Market raises concerns

BURBANK — Opponents of a proposed 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods market in the Rancho District are hoping that the City Council will uphold the Planning Board's decision to deny a variance for the project.

The variance would allow the store to reduce distance requirements for setbacks — the separation between the structure and the property line — that were established in the Rancho District Master Plan.

"The store is way too big for that location," Rancho resident Rod Guilmette said. "[The location] really can't support it and the impact on a community like this area here will be enormous."

The master plan calls for a 25-foot setback for the front- and street-facing sides of the building and a 10-foot setback for the interior side not facing the street, assistant planner Avital Shavit said.

The Whole Foods project would have a 10-foot setback on the front-facing side, which is Alameda Avenue; a 16-foot setback on the street-facing side, which is Main Street; and a 10-foot interior setback.

Planning staffers argue that a variance for Whole Foods is justified, in part, because the Rancho master plan's setback constraints limit developers to a greater extent than setback requirements in most other city zones, she said.

"The 25-foot front and street-facing sideyard setbacks are exceptional as compared to the 5-foot front and street-facing sideyard setback commercial standards that are required for zones outside of the Rancho," she said. "Other commercial properties in other areas of Burbank are allowed to have zero rear- and interior-side setbacks while this property is required to have 10-foot interior side and 5-foot rear setbacks."

But some Rancho residents are concerned that granting a variance would have a negative effect on the neighborhood.

"People are concerned that the project is going to affect the equestrian type of community and they're also concerned about the effects of traffic and … pedestrian access in the neighborhood," she said. "And the Planning Board denied the variance based upon concerns on traffic, pedestrian and equestrian issues."

But others in the Rancho District welcome the store, lauding Whole Foods as a responsible corporation that will benefit the community.

"The reason why I think it's good for the Rancho is that, No. 1, something is going in to that property and the Whole Foods is a great choice for us," said India Penney, a 20-year Rancho resident.

"And there's a certain cache that's associated with Whole Foods; it would be great for any neighborhood."

Planning Department staff is working with Whole Foods officials to see whether they want to make any changes to the project proposal before the appeal goes before the council in January, or present the project to the council as-is, Assistant Community Development Director Greg Herrmann said.

Representatives from Whole Foods could not be reached for comment.


What do you think of the prospect of a Whole Foods market being built in the Rancho District? Should the City Council deny the variance? E-mail your responses to burbankleader; mail them to the Burbank Leader, 111 W. Wilson Ave., Glendale, CA, 91203. Please spell your name and include your address and phone number for verification purposes only.


  • CHRIS WIEBE covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at


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