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Commentary: Postponed housing bill would have done more harm than good, Burbank mayor writes

Commentary: Postponed housing bill would have done more harm than good, Burbank mayor writes
Rent control supporters march past the Capitol in Sacramento during a 2018 protest about the cost of housing and rent in California. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

California is in the throes of a housing crisis brought on by a failure to produce enough units to meet the needs of our population. This long-term shortage has driven the cost of housing — for buyers and renters alike — to record high levels affecting Burbank residents in every part of our community.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has identified solving this crisis as a top priority for his administration. The Burbank City Council shares this commitment and is taking steps to achieve the housing goals laid out in the housing element of the Burbank General Plan.

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This plan, which you can read on the city’s website, burbankca.gov/home, presents a road map for achieving responsible housing goals while protecting our neighborhoods and community character.

Recently, the City Council unanimously adopted a goal of 12,000 new units developed over 15 years. This goal furthers our commitment to provide Burbank’s fair share of projected regional housing requirements as set forth in the Southern California Assn. of Governments Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). This needs assessment set Burbank’s target number for the period from 2014 to 2021 at 2,684 units across the following income ranges: 694 Very Low, 413 Low, 443 Moderate,and 1,134 Above Moderate. So far we have seen 323 new units built, and of these 11 were very low income units for veterans.

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Why have we fallen behind in meeting our goals? Largely it is due to the high cost of land made worse by increasing cost of materials and labor in a very strong economy. But in some ways we are also a victim of our own success: The high quality of our schools and public services, and access to public transportation within the L.A. Metro area are all factors that make Burbank a desirable place to live and increase pressure on the housing market.

Other factors, including local and statewide regulations, contribute to the failure to meet the housing needs of our community and the entire state, resulting in the housing crisis affecting us statewide. Unfortunately this has prompted some legislators to propose radical solutions that would eliminate community control and overturn our local housing element. The most egregious example of this is SB 50, which among other proposals would allow four units on a lot in single-family neighborhoods, reduce or eliminate parking requirements and limit design review standards.

The Burbank City Council was unanimous in our opposition to this legislative overkill and, along with the California League of Cities, lobbied to oppose this bill. The effort to rein in this legislation was led by our own state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge). Thanks to his efforts SB 50 was withdrawn for this year, ensuring we will have an opportunity to address the housing crisis without destroying our community. Meanwhile, Burbank will continue to work on developing housing solutions that meet our needs and suit our community.

Emily Gabel-Luddy is mayor of the city of Burbank.

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