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Opinion

Letters: Affordable housing and BUSD’s Measure I draw opinions this week

Photo Gallery: Burbank homes with burned out mountains behind them working with Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and the U.S. Department Agriculture to help residents prepare for potential mudslides
“The root cause of the shortage of affordable apartments for rent is our century-old suburban housing model,” writes Burbank resident Albric Ghokasian. He’s a proponent of more affordable housing made possible by allowing more apartment projects. Above in this file photo is a Burbank neighborhood in the city’s foothills.
(File Photo)

Suburban housing model doesn’t work today

The root cause of the shortage of affordable apartments for rent is our century-old suburban housing model. Cities’ land use and zoning regulation favors single-family detached house construction, prohibits apartment projects in much of the city area and allow apartments in downtown, where land is in short supply and expensive.

State Senate Bill 50 was a belated reaction of the Legislature to the inaction of cities in reforming the land use and zoning regulation and expanding mixed-use occupancy for apartment building, in order to add to the supply of affordable housing to stop rent increases and homelessness. Elected city officials not only discourage apartment building construction, they create obstacles and hardships for developers who dare to build apartments even in downtown where it’s allowed.

Suburbs with their exclusionary and segregated land use have monopolized the housing market, and this has created a housing shortage that has raised prices of real estate and apartment rents. Suburbs are also are the cause of car dependency, long commutes, traffic jams, traffic accidents, air pollution, isolation of seniors and children that can’t drive, empty streets that are scary to walk after sunset, and the destruction of wildlife and agricultural land.

With all these adverse impacts, how can any politician support the suburban lifestyle and blame urban dwellers? Fortunately, young people of today that were born in suburbs and experienced their isolation and forced dependency on cars do not want to live in suburbs anymore. That’s very good.

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Albric Ghokasian
Burbank

‘No’ votes on Measure I

Measure I, a proposed local parcel tax benefiting the Burbank Unified School District, if passed, would levy a spacial tax of 10 cents per square foot of improvements annually on each parcel of taxable real property in the city and would remain in effect for 12 years.

This tax includes commercial as well as residential properties. A landlord owning a commercial property that houses a business establishment would no doubt raise his rent to cover the additional tax, thereby forcing the business owner to raise his prices. If their expenses go up, their prices go up. And it’s the people already struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs who can least afford an uptick in prices. Even now people in Burbank are paying more for everything because of the local sales tax increase that rose from 9.5% to 10.25% last April.

Also, how can BUSD have the nerve to ask for more money when its superintendent rakes in more than $300,000 annually in salary and benefits? No superintendent of any school district needs to be making that much money.

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Finally, seniors 65 and older are told that if they own property they can be exempted from this tax. But what about seniors who rent? If their landlord passes the tax increase on to them, they will have no choice but to pay.

Measure I is a disaster, especially for the low-income wage earner and the retired senior citizen living on a fixed income, and its purported purpose to raise the standard of public education in Burbank is highly questionable. Vote “No” on Measure I.

Molly Shore
Burbank

***
Everyone needs to vote “no” on Measure I. Raising taxes isn’t the solution to the Burbank school district’s financial problems. There needs to be more discussion about the district’s spending issues and how to solve them using logical solutions before we talk about raising taxes.

I took a look at the salaries of BUSD employees from 2018 on Transparent California. Here are some things that stood out to me:

• The top 100 BUSD employees made over a combined $16 million in total pay and benefits. Only 42 of those employees were teachers.

• 557 BUSD employees made at least six figures in total pay and benefits. If $100k was the least they made, that would come out to a minimum of $55,700,000 in total salary and benefits in 2018 for BUSD employees.

• 55 BUSD employees made more than $150k in total pay and benefits.

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• Supt. Hill made $312,376.30 in total pay and benefits, the most of any BUSD employee.

If the district really cared about students and maintaining quality schools, it would cut the total pay and benefits of the top 200 highest-earning employees in the district and implement salary caps so that there are no firings, cuts to programs or bigger class sizes. There’s no reason why the people of Burbank should have their taxes raised while Supt. Hill makes over $300k a year in total pay and benefits as his district is in a deficit.

Again, everyone should vote NO on Measure I. Let’s find better, smarter, and more logical solutions to the BUSD’s budget mess instead of raising taxes.

Andrew Pesina
Burbank

***

A “Yes” on Measure I

My kids went to Burbank schools, from kindergarten through high school before going on to college.

The students arriving in the schools today deserve the same quality school system as the students who have been here before and those who will soon graduate. We all truly benefit from a district that is well managed, properly funded and has a commitment to quality that is second to none.

Everyone in Burbank benefits from Burbank schools. Every household, every shop owner, every business large or small, benefits from the education system here in our town. It does not matter if you only have a single storefront, run an internet business out of your home or are part of a Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, your business benefits from a well-educated community. From the graduates that fill your job openings to the children of your employees who attend school here. The heart of the community starts with the population of the schools.

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With over 15,000 BUSD students, over 30,000 parents/guardians/grand-parents it adds up to almost half the population of Burbank.

The students are the seeds that grow the city. They work in local businesses, local studios, local government, and some even start their own business and families.

The investment in the parcel tax is an investment in us. Our job beyond the vote is to make sure the money is spent as it is being promised. Accountability is our responsibility.

So many teachers, students, parents and administrators give their hearts and souls to this city and the schools. The two are inseparable.

Kevin T. McCarney
Burbank

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