a HUD grant means designing the building comes

after the money is promised by the agency, there is no way to know

actual costs until the project is underway, Cohen said of the


shortfall. United Cerebral Palsy has spent $500,000 on engineering,

architectural and legal fees, “and we’ve got to go on,” Cohen said.

Construction fees will be cut by $245,000 through design changes,

and United Cerebral Palsy has raised an added $100,000, said Duane

Solomon, the city’s housing development manager. The nonprofit is

continuing fund-raising through corporations, foundations and


The City Council directed city staff to start work on building

accessible housing in 2000 in response to disabled residents who said

they were having trouble finding units for people who are not

seniors, Solomon said.

Not all of Burbank’s disabled are in search of new housing, but “a

number of people on fixed incomes with disabilities do not live in

ideal situations,” said Eric Hansen, city liaison to the Burbank

Advisory Council on Disabilities.

The building will include amenities necessary for people with

varying degrees of mobility, those with sight impairment and others

who are developmentally disabled. These include roll-in showers,

lowered wall switches, raised wall outlets, an emergency call button

to the manager and a large community room.

Resident Rory Zipp has to move from her apartment, and could not

wait for the new building. The 56-year-old polio survivor is on

oxygen 24 hours a day.

“I’ve just about killed myself a few times in the current place

I’m in,” Zipp said of the shower at her apartment.

She is moving into a senior complex that will accommodate her

needs, and joins the ranks of people who have made similar transfers.