Code change would benefit shelters

The Planning Board this week approved changes to the city code that would make it easier for organizations to establish emergency homeless shelters after officials determined the excessive red tape violated state law.

In 2008, the state began requiring all cities to designate at least one zone where emergency shelters must be allowed to operate year round without any additional permits outside of certain local standards, such as security.

Burbank allows “rescue missions” only in certain areas of the city, and has hosted the Los Angeles County regional winter homeless shelter in 2007 and 2008 — much to the chagrin of some residents who complained about unruly transients.

Planning Board member Kenneth San Miguel expressed concern about emergency shelters near residential areas after complaints were voiced in previous years, but officials pledged to make security a top issue for future applications.


“When we last had the winter shelter, people in the neighborhood were squawking about how they’re urinating everywhere and they’re making the neighborhood dirty,” San Miguel said.

He and his colleagues voted unanimously to allow emergency shelters to operate in M-2 zones — primarily areas designated for large-scale manufacturing and heavy industrial businesses — without additional permitting, even if they end up next to residential areas.

The City Council must still sign off on the changes.

The M-2 zones are mostly along the Golden State (5) Freeway south of the Burbank Boulevard exit and near Bob Hope Airport.


“[This ordinance] wouldn’t stop us from allowing a temporary winter shelter as we have in the past, but we have to make at least one zone where a year-round shelter is permitted,” said Martin Potter, an administrative analyst for Burbank.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimated in 2007 220 homeless people were in Burbank. Even when the National Guard Armory hosts the winter shelter, Burbank still has an unmet need of 70 beds during the winter months and a 220-bed need for the remainder of the year.

Allowing the need to go unmet without opening up a zone in the city for a year-round homeless shelter would violate state law, officials said.

The Planning Board also recommended allowing shelters to operate in light industrial and some retail areas after securing a conditional zoning use permit.

City Planner Michael Forbes said some properties in the additional zones would be better locations for the shelters due to distance from residential neighbors and access to streets.