Debate heated over Burbank zoning rules

A contentious Burbank City Council meeting Tuesday where residents continued to protest transitional and supportive housing in residential neighborhoods ended with city officials promising more community outreach and communication with state legislators about the city’s stance on the issue.

For two weeks in a row, dozens of residents complained to elected officials about the city allowing unlicensed sober-living facilities in residential neighborhoods.

The complaints came a few weeks after the City Council approved its state-required housing element to allow the facilities in single-family neighborhoods.

Some residents felt the move would increase crime and congestion.

According to the housing element, if six or fewer people live in the home, the facility would be considered a “standard residential use” and, therefore, not have to obtain a permit.

“The transitional housing model turns single-family homes into small motels with a revolving door of residents,” said Burbank resident Kathryn Merlo.

Neighbors were also upset they weren’t notified about the potential changes prior to the Jan. 7 hearing on the housing element.

“At the moment, there’s a feeling in Burbank that Council cares more about representing the interests of businesses invading our R-1 neighborhoods than the people who already live there,” said resident Tom Abrams.

After last week’s meeting, Councilman Bob Frutos — who initially voted in favor of the housing element — announced that he would be rescinding his vote.

But on Tuesday, the City Council decided not to rehear the housing element — as it had been approved by the state that same day — and to focus instead on hosting community meetings to hear from the public, figuring out how to protect neighborhoods through ordinances and reaching out to state legislators about licensing laws.

The city has three years to implement the policy document through council-approved ordinances, and also has the ability to amend it, city officials said. Any amendments would have to be approved by the state.

Even so, residents were disappointed at the decision not to immediately revisit the housing element.

“The longer this is allowed, the more precedent it sets,” Abrams said on Thursday.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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