Land-use expert talks group homes with Burbank residents

A land-use law expert spoke with roughly 50 residents and city officials Monday, suggesting ways to tighten the city’s rules surrounding group homes.

The issue has caused a stir in Burbank in recent months since the city adopted its state-required housing element to allow community care facilities — which may include sober-living facilities that don’t require licensing — in single-family residential neighborhoods to comply with state law.

Burbank is reportedly home to at least three such facilities, as the state law has been in effect for years, city officials have said.

At a community meeting Monday, Barbara Kautz, an attorney specializing in land-use law, addressed how state and federal laws impact residential neighborhoods, and what Burbank can do to strengthen local regulations.

According to Kautz, the state oversees licensing of community care facilities, and licenses are required if the facility provides care and supervision services, like detoxification or substance abuse treatment. Sober-living homes, or housing for recovering users, don’t require state licenses, though cities can require permits for facilities that house more than six people.

Some residents worried that facilities that don’t require licenses could be prone to mismanagement or tenant-abuse, and others worried about compromising their property values.

But the struggle cities are facing, Kautz said, is regulating the facilities to make sure they’re properly run without being discriminatory toward disabled people.

Kautz said the city could explore neutral, nondiscriminatory standards to ensure the homes are managed properly while still being compliant with fair-housing laws, as well as adopt stricter regulations on boarding homes, which don’t treat the disabled.

“People who are disabled should be able to have housing like people who are not disabled,” Kautz said. “(Cities) need to make sure they’re not keeping out homes for disabled people by regulating boarding homes.”

The City Council was slated to consider on Tuesday, after press time, whether to move forward with a moratorium on certain building permits related to single-family homes in order to prevent group homes from moving in while city officials hashed out a more thorough ordinance.

At the meeting, residents also complained about neighbors renting out their homes by the night, or for a short time period, through websites like, and what they felt was the city’s lack of enforcement against such property owners.

City officials encouraged residents to report this type of activity, which is illegal in Burbank.


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


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