Burbank Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy called NBCUniversal’s announcement that it has dropped controversial plans to build thousands of residences on its back lot"very constructive,” but said she still had concerns about the traffic impact.
The new $1.6-billion proposal — which would ditch the housing for more movie and television production facilities and expand the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park — was unveiled Monday just before the release of the final environmental impact report on the company’s proposal to improve the sprawling studio and tourist attraction in the San Fernando Valley.
An earlier “Evolution” plan, valued at $3 billion, called for nearly 3,000 apartments and condominiums at the east end of the studio’s property, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Gabel-Luddy -- who with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky did not support the original housing plan -- said in an email Tuesday that she’s pleased the residential component was eliminated.
“It’s very constructive that they dropped all the housing,” said Gabel-Luddy, who previously served on the city’s Planning Board.
CIty officials had said the original project would have significantly increased traffic on surrounding streets in west Burbank.
Concern about its impact grew because Burbank contended that the studio’s traffic estimates in a draft environmental impact report were low.
City officials argued that the report used inaccurate assumptions, including one that projected roughly 20% of the new residents would use public transportation instead of driving their own vehicles.
Gabel-Luddy on Tuesday said she was also concerned that all the new condos and apartments would put increased demand on public safety and services, including the nearby Buena Vista Library.
“We thought our library would be overwhelmed,” she said.
But even with the housing component gone, Gabel-Luddy said she was worried the final environmental impact report may still undercount how much traffic will be generated, particularly given the plans for additional movie and television production facilities, which “would be completely consistent with their primary mission.”
The revised plan still calls for $100 million in transit and roadway improvements as originally proposed, Thomas Smith, senior vice president in charge of real estate on the West Coast for NBCUniversal, told The Times.
-- Jason Wells and Mark Kellam, Times Community News, with reporting by Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times