A look ahead at 2013 for Burbank

The year 2013 is already shaping up to be a busy year, with several issues rooted in the past expected to come to fruition. While the year ahead will no doubt unleash its own bounty of surprises, here are some issues we can all count on happening in 2013.

Citywide elections

Six candidates will be vying for three seats on the Burbank City Council in the February primary.

Incumbents Jess Talamantes, David Gordon and Dave Golonski will face three challengers — Juan Guillen, David Nos and Robert Frutos.

While the incumbents have touted their municipal experience, the three other hopefuls said they would take on city issues with fresh eyes and ears.

At the top of the candidates’ platforms are quality of life issues, including improving infrastructure, controlling traffic and development and maintaining the city’s programs and services.

Three candidates are vying for city clerk, including incumbent Zizette Mullins — who was appointed to the position by the City Council in June — Nonna von Sonn and Gloria Salas.

For city treasurer, incumbent appointment Debbie Kukta is the sole candidate.

With two seats up for grabs on the Burbank Unified School Board, voters will have to choose between five residents — first in a primary in February, and then in the general election in April.

Incumbent Larry Applebaum, currently serving as school board president, hopes to win a seat along with candidates David Dobson, Steve Ferguson, Charlene Tabet and Armond Aghakhanian.

Each candidate has their own reason for running, but one major theme in their campaign so far is adding more technology to classrooms during a time of unprecedented budget cuts that has seen the district lose more than $17.3 million per year for the last five years.

No matter which two candidates take the helm on the school board this April, one likely discussion could entail where further cuts will come from when the district begins to tackle its predicted $6.9 million structural deficit by the end of 2013-14.

Walmart legal issues

The fate of a Walmart in Burbank hangs in limbo as a new judge is sought for a lawsuit that was filed by three residents last year in an effort to stop the company from opening a store in the former Great Indoors adjacent to the Empire Center.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who was originally scheduled to hear the case is just one of six who hear cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act, which is one of the issues at the center of the Walmart case.

It was the latest setback for Walmart to start construction of a new store.

Earlier this year, Judge Robert O’Brien issued an injunction that halted all work on the project until the matter is decided at trial.

In their lawsuit, Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo contend that Walmart should not have been issued building permits for a new store until two street improvement projects mandated by a city-approved ordinance are completed and another environmental impact review is conducted to see how much more traffic will be generated by a Walmart.

Exacerbating the traffic congestion problem is a new interchange that will start construction this year on the Golden State (5) Freeway near the Empire Center.

Freeway construction

One thing commuters through Burbank have had to get used to this past year was nonstop construction in the Golden State (5) Freeway. In 2013, expect that to continue.

All year, the California Department of Transportation has announced round after round of ramp and lane closures along the corridor as crews build out carpool lanes in each direction.

There are two main projects. A $121-million project to construct High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in each direction along the 5 Freeway between Hollywood (170) Freeway and Buena Vista Street. Work on that section isn’t expected to finish until late 2014.

Caltrans is also knee deep in a $57.8-million project to construct HOV lanes in each direction along the 5 Freeway between Ventura (134) Freeway and Magnolia Boulevard. That project also isn’t expected to be finished until mid-2014.

That means that for commuters, 2013 in Burbank, on the 5 Freeway, will be more of the same.

North San Fernando Boulevard revitalized

With the improvements to the Golden State (5) Freeway will come a major long-term revamp along North San Fernando Boulevard that city planners say will make the area more attractive to pedestrians and boost real estate values.

The Burbank City Council in September approved a conceptual plan to revamp the corridor to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists with sidewalk furniture, larger street trees and bike lanes.

The plan maps out a 25-year vision for the corridor, which is nestled between the Golden State (5) Freeway, Burbank Boulevard, Third Street and Andover Drive.

The city has already recieved roughly $900,000 in grants from the Highway Safety Improvement Program for sidewalk and pedestrian improvements along the nearly mile-long stretch of San Fernando Boulevard between Interstate 5 and Burbank Boulevard, said Deputy City Planner Patrick Prescott.

City leadership

Burbank residents can expect a hefty turnover in city management in 2013, as three of the city’s top posts — city manager, police chief and fire chief — are currently being filled on an interim basis.

Former City Manager Mike Flad surprised city officials and residents in 2012 with his departure for the top post in South Gate.

Flad’s exit put the brakes on the search for a permanent police chief. Flad had expected to hire a top cop by the end of October.

Ken Pulskamp — former Santa Clarita city manager — was brought on in December to serve as Burbank’s interim city manager for six months.

In November, the City Council hired a recruiting firm to carry out a comprehensive recruitment process for the top post, which includes conducting preliminary screenings and interviews, and negotiating a contract.

Burbank Fire Chief Ray Krakowski retired last month after 32 years with the department. His last day with the city was Friday.

Pulskamp has launched an internal recruitment process to fill the fire chief’s shoes permanently, city spokesman Drew Sugars said Thursday.

In the meantime, Tom Lenahan — former fire marshal — will take over the position.

Pulskamp hopes to hire a permanent fire chief by the end of the month, Sugars said.

It was unclear if Pulskamp will be involved in selecting the permanent police chief, or if that duty will fall on the permanent city manager.

-- Times Community News staff

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